Q&A with Gabriela Garcia: ‘Of Women and Salt’ and the Cost of Survival

by Kyubin Kim

Of Women and Salt (224 pages; Flatiron Books), the first novel by Gabriela Garcia, follows four generations of women, from 19th century Cuba to present-day Miami. While the book primarily concerns Cuban American Jeanette’s journey to recover her matrilineal family history, Garcia weaves in the characters’ personal testimonies with a delicate understanding of how women’s lives are preserved incompletely, lost in migration, or erased. Training her eye on the Cuban diaspora and humanizing the nascent debates about U.S. immigration, Garcia meditates on the strength of women and frames motherhood as not mere sacrifice for the future generations, but affirming the […]

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Q&A with Joshua Mohr: ‘Model Citizen’ and Pointing Out the Frictions

by Kyubin Kim

Model Citizen (336 pages; Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is Joshua Mohr’s memoir on addiction, sobriety, and fatherhood. It’s a brutally sincere addition to his repertoire that includes the previous memoir Sirens and five novels. Told in a series of non-chronological vignettes, Model Citizens begins with Mohr’s jagged path to recovery in episodes of self-destruction and regret. We’re pulled so viscerally into San Francisco bars where one drink turns into a blacked-out night that we feel like the gears in Mohr’s brain, trying to make sense of how we got here. We also experience the anguish of recovery and relapse, drawn […]

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Q&A with Zhanna Slor: ‘At the End of the World, Turn Left’ and the Struggle with Identity

by Christine Sneed

Zhanna Slor’s debut novel, At the End of the World, Turn Left (304 pages; Agora Books), is informed by a fine balance of comedy and drama. Set in Milwaukee in the late aughts, the novel’s two point-of-view characters, sisters Masha and Anna, alternately cast their ironic, sometimes bemused gazes on their family’s Russian Jewish immigrant circumstance, while also chafing strenuously at the limitations and the fear informing their parents’ and grandparents’ choices in America. Both sisters are progressive, adventurous, often funny young women who have no patience for their elders’ stern refusal to indulge their curiosity—especially Anna’s.  When the novel opens, […]

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Q&A with Christine Hume: ‘Saturation Project’ and Resisting the Myth

by Lily Nilipour

Christine Hume’s Saturation Project (192 pages; Solid Objects) is a boldly ambitious piece of experimental nonfiction that defies easy categorization. The book is split into three parts, and in each one we witness the story of a life, and hear the sounds that underlie it, whether it’s the “hum” that grants its name to the middle section of the book or the wind that commands much of Hume’s attention in the third section. Whatever this current might be, it rushes beneath her words like subterranean rivers moving undetected until they either emerge gradually from the depths. Hume spoke with ZYZZYVA […]

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The Ever-Evolving Condition of Emigrating: Q&A with ‘Infinite Country’ Author Patricia Engel

by Oscar Villalon

In Patricia Engel’s new novel, Infinite Country (208 pages; Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster), the acclaimed author of Vida and The Veins of the Ocean explores a desolating aspect of the immigrant experience in the United States: the bifurcation of the heart, split between yearning for a better future and longing for the towns and cities left behind. As her protagonists contend with an immigration status that leaves them terribly vulnerable, and leads to a dreadful family separation—far from each other and from the places they still think of as home—the weight of loss is ever felt. It’s an emotion […]

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Q&A with R.O. Kwon and Kim Fu: Challenging the Narrative with ‘Kink: Stories’

by Corinne Leong

Sex in literature is the backdrop of the volta, of awakening. Sex represents the moment in which the character most deeply occupies their body, is most aware of their being, whether the experience incites joy or regret. But for all of the artful depictions of sex present in contemporary literature and other media, sexual kink has been largely neglected. The few representations of kink that do exist have assumed an exoticizing, alienating gaze, framing kink as something to be gawked at, commodified, rather than experienced. Editors R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries, and Garth Greenwell, who released his novel Cleanness […]

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Q&A with Bryan Washington: Making a ‘Memorial’

by Colton Alstatt

Memorial (320 pages; Riverhead Books) is author Bryan Washington’s first novel and currently in development as an television series from acclaimed production house A24. The book centers on the relationship between Mike and his partner, Benson, as the former departs for Osaka, Japan to locate his ailing father, leaving Benson behind to contend with Mike’s mother in their shared Houston apartment. Washington tells a tightly-woven story about a young, mixed-race, queer couple comprehending their febrile love in the oppressive contexts of a larger world. Washington, whose story “Community Plot” appeared in our 35th Anniversary Issue, spoke to ZYZZYVA about the […]

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Q&A with Nina Revoyr: Looking back on ‘Postcard from L.A., April’

by Corinne Leong

Our recent Los Angeles Issue (No. 119) featured an essay by novelist Nina Revoyr titled “Postcard from L.A., April,” a meditation on mortality, privilege, and mindfulness during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In it, Revoyr reflects on her past encounters with illness and other threats to life—severe lung damage following chemical exposure, a cancer scare, plummeting sixty feet down the face of Mt. Shasta—in order to contextualize her experiences of the pandemic as they occurred in April 2020 in Los Angeles. Having intimately faced her mortality, Revoyr recognizes certain comforts that accompany L.A.’s stay-at-home orders. While she acknowledges […]

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Of Girls and Golems: An Interview with Riva Lehrer

by Christine Sneed

Artist, activist, writer, and professor Riva Lehrer’s debut memoir, Golem Girl (448 pages; One World), is a book defined by its author’s witty and confiding voice and the numerous paintings and photographs populating its pages. It is at once a work of serious literature and an artist’s book: a beautifully produced physical object. And it was recently named as one of the finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards in Autobiography.   Lehrer, born with spina bifida in Cincinnati in 1958, spent the first two years of her life in the hospital and would have been forced to stay […]

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The Manuscript in the Corner: A Conversation with Wendy C. Ortiz

by David L. Ulin

Wendy C. Ortiz and I met when she was an MFA student and I became her graduate mentor. She was working on the first draft of the manuscript that would eventually become Excavation (Future Tense; 2014), and even then, it was clear that this was remarkable work. Ruthless, self-interrogating, resolute in its unwillingness to look away, Ortiz’s book—which involves the sexual relationship she had with a teacher when she was an adolescent—represents an astonishing act of reclamation, an author writing her way back to her own life. Ortiz is not looking to lay blame so much as she is interested

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An Interview with John Marx: Balance, Beauty, and Burning Man

by Colton Alstatt

ZYZZYVA: The poetics of études are compelling. The poems within play with open space, linework, and non-invasive markings to texture and guide the flow of reading. In their verbal substance, the pregnant subtlety of some poems remind me of Master Basho’s enigmatic haikus. What were some influences on the spatial, serene nature of your writing? JOHN MARX: There are two parts to this.  First is my background in the visual arts, specifically architecture and photography. Within these there is a quest for a spareness and economy of form, alongside an emphasis on compositional clarity and dynamic flow. The internal spacing […]

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