Author Kelsey Ronan explores the complexities of grief in ‘Drown the House’

It’s part of a new anthology of metro Detroit writers from Room Project called ‘Room Object’

Feb 17, 2023 at 2:47 pm
click to enlarge Kelsey Ronan. - Steph Hill-Wood
Steph Hill-Wood
Kelsey Ronan.

This feature highlights a different local artist each week. Got someone in mind you think deserves the spotlight? Hit us up at [email protected].

Artist of the week: Kelsey Ronan

You could say Kelsey Ronan’s relationship with her hometown of Flint is complicated. It’s the place where she grew up. Where her mother struggled with chronic asthma that worsened during the height of the ongoing water crisis. Where her crumbling childhood home holds challenging memories.

It’s also a city that she cares about deeply — a place where joy, community, and love live. In her debut novel Chevy in the Hole Ronan explores this tumultuous relationship through the eyes of an interracial couple battling with generational trauma and poverty.

Her latest published effort is a short story called “Drown the House” featured in an anthology titled Room Object. This object comes from Room Project, a quaint co-working space in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood for women, nonbinary, and trans writers and artists that centers BIPOC and LGBTQ+ voices.

Room Object was a Knight Arts Challenge Detroit winner in 2019 but the book was stalled due to the pandemic and eventually published near the end of 2022. The work within its pages runs the gamut from poetry to fiction and everything in between from metro Detroit-area writers like La Shaun Phoenix Moore, Cherise Morris, MARS Marshall, Franny Choi, Lia Greenwell, Leila Abdelrazaq, and more.

While Chevy in the Hole is no doubt, colored by Ronan’s experience growing up in Flint, “Drown the House” is a personal tale about her family dynamics as she grapples with feelings about her absent father when he dies.

There are moments of anger, fleeting memories, and quips from Ronan’s sister Bunnie like this one: “You wouldn’t be who you are without your father. Bunnie reads it to me, then affirms, ‘That’s true. We’d be happier and more successful.”

In a way, it feels like a companion to Chevy in the Hole that gives glimpses into the specific ways the writer’s life influenced the novel. The family home in disrepair that her mother desperately clings to mirrors Chevy in the Hole main character Monae’s. A collection of cassette tapes with recordings of old radio shows like CBS Radio Mystery Theatre that Ronan and her partner find is reminiscent of a valuable record collection discovered by one of the novel’s characters.

click to enlarge Room Object an anthology of Room Project writers. - Randiah Camille Green
Randiah Camille Green
Room Object an anthology of Room Project writers.

“Drown the House” had me chuckling, on the verge of tears, and speechless in moments where I had to pause and digest the entangled spirals of grief and sadness.

Ronan’s writing is effortlessly poetic. Lines like “when Dad dies, he tells us himself” entice the reader with intrigue and a twinge of fear, while others like “Sometimes I’m tired of having the things I don’t even want snatched from me” make your heart sink.

Ronan has recently taken on programming and administrative duties at Room Project. Full disclosure, I’m also a Room member and frequently see her in the space, watering the plants, replenishing tea in the kitchen, and working on what I really hope is a new novel.

Here, she appears as a wise elder who is always there to support other writers’ dreams with an exuberant spirit. “Drown the House” offers a more vulnerable version of Ronan as she lets us in on her close relationship with her sister and the trials her family has lived through.

And we’re right there with her when she talks about wanting to scream into a hole in the ground. Sometimes life is so absurd, screaming feels like the only sensible way to release your emotions before they eat you up.

Where to find her work: Ronan, who now lives in Grosse Pointe Park, has been published in The Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Lit Hub, among others. A reading and release party for Room Object is slated for Friday, Feb. 17 at Room starting at 7 p.m. For more info about Room Project and Room Object, see

Location Details

Room Project

6513 Woodward Ave., Detroit


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