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I close my eyes and see a flock of birds. The vision lasts a second or perhaps less; I don’t know how many birds I saw. Were they a definite or an indefinite number? This problem involves the question of the existence of God. If God exists, the number is definite, because how many birds I saw is known to God. If God does not exist, the number is indefinite, because nobody was able to take count. In this case, I saw fewer than ten birds (let’s say) and more than one; but I did not see nine, eight, seven, …Continue reading
Three years ago, my essay “Shiftiness: The Border in Eight Cases” approached the border from eight different routes. The years since have only increased the urgency of dealing with the border in a humane and just way. “The law constitutes a ‘we’ through an official story,” scholar Priscilla Wald wrote in her 1994 book, Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form. But: “An official story of ‘a people’ invariably lags behind the seismic demographic changes and corresponding untold stories that ultimately compel each revision.” These days, we’re immersed in the conflict that churns beneath the changing text. When Donald Trump …Continue reading
Here’s a sampling of some of the writing in Issue No. 112, which you can get today with a subscription to ZYZZYVA: San Francisco Loved Us Once, an essay by JOSHUA MOHR: We stampeded to this magnificent speck known as San Francisco because we were too queer, too punk, too arty. We were the wrong color or born with the wrong genitalia. We were too fat or too tattooed or too sick or our own family simply despised us. Other places, we were easy targets. We were gristle trapped in a bully’s teeth. So we flocked here because it called to us, San …Continue reading
We strive to fill each issue of ZYZZYVA with a dynamic and challenging blend of contemporary fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. Here’s a sampling of some of the writing in Issue No. 112, which you can get today with a subscription to ZYZZYVA: An interview with Man Booker Prize-winning author PAUL BEATTY: I think the real reason I set The Sellout there [in Dickens] is that there’s this weird neighborhood in L.A…There are a lot of weird neighborhoods in L.A. [Laughs] This one is called Richland Farms. It’s a small little section of Compton. My sister teaches there, and when we were little my …Continue reading
‘Understanding, Misunderstanding, and then Sitting Down to Write’ by Andrew Tonkovich: ZYZZYVA, No. 111, Winter Issue
Andrew Tonkovich is the co-editor of the anthology “Orange County: A Literary Field Guide,” published by Heyday, and editor of the Santa Monica Review. To ring in the new year, we’re presenting in its entirety his essay “Understanding, Misunderstanding, and then Sitting Down to Write” from ZYZZYVA No. 111: The following is an edited version of the closing talk given at the Community of Writers Workshop at Squaw Valley in July, 2017. “I live in terror of not being misunderstood.” —Oscar Wilde I’m proud of at least the title of this talk, and the epigraph. If the rest of it falls …Continue reading
Presented here is an essay we published back in our Spring 2016 Issue that we feel displays a sense of tenderness and empathy appropriate for this Thanksgiving holiday. We hope you’ll enjoy reading “Old Men at Sea” by Andrew D. Cohen in its entirety: I’m driving my sons, nine and almost six, to their small, alternative private school here in Portland, Oregon, a school we send them to for the same reason we don’t let them watch television or use the computer—to keep back the world and its anguish for a few more years— even though some part of me, …Continue reading
B.J. Hollars’ short essay collection, In Defense of Monsters (Bull City Press; 40 pages), opens on a world with no mysteries left. Now that seemingly every corner of the globe has been charted, and Google Earth allows one to zoom in on any coordinate one desires, the encroachment of human civilization on the natural world leaves us with little to explore. It wasn’t always the case: in the 20th century, even as horror spread across Europe and a racially divided America, the World’s Fairs promised a tomorrow full of discovery, and pulp novels sold readers on the idea of lost …Continue reading
President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban—an executive order targeting Yemen, Sudan, Iran, Syria, Somalia, and Libya, and reducing the number of refugees allowed into the country from 110,000 to 50,000 people—was to have taken effect today. The order was met with legal challenges in three states, challenges in which groups such as the ACLU and the Northwest Immigration Rights Program argued that it remained, among other things, a thinly disguised ban on Muslims. But yesterday, as the New York Times reported, Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii issued a nationwide order blocking the ban.
In April 2015, ZYZZYVA published Julie Chinitz’s essay “Shiftiness: The Border in Eight Cases” in its Spring/Summer issue. Chinitz, who volunteered with the Northwest Immigration Rights Program in the early ’90s, carefully considers in her piece the ideas of borders, of immigration, of refugees, of what it means to come to this country and what it means to be an American. Her insights remain significantly relevant, given the objectives of the Trump White House. The fifth section of the essay—”Borders and Bodies”—especially so, as she looks at the case of United States v. Montoya de Hernandez. Because of that Supreme Court ruling, she writes, it’s “why to this day people can find themselves locked up at the border, hours on end, with no idea what they’re suspected of having done wrong. … In his dissent in Montoya de Hernandez, Justice Brennan raised a warning about this kind of abuse … ‘Indefinite involuntary incommunicado detentions “for investigation” are the hallmark of a police state,’ he wrote, ‘not a free society’.”
She further notes: “In legal terms, border points such as those at airports are called the ‘functional equivalent of the border.’ They also include territorial waters, spots where roads coming from the actual border converge, UPS sorting hubs, etc.: places that aren’t exactly the border, but close enough.”
We believed at the time of publication that Chinitz’s essay was important, and the weeks since Inauguration Day have only confirmed our view. The following is “Shiftiness: The Border in Eight Cases” in full. We urge you to read it.
Rebecca Thomas, who is currently working on a novel, has had her work appear in Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, Gulf Stream and other publications. Her essay, “Flood Control,” appears in the new issue of ZYZZYVA.
An English instructor at West Virginia University, Thomas grew up in Orange County. Though known as a region afflicted by drought, Southern California has long had to contended with deluge, too. “Flood Control” is Thomas’s examination—personal and historical—of a place’s fraught relationship with water. The following in an excerpt but you can read the essay in its entirety by getting a copy here.
Lily Hoang’s new book, A Bestiary (156 pages; Cleveland State University Poetry Center), proves why a healthy amount of skepticism—at times bordering on distaste—for the self is an undervalued trait in literature. Throughout her collection, Hoang blurs the line between personal essay and prose poetry as she takes stock of her life and often comes to some unflattering conclusions. Reflecting on an unsatisfying, on-and-off-again relationship with her lover, she writes, “I feel like a feminist poser, talking a big game about empowerment but living a reality of passivity and self-contempt.” A Bestiary offers a snapshot of a turbulent time in …Continue reading
Lauren Alwan is a staff contributor at LitStack, a literary news and review site, and her fiction has appeared in StoryQuarterly, the Alaska Quarterly Review—and next spring—in the Bellevue Literary Review, for her story “The Foreign Cinema,” which won the Goldenberg Prize for Fiction. Her essay “Eldorado” appears in the Winter issue.
Set in the mid-1970s in Northern California, Alwan’s writes of the time she was a young woman, building a house with a boyfriend in Siskiyou County. This slice of memoir isn’t just about that, of course. It delves into the culture of people trying to live off the land, the harsh realities of rural life, and what it means to have a home. It also thoughtfully examines her relationships with her father and with her boyfriend (whom she knew she’d never create a life with, despite their house). The following is an excerpt from “Eldorado.”
‘A Daughter’s Letter to Tamsen Donner’: 2015 Best American Nonrequired Reading Notable, Issue No. 101
Jill Logan’s essay, “A Daughter’s Letter to Tamsen Donner,” is one of two essays in Issue No. 101 recognized as a Notable by the Best American series this year—by the 2015 Best American Nonrequired Reading, to be exact. A conversation of sorts between Logan and one of the members of the ill-fated Donner Party, “A Daughter’s Letter” is a humorous but insightful meditation on family.
Logan, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, has had fiction published in Meridian, Bellingham Review, Crazyhorse, Quarterly West, Michigan Quarterly Review, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Santa Cruz, where she is working on a novel and a short story collection about her native Oklahoma. The following is an excerpt of “A Daughter’s Letter to Tamsen Donner.”