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A Conversation With PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2019 Author Doug Henderson
“Some stories just flow out of you and you try to keep up as you write them. This story was not like that.”
The Iowa Review.
Panel 1: The English teacher stands in front of his class. He is smiling and relaxed, leaning against his desk. Over his shoulder, the whiteboard reads: You can go to London. You can go to Paris. But you can’t go to shopping.
He is blond with blue eyes, young and fresh-faced, a more idealized version of myself. He doesn’t have to pluck the space between his eyebrows or lose those last five pounds.
His top button is undone. His tie is loose. His shirtsleeves are rolled up, exposing his hairy forearms. Chest hair rises above his collar, sandy and golden. He is exotic to his students. They never knew blonds could be hairy. He is teaching more than language.
Panels 2–5: The teacher is speaking, but there are no word balloons. What he is saying isn’t important. He is teaching in the way that American college students spending a summer abroad do, with an emphasis on charm, on telling jokes, and on winning the class over. The smiles on the students' faces make it clear they are entranced. To watch him move, to be in his presence, is reason enough for the class to meet three times a week.
The Iowa ReviewF(r)ictionThe Rumpus
More by this author
Learn about Mathapelo Mofokeng’s short story “The Strong-Strong Winds,” which was selected for ‘Best Debut Short Stories 2021.’
“The most innocent thing you can do is want to create”: Robert J. Dau Prize Winner Isaac Hughes Green
Learn about Isaac Hughes Green’s short story “The First Time I Said It,” which was selected for ‘Best Debut Short Stories 2021.’
Learn about Amy Haejung’s short story “Maria,” which was selected for ‘Best Debut Short Stories 2021.’
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“The idea here is the casual way children can accept and parrot this kind of simple, black-and-white math about worth. So much so that in a pinch they are willing write off their own mother!”
“I have always been fascinated by the idea of women being monstrous and beastly because it ruptures the dominant Patriarchal ideal of the shy woman.”
I just can’t stop coming back to this idea of human migrations, family migrations, and plant migrations.