Posts Categorized: Nonfiction

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Nonfiction Feature: “How to Tell Your Rape Story” by A.A. Balaskovits

 

If you decide to disclose your rape, you must give careful consideration to your words, then, what manner or tone will give you the most control. Such anxiety is necessary. You worry that your audience will shift interest, as always, to the rapist, the do-er, the one who acted, the one they are told to take an interest in from the very moment they learned how to appreciate stories. The active is always more interesting than the passive. That is what they tell you when you start to write: always avoid the passive, be it voice or man.

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Without knowing it, you had begun researching rape from a very young age. As a child, you devoured old stories without fully digesting them. Your favorite was the one about Persephone, depicted anywhere between nine and hundreds of years old, but always youthful, always skipping in a white dress amongst cardamoms and daffodils and daisies. When she was spied by shadowed Hades and stolen from her mother and all those familiar things, when she was forced to grow up with a stranger, you clutched your heart and thought, how romantic. He loved her without knowing her, and he was willing to do something heinous to prove it. It is not the first time you will encounter these stories, and it will be a very long time before you realize that the “Rape” of Persephone was not only a body-rape, but a shift in the culture played out across a womanly form. At the moment of Persephone’s judgment for having done nothing wrong, she is forced to live half the year with her rapist and half the year free of him. No wonder the world dies when she descends below ground; at least some unconscious thing acknowledges injustice. Remember the Sabine Women who were stolen in the middle of a festival, whose arms are depicted raised towards the heavens, frozen in a moment when heathen celebration ended and when the whole of Western history began its march towards conception and conceiving? Philomela, who was raped by her sister’s husband and was so beloved by him he cut off her tongue so that she might never speak of it, and only regained her voice when the Gods took pity on her and turned her into a bird, so that no man would ever understand her again? Medusa, raped by Zeus, and then made a monster, which in itself can be read as a kindness, to have that inner turmoil reflected on the outside? Too often, without using the word, we tell how rape shaped the Western world, and we Do. Not. Blink.

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40.1 SNEAK PEEK: excerpt of WE ARE NOT SAINTS by BRENNA WOMER

SP_Womer_We Are Not Saints

 

Brenna Womer is an MFA candidate at Northern Michigan University where she teaches composition and literature and serves as an associate editor of Passages North. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Normal School, DIAGRAM, The Pinch, Hippocampus, Booth, and elsewhere. Her chapbook Atypical Cells of Undetermined Significance is forthcoming on C&R Press.

 

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Fiction Feature: “Lake effect” by Ryan Van Meter

I don’t understand why he calls it a houseboat. It doesn’t look like a house, and it doesn’t look like a boat. What it looks like is a white box with windows cut out of the sides, railings clamped all around, and deck chairs tossed on the roof. The whole thing bobs in the lake, tethered to a dock post by a soggy green rope. Inside, everything is brown. The walls are covered in plastic panels printed with a wood-grain design, as if to remind us that wood floats and it’s perfectly reasonable that we’re loaded on this box for the next six days, instead of at home in an actual house. He, my Dad, is one of three Dads for whom this trip is now an annual thing, the third summer in a row that these college friends have brought along their elder sons for a week of fishing on a giant lake—this year, in Minnesota.

The kitchen in the houseboat is brown tile instead of brown carpet. I’m eleven years old and standing in front of the sink, washing every dish from the cupboards. The Dads and the other Sons are sitting on the slick white top of the boat, a deck on the roof above me. The sunset is beautiful, they keep telling me, but I keep doing the dishes, which is taking a lot longer than anyone would have guessed. We’ve already unpacked, already uncoiled the rope linking us to shore, already buzzed out across the water, turned off the engine, and started our slow drift around the lake in whatever direction the waves and wind push us.

Even though I’ve endured two previous trips, something about this houseboat idea unsettled me as soon as I heard about it. Maybe the intimacy of all of us aboard one small vessel, three Dads and three Sons in too close quarters? When my Dad announced our plan, I tried suggesting how disastrous my habit of sleepwalking might be on a houseboat, the way I could silently slip into the dark water before anyone noticed I wasn’t tucked inside my sleeping bag anymore. This was unconvincing because, to his knowledge, I’d only sleepwalked once—when I was five and stood in the hallway snoring and peeing in a corner before shuffling back to bed—and because it hadn’t happened since then, he wasn’t worried.

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Nonfiction Feature: “Common Tongue,” by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

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This graphic memoire appeared in Indiana Review 37.1, Summer 2015.

Anna Cabe (Nonfiction Editor): One of my favorite forms in CNF is the graphic memoir, and Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s “The Common Tongue” is a prime example of why. By telling the story of how Buchanan acquired different languages through whimsical, colorful imagery, the scope of what is ultimately a gift — the gift of opened doors— is rendered familiar and magical.

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Rowan Hisayo Buchanan is the author of the novel Harmless Like You which was a New York Times Editors’ Pick and an NPR 2017 Great Read. She has received a Betty Trask Award and The Authors’ Club First Novel Award. Her short work has appeared in Granta, The Atlantic, and The Guardian.