Shiftiness: The Border in Eight Cases

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airport-1897716_1920President 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.

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Green Shirt: ZYZZYVA No. 100

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David L. Ulin is the book critic at the Los Angeles Times, as well as the author of the books The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith and The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time, the novella Labyrinth, and the editor of the Library of America’s Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology. He is also a ZYZZYVA contributing editor.

For the 100th issue, Ulin contributed “Green Shirt,” a riveting essay about (ostensibly) a deep-seated fear of flying and how the writer preps himself for boarding a plane. Erudite, roving, and surprising, “Green Shirt” touches upon Death Cab for Cutie and Elvis Costello, Kurt Vonnegut and Philip Roth, Gretel Ehrlich and Twiggy. “What are the rituals,” he writes toward the end, “… that contain us, even (or especially) if we cannot be contained? This is why stories are important; yes, they may be contradictions, but contradictions are what we have.”

The following is an excerpt from “Green Shirt.” The piece can be read in its entirety in the 100th issue, which you can get here.

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Hacks: ZYZZYVA No. 100

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Jim Gavin, the author of the critically acclaimed story collection Middle Men (which was long-listed for the 2014 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize), first appeared in ZYZZYVA No. 63 (“Recommendation”). For the 100th issue, he contributed a hilarious piece of nonfiction, the stinging “Hacks.”

The story of Gavin’s stint as a young man in the world of community newspapers, “Hacks” recalls the grubby lifestyle that comes with being a grunt on the sports desk: attending endless high school meets, living off of Mountain Dew and Del Taco, working with colleagues who could stand a shower. But it is also an early glimpse into what the writing life can mean—a calling of shabby nobility, a difficult vocation in which one tries to “record and instill with grandeur the lives of people who will never be famous.”

The following is an excerpt from “Hacks.” You can read the piece in its entirety, of course, in the 100th issue, which can order here.

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The Dead Ones

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A past contributor to ZYZZYVA (her essay “Cuba+Kids-Water” ran in Issue No. 95), novelist Edie Meidav makes another welcome appearance in our pages, this time in our 100th issue. Her essay, “The Dead Ones,” takes her back to the home of her youth, the Bay Area.

When asked about the background of “The Dead Ones,” Meidav writes, “Sometimes I feel we have these hearts that are like ships crowded with all the people we love or once knew well—so the question becomes how crowded can your ship become?—and every time I beat a path of return to the Bay Area, walking certain streets in that balmy air, I feel both cradled and pierced by memories: the Bay Area is something of my pastoral. (I remember, now, Philip Roth talking about walking Newark before writing American Pastoral.) In the last few years, I kept walking near my former mentor’s house in a state of disbelief that all that vitality had vanished, her wit, her stockinged legs.”

The following is an excerpt from “The Dead Ones.” Edie Meidav will also be one of the readers at ZYZZYVA’s All Star Summer Celebration at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 17. You can RSVP your free ticket here. And you can order a copy of Issue No. 100 here.

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A Cowboy Crosses the Border in Silence

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Diego Enrique Osorno is the author of El Cartel de Sinaloa: Uno Historia del Uso Politico del Narco (The Sinaloa Cartel: A History of the Political Use of the Narco) and La Guerra de Los Zetas (The War of the Zetas). Osorno was awarded the Proceso International Journalism Prize in 2011, and his nonfiction on Mexico’s drug war, “The Battle of Ciudad Mier,” was published in ZYZZYVA’s Spring 2012 issue.

His nonfiction piece about his beloved deaf-mute uncle Geronimo, “A Cowboy Crosses the Border in Silence,” appears in the Spring/Summer issue of ZYZZYVA. It’s a thoughtful examination of a singular life, and a rare look into the world of deaf Mexican immigrants and their community in the United States. The work is translated by Emma Friedland, who is the editorial director of the website the Borderland Chronicles. The following is an excerpt.

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Out of Notebooks

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W.S. Di Piero, who lives in San Francisco, is the author of several acclaimed books of poetry (his most recent being Nitro Nights (Copper Canyon)) and is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 2012 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation of Chicago.

Di Piero’s poetry has appeared in ZYZZYVA’s Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 issues. (His poem in the Spring issue, “There Were Such Things,” received a 2013 Pushcart Prize.) And now his nonfiction can be read in ZYZZYVA’s Spring/Summer issue. “Out of Notebooks” is an essay of sorts, a collection of thoughts and observations, ranging from subjects such as physical pain to the nature of poetry, and taking as its settings places such as a BART car or a museum room. The following is an excerpt.

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A Careful Reading of a Literature’s Underdogs: Larry Beckett’s ‘Beat Poetry’

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The beat goes on. Larry Beckett, the one-time songwriter (he famously collaborated with the late Tim Buckley) has long been immersed in an ongoing poetic project called “American Cycle,’’ which takes an ambitious look at the folkloric past—from Paul Bunyan and P.T. Barnum, to Chief Joseph and Amelia Earhart and other figures from the “old weird America.’’ His latest book, simply titled Beat Poetry (Beatdom Books, 150 pages), tries to put into meaningful perspective the oft heralded if frequently over-hyped revolution in American poetry that took birth from the vernacular modesty of that good obstetrician William Carlos Williams and incorporated […]

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The Mr. Smith Syndrome

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Luis Alberto Urrea is the critically acclaimed and best-selling author of fourteen books, including his most recent, the novel Queen of America (Little, Brown.) He is the winner of numerous awards for his poetry, fiction and essays, as well as a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Urrea grew up in San Diego, and that experience of being Mexican American and living close to the border has informed his writing. In his essay in ZYZZYVA’s Fall issue, “The Mr. Smith Syndrome,” Urrea brings to life a job he had as a teenager: frying up donuts for a sketchy boss (“Cigarette smoke. Body odor. Bad breath.”).

There’s a spirit of resolve in the piece, an understanding of what you need to overcome to find, perhaps, a state of grace in this life. The following is the essay in its entirety. (Warning: You may never eat another old-fashioned again.)

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Cuba + Kids – Water

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Edie Meidav is the award-winning author of the novel Lola, California (Picador) and the forthcoming Dogs of Cuba. Raised in Berkeley, she’s a former director of the New College of California MA/MFA in writing and is now a writer-in residence at Bard College.

Her essay, “Cuba+Kids-Water,” appeared in ZYZZYVA’s Fall issue. Humorous and thoughtful, it recounts Meidav’s experience when she temporarily relocated to Havana with her family so she could do research on Cuba’s boxers. It’s a propulsive read, partly due to Meidav’s prose style and partly due to the expectant sense she creates around her family’s living situation. But for all the wonderful surprises, there are less than cheery ones, too.

The following is an excerpt of “Cuba+Kids-Water.”

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The Winning Crowd

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The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Andrew Carnegie Medal, and PEN Center West Best Book Award, Gary Soto is the author of thirty-five books. His most recent are the e-novel When Dad Came Back (University Press of New England) and the YA story collection Hey 13! (Holiday House).

“The Winning Crowd,” his nonfiction piece in ZYZZYVA‘s Winter 2011 issue, is Soto’s account of attending a 49ers game (pre-Harbaugh era) with a friend, arriving at the stadium dressed “to the nines.” Funny and sinister, the piece could be read as a straight-ahead story of civility and elegance stirring the wrath of slovenly, crude sports fans. (As anybody who attended games at Candlestick Park last season could tell you, there was plenty of uncivil behavior at Niners games.) But it also works as a broader tale of how signs of culture and style can upset the very community you consider yourself part of.  The following is an excerpt.

Soto reads with Faith Gardner and Blossom Plum at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 8, at Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore in Berkeley.

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Sight Lines

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San Francisco writer Jill Storey has been published in Salon, the Washington Post, and Ms. Magazine, among other publications. Her essay “Sight Lines” appears in ZYZZYVA’s Fall issue.

A meditation on what it means to have monovision (“What I see can perhaps be described as what others see when viewing a movie or photograph.”), “Sight Lines” is a thoughtful exploration about seeing the world in two dimensions, and of the philosophical and cultural inquiries her condition raises. “Real is also the word my husband used when we saw a 3-D movie recently,” Storey writes. “To me, it looked like any other movie. So if the three-dimensional world is real, does that make my world unreal?” The following is an excerpt from her essay.

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You Don’t Want to Know

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Anneli Rufus is the award-winning author of several books, including Party of One: The Loner’s Manifesto, California Babylon: A Guide to Scandal, Mayhem, and Celluloid in the Golden State, and The Farewell Chronicles: How We Really Respond to Death. Her work has appeared in East Bay Express, the San Francisco Chronicle, Salon.com and Psychology Today. She lives in Berkeley.

“You Don’t Want to Know” is an original essay for ZYZZYVA’s website. It’s one of a group of connected essays Anneli Rufus has been working on. “The basic theme,” she writes, “is the darkness and hilarity of life with paralytically low self-esteem.”

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