For fans of Humans of New York and PostSecret, a collection of raw, urgent, and heartfelt stories, shared anonymously.
Helena Dea Bala was an exhausted and isolated DC lobbyist, suffocating under the weight of her student loan debt, when she decided to split her lunch with a man who often panhandled near her office. They chatted effortlessly as they ate; there were no half-truths or white lies, and no fear of judgment. Helena felt connected and unburdened in a way she hadn’t in years.
Inspired, she posted an ad on Craigslist promising to listen, anonymously and for free, to whatever the speaker felt he or she couldn’t tell anyone else. Emails from people desperate to connect flooded her inbox, and she listened. Within months, Helena quit her job, deferred her loans, and dove into listening full time.
The forty first-person confessions in this book are vivid, intimate, and real; they range from devastating traumas, to lost loves, to reflections on hard choices. Some accounts are quotidian, like that of one increasingly estranged husband: “I want to feel that we’re not just roommates—that we’re not just waiting for the kids to grow up so that we can move on.” Others are deeply disconcerting, like that of a sex addict employed by a religious organization and several are heartening, like that of a mother who dares to hope that her daughter, born with life-threatening heart defects, will one day walk down the aisle: “Sometimes you need to have the audacity to believe that it will all be okay, that it is okay to have the same kinds of dreams as everyone else.”
In its complex portrayal of the common human experience, Craigslist Confessional challenges us to explore the depths of our vulnerability and expand the borders of our empathy.
Helena Dea Bala immigrated to the United States as a child. To make ends meet during those difficult first years, she helped her mother clean houses on the weekends. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from George Washington University and worked to become a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington, DC. After her day job left her feeling disconnected and unfulfilled, she deferred her student loans, applied for a credit card, and gave herself one year—one year to just listen. Five years in, she now does Craigslist Confessional full time. Find out more at CraigslistConfessional.com.
“I’m floored by the vulnerability in this book. And Bala’s incredible writing imbues each one of these forty confessions with its own voice. These stories will stay with readers long after turning the last page.” —Rebecca S., Assistant Editor, on Craigslist Confessional
“An auspicious debut… Fans of Chicken Soup for the Soul or Humans of New York will want to take a look.” —Publishers Weekly
“A personal pastime became a public obsession ... Bala deftly captures these diverse voices—some gloomy, others hopeful—resulting in lively, empathetic biographical tableaux ... A book that focuses appealingly on the visceral complexities of our private lives.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Infidelity, addiction, loss, corruption, the search for unconditional love—reading these carefully, empathetically crafted monologues reveals how suffering is something we all have in common. Each tragedy or triumph is unique, but the intensity of feeling is not. Perfect for fans of Humans of New York and Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things.” —Booklist
“The intimate tales collected here show just what people are willing to reveal to an empathetic stranger, and how listening to others can change someone in turn.” —AV Club
“A book you'll tear through with utter fascination.” —O, the Oprah Magazine
“Helena Bala has tapped into a rich vein of human stories by opening her heart and mind to strangers who want to share their essential truth with others. She helps them share the secrets that have lurked in their lives, waiting to be released.” —Scott Simon, host of NPR's Weekend Edition
“A 21st century Studs Terkel, Bala shows that documenting ordinary people's lives is nothing short of extraordinary. These heart rending stories are of desire and deception, love and loss, and finding connection in unexpected places. A treasury of unsentimental, authentic hope.” —Elizabeth Greenwood, author of Playing Dead and Love Lockdown