You will learn craft and language, you will develop a love affair with poetry, you will find lifelong friends and mentors. You will experiment, test your boundaries, search for your voice. But you will find yourself surrounded by white peers, white teachers, people who can’t push you to ask yourself the harder questions about who you are as a writer. While this will bother you slightly, you won’t know how to articulate why, or even what you’re looking for, at least not in a way that doesn’t sound self-hating.Read More
Jamel Brinkley’s debut collection of short stories, A Lucky Man, arrived this May from Graywolf Press. We sat down together in Los Angeles and, in the course of our conversation, touched on the nefarious confluence of constrictive cultural norms and an oppressive state, coming-of-age as a perpetual process, and seeing past simplistic understandings of luck.Read More
“Love your stole,” Lotte said to the handsome old woman at the party, “it’s grand and beautiful.” The woman thanked Lotte while her eyes flicked subliminally to the left: she did not recognize Lotte, nor could Lotte abort the identical tell on her own face. To save her children’s heads she could not have said if she had forgotten the woman’s name or had never laid eyes on her. Lotte walked with a cane and the woman in the stole offered to get her a drink.Read More
R.O. Kwon’s The Incendiaries is a slim, lyrical exploration of the complexities that get caught up in our desire to belong. Will and Phoebe are two college students trying to find their identities amid navigating economics, ideologies, and parental expectations. John Leal is a cult leader looking to gather more disciples. Kwon’s book delicately explores the kind of longing that draws one person into a cult, while another can walk away. There are no excuses given here, no clichéd attempts at forgiveness, just an empathetic examination of how violence and religious fanaticism can be so attractive to those looking for redemption.Read More
When I was sixteen, I accidentally choked out Brian Herskowitz. One second he was trying to pull down on my sleeve and reduce the pressure on his neck, and the next he was very quiet, face down on the mat. I let go and sat back, not sure what to do.Read More
The Leavers is a dual narrative about Polly and her son Deming. Leon is Polly’s boyfriend and Deming’s stepfather during the years they live together in New York City. He works in a slaughterhouse as a meat cutter. I wrote this scene in which Leon and his friend Quan go to a cockfight early on the writing process.Read More
Years later, a man described why the gods of finance couldn’t wipe everyone’s debt and / start over. Everyone’s debt is another person’s asset. That autumn, the bank did not / call. The bank sent letters in nondescript envelopes. Invitations to pay a past-due balance.Read More
The first drafts I wrote of the novel, then somewhat portentously called American Eden, had more or less the same storyline and structure, but contained a kinetic central section set in Harlem and midtown. In those drafts, my wayward protagonists are still headed for the west coast; they just happen to find themselves with a two-day layover in the New York on their way there.Read More
Terry got his hands out in front of him, telling me not to go nowhere. He starts moving over to my side of the car and I see the two Perkins girls is looking at us from the sidewalk. They hair glistening and freshly parted in thick twists with elastic ball barrettes, like oversized Lemonheads and Red Hots. They looking at me and Terry. He coming around to my window and I’m thinking about them girls watching us, wondering how many times a kid needs to see some shit like this before they give up on the pretty daydreams taped to they bedroom walls.Read More
Ornela Vorpsi’s The Country Where No One Ever Dies (Dalkey Archive 2009) belongs among the very best post-communist novels. The novel, which was published originally in Italian in 2003, explores the traumas of authoritarianism, hyper-sexualized patriarchy, and violence in many forms, offering raw and poetic insights into individual and collective memory, migration/exile, and the meaning of art and literature.Read More
“Who but a maniac or a goddamn fool would sit down and write a novel attacking marriage? And who’d want to read such a novel?” For Richard Yates, author of Revolutionary Road, these questions were rhetorical. His defensive stance came from what he always saw as a wild misreading of his famous 1961 novel.Read More
Epiphany’s Fall/Winter 2017 issue features an excerpt from Naivo's Beyond the Rice Fields, the first Malagasy novel translated into English. The novel’s central love story unfolds in dialogue with the cultural and political developments of early nineteenth-century Madagascar following the arrival of the first British missionaries. Naivo explores the conflict between traditional Malagasy culture and mounting European influence in the very form of his novel, which was inspired by the hainteny oral poetry tradition. Epiphany’s editor-in-chief Tracy O’Neill spoke with Naivo and his translator Allison M. Charette at Brooklyn’s Community Bookstore in November of 2017.Read More
Greatly under the influence of Philip Roth’s Nathan Zuckerman in my twenties, I wanted to create a character that could both stand in for myself as an autobiographical tool and work as an alter ego, a character who did things I would never do, lived a life I never had. The character that was born of this idea was Madeleine, and her name had two functions for me at the time. She represented Proust’s cookie, a portal to memory, and also she was “Maddie”— she was “mad,” crazy, angry.
Like Roth, I hoped to use this character throughout my writing life. I didn’t want to retire her after one book. But when shaping the novella Inside Madeleine, I cut many chapters about MadeleineRead More
There is no better time to read Elena Georgiou’s collection The Immigrant’s Refrigerator, which explores boundaries—both physical and emotional—and how they shape individual’s identity and community (both adopted and home). Georgiou translates the experience of exile as her characters try to find love amid displacement or celebrate the intimacy of a shared meal against the backdrop of unspeakable violence. The Immigrant’s Refrigerator reminds us that “home” is in reality an unfixed, fluid state always being negotiated by the personal, political, cultural.Read More
[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.
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.Read More
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.