‘Mona’ by Pola Oloixarac: Life in Translation

by Owen Torrey

“The festivals are the real novels!” shouts the protagonist of Mona (192 pages; FSG Books), a new novel by Argentinian author Pola Oloixarac. Mona is one-whiskey-deep, standing in a pub in Sweden with a crowd of writers. Across the bar, a Latvian poet grabs a Finnish author, striking up a conga line. Mona orders a second whiskey and surveys the crowd. “They come to places like these thinking they’re writers,” she continues, “and end up leaving as characters.” The occasion for this evening’s celebration, as well as the novel as a whole, is the ceremony for the Basske-Wortz Prize: a […]

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Q&A with Carribean Fragoza: ‘Eat the Mouth That Feeds You’ and the Wounds We Carry

by Ray Levy Uyeda

Carribean Fragoza’s debut book of fiction, Eat the Mouth That Feeds You (144 pages; City Lights Publishers), is a collection of supernatural, almost mythical short stories. Set in Fragoza’s home town of South El Monte, a suburb east of Los Angeles, the collection explores what kind of violence is exchanged intergenerationally and what happens when the resulting wounds are not attended to. Fragoza’s characters, all of whom are Chicanx or Mexican women, explore the many worlds of their bodies, minds, and lineages. Carribean Fragoza recently spoke to ZYZZYVA via Zoom about Eat The Mouth That Feeds You. ZYZZYVA: The first […]

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‘Subdivision’ by J. Robert Lennon: The Missing Pieces

by Lily Nilipour

On the cover of J. Robert Lennon’s latest novel, Subdivision (256 pages; Graywolf Press), is a puzzle. A large crow sits on top of a quaint-looking house, and the whole image is fragmented into jigsaw pieces. Whoever has been working on this puzzle has almost completed it; just a single piece lays missing from the whole: the eye of the crow. But as we flip past the cover and set our eyes on the first page of the book, it becomes clear that Subdivision’s puzzle is just beginning—literally, as an unnamed narrator checking herself into a guesthouse is immediately invited […]

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Shop Talk: Michael Jaime-Becerra

by ZYZZYVA

Michael Jaime-Becerra

Michael Jaime-Becerra’s story “Omar, March 1987,” about a boy named Omar who discovers his mother’s affair while skateboarding in the neighborhood, originally appeared in Issue 102. The story evokes the sights and sounds of Omar’s streets, its homes and storefronts, with these details grounding the story as Jaime-Becerra builds to Omar’s emotional devastation. It can be read in its entirety in Issue 102.

Michael Jaime-Becerra currently teaches creative writing at University of California, Riverside. His story collection, Every Night Is Ladies’ Night, was named one of the best of the year by The Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle. It was awarded a California Book Award, the Silver Medal for a First Work of Fiction. He spoke to Managing Editor Oscar Villalon about “Omar, March 1987” and his use of distinct sensory details.

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‘Low Country’ by J. Nicole Jones: Lost Dreams, Anger, and Ghosts

by Ray Levy Uyeda

In every family there is an archivist. Someone to keep track of lost things, tales of victory and heartbreak, someone who can recall nearly-forgotten names. In author J. Nicole Jones’ family, that person was her grandmother, a woman who could fluidly weave a tale of home—Horry County, South Carolina. With her memoir, Low Country (230 pages; Catapult), Jones has succeeded in the role of family archivist, imploring us to see that the story of the Jones family is the story of South Carolina, and the story of J. Nicole Jones is the story of the women who preceded her. Low […]

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Q&A WITH MEGAN CULHANE GALBRAITH: ‘THE GUILD OF THE INFANT SAVIOUR’ AND DIORAMAS OF A CHILDHOOD

by K.L. Browne

In Megan Culhane Galbraith’s hybrid memoir, The Guild of the Infant Saviour: An Adopted Child’s Memory Book (288 pages; Mad Creek Books), she investigates our desire for belonging with generosity and an eye for hidden truths. Galbraith was adopted as a baby in the late 1960s, and through a dual lens of subject and observer, she considers this tumultuous period of sexual freedoms for women and its consequences. The book’s unique form bridges the private and historical. Galbraith looks at programs for women and infants that echo an unconscious disregard; Catholic charities claimed to save unwed mothers, a domestic economy […]

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The Wedding Visitor

by Elizabeth Spencer

ZYZZYVA Volume 29, #2, Fall 2013

It seemed a good thing to do and because he hadn’t come there in so long, he went slowly. Approaching the house from the road before it spiraled up the drive, he sat for a while and gave it a long look. Like many Southern houses, the original structure was almost lost among the many extensions. There was the added side porch where everyone lived out each day, enjoying sun through the enveloping series of windows. He recalled another, earlier porch out back, screened in, added to escape the hot summer nights. They had slept under mosquito nets and hoped

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‘Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told?’ by Jenny Diski: Seeing, Being, Naming

by Alana Frances Baer

Jenny Diski’s posthumous collection, Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told? (448 pages; Bloomsbury), consists of thirty-three essays, selected from the over two hundred the prolific British author wrote for the London Review of Books up until her death in 2016 at 68. Opening with a lighthearted account of a breakup and concluding with a humble meditation on her cancer diagnosis, the book synopsizes the inertia of life. Between those bookend essays are others that tend toward a topic-oriented approach that awards agency to her subject, rather than herself. Writing about Friedrich Nietzsche and his sister Elisabeth, Diski discerns […]

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‘The Joy and the Terror Are Both in the Swallowing’ by Christine Shan Shan Hou: A Sword Down the Throat

by Lily Nilipour

Christine Shan Shan Hou’s poetry collection The Joy and Terror are Both in the Swallowing (92 pages; After Hours Editions) takes its title from a quote by American photographer Diane Arbus. It was a time when Arbus’ marriage was failing—a time when, as Anthony Lane writes in The New Yorker, she “was, like her mother before her, dragged into depression and sucked down, declaring, ‘The thing that sticks most in the throat and hurts the most is how easy it is. The joy and terror are both in the swallowing.’” Ten years later, in 1970, Arbus took a portrait of […]

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Watch our Booksmith Virtual Event for Issue 120: The Technology Issue

by ZYZZYVA Staff

In case you missed it: you can now watch our Virtual Reading event with The Booksmith from last week! This event celebrated the launch of Issue 120, the Technology Issue. Enjoy readings by contributors Juhea Kim, Troy Jollimore, Lee Conell, and William Brewer, and a reading by Alex Torres of Anthony Veasna So’s story “Generational Differences,” which also appears in the issue. The event was emceed by Zyzzyva’s Managing Editor, Oscar Villalon. You can watch it via the embedded video below. […]

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The Almeda Fire: Rogue Valley, Oregon

by Octavio Solis

Driving down Pioneer Road to Colver Road in Phoenix, Oregon (12/18/20). Credit: Otavio Solis As the weather report had promised, the morning was clear and blustery, the aspens outside clicking their leaves like maracas. I slurped the dregs of milk from my bowl of cereal, stepped outside to head to my studio, winked into the brightness and saw the plume. An immense bulbous cloud of pearly grey smoke billowing high into the blue. It loomed so large that for an instant a jab of panic seized my chest. Fire. Just as we had feared. All the day and night before,

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ZYZZYVA Staff Recommends May 2021: What to Read, Watch, & Listen To

by ZYZZYVA Staff

Lily Nilipour, Intern: One of the things I have most missed during this pandemic is, surprisingly, attending lectures. Before the advent of the Zoom classroom, I never realized how much I found the lecture hall a respite from the rest of daily life: the murmur of my classmates filing in and filling the rows of seats, the air conditioner blasting (or not on at all), the shuffling of notebook paper. And then, the lecture itself—for an hour or so, a singular voice carrying itself through the still air, accompanied by clicking keyboards and scratching pens. This was not the reason […]

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