East Lake contains at least three primarily Spanish-speaking auto shops, its own schools through eighth grade, shocking crime statistics, a .2-mile walking track, a large undocumented immigrant population, government project housing, and black walnut, chestnut oak, and American elm trees. Our streets run east-west, and our avenues run north-south.

Rainwater spills into East Lake from Missionary Ridge, where Union soldiers charged without their colonels’ commands to avenge the slaughter at Chickamauga. The water replenishes gardens and sometimes floods our part of the valley. Quickly built bungalows on one-third-acre plots, ready-made for 20th Century families who came to the neighborhood to man factories set the tone for East Lake architecture. Few of the factory machines still pump, but roughly 50 percent of the residents maintain blue-collar jobs. About 42 percent of East Lakers graduated from high school.

White, black, and Latino populations share East Lake’s sidewalks and convenience stores (though the neighborhood only boasts 10,000 or so people, there is room for both a Big Daddy’s and a Big Poppa’s, neither of which takes cards). Southern courtesy and honest goodwill can shape interracial relations, but so can historic evils and mistrust. Walking down the street, you may be hollered at, shied away from, enjoined in conversation, or ignored.

Ultimately, East Lake is a beautiful, diverse neighborhood with a wealth of personality and kind, warm people.


How many are your works, Yahweh! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number—living things both large and small. There the ships go to and fro, and leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. —Psalm 104:24–30