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North author photo 1_by Jenny ZhangI was having a hard time interviewing myself, so I decided to let my book interview me. These questions are all taken verbatim from dialogue in the first chapter of The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, posed to/by Sophie or another character.

9780399173394_large_The_Life_and_Death_of_Sophie_StarkThis excerpt comes a few pages into the second chapter — Sophie Stark is making a film based on an exaggerated story her new girlfriend Allison told about her life, starring Allison herself. Bean and Stacey are characters in the story. Allison narrates this section.

I was still working at the bar then, and Sophie did all the casting without me. So I didn’t meet the guy she picked for Bean until our first day of shooting. He hadn’t come to the read-through—Sophie’s assistant director, a stuck-up girl named Susan who I already didn’t like, read his part in a schoolteachery voice. But there he was the first day, at the community center that was supposed to be my high school, wearing a white T-shirt that looked like it had been dipped in pee.

One

By Rich Ferguson

Poem

Be one with the world. One with yourself. One with the tranquility gallery behind your eyes, its humble paintings of peace & prosperity. One with how that gallery is so often under reconstruction, deconstruction. One with how everything is so impermanent, so fleeting. How your every thought breeds Frankensteins & angels. Be one with all your Frankensteins & angels.

Docs_Errata_RashedHaq

For the week of April 20th, we offer the following corrections to our public communications in our role as a parent at Marby Elementary School.

 

Sunday, 4/20: A response to a class-parent email thread, which stated our unwillingness to volunteer for “yet another frickin’ school carnival,” incorrectly implied that several carnivals are held every year at said elementary school. In actuality, only one carnival is held, namely the May Day Carnival, which is not to be confused with the Fall Heritage Festival, the Winter Holiday Gift Wrap Fundraiser and the post-holiday 70’s-themed PTA Auction. The Reply All-sent response was also unintentional. We apologize for any intimidation felt by those readers who frequently take three hours out of every weekday for the betterment of our school and children.

 

Monday, 4/21: While arranging donuts at the Spring Teacher Appreciation breakfast, we misstated the details of a fight between the PTA President and President-Elect. The particular fight being referred to (and the resulting change in the Auction dress code, from hippie to disco, as well as a newly incurred expense to the PTA of a disco ball, which is surprisingly hard to find in anyone’s attic anymore), was a fallout of the hot mess of this year’s Holiday Gift Wrap Fundraiser, traditionally the responsibility of the President-Elect. The President-Elect pointed out that Christmas-themed gift -wrap wasn’t exactly PC these days. The President clarified that she would be damned if the Christ was taken out of the gift wrap while she was in the PTA, and that she was taking back the management of the 70’s-themed Auction. The President-Elect made it known that the old guard just needed to die out. This discussion occurred on December 15 of last year, not November 15.

 

IMG_0495Every damn day in Religion Class, Sister Anna Banana yapped about the Soviets revving up to start a nuclear war with the new president, Ronald Reagan. She said after the cities burned to Holy Hell, there’d be something called “nuclear winter” that would kill all the plants and food, and it would last a million years. I’ll tell you what, a little bad weather, nuclear or not, wasn’t going to make me go extinct.

I’m already semi-super strong and fast, and I’m the best fighter in the sixth grade. But once World War III kicks off, I’ll need to be impervious to the nuclear wind-chill factor. Even though I was a whole year older than him, my little brother, Jaggerbush, was already immune to freezing weather, drinking sour milk, and the Ten Commandments. I had to practice up. I had a cold war to fight.

Will we humans ever be able to read and predict the progression of seasons again, like the faces made by loved ones when their feelings change like wind-borne clouds?

I sincerely hope so, but I also equally sincerely doubt it. Come on, Ice Age, come on.

 

When, if not now? And why (or why not) and who with?

Now, always now. If not now, then when indeed?! Now, now, and now, and that other now too. And with good people who need no explanations for what you’re doing and/or why you’re doing it. I think it is crucial to learn how to recognize the various and varied members of your tribe before you die.

You are the pleasing smell of Chinese grease
I am the invisible motivation to frolic in the fountain

You are a stranger’s giggle &
an invitation to dance

I am a Cabaret Voltaire 12″
& half a clove cigarette

You are the diaphanous nature
of auburn clouds at twilight

I am the woman who raised you
but never dared speak your name

You are that familiar left shoe
abandoned on the roadway
never finding its twin

I am an expectant evening
after an expectant morning
spent talking on the phone


Wildlings

By Sanchari Sur

Poem

Your feline eyes reflect the sun, heaving
as the hair on your forearms, a reminder of
sweaty backed evenings, leaning into each other,
scaffolding.

You call me a lynx, even as I claim to be
a leopard, or a panther. No,
a lynx, you insist, explaining the nuances between
my extremes, my savagery and
clemency, danger and
dalliance blended into a
molotov cocktail.

DSC_2150You’re a hard guy to track down.

I know, I know. I’m sorry. I just have a lot of obligations and duties—many roles to play.

 

What roles?

Husband, father, son, brother, department chair, mentor, friend, book reviewer, writer, etc.

 

So, mulattos, eh?

Yup.

Wild Mulattos Cover (New Blurb)Not long ago, at the beginning of this new century, I received from my maternal uncle a rather fateful phone call. I hadn’t spoken to Uncle Dalton in years, hadn’t seen him since my high school graduation, when he whispered that if I moved far enough away from my parents’ northeastern home, with my complexion, manner and intellect, I might pass for white. His calling surprised me, as did the frantic tone with which he relayed a curious adventure. He and some friends had been drinking and duck hunting in the Arkansas Delta, and through some sequence of events he could not fully explain, he got lost among the oxbow lakes, sloughs and uninhabited woods along the Mississippi River. For two days he wandered, convinced he’d die, with no map and his ammunition depleted from shooting at canvasbacks and trying to signal his companions. But on the third day, when he was making peace with God—in large part requesting forgiveness for the execrable treatment he’d given my mother for marrying my father—while falling to his knees he saw a slim youth in what looked like a gray sweatsuit, stepping into a gap among trees and thigh-high weeds. Stumbling forward, my uncle called for help, and the boy emerged, told my uncle to break his rifle, toss it to the ground and wait right there. In a few minutes the youth returned with venison jerky, a rough ceramic jug of fresh water, and a hand drawn map on homemade paper that steered Uncle Dalton to a gas station several circuitous miles down a dirt road. “And he looked just like you,” my uncle insisted. “Just like you.”

grow2Your debut collection is titled, My Life as a Mermaid, but there aren’t any mermaids in your book. I’m guessing you haven’t actually lived as a mermaid?

Only in my head. I love to swim, though, so that counts for something. Had I known about Weeki Wachee Springs when I was younger, I may have spent a summer or two getting paid to wear a mermaid costume and performing in an underwater theater. But if that had happened, I’m guessing this book—and my life—would’ve turned out differently.

 

Speaking of “my life,” where did the title come from? If the book is not about mermaids, then what part of it, if any, is about your life?

Before it became the title of a story in this collection, it was a joke I made about a particular way I flip in the water to make myself dizzy, something I’ve been doing since I was eight years old. It doesn’t look like much, and I admit it’s highly ridiculous (or refreshingly uninhibited?) that I still do it as a forty-something woman. Somehow the phrase, ‘my life as a mermaid,’ stuck. I always thought I’d use it as the title of my memoir, but it took on fictional proportions after that.

41bKsL5ED+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_OK, Goodbye

Let’s say the first time she tries to walk out she loses her car keys in the front yard at night. She’s sassy, maybe a little drunk. She tosses her keys in the air but misses them on the way back down. The next thing she knows, she and her husband and the neighbors’ kids are on their hands and knees on the front lawn, feeling around for keys. Wet pieces of mowed grass stick to her legs as she crawls in the dark. She’s cussing to herself and dizzy and hungry. She’d like to stay angry enough to leave once she finds her car keys, but she’s also tired.

Then there’s the scene outside in which the neighbors are loading their truck to move. It’s a hot afternoon, and Vivie says, “You probably won’t be here when I get back, so I want to say goodbye now and tell you how nice it was to have you as neighbors. I mean it—we won’t ever get neighbors as good as you,” and she starts to tear up.

Everyone hugs. They laugh and say, “Keep in touch.”

“You keep in touch, too.”

Vivie gets in her car and pulls away. She drives slowly and waves. They wave, and she honks and waves some more. At the corner she turns to go to the store, and they’re out of sight.

Root People

By Meg Tuite

Essay

"Searching for Within," Deanne Richards

The world expanded when a stranger, who would have slammed back Reverend Jim Jones Kool-Aid without question, asked me if I knew where the molasses was.

“Sugar is the yeast beast,” she said. “Only bake with molasses.”

This was a gas station with beer, wine, chips, ice cream, tampons, and motor oil. My head moved horizontally. Molasses did not fit into the repertoire until Kool-Aid rounded a corner of a three-aisle gas-stop with a bottle in hand.

I had just moved into a shack in a mining town outside Santa Fe. My existence for over a decade had been parked in downtown Chicago in a high-rise working at advertising firms. Everyone was an addict. Gucci bags with gold tiny spoons were Christmas gifts. We wore long linen skirts in muted colors, snorted through the most expensive bathroom stalls in the city. It was either leave or die.

After shivering for a week buried under covers with snow filtering through cracks in the split seams of this shed, I decided to put a coat over my pajamas, throw myself in the car, and drive to get some supplies. This was the only store for miles, as far as I knew.

“Are you on vacation?” I asked, as if I was a local.

She set her molasses on the counter and pulled a change purse out of some unseen pocket of her patchwork skirt. “Have you been to the Tibetan stupa on Airport Road?” she asked.

I stared at her. I had actually landed in a place exempt of chit-chat. And Tibetans were here.

On the twisted handle-bars
of a summer more than
half-spent. On a balance

eager for wild days to last,
yearning for tedious heat to end,

he bikes randomly west to Ulrich
Center. Peregrinations of a boy
striking out arbitrarily toward
any of the four sacred serendipitous

directions. Escaping monotony,
seeking adventure. He discovers a
shopping-plaza zoo in the midst of commerce,
among parking lot Impalas, Jaguars,

Why can’t I stop reading about this crazy lady? Cultural appropriation is a contested activity in the U.S., especially in the realms of artistry, but cultural theft committed with the purpose of gaining access to positions or institutional power is more insidious. This is what Dolezal did. Currently winning the Internet: #AskRachel I totally believe in the idea of being an ally but I’m pretty certain this is not the way to go about it. I wanna talk about this game we’re about to lose but this Rachel Dolezal story is way mo better. And so so frightening. Please don’t use Rachel Dolezal as an excuse to be ignorant toward light skinned and mixed folks. It’s not cute, too expected, and just plain gross. Wow. She went to Howard University on a full scholarship! That takes some kind of gall. The right wing is running with this story. My questions is, how did she get this far without anyone finding this out? What the…? Y’all may say she’s crazy, but I think if we would use people like her like white folk have been using the Clarence Thomases, Don Lemons, Stacey Dashes & nem for centuries, we might turn the tide. I just laughed tears. “Are you African American?” “I don’t understand the question.” She was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO not ready for the last question…nor the picture of her Dad. OMG, I just can’t with this….WTF???????? She said the first African hairstyle is seen in the Venus of Willendorf…. Her family is like, “Girl, you’re from Whiteville, not Black Town.”