Already Intertwined: Talking to Daniel Borzutzky and Brenda Lozano About Lit & Luz

By Andy Fitch

This conversation focuses on Nightboat author Daniel Borzutzky’s work with novelist Brenda Lozano on organizing the 2017 Lit & Luz Festival of Language, Literature, and Art. Held each fall in the U.S. and each winter in Mexico, Lit & Luz offers a unique series of readings, conversations, performances, and multimedia presentations featuring renowned authors and visual artists from Chicago and Mexico City. From October 17th to 21st, more than a dozen Lit & Luz events will take place in Chicago galleries, college auditoriums, classrooms, bookstores, and museums. The festival will conclude with its “Live Magazine Extravaganza Show” finale at Co-Prosperity Sphere, featuring debut multimedia collaborations between the Mexico City-based and Chicago-based participants. This year’s festival theme of “Belonging” celebrates the richly diverse sustained interconnections of custom, community, and culture between Chicago and Mexico City. At the same time, “Belonging” poses questions about what it means to be excluded from a community, a city, and a nation.  Continue reading

Ghosts of Our Past: An Interview with Jesmyn Ward

By Louise McCune 

When Jojo and his family go to pick up his father Michael from Parchman Prison, they return home with an unlikely additional passenger. Richie — who can be seen only by Jojo and his toddler sister Kayla — is a ghost who has kept residence at Parchman for decades, haunting the site of his untimely death in an attempt to understand it. Richie was only a boy when he was incarcerated for spurious reasons, and he was only a boy when he was killed for trying to escape. Sing, Unburied, Sing, a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award, is a novel populated by living characters who contend daily with the consequences of state-sanctioned racial violence. Richie’s story intervenes in an otherwise 21st-century narrative to indicate that, when it comes to American racism, the past remains very much alive. Continue reading

E.M. Wolfman Bookstore

By Cody Sisco

“The purpose was to bring people together,” Justin Carder, founder of E.M. Wolfman general interest small bookstore, told me.

E.M. Wolfman could have been a tool lending library or a do-it-yourself fix-it shop. Instead, Justin created a bookstore, using skills honed while managing Dave Eggers’s famed Pirate Supply Store in San Francisco and during his lifelong apprenticeship to his father, building and fixing things in the Carder family home. Continue reading

Jewess in Wool Clothing

By Susan Golomb 

When I was married and my then-husband and I visited Ireland, where half of his ancestors are from, everyone we met thought that I was the one who was looking for her roots. This thrilled me for reasons I’m not sure of. Was the actress in me proud of how well I could lose myself in another identity? Was it that I believed the Irish are the lost tribe of Israel — Leopold Bloom, Abie’s Irish Rose? Was it some latent Jewish self-hatred? Or was it simply the relief of knowing I could pass as Gentile? Continue reading

Comic Relief? The Puzzling Function of Political Humor Online

By Marta Zarzycka

The most terrifying movie I have ever seen, no doubt, was Funny Games, written and directed by Michael Haneke. In the movie, a sheltered bourgeois family’s reality transforms into a nightmare at the hands of two sadistic captors in immaculate golf whites and gloves. There is nothing “funny” about the situation, which, in hindsight, renders the title misleading and cruel.

A similarly ominous congruity between the “funny” and the violent is glaringly present in the right-wing register of the internet. The mix of satire and political ideology drives platforms such as Breitbart, AltRight, or Daily Stormer (which recently resurfaced on the dark web). Continue reading

Remembering Lynn Moe Swe (1976-2017)

By Ko Ko Thett 

“Until the end of the wake” by Lynn Moe Swe (1976-2017):

The funeral I wrote down happens today. 
Or, does it?

The opening lines of “Until the end of the wake” by Lynn Moe Swe anticipate afterlife. Lynn Moe Swe, who died of Dylan-Thomas Syndrome aka alcohol poisoning in the wee hours of Monday, September 18, in his hometown Monywa, was one of Myanmar’s most outstanding poets of his generation. He was 41. Continue reading

Weil Waiting: On the 75th Anniversary of Simone Weil’s Visit to New York

By Robert Zaretsky

Seventy-five years ago, the French philosopher and religious mystic Simone Weil was a prisoner of New York. As she wrote (in English) to an American officer whose radio address she had heard (but had never met), her parents forced her to leave Vichy France: they “had wanted to escape anti-Semitism [and] put great pressure upon me to make me go with them.” Ever since her arrival in early July, though, an implacable sense of suffering overpowered her: France’s suffering under German occupation, but her own suffering as well. If her separation from France “was to last a long time, it seems to me that it would break my heart.” Continue reading

The Amateur Fiction of Arab Dictators

By Mona Kareem

“We were concerned that some of the writers would not be comfortable to be associated with Hesperus once we published this book, but we’re politically neutral. We only publish what we find interesting.” With this statement, British publisher Hesperus announced their plan to publish a translation of Saddam Hussein’s final novel Begone, Demons! which he was, allegedly, writing in a secret place while Iraqis were getting bombed by the United States and its allies. The publisher said the novel will be the first title in their “new imprint focusing on eastern literature.” The statement had me wonder: who still uses the word “eastern” anymore? Are Saddam’s writings considered literature, by any living creature? The publisher had an initial plan to release the translation on the 10th anniversary of Saddam’s execution. Is that a celebration? Or a commemoration? And who invited these guys to the party? Continue reading

Are Nostalgia Tours the New Dyke Bar?

By Japonica Brown-Saracino

Recent op-eds in the New York Times and Vice mourn, respectively, the loss of lesbian bars and 1990s Provincetown. These pieces, and analogous Lost Dyke Bar Tours (in New York) and performances (in New Orleans), hit close to home. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I spent more nights than I can count in the very Chicago bar that the New York Times op-ed highlights. And I was, without a doubt, one of the Smith undergraduates the Vice article recalls: the small army of Smithies who staffed Provincetown stores and, on the rare day off, populated the women’s section of Herring Cove beach. To be sure, with little provocation I will wax poetic about that bar and that summer; about beer and fries at L Word viewing parties, and about bike rides through the dunes and evenings on the beach under the stars. Of course, unless pressed, I will omit any mention of drama, sunburn, and mosquitoes. Continue reading