"Lopezia Insignis" by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal

[This nonfiction piece appears in Epiphany Fall/Winter 2017. Buy the issue here.]

There are many versions of the story about how my mother’s family crossed the border, and why. The details I know: Tampico, Tamaulipas. A house. My grandmother’s second marriage, escaping the first. Tragedy.


Read and download the full PDF of this piece here. 

Joan Silber interviews Kenny Fries about Japan, the threat of illness, and the panorama of history

Joan Silber interviews Kenny Fries about Japan, the threat of illness, and the panorama of history

I first met Kenny Fries at The MacDowell Colony, when he was talking happily about a fellowship in Tokyo starting that summer.  By chance, I had already signed up for a hiking trip outside Kyoto and I decided to pop in on Kenny at the end of it.  That was the first of three visits with him as guide and companion.  I saw how his deep interest and respect for Japanese culture won him the tender regard of people wherever we went.  As a fiction writer, I have always loved the way his writing links the events of his own life with questions raised by the narratives of history.

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"Ghost" by Emily Luan

"Ghost" by Emily Luan

The Chinese often describe death as a walking out of life — 
“he walked” or “he left.” A simple gesture, leaving
the room unannounced, a quiet slippage from one body into the next. 

*

My mother’s father died on Halloween. They said
the ghouls took him. In Taipei, a door slammed
shut. In America, I went trick-or-treating, counted
the Snickers and the Smarties, licked my fingers. 

They burned his body down to powder. At the funeral, 
we lit fake money and paper flowers on fire. The ashes
could have been anybody; I stared into its face.

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"How I Wrote 'Tattoo'" by Melissa Ragsly

"How I Wrote 'Tattoo'" by Melissa Ragsly

I’ve heard other writers say that a story starts for them with an image, one that develops in their minds without any provocation. They can spring up like Vine videos, short six-second bursts of an image in motion. That’s how this story began for me. I saw a tattoo, or rather a fuzzy, blurry image of a tattoo, deep red in color. I didn’t know what it was of—some kind of animal, maybe. I thought it had legs, but I wasn’t sure.

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"Natural History" by Natalia Ginsburg

"Natural History" by Natalia Ginsburg

Carl Linnaeus, the “father of modern taxonomy,” wrote this line in 1729:

The flowers’ leaves . . . serve as bridal beds which the Creator has so gloriously arranged, adorned with such noble bed curtains, and perfumed with so many soft scents that the bridegroom with his bride might there celebrate their nuptials with so much the greater solemnity.

I think he was obsessed with both sex and flowery language. 

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A Conversation with Yuka Igarashi, Series Editor of PEN America Best Debut Short Stories

A Conversation with Yuka Igarashi, Series Editor of <i>PEN America Best Debut Short Stories</i>

Readers of literary fiction have a compelling new anthology to read this fall. PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2017 features twelve authors, selected by judges Marie-Helene Bertino, Kelly Link, and Nina McConigley. Each writer received the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers in this, its inaugural year. We’re pleased that Ruth Serven’s story, “A Message,” published in our Fall 2016 issue, was recognized.

Many of the stories in the collection are told by characters who break molds; they are outliers in their societies, and in reading their stories we understand something of what it means to endure in their worlds. These are unexpected tales that satisfy and perplex. In other words, they expand our narrative expectations.

Series editor Yuka Igarashi answered some questions for us about the collection, editorial work for literary journals, and the power of hearing stories read aloud.

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"Bleecker and Mott" by Mira Ptacin

"Bleecker and Mott" by Mira Ptacin

[This story was originally published in Epiphany Winter/Spring 2009: Naked Psyches.]

A plump woman in a white nurse’s uniform stands in the doorway and reads a few names aloud. She juts out her hip, and from just above the clipboard, her eyes survey the room like she’s about to have a showdown with it. Tyler leans over and whispers in my ear, “I love you, Miggy.” 

“Hmh,” I sigh, unamused, not taking my eyes off the woman with the clipboard. She pauses, then says, “Natasha, Tomeka, Alexis, Kate.” Still my name has not been called.

I look around. The pale yellow walls in the waiting room are bare except for a few crusty posters promoting safe sex. It’s 2005, but these posters seem so 1989. You can tell by the feathered bangs and the tapered pants of the couple in the ad. They’re in love and they are going to have sex, just like we did, but they are going to be safe about it. They’re sterile and live in a sterile poster world of primary colors. We live in the sweet-trash-smelling neighborhoods of New York. The man with the French-cuffed jeans—they’re stonewashed—is actually wearing suspenders. He’s smiling at his lady with eyes that say, “Girl, I am going to treat you right. We feel good, we are going to make love, and it is going to be as special as the meal we just shared at the food court. Life is all right.” 

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A Conversation with Jillian Weise, Author of The Amputee's Guide to Sex

A Conversation with Jillian Weise, Author of <i>The Amputee's Guide to Sex</i>

This month Soft Skull Press reissued Jillian Weise's The Amputee's Guide to Sex in a ten-year anniversary edition, with a new preface by the author. This collection is an unflinching exploration of the human body as architecture, as aquatic animal or ambiguous cloud, which pushes rhetorical boundaries concerning “able-ness.” In her poems, Weise shows how bodies are constructed by flesh and language, by looking at others and by being gazed upon. In addition to The Amputee's Guide to Sex, Weise has also authored The Colony (2010) and The Book of Goodbyes (2013), along with numerous essays and multimedia art projects. She is an Associate Professor at Clemson University.

 

In your preface you state, “I feel like the disabled writer is always already expected to absorb the gaze of the nondisabled reader/audience.” In your poetry, did you want to turn the gaze back on the audience? Destroy it altogether? What would the poetry or fiction genre look like outside of the “able-bodied” gaze?

I didn’t have the intention, or the thought, “Now I’ll destroy the gaze.” It was more innate, more visceral. I read a lot of bad poems where the poet got bored, or lost, and plopped a disabled figure or metaphor into the poem. If poetry can do anything, and I believe it can, then why was poetry only doing the same thing, over and over, in regards to disability? It was like being stuck in 1580 with a bunch of Sir Philip Sidneys. He said there are only two emotional responses to disability: laughter or crying. Now it’s 2017, and yet many nondisabled poets, fiction writers and screenwriters still follow his lead, so what the fuck? Luckily, there’s a Dis/Deaf Uprising. We’re writing to change the art. I’m thinking of Constance Merritt’s Blind Girl Grunt and Meg Day’s Last Psalm at Sea Level and Cade Leebron’s “Model Patient.” I’m thinking of Bill Peace’s “Head Nurses” and Karrie Higgins’s “A Tape Doesn’t Change a Goddamned Thing.” Both were censored. You know you’re in an uprising when they censor your friends.

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Fall Reading Recommendations: The I'm Fine Edition

Fall Reading Recommendations: The I'm Fine Edition

“It is what you read when you don't have to,” Oscar Wilde wrote, “that determines what you will be when you can't help it.” Most of us at Epiphany are no longer in school, so we’ve moved away from required reading to reading that is individually urgent. Here are the books we’re enjoying these days, from coming-of-age novels to true espionage, and beyond.

 

The Book of Evergreens by Josiah Hoopes

“I recently visited the New York Botanical Gardens and was entranced by a book about, yes, pine trees that a guy compiled in the late nineteenth century. I'm now dipping into it for the strange and beautiful language, as well as the feel of the paper and old-fashioned type setting. It's a book for foresters and poets.” – Safia Jama, reader

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Sameer Pandya Interview + A Story

Sameer Pandya Interview + A Story

Sameer Pandya’s story “M-O-T-H-E-R” follows an Indian-American family in California whose mother, Uma, has high ambitions for her teenage sons in their spelling bee competitions. The story is ripe with dramatic, cross-cultural, and family tensions which are all, inevitably, universal. The story appeared in the Epiphany 2007-2008 Winter/Spring issue, and then as the first story in Pandya’s book The Blind Writer: Stories and a Novella, which was long-listed for the 2016 PEN Open Book Award. This year, Pandya was selected to be the 2017 PEN/Civitella Fellow, to join artists of varied backgrounds and disciplines in an international dialogue that transcends boundaries.

I had the pleasure of conducting an interview via email this month with Sameer Pandya

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What Kind of Omen Am I

What Kind of Omen Am I

Seeking riches? Become the only raised presence in a field so any bird will know where to shit. Let a swallowtail alone on a sill to attract success. Do lunar blackouts yield sea levels upping the horizon

 

to god? Enticing, save for a bunch of dead species floating like maimed angels. Don’t start anything new. Crossed knives: duel with a neighbor that no one survives. Stray shots at a child’s surprise party

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