The art in this issue is reproduced from Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art, a touring exhibition from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which was on view this winter at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. It features work created since the 1950s by artists of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Dominican descent, as well as pieces by others with Latin American roots, who have helped define American art since Abstract Expressionism. Their vibrant visions suggest experiences we share as we reach for common cultural and historical experiences and struggle with perspectives of marginalization, dislocation, estrangement, and detachment from assumptions about what values and beliefs are—or should be—at the heart of U.S. life and culture.
Danahy Fiction Prize winner Anne Ray opens the issue with “Please Repeat My Name,” a story whose very title cries out with a plea for identity and recognition. Audrey lives alone—her mother dead, her father cruel and distant—and creates a fragile self-comfort by collecting small, odd items which she keeps in a box under the bed, but she is often mocked for her peculiar habits and routines. The story becomes all the more poignant as she finds herself in the midst of an institutional setting being considered as a juror—to sit in judgement of others—seeking meaningful connections with desperation and irony amid the trappings of the American justice system.
Much of the work in this issue resonates with the fundamental desire to have one’s humanity affirmed, one’s individual value recognized. At the same time, we are intrigued by the dynamics created as people, objects, and values contact, influence, and change one another, producing unexpected dynamics and new identities. Author and mother Rebecca Givens Rolland exerts such “civilizing” influences on her child as she teaches and responds to her behavior in “We Don't Throw Sand.” Spanish diseases and warfare change life for Florida Gulf Coast Native Americans as Thomas Hallock realizes in “Into the Swamp.” The humanizing and saving power of work bookends the contents of this issue with the gathering of valued memories in “My Great Grandfather’s Altar” by Muriel Hasbun, and the moving story it faces, “Two Floors above the Dead” by Michael Amos Cody, in which the physical work of grave-digging gives meaning and voice to an extended family alive and taking care within the mind and heart of a unique narrator.
Work is one of the most significant components of American life and identity. It resonates throughout this issue in the visual imagery, including “La Ruma Supermarket” by Emilo Sánchez, and in literary texts, perhaps most directly in “What Work Is” by Allison Campbell, an appreciation for the blue-collar, working-class awareness central to the poetic work of Philip Levine. Anthony Roesch describes the demolition of a working-class urban African-American community’s apartment building rendered in the unforgettable image of a 65-year-old grieving pastor-father turned helpless repairman in “Jericho.” And though it takes many shapes and forms, from practical to sublime, work and its meanings fill these pages in compelling ways. Paired with work, too, is the hope for rest: that the work of war finally be done, as with “Never Again / etched in stone” and repeated “over and over” in “Peace Park” by Dorothy Howe Brooks; that we find forgiveness for the stains we can’t remove, as in “Behind the Ears” by James Valvis; that we echo Allison Campbell’s conclusion: “The idea that I may be my own best work makes me a whole lot less afraid of everything I do between here and the hereafter.”
Fiction by: Michael Amos Cody, Kate Kaplan,
and Anthony Roesch.
Poetry by: Bryce Berkowitz, Dorothy Howe Brooks, Carol V. Davis,
Becky Gould Gibson, Charlotte Innes, Marilyn Joy,
, A. Molotkov, Elisabeth Murawski, Derek Palacio,
Brook J. Sadler, Marjorie Stelmach, Lee Colin Thomas, James Valvis, and Katherine E. Young.
Nonfiction by: Jack Bushnell,
Allison Campbell, Thomas Hallock, and Rebecca Givens Rolland.
Art by: Carlos Almaraz
, Charles “Chaz” Bojórquez, María Brito,
María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Scherezade García,
, Juan Sánchez
, Xavier Viramontes
, and Suzanne Williamson.
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