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.
The anthology Everyday People: The Color of Life brings together complex and confident stories from an impressive list of authors.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Buy the Spring/Summer 2018 flip-cover double issue!
Pre-order the new issue by May 3rd and receive 15% off! Use code BREAKOUT at checkout.
The Spring/Summer 2018 edition of Epiphany is a flip-cover double issue. On one side, you’ll find five stories, six poems, and one essay selected for this issue by Epiphany’s editors. On the other side, you’ll find work from the winners of the first annual Breakout 8 Writers Prize, judged by Hannah Tinti, Alexander Chee, and Tracy O’Neill.
Read, flip, repeat, enjoy!
Contributors: Anzhelina Polonskaya / Alisson Wood* / Amber Wheeler Bacon* / Amy Lee Lillard* / Andrew Wachtel / Candice Wuehle / Colin Schmidt / Collin Frazier / Edith Lee* / Elisa Gonzalez / Gabriela Wiener / Jennifer Adock / Jiaming Tang* / Josephine Blair / Lore Segal / Lucy Greaves / Marc Castel de Lucas* / Nelly Rosario / Nicole Treska / Rasheeda Saka* / Terese Svoboda / Yesenia Montilla / Yuxi Lin*
(* indicates Breakout 8 Writers Prize winner)