Posts Categorized: Nonfiction

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Announcing the 2019 Creative Nonfiction Prize Winner

We are excited to announce the winner of the 2019 Creative Nonfiction Prize, judged by Hanif Abdurraqib. Many thanks to everyone who submitted their work and made this year’s prize possible!

2019 Creative Nonfiction Prize Winner:

“Lobster Shy” by Keith Wilson

Hanif Abdurraqib says, “I was — very literally — moved by this work. It is a meditation that refuses a stationary angle, winding and breathless. But, mostly, I’m thankful for such an intimate look at the interior of both the pleasure and anguish of existence.”

Keith S. Wilson is an Affrilachian Poet and Cave Canem fellow. He is a recipient of an NEA fellowship as well as fellowships/grants from Bread Loaf, Kenyon College, Tin House, MacDowell, Vermont Studio Center, UCross, and Millay Colony, among others. Keith serves as Assistant Poetry Editor at Four Way Review and Digital Media Editor at Obsidian Journal. His first book, Fieldnotes on Ordinary Love, was published by Copper Canyon in 2019.

Finalists:

“On Girls & Rabbits & Women” by Amanda Goemmer

“Biscuits” by D. Nolan Jefferson

“Relics, Registries, and Other Bastard Things” by Taylor Kirby

“Enough for a Lifetime of Sundays” by Ashley Mallick

“Rubbish House” by Shaw Patton

“An Incomplete, Personal History of Isolation Through Video Games” by Reyes Ramirez

“Noble Silence” by Robert Julius Schumaker

The prize winner will be published in the Summer 2020 issue of Indiana Review. Happy reading!

Nonfiction Feature: “kafir 1 & 2” By Tarfia Faizullah

 

kafir 1

 

It’s been twenty years since my sister died in the car accident. For twenty years I’ve been telling slightly different versions of her death and the aftermath. None of them are true. All of them are true.

*

Kufrul-‘Inaad is disbelief out of stubbornness. This applies to someone who knows the truth and admits to knowing the truth, and knows it with his or her tongue, but refuses to accept it and refrains from making a declaration.

*

One night during college at a party in someone’s dark dorm room, someone decided it would be fun to make a drinking game out of how many things in common we had with our siblings. The lava lamp in the corner made our faces seem like the topographies of far- away planets. “What about you, Tarfia?” he asked.

*

“Throw into hell every obstinate disbeliever,” Allah says a few verses later. “Why are you so stubborn?” everyone in my life who has ever loved me has asked. “Why is it so hard for you to back down?”

*

“I don’t have any siblings,” I said, thrumming the amber neck of the beer bottle with my fingers.

*

In verse 50:19 of the Qur’an, Allah says to the disbeliever, “And the intoxication of death will bring the truth; that is what you were trying to avoid.”

*

“She’s not dead,” I said when my parents came to visit me in the hospital a few days after my sister had gone into cardiac arrest. My arm was in a sling, freshly plastered hours after surgery that was meant to correct the damage done to my shoulder during the car accident. My mother’s face was a map of bruises. I couldn’t look directly at any of the new countries of her ruptured skin. “She can’t be.”

*

How can death simultaneously intoxicate and bring truth? If the very cells that allow us to experience intoxication stop functioning, how do our brains process, allow, or deny truth? That is to say, truth is like memory in that it is not so much a set of discrete memories as much as it is a set of processes by which we encode, store, and retrieve information.

*

“It’s just me and my sister,” I say to the lipsticked and rouged woman ringing up the bottle of perfume I’m buying for my mother at the makeup counter at Dillard’s. It is strange how easy it is to not continue with “…but she hasn’t been alive for twenty years.” “I’m about five years older,” I say, and she lights up. “That’s the age difference between me and my sister!” she says, and I smile and sign my name on the credit card slip with a flourish.

*

In many ways, kufr is synonymous with atheism, which is the rejection of a belief in the existence of deity. But is it still disbelief if you are rejecting belief in someone or something that no longer exists?

 

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Nonfiction Feature: Cartesian Anxiety in a Bleeding I By Camellia Freeman

 

Cartesian Anxiety in a Bleeding I

 
Preface:

Rene Descartes works best in his pajamas. I watch him while wrapped in a blanket, and in my imagination he resurrects easily enough, coughs, walks around. It’s January, so he’s chosen the fuzzy ones with feet—mid- night blue—displaying galaxies caught mid-spin with nickel-sized buttons that run up the front.

            Alone in his apartment, a five-story walk-up, he feels his greatest intellectual freedom while wearing these footsy pajamas, assured no one will ever know. He’s disconnected the Internet and isn’t taking any calls. Even the small television set is unplugged. See how the cords dangle? He bought the yellow swivel chair at his desk because he admires its neat diamond stitches and the way it creaks without squeaking, which reminds him of his mother rocking in her wooden chair when he was still small enough to climb up to her face, rocking in such a way that made her seem playful and lighthearted, as though she would stay that way if for no other reason than because she would always be his mother.

            Resurrected, he writes in Latin because it is the language of thinking and because it is expected. He stares, often between pen strokes. His hand never cramps. Arranging his candles and his stained glass lamp, against which he’s leaned a framed daguerreotype of a girl, his mind chews on one hypothesis only to discard it for the next. The girl is wide-eyed and pale and looks off to the side while clutching the dark lace at her neck. Her left ear tilts toward him, expectant.
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Nonfiction Feature: “Beneath The Surface” By Amy Butcher

 

Beneath The Surface

            The morning I realized the birds on the telephone line outside my apartment were cowbirds and not crows, a boy I knew was getting his heart stitched up.

            The boy was in a hospital and I was not in a hospital. I held the phone against my chin with my shoulder and hunched over, rubbed a cotton ball across my toe, and asked, “It’s going okay?”

            My boyfriend was on the other line, standing against a window on the seventeenth floor of Mass General in downtown Boston. He cleared his throat and took a sip of something. “Seems to be,” he said.

            I didn’t think then about the heart or what was happening to it—the idea that a thread was pulling something so fragile together. I dabbed the cotton ball into more of the acetone and wiped at the other toe and said, “Good.”

* * *

            I’d met the boy nine times before.

            Once we ate Brussels sprouts off china plates in a living room decorated with wallpaper of printed pink Colonial men and women. Another time we pulled on zip-up sweatshirts and walked along the Charles River, drinking marshmallow lattes with a disproportionate amount of marshmallow. On one occasion, he handed me a blanket that smelled like attic and made me watch forty minutes of loose footage he taped at his father’s lake house.

            “It’s going to be a thriller,” he said, “when I’m done with it.” This implied a vast amount of time spent in front of computers and monitors and boxy black equipment. But all I saw were ripples on water and geese taking off towards some definite treeline.

            “Okay,” I said.

            The night we watched the footage, the boy was seventeen. It was January. Even under the blanket, my feet were cold. I kept trying to tuck them up under me, rubbing my socks together beneath the fabric. His cousin Keith sat beside me quietly, watching the footage with fascination.

            “Can we go soon?” I whispered in his ear. I wanted to be some place else: a downtown sidewalk, a restaurant, a place where I wouldn’t have to pretend something ordinary was special.

            “In a minute,” he said. “I’m enjoying this.”

            The footage of the birds and the trees and the sandy embankments would be edited down, turned into a film, submitted at some point as part of a portfolio to film schools. This is what I assumed. I let my eyes slide over the footage and onto the boy. I tried to picture what he would look like under big, bulky headphones.

            When the footage finished playing, I folded the blanket and put it back on the couch. “Good to see you again,” I said to the boy, and then I pulled on my snow boots and trudged to the car, parked two streets away, the snow coming down softly, the man I loved following behind.

* * *

            The boy suffered from congenital heart failure. He wasn’t supposed to live past six months. This is what the doctors told his mother in the birthing room.

            “His heart is functioning at three-quarters capacity,” they said. “Two of the four chambers aren’t divided; they don’t work.”

            His mother held the child, still warm in his blankets. She looked at the doctor. She named the baby Charlie, after her father.

            In the hopes that he might exceed their expectations, she held Charlie against her body each day and sang hymns. An infection, doctors warned, could exacerbate his condition; her milk would be best. But the baby grew tired quickly, his small lips too weak. She bought special formulas to increase his caloric intake, held the bottles along her chest and prayed.

            Charlie turned six months and then twelve. On his first birthday, his mother baked a cake with real vanilla beans and rich white buttercream. She took his picture, his cheeks covered in icing. She put it on the refrigerator to remember.

            Two weeks later, the doctors performed open-heart surgery on the child. They lay the baby on a small padded table and wrapped him in a thin white sheet. They made an incision in the center of his chest, tucking wires around the organ. They divided the upper and lower chambers. They added a patch to the right ventricle to improve blood circulation.

            The surgery would let him see six, they said.

            Charlie turned four and then he turned five. His mother had him swallow pills with orange juice. She tucked the bitter ones in pancakes. The pills fought off infection. He turned seven, and then nine, and then eleven. His heart kept beating. The doctors wondered aloud if it might beat forever.

            On his twelfth birthday, his mother rented a pavilion along the river. His father grilled hamburgers and sweet peppers and Charlie rode a horse along the edge of the water.

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Nonfiction Feature: “When Milk Is a Memory” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Aimee Nezhukumatathil reads “When Milk Is a Memory”

 

WHEN MILK IS A MEMORY

When the milk first comes it is gold. When the milk first comes it feels like a tug. When the milk first sprays across the bed, we laugh but you are scared. When the milk is too much and the baby bites you want to cry and dig your hands into your husband’s palm. When the milk spills out and soaks your shirt, the bed—you wake sour to the baby’s cry. When the milk slows because you put cold cabbage leaves in your bra, you cry. When the milk tries to flow and the baby still sniffs around your chest, you cry. When the milk goes back to the body, back to your chest and vitamins back into blood—you feel stronger than ever. The baby gets fat and smiles and all the crying stops.

 

When the milk is a memory you see a glass full of it and only think: bottle. When milk is a memory and your chest softens, grows smaller—you can press against your love without pausing and the baby will coo next to you in his bassinet. When the milk is a memory, every tongue and hot breath to slow near your neck just becomes a cloud of rain-precipitate and your hand an umbrella to cup all the hours of wishing for milk missing the milk teasing the milk fooling the milk and you’ve been friends and frenemies with milk and when the time comes, milk never says good-bye. And when milk gets to where he is going—he never even sends a thank you note so don’t even bother to check your mailbox for his licked flap, his cancelled stamp.

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