So often, a collection or anthology sets out to represent the best writing of a given form, genre, or year: Best American This, Best Collected That. Not so in the case of Forward: 21st Century Flash Fiction (Aforementioned Productions, 2019), a collection of short short fiction by writers of color, edited by Megan Giddings.“I’m not really a person who believes in bests,” she explains in her editor’s note. “The point [of this collection] is to show off how many ways a very short story can be written[…], to show that there are many writers out there engaging with the incredible elasticity of flash fiction.”
16-year-old Lupe Dávila is a bi-ethnic “Gringa-Rican” from Vermont on her way to spend the summer in Puerto Rico with her father’s family. Only this time she is going alone, as her father has decided to stay behind. Lupe is desperate to experience Puerto Rico without the constraints of her uncle, the police chief, who is in the middle of a very perplexing murder case. And though he and Lupe often discuss his cases, as they both share a love of solving murders, this time he refuses to talk with her about it.
A Brief Disclaimer: Susan, author of Whiskey Letters (Arroyo Secco Press 2018) and I met in college while attending California State University of Long Beach. We had just about every class together, and so our friendship was sealed by fate. I have heard many stories from these pages firsthand and I have seen many of the pieces which appear in Whiskey Letters in their earliest drafts. I have also witnessed her personal growth and artistic development as a friend and fellow poet.
If I really wanted to do Phil Stamper’s debut YA novel The Gravity of Us justice, I’d pull out my phone and video myself live walking through the streets of New York City while I shared my thoughts with you. To review the book this way would be the best homage to Cal, the wonderful narrator Stamper has crafted, a social-media-savvy, budding seventeen year-old reporter from Brooklyn who suddenly finds himself transplanted to Clear Lake, Texas when his dad is picked as an astronaut candidate for NASA’s first mission to Mars. In Clear Lake, Cal is pulled away from everything he loves from Brooklyn, but unexpectedly brought closer to Leon, the son of another astronaut and the perfect love match for Cal.
Nicknamed “the Alan Ginsberg of Japan” by Kenneth Rexroth, Kazuko Shiraishi brings readers a sight-seeing drive through the mystical mountains of Japan in her collection Sea, Land, Shadow, complete with sharp turns and curves, moments of awe-inspiring depth and darkness, and instants of effervescent lightheartedness.
As we embark on a new decade, I wanted to provide a guidebook for a year of reading – a list which might offer, loosely, a template for reading to encourage you to hear new voices, support new authors, and step outside your comfort zone.
I’d sworn off Holocaust stories permanently. Or so I thought. Twenty-five years ago, Schindler’s List, Stephen Spielberg’s film, nearly did me in. Soon thereafter, I burst into tears in the lobby of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, before even picking up admission tickets. Thousands of pairs of shoes taken from murdered prisoners at the Majdanek concentration camp, displayed in the museum’s lobby, felt crushing.
Every once in awhile there is a book that makes you giggle, flush with embarrassment and curl your toes. I remember them from reading as a teen. Specifically, Sarah Dessen whose books always promised a teen new in town who 1) meets someone who is misunderstood, 2) experiences a traumatic loss and must start over, or 3) both – and drama and hilarity ensue. Jasmine Guillory writes those books for an adult audience.