Roz Chast’s June 19 magazine cover is explosive! She imagines shopping for novelty fireworks in a store of her own wild imagination:

“The New Yorker” cover, June 17, 2023  Roz Chast, cartoonist


  • Friendship Ender
  • Lawsuit
  • Huge Rent Increase
  • Pointless Rage
  • Shingles
  • Root Canal
  • Sense of Doom
  • Red Tape
  • Guilt Bomb


Fireworks from our backyard, 2021


July 4th celebrations usually involve fireworks, but they also evoke memories of such celebrations in my childhood, often without a blaze of colorful bursts. Even in our Mennonite household, where our religious beliefs included non-resistance to war (commonly called pacifism), we had a toy cap gun with small percussive caps. When fired, the caps simulated a gunshot, emitting a small waft of smoke with a gaseous, sulphuric smell.*

Our small metal gun had no revolving chamber, so the caps were fired one by one.

Paper cap rolls,


I don’t know where our toy gun came from or who bought it, but the use of guns, except for hunting game, was forbidden. My first memoir, Mennonite Daughter re-creates a scene with my mother reacting strongly to my choice at a fabric store in Lancaster:

Usually, my sisters and I were allowed to buy any dress material we wanted, within reason. I knew solid bright red was out of the question and probably purple, too — my favorites. On one shopping spree at Mohr’s Fabrics [Lancaster] when I was thirteen, I spotted a pretty, multi-colored repeat pattern on a black background. I pulled the bolt out of the stack for Mom to admire:

“Look at this!” I chirped, propping the heavy cotton roll on the edge of the display table.

Mom inspected the material with squinty eyes and gasped, “Don’t you see there are guns!”

Now it was my turn to narrow my eyes. “Guns?” I had to peer closer. Yes, you could imagine that those tiny figures on black fabric were shaped like guns.

In principle, guns were forbidden in the Mennonite church. Our household had a little cap gun, which we outfitted with rolls of red ribbon with little black dots of ammunition for the fourth of July, but, otherwise, men in our church family used guns only for hunting deer, pheasants, and other game. Using guns to kill people, even during warfare, was strictly forbidden.    (Excerpt from Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl, Chapter 12)

My mother, father and others of the past generation would be aghast at widespread gun violence today. They would find school shootings incomprehensible. In their day, hitting another child on the playground or sticking chewing gum under their desks was considered a punishable offense. I’m glad my parents are not alive to witness the senseless bloodshed that happens regularly in American schools these days. And I’m beyond distraught when the news shouts another incident of carnage. Fortunately, there are ways to channel efforts to address this issue.

Barbara Kingsolver, most recently the author of Pulitzer-prize winning Demon Copperhead, says this about her own expression of social justice: “I think of ‘activism’ as a simple action meant to secure a specific result: for this purpose I go to school board meetings, I vote, I donate money, and occasionally fire off an op-ed piece.”


*  . . . previously the tiny powder charge was a simple mixture of potassium perchlorate, sulfur, and antimony sulfide sandwiched between two paper layers that hold in the gases long enough to give a sound report when the cap is struck. (Google search)


How does your family celebrate the Fourth of July? What are your childhood memories of the holiday?

What other tags could you apply to boxes of fireworks in cartoonist’s Roz Chast’s fireworks display above?

How are you responding to the pervasive gun violence, especially in schools? Have you become an activist?



Birthday Sale – Special Pricing, My Checkered Life!

e-book      $5.99

Paperback    $16.95

Special offer during July, my birthday month