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.
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
[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.”Read More
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.Read More