November 16, 2020 § Leave a comment
This week, The Best of Brevity: Twenty Groundbreaking Years of Flash Nonfiction begins shipping from warehouses across the country (and becomes available at your local independent bookstore through curbside service or distanced browsing.) We are excited about early praise for the book, grateful to everyone who pre-ordered, and thrilled to hear from those of you who plan to give the book a test run in your writing classes next semester.
We also have two launch events this week, our West Coast Launch in Los Angeles and our East Coast Launch on the Three Rivers Coastline of Pittsburgh. We hope you will join us to celebrate!
Here are the particulars:
SKYLIGHT BOOKS, Los Angeles, Wednesday Nov. 18th at 6:30 pm PST (9:30 pm EST)
Best of Brevity co-editors Zoë Bossiere and Dinty W. Moore will be joined by authors Daisy Hernández, Nicole Walker, and Ira Sukrungruang. Following a reading of three brief (of course) essays from the anthology, there will be lively discussion about the flash nonfiction form and tips for those wanting to write, publish, and teach flash nonfiction. An audience Q&A will follow. You can pre-register here: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/skylit-best-of-brevity/register
WHITE WHALE BOOKSTORE, Pittsburgh, Thursday Nov. 19th at 7 pm EST
At this East Coast event, Zoë and Dinty will be joined by authors Julie Hakim Azzam, Lori Jakiela, and Deesha Philyaw. Following a reading of their three brief essays from the anthology, there will be lively discussion about the flash nonfiction form and tips for those wanting to write, publish, and teach flash nonfiction. An audience Q&A will follow. Preregister for the event here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/east-coast-launch-for-the-best-of-brevity-registration-127005140795
And here’s more on the book:
Featuring examples of nonfiction forms such as memoir, narrative, lyric, braided, hermit crab, and hybrid, The Best of Brevity brings you 84 of the best-loved and most memorable reader favorites from the journal, collected in print for the first time. Compressed to their essence, these essays glint with drama, grief, love, and anger, as well as innumerable other lived intensities, resulting in an anthology that is as varied as it is unforgettable, leaving the reader transformed.
With contributions from Jenny Boully, Brian Doyle, Roxane Gay, Daisy Hernández, Michael Martone, Ander Monson, Patricia Park, Kristen Radtke, Diane Seuss, Abigail Thomas, Jia Tolentino, and many more.
“The Best of Brevity feels like the condensed energy of a coiled spring. A vibrant collection, dynamic in its exploration and celebration of the flash form.”
-Karen Babine, author of All the Wild Hungers
November 3, 2020 § 1 Comment
By Joey Franklin
If the past several years of political rancor have demonstrated anything, it is that Americans are not often at our best when talking politics (I know I’m not). There seems to be so little room for compassion, nuance, or even a basic acknowledgment of a common humanity outside our own tribal boundaries.
Tania Israel, author of Beyond your Bubble: How to Connect Across the Political Divide, writes: “If we cannot survive outside of our bubbles, if we cannot tolerate listening to our friends and families and neighbors, if we cannot see beyond our own perspectives; if we view our fellow citizens as enemies, how can we sustain our relationships, our communities, our country?”
And if you are anything like me, you read those questions, and you imagined friends and family that you sometimes can’t tolerate listening to; and you probably imagined people you know who have trouble seeing beyond their own perspectives (and you probably didn’t count yourself among them). But these are essential questions to ask ourselves at the peak of one of the most contentious and significant presidential races in modern history. No matter which candidate prevails, the health of our nation will depend a great deal on our ability to speak across socio-political boundaries, to recognize our own blind spots, to accept one another as fellow human beings, and speak clearly and powerfully about what it is to live in this strained and divided country.
Given this imperative, I offer here five essays that demonstrate the kind of poignant, challenging, socially conscious invitation to empathy that is so essential to the health of a diverse citizenry. Change comes as we learn to see one another more clearly, when we reclaim patriotism in the spirit of the essay—not a flag-waving zeal based on myth and convenient narratives, but a skeptical hope in the power of individual experience to lift us toward our loftier ideals.
Election Day Reads for a Better America:
- “How to Erase an Arab,” by Julie Hakim Azzam
“It’s bad to lie your way through life. But this is easier, better. What’s worse is how it keeps happening. We build it—our lives, a city, a home—we break it down. Over and over.”
Azzam’s stunning lyric essay captures the way racism, fear, and a desire for belonging can complicate allegiances and life for immigrant families in the United States.
- “Who Gets to Be Afraid in America,” by Ibram X. Kendi
“I just don’t think Americans fully realize how terrorizing it is to black males when we are falsely suspected as violent criminals. All Americans seem to be thinking about is their fear of us—not our fear of their fear.”
Kendi examines the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and the irrational white fear that led to his death and that continues to threaten people of color across the country.
- “Dawn and Mary,” by Brian Doyle
“If we ever forget that there is something in us beyond sense and reason that snarls at death and runs roaring at it to defend children, if we ever forget that all children are our children, then we are fools who have allowed memory to be murdered too, and what good are we then?”
Before Brian Doyle died, he came to BYU and read this essay about the heroes of the Sandy Hook school shooting. He passed out copies and told the audience: “Walk out of here with ‘Dawn and Mary’ in your pocket. Then read it as you like, and then copy it a hundred times and give it to everybody you know.”
“No matter what we write, white people can turn our stories into weapons, an excuse to be paternalistic . . .No matter what we do, we’re still Indian, and often we don’t get to speak for ourselves.”
Mailhot reflects on the long history of white culture appropriating, denying, exoticizing, erasing, and demonizing native cultures, and expresses a desire to speak on her own terms.
- “A Piece of Cotton” by Anne Fadiman
“After September 11, I saw for the first time that the flag—along with all its red, white, and blue collateral relations—is what a semiotician would call ‘polysemous’: it has multiple meanings.”
Fadiman considers the roots of her bias against flag waving, and reconsiders the possibilities of patriotism and the nature of her own belonging in a post 9/11 America.
On this election day, as the frenetic energy of the campaigns come to an end, and we sit in what we hope is the calm after, and not before the storm, it is good to read something that challenges us to be better Americans. These essays here are just a primer, and I hope in the comments below you’ll share titles, and maybe links to essays that inspire you on this election day. Heaven knows we all could use a little of that.
*And a quick note of thanks: To Dinty for inviting me to inhabit the Brevity Blog over these past few days, and to the Brevity community at large for taking the time to read, think, comment, and share. It has been a pleasure. Happy reading. Now go vote!).
Joey Franklin’s new book Delusions of Grandeur: American Essays is on sale now at University of Nebraska Press. Use discount code 6AF20 to get 40% off.
Joey Franklin’s newest book is Delusions of Grandeur: American Essays. He is also the author of My Wife Wants You to Know I Am Happily Married (Nebraska 2015). His articles and essays have appeared in Poets & Writers Magazine, Writer’s Chronicle, Hunger Mountain, Gettysburg Review, the Norton Reader, and elsewhere. With Patrick Madden, he co-edits the literary magazine Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction (accepting submissions now), and he teaches at Brigham Young University where he coordinates the MFA program in creative writing. His current projects include a memoir about the saints and scoundrels in his family tree, and a professionalization guide for creative writers. He can be found online at joeyfranklin.com.