The Hermit Crab Essay is a creative nonfiction form popularized—and perhaps named—by Brenda Miller. The most popular example of the form is her essay, “Table of Figures,” originally published in Gulf Coast literary magazine, and reprinted in Best Creative Nonfiction:
Figure 1.1: A girl becomes aware of herself as a girl. She is approximately five years old (maybe six, at the oldest seven). Note the mother instructing this girl that she now must wear a T-shirt while playing in the summertime with the boys on the block. Note the girl’s naked torso, her downward gaze onto an expanse of bare flesh punctuated by two flat nipples. Outside the sun bears down, its heat insistent, but the afternoon breeze a familiar pleasure on this skin. Radiating lines from the girl’s face indicate a new source of heat: the first inklings of shame. But also—beneath, within, around that shame—something more complex, a deeper pleasure, the first inklings of power.