From the Midway

Unfolding Stories of Redemption and Belonging

by Leaf Seligman


224 pages


Literary Fiction



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Seligman’s prose is vivid and captivating. . . . ” Her portrayal of a society teetering between the past and the future is subtle, and although many of the characters’ stories are sad, there are recurring moments of gentleness.
A riveting fictional meditation on the persistent drive to find acceptance and connection.

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“In this skillfully unified collection of short stories, Leaf Seligman tugs gently on the curtains of the lives of the many individuals who have been fated to become exhibits in Beasley’s Traveling Amusements…These stories take the reader deep inside the relationships between those who form this community, bonds both quarrelsome and tender. Most impressively, Seligman charts the historical and cultural influences that shape the circumscribed lives that inhabit From the Midway. This is a stunning collection of stories and a remarkable debut.”

– Cate Marvin, author of Oracle—Poems and Professor of English and Creative Writing at The College of Staten Island

“Leaf Seligman is no carnival barker; she is an honest-to-God magician: From deformity she creates beauty; from suffering, redemption; from freakishness, grace.  In the masterful, linked stories in From the Midway, we meet the loving, lonely, bawdy, ballsy people of the traveling carnival in all their glorious, human complexity–and we come away changed. I’ll never forget these characters and I’ll never forget this book.”

– Sy Montgomery, National Book Award Finalist and best-selling   author of The Soul of an Octopus

“Leaf Seligman’s never-to-fade portraits we can see with our deepest, oldest eye. We are now a dozen steps closer to the wisdom that tells us time and space are illusions, only our oneness is real.”

– Carolyn Chute, author of the New York Times Notable Book of the Year, The School on Heart’s Content Road

“The gift in From the Midway is helping readers find the divinity as well as humanity in the conditions that we all have in common, our mortality and our need to connect. For me the result was a book that made me feel in empathetic ways I never thought possible. Thank you Leaf Seligman.”

– Ernie Hebert, author of the Darby Series

This richly researched collection of linked short stories transports readers to the midway of a carnival traveling through the Jim Crow South where we meet the carnival owners, a carousel operator, the geek, dancing girls, several performers displayed as oddities and the African American laborers charged with tending them. The final story crosses the ocean, underscoring the the power and mystery of unexpected connections. Lyrical descriptions of the physical environs and the emotional landscape of each character function like a funhouse mirror, providing just enough distance and distortion to see ourselves more clearly. The sharply striated world of a century ago aptly reflects the tensions, divisions, and perennial shared yearning for redemption and belonging that mark us as human.


Leaf Seligman began writing during her Tennessee childhood where she encountered the midway, tent revivals, and the Civil Rights movement. She has taught writing in colleges, jails, prisons, and community settings since 1985 and worked as a minister, a jail chaplain, a youth services caseworker, and a restorative justice practitioner. She is the author of Opening the Window: Sabbath Meditations and A Pocket Book of Prompts. Her current projects include a novel, a memoir, and a series of death row monologues, all attuned to redemption and belonging.