Q&A with Robin Carlson: ‘The Cold Canyon Fire Journals’ and Rebirth from the Flames

by Rebecca Rukeyser

When Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve, an ecological preserve in the California Coast Ranges, was ravaged by the Wragg Fire in 2015, Robin Carlson found herself struck by a sensation of loss. “Although my mind understood fire’s importance in the ecosystem, my heart did not,” she writes. The way to reconcile her contradictory feelings—those of a Californian haunted by a well-founded fear of fires and of a trained biologist with knowledge of fire cycles—was to return to Cold Canyon, notepad in hand, to observe the devastation and first stages of regrowth. And she kept returning. Sometimes she was accompanied by scientists, […]

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The Chinese Barracks

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A native of Davis, California, Rebecca Rukeyser is a creative writing instructor at the University of Iowa. But before landing in Iowa City, Rukeyser had lived and worked in Istanbul, in Kawasaki, Japan, and in Ulsan, South Korea, and Santa Cruz, California.

Her story in ZYZZYVA’s Spring/Summer issue, “The Chinese Barracks,” tells the tale of a group of young people slogging through the salmon cannery season in Alaska. The work is dangerous, not least because of the sleep deprivation suffered by the men and women working the cannery floor. “The Chinese Barracks” marks Rukeyser’s first story in print. The following is an excerpt.

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