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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
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“When you’re a kid you’re not sure if you don’t know something because you haven’t been taught it or because you’re not supposed to know.”
“I think, in pursuit of truth, science and religion still have to wrestle with the strictures of human knowledge, error, pride.”
“The narration style feels very conversational to me. I liked how second-person really tries to make the reader part of the story as well.”
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“I feel any person who has to deal with losing the one person who is their world has every right to do whatever it takes to self-preserve, even when that includes deflection and denial.”
“When you feel like you have no power in a relationship, withholding becomes one of the only ways you can maintain the illusion of agency.”
“The themes of social justice, the magic of water, and the power of queer love to create a different world—these are themes that I return to again and again in my writing and my life.”