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A Conversation With PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2019 Author JP Infante
“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.”
Kweli Journal, The Poetry Project, Uptown Collective, Dominican Writers, POST(blank)The Manhattan Times
You’ve thought about jumping.
It’s a cold winter night. You sit next to Queeny on your fire escape. The cars on the freeway come and go like waves. The lights from the George Washington Bridge reflect off the Hudson River like the shine in glassy eyes. The river is a giant bathtub without a ship or boat to save anyone who might be drowning.
Your babysitter, Nilda, says suicide is like killing someone, and if you were to survive jumping off the fire escape, the police would arrest you for attempted murder. If you do try killing yourself, you plan to live through it because suicide only works if you survive. Nilda laughed when you told her the attempt is meant to get people’s attention. She laughed because it’s true.
You feel the cold wind. Look at the buildings across the river in New Jersey. They are far apart with too much space in between. There’s no space between you and Queeny because you both need the warmth.
They used to call you Minene, and, before that, Chungo, even though your birth certificate says another name. Your stepfather, who’s been away at school for three months, calls you son. Son, get me the TV controller. Son, listen to your mother. Son, stop talking about your heart.
School Days The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
The Aster(ix) Journal
Digging Through the Fat: A Literary & Arts Journal for Cultural Omnivores
More by this author
“Every interaction between adult siblings presents a chance to get more clarity about the past. Hopefully, we’re able to seize at least some of these chances.”
“I wrote much of the story listening to jazz, including the title song, for inspiration on how to shift without imposing too much of a structure.”
“I wanted to portray the pain of trying to reach someone who is inside their own, unreachable pain, and how this often puts untenable pressure on relationships.”
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“I started thinking about immoral women, women who are not merely complicit counterparts to A Bad Man but active participants in cruelty.”
“Some stories just flow out of you and you try to keep up as you write them. This story was not like that.”
A Roundtable With the PEN America Best Debut Short Stories Judges: Tracy O’Neill, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, and Deb Olin Unferth
So many of the stories I liked best played with understatement and a sort of quiet, confident pacing.