YARN http://yareview.net The YA Review Network Wed, 23 May 2018 12:00:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 The Fish Suicide http://yareview.net/2018/05/the-fish-suicide/ http://yareview.net/2018/05/the-fish-suicide/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 12:00:05 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9234 Robbie asks himself again and again — why did I love this girl?

By Michelle Secunda

© Marta Nøtgarrd http://www.flickr.com

Fifteen minutes ago I was awoken by my phone buzzing against the puckered wood of my dresser.  Sleepily I reached for it, answering without looking at the caller. “Jerome killed himself,” said the tear-muffled voice of the ex-girl-of-my-dreams.

“Izzie?” my voice was hoarse from sleep, and my brain was working hard to keep up.  Moments ago I was blissfully unconscious, and then there she was, Izzie Cartwright, breaking a year of disinterest with a single phone call at three in the morning.

“Who else would tell you about Jerome?  He killed himself, Robby, it’s suicide.” She broke down crying harder.

I paused, unsure of what to do.  Jerome is a fish.  The kind that’s supposed to never die even if you forget to feed it for a while or don’t change its water.  I know this because I got Jerome for Izzie last year after she killed the cactus I got her for Valentine’s Day.  Back then I thought it was cute, her inability to nurture even the most hostile plant.  Now I understand that she can’t nurture anything.  When you have no soul it’s hard to care about things, I guess.

Part of me wanted to hang up, roll over, and go back sleep, leaving Izzie to hear the dial tone.  Let her be alone this time.  Let her be left waiting for a response she will never get.  But Izzie was crying on the other end of my cell phone. She was crying and asking me to come over because she couldn’t deal with the fish suicide alone.  She was crying and I could hear the sound of her sobs echoing through her empty house.  She was Izzie and she was crying, and no matter how much I hate Izzie Cartwright, I can’t stand to hear her cry.  The manipulative bitch probably knew that, but whatever, I was awake anyway.

So here I am, in her driveway, like so many times before.   It’s late February and the trees are bare and the grass is brown and there isn’t even snow.  The Cartwright yard is dark and cold and ugly as I walk through it up the stairs to her porch and knock on the red front door.

The door bursts open and Izzie Cartwright throws herself into my arms like I have just rescued her from a dragon, her red curls floating over my face before falling down her back.  I’m holding Izzie Cartwright.  And she smells like Izzie Cartwright, like peaches and brown sugar.  And she feels small and sturdy like Izzie Cartwright and fits against me like she always did. I close my eyes, and it is last year and she still loves me and we are still a ‘we.’  Rizzie, her friends called us.  We had a couple name.  I pretended to hate it but secretly loved being tethered so closely to the most amazing girl in the entire school, perhaps even the entire world.

Izzie pulls away, wiping her teary eyes with her sleeve, and I snap back to this February night on her porch where she still looks stunning despite her red puffy eyes and slightly snotty nose.  She’s in her pajamas, which are just loose-fitting leggings and an old Yankees t-shirt that falls to her upper thigh.  Why do I find her attractive even when she’s pajama-clad and crying?  Why do I find her attractive when I know what she did to me, how she mercilessly ripped out my heart and devoured it.  Why do I wish I had taken the time to comb my messy mop of dark brown bedhead?

“Thank God you came,” Izzie says, taking my hand and pulling me into her house. Inside it’s warm, and it smells like it always used to, and I wonder if I will ever be able to walk into this house without imagining me and Izzie on the couch wrapped in each other.  Izzie’s parents both work fancy jobs in the city, and her house is always empty, leaving it as the go-to place for extended periods of alone time.  Just us in this big empty house. “My parents are in Chicago for some conference.” Izzie sniffs, leading me through the dark rooms of the downstairs.  Just us in this big empty house.  My heart aches in confusion.  What am I doing here?  Am I asking to get repeatedly tortured?

Izzie’s room is its usual disaster zone with clothes and makeup littering all the surfaces and a bed so unmade it seems like the sheets and comforter may never sort themselves out. Don’t think about the last time you were here, I order myself.  Sitting on her desk, which is more like a makeup station than a place a person would do work, is a fishtank with poor Jerome floating upside down at the top. Izzie sees my eyes lock on the fish and starts crying again.

“I was about to go to sleep when I heard a soft bumping noise, so I sat up and looked around and I couldn’t see where it was coming from.  I even checked my phone and computer to make sure I hadn’t left something on.  And then I saw it, it was Jerome, he was swimming into the side of the fish tank, like he was trying escape, and smashing his head against it.  He did it over and over again.  I tried to stop him.  I yelled at him to stop but I think I made it worse because I think he started swimming at it harder and then there was a big thunk and he… he stopped moving…” Izzie is sitting on her bed, a pillow pulled close, pressed between her curled up knees and her chest.  She hugs the pillow, letting her tears bleed into the colorful pillowcase, turning the hot pink to red. I long to go over and put my arm around her as I stroke her hair and whisper “shh, shh.”  But I don’t.  I ignore her and go to examine the fish.  That’s why she called me, after all.

Jerome is belly up, definitely dead and lifeless with the still water barely making his corpse sway over the fake plastic plant and miniature open treasure chest.  I wonder why Izzie even kept Jerome.  She could have given him away to someone more suited to be a fish owner.  It’s odd how I never thought about him after she dumped me.  Never thought of her caring about the fish who was given to her by a boy she did not care about.

I want to ask her why she kept Jerome.  I want to ask why she called me instead of Wes Conrad who I know took up the high occupancy position of Izzie’s latest boyfriend, or Tami Franklin who’s her best friend and never really liked me because I’m on the track team and not the football team. I want to ask her how she knew I would come, even after she shrugged me off like a parka.  I want to yell at her.  I want to kiss her.  I want her to want me again, and I want her to never speak to me again. But it’s after 3 a.m. and Jerome has killed himself so I just sigh and turn away from the watery grave to look at Izzie, who’s looking at me wide eyed, and say, “Well, we should flush him.”

“Fl-flush him?” Izzie says sniffling.

“Yeah, the fish is dead, you flush dead fish down the toilet.  You’ve seen ‘Finding Nemo.'” I shrug, pretending not to notice fresh tears welling in Izzie’s eyes. Don’t care about her, I instruct myself, don’t care about her.

“How can you be so crass about this?  Jerome is dead!  And not only that but he committed suicide!  He was probably depressed and we didn’t even notice.” Izzie flings herself deeper into her bed.  I rub my forehead with my palm.  My head is starting to ache.  When I was dating Izzie, she was my world.  I would wake up thinking about getting to see her and go to bed remembering all the moments I got to breathe her oxygen that day.  She was the person, my person, the one I thought I was supposed to be with.  Sure, I knew she had dated a lot of guys, but I thought I was different.  She made me believe I was different.

“Champagne Flutes” © Craig Chew-Moulding http://www.flickr.com

I was the only one she cried in front of, her tears bleeding into my button-down shirt that I save for special occasions like when Izzie Cartwright invites you to her father’s company’s Christmas party.  We were sitting in the entranceway, a wall between us and the crowded party of grownups that contained business people from all over the world and noticeably didn’t contain Mr. or Mrs. Cartwright.  They texted their assistant that they got delayed and wouldn’t be attending.  They never texted their daughter, so she found out from some women in a red cocktail dress who looked at her like she was a lost sock outside a laundromat, tragic and slightly disgusting. That was the moment I saw Izzie Cartwright crumple, fold in on her dazzling self and cling onto me in a way I had never seen her cling to any guy before. And we sat there as I stroked her hair and she cried into my chest.

And then she sniffled and hiccuped and seemed to snap back into herself, her eyes looking up at me big and shocked like she didn’t realize I was there until just that moment.  She held my gaze and I held hers and it was the only time in our whole relationship when I didn’t feel like I was the lucky one, when I felt that maybe we were both the lucky ones, that we both might need each other instead of me just needing her.  And she kissed me long and gently and when she broke away it was like she had never been crying.  She was the beautiful, composed girl she usually was and she said, “I was being stupid, it’s actually great that they’re not here.  We should go back into the party and take some champagne to my house. Now I know my parent won’t be there, we can have some actual fun.”

That is exactly what we did.  But even though she laughed and kissed and brushed her hair off her shoulder the same way she had every other time I was in her presence, something had shifted.  Because I had seen her crack and crumble just enough to know she was in there.

Only for her to prove me wrong.  The thing about living in the world of Izzie Cartwright is that just because she tells you she loves you as you drink stolen champagne in an empty house on Christmas Eve doesn’t mean she does.  Even if she says it with big open eyes, crying while holding you close.  Because then you might say something stupid like — “I love you too” — and she’ll turn her big eyes to cold eyes and laugh in a way that is not gentle and say, “I knew it, I knew as soon as I said it you would too.  God you’re so predictable, Robby.” At the time I laughed.  I laughed because I was in the world of Izzie Cartwright. And then she ripped that world away from me.

Now here I am stepping right back into it.  But enough is enough.  I came here, I saw the fish, I listened to her cry, and now I’m going to flush Jerome, and with him any other tether I have to Izzie Cartwright will swirl down the drain.

I take the late Jerome’s fish tank in my hands. Izzie sits up, following me out of her bedroom. “That’s just it?  You’re just doing it now, no goodbye?  No funeral?”

I turn around, not realizing how closely Izzie is following me.  My abrupt stop makes the water in the fish tank slosh, dampening my shirt.  Izzie is very close to me, Jerome’s tank the only thing separating us.  There’s a beat of silence where we both take in the moment.  Izzie and Robby, so close, almost touch in the silent empty house.

“Why did you call me?” I ask because out of all the questions it is the easiest.

“Jerome killed himself,” Izzie says, her tone earnest and soft, like a child.

“Anyone can flush a fish,” I say.

Izzie looks down at Jerome’s body floating between us and when she looks back at me her eyes are glistening and her words are more constricted, like there is something clogging her throat. “You gave him to me.  He was ours,” she says.

Ours like that was still something she could say about her and me. I bite my lips and turn sharply away from her, walking towards the bathroom. She grabs my wrist in hers and I stop, not because she’s physically strong enough to stop me from moving, but because the shock she sends through my whole body is familiar and confusing and electric. When will I not be in love with Izzie Cartwright?  When will I be able to just flush this goddam fish in peace and leave her to cry alone?

“Robby.” My name is said so softly and lovingly in Izzie’s voice it makes me shiver.  I turn slightly towards her, holding the tank like a shield against whatever she’ll say next. “Thank you… for coming. I — I know it ended badly but, but Jerome needed his family for the funeral and I — it seemed important that you were here.”

Me, important to Izzie Cartwright, even now, in the early hours of the morning, this seems unbelievable.  That night, she said, “That’s cute Robby, but it’s time for you to go, we were never that great anyway.” Her eyes were cold and sharp and soulless, like her.  Now, looking at her in the dim light of the hallway I wonder which Izzie is the real Izzie Cartwright, the one that cries for a fish, or the one that laughs at a broken heart.

“You discard me like I’m trash but you need a whole funeral for a fish that killed itself. Why am I here?”  It only takes a sentence for Izzie to turn from the teary damsel to the ice cold warrior.  It’s a shift in her eyes, and a straightening of her spine, a curve of her mouth into a cruel smile. It’s the way she’s able to look down on me even though I’m taller than she is.  Pity.  That’s it, I guess.

“You’re here because you still love me, Robby,” she says the words flatly but that makes them worse.  Because it’s a fact not an opinion, and we both know it.  I stand there, still holding the tank, blinking at Izzie Cartwright.  I don’t know what to say.  To deny it would be pathetic.  To agree would be weak.

I look down at Jerome floating in peaceful death and feel slightly jealous. I then remember something important: I don’t have to be here.  Izzie does not in fact own me, and I owe her nothing.  I shove the fish tank into her hands.  She looks at me bewildered. “I gave you the fish, it’s yours, you flush it,” I say trying to be as cold as she was. I start walking towards the stairs but I hear a squeak behind me as Izzie tries not to cry.  Don’t turn around, don’t turn around.

I turn around.  She is on the floor with the fish tank between her legs and her head in her hands. I pause, not moving.  She is cold and mean and has no soul.  And she is crying.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” she cries and I realize she is not apologizing to me, she is apologizing to Jerome.  “I tried so hard to keep you alive.  I even set that alarm on my phone to feed you. Why’d you leave? You just left me here. You left me here.”  I don’t know if Izzie knows I’m watching her but for the first time all night I know that the tears are not for my benefit, that she didn’t drag me here to play with me because she was bored.  That of all the living things vying for the love of Izzie Cartwright, she somehow managed to bestow it onto a fish.  And then that fish killed itself.

Izzie is crying. I take a deep frustrated breath.  I walk back the few paces I had managed to take toward the door and sit next to her, both of us leaning against the wall of the hallway.  I think about taking her hand, but she’s clutching the fish tank and that’s probably better for both of us anyway. Izzie peeks up through her hair at me, like she’s afraid to see me.  What does she have to be afraid of?  I never did anything to her except love her.

She tucks her long red hair behind her ear, clearing her vision to meet my eyes. “You can leave Robby. I know you want to,” she says, and her voice is clear and concise but there’s a softness to it I’ve seldom heard. Like she’s a child who plays cold-hearted bitch the way most play princess.

I do want to leave. So why am I here sitting on the floor next to Izzie, so close but not touching? Why does this feel important, like if I were to get up I would lose something, a piece of me that I’m clinging to the same way Izzie is holding onto Jerome’s tank, with white knuckles and desperation? Maybe Izzie will see me staying here as me being weak, but who cares?  What does it matter what Izzie thinks?  It won’t change anything. And it won’t bring Jerome back to life. “I’m good here —” is all I say.

“No you’re not,” Izzie says looking at me very closely, as if trying to crack a code that is printed on my face. Solve for ‘X’ and break the boy forever. “Soon you’ll leave, you’ll want to, and you will.” Carefully Izzie reaches her hand up and strokes my cheek, sending shivers down my spine. “That’s the kind of person I am Robby, the kind that gets left. Even a fish knows that.”

I thought back to when I was the lesser half of Rizzie.  I thought back to Izzie’s smile, or the way she always had some adventure just around the corner. Or the way she would kiss me so I felt like I was the only person in the world who mattered.  I would have stayed there forever.

But then I think of that afternoon about a year ago after we had dated for nine months when she asked if I wanted to get closer and she took off her dress and made love to me in her messy disaster of a room.  She knew I had never done it before and I thought she might be cruel about it but she wasn’t; she was kind and beautiful. Looking into her eyes as our bodies joined together made me feel like I mattered more than I had the moment before.  She cried a little and I was afraid I had messed up or hurt her but she just shook her head and pulled me closer as new tears pooled and tumbled. After — I held her close, both of us breathing hard, and I felt more connected to her than anyone else on the planet.  She buried her face in my bare chest, and her eyelashes tickled my shoulder. And I kissed her hair and said, “I’m not saying this because of the sex, but, I’m your guy Iz. I know you don’t like mushy romance stuff, but, well, I love you, and I always will.  I’ll always be your guy.”

And she looked away from my chest and up at me and for a minute I could almost see her brain adjusting and her eyes softening and I thought maybe this was it, and something would solidify in the roller coaster world of Izzie Cartwright.  But then she closed her eyes and when she opened them a moment later, her eyes were cold and sharp and empty, like her. She laughed without humor and said, “That’s cute Robby. But it’s time for you to go, we were never that great anyway.”

And I wasn’t sure if she meant the sex wasn’t great or I wasn’t great in general but she had gotten out of bed and was putting on her bathrobe and tossing my clothes over to me and looking away.  And I just blinked at her and asked, “Are you breaking up with me?”

“I just don’t feel it anymore.  I’m going to shower, you should leave.”  That was what nine months boiled down to.  Nine months and my virginity all dismissed. In a single instant I was forced to readjust my view. I was just one of her guys.  I watched her walk out the door to her room, taking so much of me with her. I put my clothes on and left her house.

And then nothing.  She avoided me and I avoided her and every time I accidentally saw her I felt like the wind was knocked out of me. And then Jerome killed himself and here I am. And here she is, with her hand gently on my face.

“I would have stayed,” I whisper to Izzie and to myself thinking back on the moment she ended it.

A sad smile crept up Izzie’s cheek, and a tear dislodged from her eye. “You think that, but you’re wrong.”

“Don’t tell me what I would have done, you don’t know, you never gave us a chance, you just ended it.” I don’t realize I’m yelling until I stop, and the house returns to its repressive silence.

But the yelling doesn’t seem to faze Izzie much. She takes in a shuddering breath. “You said ‘I’m your guy.’  But it’s like I’m broken and where the love gene is I just have nothing, empty. And as soon as someone figures that out, they leave.  And you would leave Robby, everybody does. That’s who I am.” I let Izzie’s words hang in the air like humidity in July. I look at her like she’s a lost sock outside a laundromat and wonder how I was ever frightened of her. Cruel. Empty. Yes, she is all of that. But I was her guy. She wouldn’t admit it, but I was hers.

“Did you love me?” I blurt out before I can stop myself.

“It doesn’t matter. Even Jerome found a way to leave and he was confined to a tank,” Izzie says.

“It matters to me,” I say.

There’s a pause, as if Izzie were choking on words that refuse to form, and then were released like a floodgate.  “After I broke up with you, I was all alone.  And then the light from the window hit Jerome’s tank just right so it made a rainbow on my wall.  I looked at the rainbow, and I knew Jerome wouldn’t leave me like you did. Until he killed himself.  Imagine what I could have done to you, if I can drive a fish to suicide.”

She drops her hand from my face but I catch it and hold it.  Izzie loved me. But she’s right, about her emptiness. I’ve seen it in those moment when we were close and she would look away or make a joke.  In the way she cried when we made love because she couldn’t look away, couldn’t joke, had to face me and the way I loved her deeply.  And she couldn’t handle that, maybe because she is broken.

But she’s also Izzie Cartwright.  And she is crying.  And I am holding her hand and placing my arm around her shoulder and whispering, “shh, shh.”  She folds into me soft and gentle, and I stroke her hair, and Jerome’s tank wobbles on her legs, making Jerome’s corpse slosh around. When her sobs subside I say, “It’s time to say goodbye to Jerome.” And I stand up and take the tank from her and we walk into the bathroom.

I lift the toilet seat and remove the fake plant and treasure chest from the tank, placing them on the sink counter, then I turn with the bowl to the toilet.  I look over at Izzie, arms folded, sitting on the bathtub.  “Uh, anything you want to say?”  She covers her mouth with her hand as if talking would make her cry again and shakes her head.

I look back at Jerome, his small body floating calmly, and pour him and the water of the fishbowl smoothly into the toilet.  Jerome floats in the white porcelain bowl. “Here lies Jerome,” I say, “the most loved fish in the whole world.”  And I flush the toilet, sending Jerome down the pipes to wherever fish go after they’ve killed themselves.

“Sun Through Glass” © Steve’s Web Hosting http://www.flickr.com

I sit next to Izzie on the edge of the bathtub.  “Thanks,” she whispers.

“Of course,” I say, putting my arm around her shoulders.

I don’t know how long we sit there, on the edge of Izzie Cartwright’s bathtub, looking across the small room at the tan marble of the counter next to the sink.  On it sits the fish bowl once inhabited by the suicidal Jerome, flanked by the plastic plant, the only thing resembling something living Izzie has not killed, and the treasure chest, its fake gold looking shabby, having been removed from the gleam of the water.  The bowl just sits there, as dawn begins to break through the small window of the bathroom, the fresh light of morning glistening off the glass of the tank.  The sun turns the flickering glass into something magical.  But we both know that there’s nothing inside of it, Jerome is long gone. The tank is nothing more than a beautiful empty shell.

 


Michelle Secunda lives in NYC, where she writes for a company called Dyslexiaville, which produces multimedia for children with learning differences. She received a BA in Anthropology and Sociology (minor in Creative Writing) from Knox College, which lead her to believe in the power of storytelling to affect culture. Her favorite thing to do is make messes with clay, words, and life choices. Sometimes it arrives at something beautiful, and other times… well, it’s a good thing Michelle loves a nice tragicomedy.

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How to Tell Astronomy from Astrology, The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus http://yareview.net/2018/05/how-to-tell-astronomy-from-astrology-the-fundamental-theorem-of-calculus/ http://yareview.net/2018/05/how-to-tell-astronomy-from-astrology-the-fundamental-theorem-of-calculus/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 11:07:05 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9189 Two poems by teen poet Fiona Warnick Sometimes my tears drip, and you would // compare them to moonlight and be pleased with yourself. [...]]]> By Fiona Warnick

How to Tell Astronomy from Astrology

It is difficult to say the
difference between an underripe nectarine
and walking through the snow with
untied shoelaces. You prefer
clementines and rain.

Two Wednesdays ago I saw a purple kite caught
upon a dandelion.
One Wednesday ago I tried to blow away the seeds.
The dandelion was still underripe.

I’ll sit by the chessboard and run
back and forth between turns.
I’ll know which side’s me because
it’s the one that loses.

“Put on your shoes,” she told me.
We’ll walk through the waves every third Wednesday,
and if there isn’t any thunder-
oh well.

You tie your shoes and
a dust bunny is the velveteen rabbit and
I could sit and stare at clementine peels for days.

Isn’t it curious how we mistake
planes for stars? And stars for planes?
The trick is that planes blink
and you always won staring contests.

“Dandelion” © Nuwandalice (https://www.flickr.com/photos/nuwandalice/8963862004/)

The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus

Sometimes my tears drip, and you would
compare them to moonlight and be pleased with yourself.
Really they drip the way an ice-cube tray drips in January.
Next to the sink. Waiting to be refilled and
put in the freezer.

We made eye contact yesterday and
I didn’t see it,
but in terms of snow suits
and serendipity
I will be forever staring at your eyelids.

How come my eyebrow hairs are whirled and
fluffy after a meltdown? No, don’t tell me.
Some things are better without
prime numbers or fractals.

Fiona Warnick is eighteen and goes to Amherst Regional High School. She is an editor for her school’s arts and literary magazine, The Minks, and aside from that is previously unpublished. Last summer she attended the Juniper Institute for Young Writers at the University of Massachusetts. Her favorite poet is Heather Christle.

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Things to Remember, Orange http://yareview.net/2018/05/things-to-remember-orange/ http://yareview.net/2018/05/things-to-remember-orange/#respond Wed, 16 May 2018 12:00:12 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9186 Two poems by teen poet Bessie Huang

Orange

The sunset is russet // tonight, warm // like paste. [...]]]>
By Bessie Huang

Things to Remember

tears are made of old needles & twine / that have already rusted themselves over & taste / like the insides of empty aluminum / packets slick with expired oil, for / the best is just a periphrasis / for pain / for ninety decibels / is the only way to win an argument / for cold wrists pressed into their own reflections for cold cheeks pressed against portraits of thunder for cold bedrooms that smell of cinder & sin for solipsistic / screams / for a doughy rag is lodged / into the back of a crying girl’s throat / one that had been used to wipe the kitchen table / just minutes before / the neighborhood grows too quiet / for the kindergarten teacher pulls her out of recess to ask / about the imprint on her cheek / & she recites a story about a tennis game

“Tears” © Maria Jose Troncoso (https://www.flickr.com/photos/efimera_realidad/3837883354/)

Orange

The sunset is russet
tonight, warm
like paste. You take
her out to see the sky tonight
and she spends a
galaxy mourning about
it. Most girls smell like rosewater
or pine or some type of cream
from L’Oréal but she smells like
the sea. If you close your eyes
against the side of her neck,
right above the brittle
collarbone, right below
piercing viridian—do
you see it? She is orange.
Fresh and minty and
hell in blood. Pour a glass of her
while you’re in pain and see
what that’ll do. You watch
her get ready in the morning and
she is shaving her legs
inside a festering mildew tub.
The bathroom smells of stale
silk when she’s done. Then
she’s in that strappy orange
dress you bought her three
anniversaries ago, two
years and three-hundred-sixty-four
days after she tells you that her favorite
color is orange, but also just two
days after she tells you that her favorite
color is orange, because you always
forget these fabricated
idiosyncrasies—you don’t
have to try that hard,
honey—and you
don’t even expect her to wear
the dress so you buy it
from a second-hand store
and figure you’re saving a few
bucks for tonight anyway.
And guess what?
She’s wearing that dress tonight.
And when you catch her smoking
cinder into a hotel
window during the day
you decide not to ask
why the room smells like fire.

Bessie Huang is a seventeen-year-old rising senior from Maryland. She is an alum of the Kenyon Young Writers Workshop. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Besides writing, some of her interests include reading, rock climbing, and yoga.

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Interview with Brendan Kiely http://yareview.net/2018/05/interview-with-brendan-kiely/ http://yareview.net/2018/05/interview-with-brendan-kiely/#respond Tue, 15 May 2018 12:00:49 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9211 Brendan Kiely's "Tradition" explores the ways young men help create and perpetuate rape culture, as well as fight it in alliance with young women. We're thrilled he agreed to talk about his work.]]> YA readers might be familiar with Brendan Kiely’s work from reading “All American Boys,”  which he wrote in collaboration with Jason Reynolds. His new novel “Tradition” is out this month, and it tackles an equally tough topic — rape culture at a prestigious private school. “Tradition” explores the ways young men help create and perpetuate rape culture, as well as fight it in alliance with young women. We’re thrilled he agreed to talk about his work. 

Writing Process:

YARN: What was your writing path? How did you first know you were “a writer,” someone who wanted and needed to write regularly? Once you knew, what did you do to make your dream a reality?

BK: Writing became important to me when I was a teen, writing poetry became a way to try to understand how the (tumultuous!) world inside me interacted and fit into the larger (also chaotic!) world around me. I’m still that same teen trying to figure out my place in the world as I write. I was never any good about being a daily disciplined writer, but the older I got the more time felt less precious or expendable. If I was going to get anything done, I’d have to get up early to write before going to work, and heck, if I was going to get up at 5am to write, I might as well make it a habit, otherwise I’d never get out of bed! I don’t get up at 5 any more, but I do find blocks of time in which I create some kind of schedule. The dream became something realer because I’d pitched the novel that became my first published novel to 12 agents who all rejected it—some never even got back to me—and then I had the chance to meet an agent at an event and I practiced a pitch I knew I’d only have a minute or so to make. When there was a respectful time to speak to him and bring it up, I did. I was lucky because he was patient and kind. He listened and then said it sounded intriguing. Please don’t wake me up from this dream!

YARN: What does your writing process consist of for a particular book? Any tips on finding the story that demands to be written? Any tips on finding the time to write when there are a lot of other demands on your time? (Like homework and sports, or parenting responsibilities and jobs?)

BK: Strangely, I have a more fractured and hectic schedule as a professional author than I did before, and finding time to write is increasingly difficult. Time is working against us, always! When my time is pressed, I try to work in small chunks—just one page at a time—and in order to stay focused, I spend a lot of time preparing to write. It’s what makes my process slower than other authors I know, but I like to have elaborate maps and notes to rely on, so that if I miss a couple days of writing and I’m in the middle of a scene when I return to writing, I know what my goals are, what is important in that moment of the book. It feels like procrastination when I’m doing all the prep work, but it helps make the limited time I have to write more productive.

YARN: Have you ever felt “stuck” in your writing?  What advice can you give teens who might be struggling with writing assignments and need to get unstuck before the due date?

BK: I feel stuck all the time!!! I feel stuck almost every time I sit down to write—too often because I have the idea in my head but can’t get it on to the page in the way it feels in my head, but sometimes it’s worse, sometimes it feels like there is a giant emptiness on the page AND in my head. Whenever I’m stuck, I try to find a book I love, and I copy the words from a random section in the book. I literally copy the scene word for word and as I’m doing that it usually jump-starts some idea in my head that I can bring back to my own work. Then I just slip into what’s in my head and write (and remember to delete the other writer’s work later!).

YARN: You often write about the ways big social problems, like systematic racism and rape culture, are part of people’s day-to-day lives. Any advice for writers who are struggling to tackle social issues in their writing?

BK: I do want to write about how people cope with, witness, and experience large social problems, but it is always first and foremost about people. I have to do my best to create fully dimensional characters, not reductions. No one can be reduced to one aspect of their identity or one kind of experience in their life. It’s always about the whole person.

YARN: What was it like working on “All American Boys” with Jason Reynolds? Did you come up with that project together? Do you feel like more collaborative books that represent voices from different races, genders, etc. are needed? Would you ever collaborate on another project like this?

BK: I loved collaborating with Jason. We really wanted to respond to a cultural moment in a way that spoke to and about how young people were processing the national narrative about racism, police brutality, and Black Lives Matter. By collaborating we could produce a book neither of us could produce on our own. I can imagine any number of scenarios in which writers consciously collaborating to create an own voices book together would make sense and it is certainly something I’d do again!

Your Books:

YARN: “Tradition,” like many of your novels, deals with some pretty upsetting situations. Did you find it difficult to write these? In what ways? Or, if writing about them came easily to you, why do you think that is? Why do you think it’s important to write and read about these difficult topics even if doing so is hard?

BK: When I was a teenager I’d look out into the world and see injustices that could be mitigated by the communal and political will to do so. Then and now, I think it’s essential to remember that it isn’t only up to the victims and survivors of injustice to tell the world what’s happening—we’re all accountable to the injustices in our own communities—and so while it is hard to write about toxic male behavior and misogyny and how they fuel rape culture, I also think, and especially as a man, that I should write into a story like this to pull back the curtain and reveal how boys foster these attitudes and encourage it in their friends, because by exposing it, maybe more of us will think twice about dismissing it as “not a big deal.”

YARN: With a story like “Tradition,” a writer runs the risk of creating a tale that might not appeal to teens, because it seems too much like a lesson rather than the story of living, breathing people who have to grapple with difficult choices. How did you find ways to give your characters a heartbeat, rather than turn them into stock “right” and “wrong” characters?

BK: Empathy shouldn’t be a lesson we do our homework for and then forget about later; it should be a practice, a way of being, the bedrock from which we act in the world. The teens leading walkouts across the country, the teens leading marches in DC this year, the teens who take a quiet moment out of the day to check in on a friend who is having a rough day or week, all know empathy as a way of life. I think stories like “Tradition” speak to their instinct. A story like “Tradition” isn’t about lessons or props for a conversation; it’s about characters (whole people) who feel like they’re up against insurmountable odds, but overcome them by working together. I think all writing begins and ends with the whole life of the characters.

YARN: While the story of “Tradition” follows the lives of multiple high school students, it focuses on — and is told from the point of view of — two students in particular. Why did you choose these two? As a man, what challenges did writing from the perspective of a girl pose you? How did you overcome these challenges?

BK: I really love reading stories told in multiple points of view, and “Tradition” is my first attempt at actually writing more than one first-person point of view in a story. But I knew I needed multiple points of view, and because the story was going to be about all the subtle attitudes and behaviors that fuel and enable toxic male behavior and its effects on women in the community, I knew I had to try to write this book from both a young woman’s and a young man’s perspective. But as a man, I was extremely nervous that when writing Jules’s narrative, the young woman’s, I would have no idea and I’d screw it up. But because I thought the story demanded Jules’s voice, I had to try. As I wrote I sought feedback from many women in my life, other writers, my editor, other readers, and I’m extremely grateful they all took the time to help me consider more deeply Jules’s perspective and life circumstances.

YARN: In “Tradition,” one of the lines really struck us: “Like cruelty was currency, and the meaner you were, the richer you were.” This seemed so true decades ago, when some of us were teens, and as those of us who work with teens can attest, it still seems to be the way teens feel. How do you think reading and writing can help readers and writers in their struggles with the dominating power of cruelty and meanness?

BK: This is one of the most interesting and most difficult questions I think I’ve ever been asked. Thank you! That sense of cruelty used to assert power over someone felt real as a teen, but truthfully, it remains a reality I see adults use too. I look at the hazing rituals teens go through in high school and college, and then I look at corporate structure and the ways senior level managers might tease and harass younger employees, and it’s “all in good fun” but it’s also cruel and by definition an abuse of power. I think one of the most powerful aspects of reading and writing is the space they create for us to evolve and mature in our interior life. Books are gymnasiums for empathy and personal growth, testing grounds in which we can exercise the skills required to become more empathic. When Leigh Chen Sanders from Emily X. R. Pan’s remarkably beautiful “The Astonishing Color of After” tells me her story of traveling to Taiwan, I have to sit and listen with all my heart. Reading and writing require time, and I think our hearts mature with each other when we spend time with each other. Exercising our empathy, (in other words reading and writing) conditions us to better cope with our own pain as well as to be strong for others when they ask it of us.

YARN: Can you share a little snippet from the book? Favorite line or paragraph? Or did you have a favorite snippet that wound up on the cutting room floor?

BK: Well, interestingly, I did have a favorite scene, a bonfire and pep rally that ends with a fantastic explosion of fireworks, and also a heart-to-heart where Bax spills his secrets to Jules, but I cut that scene right before we printed the ARCs, wove the necessary information in elsewhere and had to cut that chapter for the sake of pacing. Even though it was my favorite scene in the whole book, it was isolated and floating out there, not really moving the story forward, mostly just stalling with atmospherics that I happened to find cool. Ha! But this is what we have to do sometimes, right? But I do want to share the line that helped me find Jules’s voice. I had written so many scenes in her voice but felt like they just weren’t working right. Then, I happened on this line, and I trashed everything I’d written in her voice and started from scratch: “I once heard another girl out it like this: This is a boys’ school and they accept girls here too. At Fullbrook, they told us to be ready to take on the world, but then they told us to do it quietly. What if I wanted to be loud? What if I needed to be?”

YARN: We would love to hear what else you’re working on these days. Do you have any other novels in the works?

BK: I find it tricky to talk about books when I’m in the middle of them. My problem right now is that I’m in the middle of too many projects. I need to buckle down and choose one to finish. Oh, wow. I just realized that I need to swallow my own medicine and do what I always tell my students or the folks I visit in their classes: You have to finish one full draft of a project, and then we can start talking about what it really is.

Other Books/YA stuff:

YARN: On your website, you write: “So for me, writing fiction is an act of social engagement. I want my work to participate in relevant cultural conversations.” What cultural conversations would you like to continue or start to participate in? What cultural conversations do you want to read more about?

BK: I think one of the most important issues of our day is figuring out how to distinguish between information and misinformation. I’d love to see more YA novels tackling that in meaningful ways. I’d love to work on a book that talks about the difference between news and propaganda.

YARN: What are a few resources you’d suggest to writers who feel they want to grow, but they aren’t sure where they can get some help and support? (These might be books, articles, online classes, writing groups, blogs — whatever/whoever you think offers great support for writers.)

BK: I’ve found the usual writing bibles useful once and then again in various times of my life: Anne Lamott’s “Bird By Bird,” Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones,” Walter Mosley’s “This Year You Write Your Novel,” Madison Smartt Bell’s “Narrative Design,” Charles Baxter’s “The Art of Subtext,” but truthfully, I also find that it is reading novels I love as closely as possible where I find most of the lessons I return to. I’ve read Jesmyn Ward’s “Salvage the Bones” many times because I learn something new about writing every time I read it.

YARN: What writers or books would you say have influenced you most as a writer? What books helped you become a writer or helped you realize you wanted to be one?

BK: Well, I mentioned Jesmyn Ward, especially when I had made writing the real center of my life, but before that, I think back to the first time I read Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” when I was 14 years old, in 9th grade, and my mind was blown. Also when I read Ray Bradbury when I was around the same age. But wanting to be a “writer” wasn’t an identity I was pursuing, rather I wanted to write, as an act. I wanted to write poetry, drama, and fiction. When I was younger I wrote rap lyrics (they were awful), but they were the springboard that got me to make writing poetry a part of my life. By the time I got to college, writing was something I loved and did, but again, not to be a writer, but to be someone who lived the arts. I would go to art museums and art shows and parties as inspiration for my work. An “art” party I went to in college that I wrote about when I was 19 has come all the way back around and is now rewritten as the college party scene in Tradition. I think if you want to write, you have to read everything you can and try to experience as much as you can and see what folks are doing in music and drama and the visual arts and find ways to learn from everyone and practice and experiment as much as possible in your own work too.

YARN: Are there any titles and authors you’d like to give a ‘shout-out’ to? What should YARN readers look for in their bookstores and libraries?

BK: Yes! I mentioned Emily X. R. Pan’s “The Astonishing Color of After” (so good!), but also Samira Ahmed’s “Love, Hate & Other Filters,” Ashley Woodfolk’s “The Beauty That Remains,” Kit Frick’s “See All The Stars,” Arvin Ahmadi’s “Down and Across,” Tiffany Jackson’s (I love her work so much!) “Monday’s Not Coming” — all these books are available now or by June. Buy them all!

 


Brendan Kiely is The New York Times bestselling author of “All American Boys” (with Jason Reynolds), “The Last True Love Story,” and “The Gospel of Winter.” His work has been published in ten languages, received a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, the Walter Dean Myers Award, the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award, and was selected as one of the American Library Association’s Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults. Originally from the Boston area, he now lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.

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1234, it’s ok http://yareview.net/2018/05/1234-its-ok/ http://yareview.net/2018/05/1234-its-ok/#respond Wed, 09 May 2018 12:00:12 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9182 Two poems by teen poet, Eva Hays

it's ok

brushing away // the tears and // blaming them on // the clouds ahead [...]]]>
By Eva Hays

1234

“Looking for love in the wrong places” © i Nelson (https://www.flickr.com/photos/inelly1/16656044820/)

Bird wings flutter
in the empty air
the only sound the
absence of your voice
haunts me I
picture you in the dark
staring out the window
so no one can see your tears
the dew drops on my
feet remind me

I’m sorry
I love you

the two things I want
to say
over and over

I dropped my perfume
bottle on the ground yesterday
thousands of glass pieces
shattering everywhere
strangely
this feels the same
gathering shards into my
hands until they bleed

I hear faint echoes
in the distance someone
dribbling a basketball
your heartbeat
straining to keep going
my ears straining to hear
thump
thump
waiting for
the
last
beat

it’s ok

brushing away
the tears and
blaming them on
the clouds ahead
sweeping the pieces
of your soul
under the radiator

like no one will notice

i see shadows of
myself in your eyes
i know more than you think
i have felt trapped
inside my rib

cage
too

Eva Hays is a sophomore at Exeter High School and an aspiring poet and writer. Previously, her work has been published in the Canvas Literary Journal and Rattle Young Poets Anthology. When not writing, she is playing soccer and reading.

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And We Have a Winner! http://yareview.net/2018/05/and-we-have-a-winner-2/ http://yareview.net/2018/05/and-we-have-a-winner-2/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 13:00:58 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9243 The time has come to announce the winner of our Surprise National Poetry Month Giveaway! ]]>

“Win” © Lisa Padilla https://www.flickr.com/photos/lisap/3808286413/

The time has come to announce the winner of our Surprise National Poetry Month Giveaway!

Cordelia Jensen was kind enough to share with us a giveaway a full classroom set of her novel-in-verse, “Skyscraping” along with a copy of “The Way the Light Bends” and “Every Shiny Thing.”

Thank you all so very much for entering by following Cordelia and us on Twitter, and by leaving a comment on the giveaway post.

It was our first time venturing into the realm of giveaways and it was a great experience. Hopefully, in the future, we can offer more instances of this kind to our great readers.

And without further ado, let us congratulate the winner: Megan Langman!

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FINO http://yareview.net/2018/05/fino/ http://yareview.net/2018/05/fino/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 12:00:24 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9147 “FINO” asks who ARE your real friends and allies?

By Maryann Jacob Macias

Photo by Mervyn Chan on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/XCY6L6GR-I0

“Wow. Turd cakes again.” Sasha pushed her plate away. The barely defrosted burger was topped with yellowish cheese, the corners of it hardened.

Sasha took a photo of the burger, no doubt to show her parents the fruits of their tuition. An angry email from her overly-bronzed, elliptical-attached mom was already being drafted in Sasha’s head. She unearthed a non-regulation granola bar.

I once complained to my mom about the cafeteria offerings. Without looking up from the student paper she was grading, she said, “There’s hummus in the refrigerator if you’d like to pack your own lunch.”

Sasha dangled the wrapper in front of us. “Mmmm. Peanut butter.”

Rosa gasped. “Half this cafeteria is allergic.”

My eyes landed on Sasha’s backpack flair. Smash the Patriarchy. COEXIST. Maybe Rosa and I were part of her flair. The brown bread flanking her white meat sandwich. Sasha considered herself quite the rabble rouser.

“Are you ever going to use your phone again?” Rosa asked me, as she texted openly. The “no phones at school” rule was one of those that was so difficult to enforce that teachers just didn’t.

“Nope.” I deconstructed my burger, and ate the soft white bun. “It’s been kind of liberating to opt out of everyone else’s pseudo rage.”

Sasha asked, “Don’t you think it’s time you got over this social media boycott? You could be channeling all this rage into activism. You know…” Sasha brushed nutty crumbs from her lap, then looked up at me. “In solidarity with your uncle.”

I tore the bun into pieces, then ate each one, sensing Rosa’s eyes on me. Everyone’s eyes on me. All the time.

Sasha using the word “solidarity” is like me wearing a sari at a family member’s wedding: awkward, uncomfortable, unearned.

Celia sat across from us, occasionally glancing my way. She was one of the people I’ve known my entire school life, from kindergarten to eleventh grade, yet we hardly ever spoke. Lately, though, she seems to always have something on the tip of her tongue to say to me.

I hated to admit it, but I did miss my phone and the mind-numbing distraction it provided. If I had it, I could face it rather than my classmates’ concerned-yet-gossipy stares.

The bell rang. We gathered our stuff, and began to leave the lunch room. I went out of my way to avoid the table full of South Asian Student Alliance girls, who had been trying to recruit me since the incident. Sasha turned and put her hand on my arm. “I’ll give you guys a ride home. Let’s stop at the halal cart. We should show our support to your community. Consumerism for the social good, you know?” She turned and left the lunch room, her reddish blond extensions springing up and down her back; her flair catching the light of the hallway.

With every bouncy step, you could catch a glimpse of her ass cheek. No doubt the look she was going for.

Down the hall, Mrs. Crosby passed her, noticing the shortened skirt. I mean, you couldn’t not notice it.

Rosa shook her head. “At this point I’m just glad Sasha doesn’t raise her fist when she goes into ‘activist mode.'”

I laughed. “I love when you use air quotes.”

It was our turn to pass Mrs. Crosby in the hallway. She pointed to the flap of Rosa’s uniform shirt sticking out. “Tuck it in.”

Rosa sighed while tucking. Mrs. Crosby narrowed her eyes. “Do you have a problem?”

Rosa looked down. “No.”

“Good.” Mrs. Crosby replied. “And wash the blouse with some bleach. You should be taking care of your uniform and wearing it proudly.”

When we were out of ear shot, Rosa muttered, “Like I’m the only one. I didn’t get a chance to wash it last night because I had to work.”

The rage I’d become accustomed to feeling bubbled inside me. “I hate this place. She just passed Sasha in the hall and didn’t call out her for that rolled up skirt.”

Rosa smoothed her shirt then looked up. “Yeah, but I’m Puerto Rican.”

 


 

Ft. Vancouver High School Library Media Center © Washington State Library http://www.flickr.com

I left English class – where we were taking a break from Beowoulf to read The Kite Runner “as an act of social justice” according to Mr. Dixted – and headed to the computer lab. Without my phone, I was reduced to using a desktop to get my assignments. Fortunately, the school didn’t allow social media on its computers, so even if I was tempted to consume it I couldn’t.

The library is that quintessential haven for girls who didn’t want to go home, hate their friends, or are closer to books than people —like girls in every young adult novel I’ve ever read. Take Bernadette, the senior who is best known for being accepted directly into medical school, nevermind college. The school loved touting this fact. It was too bad that everyone now called her Dr. Bernie in that bitchy all-girls high school kind of way.

Right now, it was just Bernadette and me, thankfully. No lingering stares. No classmates who’d barely said two words to me in three years suddenly wondering if I’m “ok.”

I guess I was in good company. If anyone was used to unwelcome stares, it was Bernadette.

After almost half an hour of deleting messages, printing assignments, and downloading reading material, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“Bed check?” I asked, without looking up.

“Most high schools do feel like prison.” Ms. Potter sat down next to me.

“My parents called?”

She nodded. “Like they have every day for the past two months. You need to use your phone again, Nina. The school has made an exception for you; you can use your phone on campus to check in with your folks. They want to know you arrived at school safely.

“The news dies down. Comments sections close.” She lowered her voice and glanced at Bernadette, who couldn’t care less that I was there, then leaned in to me. “What happened to your uncle was awful. Everyone knows that. But you’re safe here.”

I continued selecting, unselecting, and deleting junk email.

She sighed, like everyone did, all the time. “How’s everything else going?”

“Great. Sasha wants to get falafels later. In solidarity.” I half raised my fist in the air.

“You know Sasha’s a FINO, right?” Ms. Potter arched her eyebrows.

“What’s that?”

“A feminist in name only.”

I didn’t want to laugh, but I couldn’t help it.

Ms. Potter added, “She should really be wearing a pin that says, I disown my white privilege.

“Make it a full body suit.” I sat back and looked at her. I didn’t want to relax, but Ms. Potter had a way of putting students at ease. Maybe because she wasn’t much older than I was. “You should trademark that.”

Ms. Potter smiled. “Well, if this whole teaching thing doesn’t work out…”

We sat there for a few minutes. She logged into her email account, and within minutes, my email dinged with notifications. It was a message from Ms. Potter. 
 I looked over at her. “Thank you, no, I don’t need school counseling. My parents have that covered.”

She sat back and clasped her hands. “I know. But I was instructed to send the resources to you. I came in here to find out what more the school can do. What will help?”

I shrugged.

“Your parents are worried. Have you talked to them?”

I shrugged again.

“They told me they’re considering moving back to India.”

My throat got lumpy.

I turned to Ms. Potter. “Did you tell them that was just running away from the problem?”

“If I wasn’t employed by the institution to which they write tuition checks, maybe I would.”

“Ugh.” I folded my arms.

“Why don’t you tell them that? What do they talk about at home?”

“Reverse diaspora. Internalized white supremacy in their departments. That their colleagues are self-loathing, latte liberals, and disingenuous progressives.”

Ms. Potter laughed. “Boy, are you the child of professors or what?”

“How ‘even the people who are supposed to get it, don’t get it,'” I added.

She nodded. “Well, talking the talk is the easy part.”

I sat up straight. “I know. I can be the school ambassador to students of color. All seven of us!”

Ms. Potter stopped smiling, and I immediately regretted the joke. “I know the school’s lack of diversity is part of the problem.”

“Please. I’m used to that. It’s…”

“What, Nina? The school—” She paused — “I want to help you, and other kids who are feeling what you’re feeling. Isolated, unsafe…”

I let out a deep breath.

“It’s…being told to stop sulking. Stop being negative. Stop being a downer. Like…I’m responsible for everyone else’s comfort. Plus everyone always staring at me! But not ever coming up to me and saying, ‘Hey I’m sorry about your uncle, that’s fucked up.'”

Ms. Potter said nothing. She sat there, and listened.

“It’s all of the super-educated people who don’t get it. Teachers, administrators, parents at this school. They don’t want to get it. They don’t want to understand how I, how we, my family, feels.”

She leaned forward. “I do. So tell me.”

I blinked, releasing a fresh wave of tears. “Afraid. Anxious. Isolated. Like someone, anyone, could hurt me. Or my parents. You think they’re afraid when I get on the bus everyday? Well, so am I. When they go to work, or out for lunch, or to get a coffee.” I paused. “These days it feels like none of us ever knows if we’re make going to make it home.”

Ms. Potter’s gaze softened. “You know what? I’m afraid too, for all of my students and friends with brown and black skin.” She looked at me intensely. “But you are safe here, Nina.”

“I know I’m physically safe, but…”

“It’s hard for a lot of people to step out of their own comfort and truly empathize with someone who is unlike them. Because it means changing themselves, and acknowledging that maybe they’re not as unbiased as they’d like to believe.”

“Imagine how different things would be if they did! Will they understand when it’s my turn to be beaten for being brown-skinned? When someone wants to hurt me because of how I look? Because my parents are educated? Because they took someone’s make-believe job? Because we have a nice house? Not knowing anything about me? What will it take? It’s here too! Crosby just called Rosa out for an untucked shirt, meanwhile Sasha’s skirt was rolled up so high you could see her ass cheeks!”

Ms. Potter hung her head. Then, she looked at me. “I know it’s no consolation, but your uncle’s going to be ok. Thank goodness.”

“Because he moved back to India! Because after he got the shit kicked out of him, the best anyone could do was sensitivity training. He had to leave behind his practice, his whole life here!” I wiped my eyes on my sleeve, and noticed the time.

She looked at the clock. “Forget about class, I’ll write you a note. This is important.”

I continued. “I was born here. I don’t know how to live in India. I don’t speak the language. It’s too hot.” I sniffled. “And the movies are too long.”

Ms. Potter smiled, then reached for my hand. “What else?”

“My friends. I would miss them. Even though some of them are assholes.”

“Rosa’s a good egg,” she said.

I nodded. “She gets it. Too much, probably.”

“I would miss you.” She sat up and put her hands on her knees. “We could make this official, you know. I could call your parents in, and we could have a conversation.”

I wiped my eyes. “Make sure you have evidence-based models to back up your claims.”

Ms. Potter laughed. “How about I be your advocate, and we see where the conversation goes? At the very least, they’ll want you to finish out the school year. That buys us some time.”

Before we left the lab, Ms. Potter hugged me. “You are not alone, Nina.”

 


 

Sasha and Rosa were waiting in the parking lot, in the MINI Cooper Sasha got for her sixteenth birthday.

Sasha applied lip gloss in the rearview mirror. “I’m starving. I might get a plate instead of a sandwich. It’s so hilarious that it’s usually Mexican guys serving the falafels and shwarma!”

Rosa rolled her eyes and looked at me in that why are we friends with her? way.

It seemed like a question I had avoided for too long. Habit? Laziness? One more year then I’ll never have to see her again?

“Why don’t we get sushi? Or pizza?” Rosa asked.

“Why not the halal cart?” Sasha asked as she buckled up. “I’m sure they could use the business.”

Rage. Again. “Are you tone deaf?”

Sasha turned around. “What’s up with you? You’ve been pissy all day.”

“You thinking you’re helping is my problem. You calling me a killjoy is my problem.” I opened the door and got out of the car. Then, I turned and faced her. “You eating hummus as an act of protest is my problem.”

Falafel at Azuri Cafe – New York City © Chris Goldberg http://www.flickr.com

Rosa got out. “Nina, wait…”

“Don’t be petulant, Nina. I’m an ally!” Sasha called out from the car window. She rolled up next to me. “I think you need some space. I’ll call you later.” Then, she sped off.

I stormed across the parking lot and back towards school. Rosa caught up with me and grabbed my arm.

“That was amazing.”

I sat on the front steps to calm myself down. “It won’t change anything.”

Rosa sat down beside me. “Well, maybe she’s one more person who’ll tiptoe around you, or avoid you completely.”

I laughed. Rosa got up, and offered me a hand. “Just because we’ve known her since kindergarten doesn’t mean we still have to be joined at the hip.”

I took her hand and got up.

“I actually do feel like having a falafel now. Is that wrong?” she asked.

I shook my head. “I do too. But I wasn’t going to tell her that.”

 


Maryann Jacob Macias lives, writes, and eats in Queens, NY (also known as the world’s borough). She received her MFA in creative writing from Pine Manor College, and works full-time for a global philanthropy committed to advancing opportunity and promoting equity and dignity. Maryann is currently working on a few picture books while raising two kids and a yellow lab in a fifth floor walkup. Find her on Twitter at @MAJacob5.

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Let the Humor Begin! http://yareview.net/2018/05/let-the-humor-begin/ http://yareview.net/2018/05/let-the-humor-begin/#respond Tue, 01 May 2018 13:30:10 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9198 It's May 1st, and you know what that means? ]]>

© Lourdes Keochgerien

It’s May 1st, and you know what that means?

We celebrate the 66th anniversary of the introduction of Mr. Potato Head!

Okay, no. We don’t, though it should be a widely celebrated occasion.

Instead, we’re announcing the start of our Humor Fiction Contest with guest judge, the hilarious, talented, #YARNAlum and debut YAlit author, Nisha Sharma.

You can find all the details and guidelines of the contest here!

You have until May 31st to make us chortle, giggle, cackle, and belly laugh.

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Help Us Spread the YARN http://yareview.net/2018/05/help-us-spread-the-yarn/ http://yareview.net/2018/05/help-us-spread-the-yarn/#respond Tue, 01 May 2018 13:00:54 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9164 Are you an avid YA reader? Do you already spread a copious amount of your virtual  existence on social media? ]]> Are you an avid YA reader?

Do you already spread a copious amount of your virtual  existence on social media?

Why not help us spread the YARN by joining our social media team!

We are actively seeking enthusiastic and informed YA lovers for our Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr social platforms.

“Social Media apps” © Jason Howie https://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonahowie/8583949219/in/photolist-e5wZ3t-d41HES

Here are the parameters:

Facebook would require a monthly dedication of just a week. You would be rotating with two other staffers.  

Twitter would require an commitment of just one day a week – most likely Wednesdays. You would be tweeting with four other staffers.

Tumblr would require the most dedication as you would be managing the page on your own. However, this also means you have more creative license when it comes to the presentation of the page.

If you’re interested please send an email to editors at yareview.net with a brief, personal cover letter in the body of the email (including why you would like the position) and your most recent CV. Please specify which position/s (Yes, you can apply for more than one.) you are interested in and please title the subject: YARN Social Media Position – 2018. We will be accepting applicants from May 1st to May 15th. 

If you have any specific queries, you can also send an email or ask us via Twitter!

Please be aware that these are non-paying positions as are all YARN positions. But, I can assure you, the experience will certainly reap its rewards in the future as it has for many former YARN staffers.

Looking forward to seeing you in our inbox!

-Lourdes

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I Haunt My Own Crops, Welcomed Weeds http://yareview.net/2018/05/i-haunt-my-own-crops-welcomed-weeds/ http://yareview.net/2018/05/i-haunt-my-own-crops-welcomed-weeds/#respond Tue, 01 May 2018 12:00:43 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9052 Two poems by Sara Perkins

Welcomed Weeds

Your body is my roadmap, every // mole a destination and every line // and crevice a path [...]]]>
By Sara Perkins

I Haunt My Own Crops

The cornfields sparkle. It’s January
and there isn’t any snow and there hasn’t
been any snow and the cornfields sparkle
in the disorienting midnight sun. We’re in
the field behind your house and you push
me in the snow—no wait. I’m alone in my
car driving in the country. Or no—you’re
there next to me, I’m driving, now you’re
driving. At least the corn is always there—I
mean the hayfield. Or are they soybeans?

You take me to church because you worry
about my soul. We’re sitting in a room so
large I can’t breathe—or am I just blinded by
the accusatory light? We’re on the stage, we’re
in the last pew on the left—no, my left. Every-
one is surrendering toward Heaven, tearing our
shirts and slicing our arms and I’m alone at
summer camp—wait, now I’m repenting on
Broadway and my knuckles are white and my
left thumb is bleeding—weren’t you supposed
to be sitting right here next to me?

It’s raining and you kiss me—or is it just
cloudy? You’re under your car and I watch
wide-eyed as you juggle your tires. Now there’s
two of you, now he’s in my car as we kiss
behind your Jeep—oh wait, were you driving
the Jimmy that day? The three of us eat pizza
in the back of my van. You drop sausage on
the cardboard beneath us and my van reeks
until I throw the whole thing away to rot in
my backyard.

Oh, there’s that sparkle again! It’s definitely
a cornfield, how could I forget? Hold up—I
remember now. The cornfields are iridescent
as the sun is reborn in ice, and I am driving in
the country next to my heart and soul so I can
see you, even though you won’t see me because
I’m a ghost now. Wait—why am I the ghost if
you haunt me every time I wear red or see
half-eaten, crusty jars of expired peanut
butter in my cabinets?

“Muddy Corn Maze” © Ada Be (https://www.flickr.com/photos/adambelles/3936737920/)

Welcomed Weeds

Your body is my roadmap, every
mole a destination and every line
and crevice a path toward my
suburban journey. I can see
our white-picket fence in your
mouth and our two cats—a
Russian Blue and a tabby cat,
Halloween black—playing in the
curls of your hair. Your nose brings
the porch we will sit under to watch
the spring thunderstorms and your
ears are the cobblestone path in
the backyard to the garden that
grows plump tomatoes and
voluptuous heads of lettuce.

Your navel holds the lake we swam
in as kids and the hair under your arms
the woods we walked on our first date.
Your fingertips tell ten distinctive times
you have read my body like Braille, hungry
for knowledge and burning with desire to
understand the constellations on my arms
that wrap around my torso and down my
back. You greet my foot like an old
friend, climbing the mountains of my
knuckles and into the valley of my arch.

My bony hands seek forgiveness
in the salvation of your calico beard
where I once wove yarrow and ground
ivy. Water damage drips from my untreated
rafters and the singed beams crack under the
weight of my fire moss. You tend the
lawn and repair the walls, but insist that the
unanticipated dandelions on my breasts
and the creeping buttercups of my faults
are beautiful and don’t need to be
destroyed to have a perfect life.

Sara Perkins is a sophomore at the University of Indianapolis, currently studying Professional Writing. In theory, she enjoys playing the saxophone and painting in her free time. She was once called a hipster after eating a cup of fruit with chopsticks, but her friends assured her that she was Grunge, not hipster.

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