Natali Petricic is a finalist for The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.
We were the only family in the village to spend a few dinars on a photo. This was right after the second World War. Dalmatia was freed of Italian rule, and we were all poor, but I had a feeling I’d need that picture one day. I sat on a boulder, holding little Tomislav, bundled in woolen blankets, not more than a year old. Branko stood beside me, his hand on my shoulder. He was eight. A pile of wilted dark leaves were strewn around the large rock. Even though it was cold, I made Branko wear his good shorts with suspenders. His long pants were worn thin and patched at the knees. We all stared ahead, even Tomislav. It was as if he understood something important was happening and this wasn’t a moment for fussing.
Aloysius is missing. The thought flickers through my mind each time I look at the photo. I never mention the baby I lost. Why burden others? But I think about him every time I hold the black and white, willing him to appear.
My sister-in-law criticized me about the photo, cackling in the fields with others. “She spent money on a photo, while he slaves away on the boats. My brother’s wife, from the other island…” She began all of her laments about me like that. As if in the polje voices don’t echo. As if I were deaf. As if sooner or later, one by one, the villagers wouldn’t absorb me as one of their own in spite of themselves, as people do in these parts. They called themselves Catholics—church-goers, all of them. In my village, they warn of the self-proclaimers. If you do something, just do it. Don’t announce all over the hamlet that you never miss church. Don’t announce the amount you place on the plate passed around.
Alisa Koyrakh is a finalist for The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.
On February third, 1966, a Soviet spacecraft reached the moon. Zhenya read about it on February fifth. The newspaper lay on the stool next to their bed for two days before she looked at it. The headline: The Moon Speaks Russian.
Now in its fifth year, the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing supports the voices of immigrant writers whose works straddle cultural divides, embrace the multicultural makeup of our society, and interrogate questions of identity in a global society. This prize awards $10,000 and publication with Restless Books to a writer who has produced a work that addresses the effects of global migration on identity. This year’s judges, Dinaw Mengestu, Achy Obejas, and Ilan Stavans, have selected the below five finalists. Click on the links in each section to read excerpts from their books.
Read the “Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing” Finalists
Justin Haynes is a finalist for The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.
Zaboca Clearing’s zabocas were always ripe and ready, on season or off; we tried not to think about this as we added them to our stews and salads. We suspected a tortured past with the silk cotton tree, some twenty yards beyond the wooden picnic tables, that we know better than to mess with. But the oddest thing of all about Zaboca Clearing, beyond the perma-green grass and the silk cotton tree, or even what might be buried beneath, was the pervading smell of oranges that floated through the Clearing even though there’s no oranges planted anywhere near Zaboca Clearing. It confounded us, raised short hairs on our necks and goosefleshed forearms. Tingled the edges of our ears and moistened tear ducts. It itched our collarbones. All of us except Binary Clem, who could never smell the oranges because of the beating he’d once received for not paying off gambling debts that wrote off his senses of smell and taste and the ability to speak in anything other than ones and zeroes like a corrupted code-breaker, which we suspected was the final straw that chased off his wife Anisa, her no longer able to understand the sweet-nothings whispered into her ears. Binary Clem would watch us cover our noses with the tops of our t-shirts, tank tops and mesh shirts whenever the smell would overwhelm us and would ask, 1-0-0-1-1-0-0-1-1?
Sindya Bhanoo is a finalist for The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.
“Malliga Homes” first appeared in Granta.
Mr. Swaminathan died suddenly, as he was walking back to his flat from the Veg dining hall after dinner. He was ahead of me on the path, and I saw him slow down. His gait changed from a fast stride to a slower, hunched walk. His left arm went limp. He lost his footing and crumpled to the ground. If I had not been swift, I imagine he would have hit his head on the cement. There would have been blood. But I caught up with him. Before he fell, I squatted to the ground and put my hands out, and his head fell directly into my open palms. Carefully, I slipped my hands out from behind his head, set it gently on the cement and sat at his side talking to him. His left eye looked lower than his right. His left cheek sagged, as if it might slide off.
The wine finally whittling at the burr of her thoughts, Alice read descriptions and assessed fabric content before selecting her size. Partial to leafy green and navy blue, cautious of dressing as a lamb when she knew she was close to mutton and yet not ready for Eileen Fisher–baggy old lady, her fifty-one years compounded the shopping challenge her considerable height posed. Even if she wasn’t actually buying, the clothes must potentially fit if the process were to give her any satisfaction. The virtual acquisition required less than possession but more than pure abstraction. The clothes and shoes and bags must be plausible purchases were she to decide to purchase them—always a possibility. But not even wine, an empty apartment, the tiresome BBC drama of Brexit unpardonably mixed with the devastating news of another Ebola outbreak overlain with repeated clicks of not-quite-complete acquisition could keep her from thinking about the dog.
But he could have been. My father was a similar man. His name was Richard Cheney, though he never went by Dick, and he never lived at the Naval Observatory. He was an orthopedic surgeon in suburban Kansas City who said stupid things like, “These hands are gold,” to people at dinner parties where he was often the one who ate more than his fair share of Shrimp Scampi and dove into the pool drunk in his clothes because he thought everything he did was a fun spectacle.
This apple I have only just bitten into as I stand in the cool dank store room tastes of November, already old and fading, and my tongue, so often dulled by the anaesthetizing effect of regular wine drinking, red wine in fact, and never white which has always produced a low-level ache in what I assume is my liver and is thus to be avoided at all costs, my tongue, as I said, was ambushed by the apple’s unexpected weariness, yes, a tired and indecisive flavor that was perhaps on the turn, perhaps only a day away from being rotten, its wrinkled skin an obvious warning of what lay in wait as it pressed against the roof of my mouth.
From early morning, Arrayga had been smoking ravenously, cigarette after cigarette, staring blankly at the bedroom ceiling. When she opened the third packet, Kultouma came over and, eyes welling with tears, anxiously inquired: “Arrayga, calm down. What is it, sister? You’re going like a train: puff puff puff. Speak to me, Arrayga. What’s upset you?”
The four of them lay on the rug in a circle. They could not be still. They could not shut the hell up. They played blackjack, betting for fistfuls of jerky their dad kept stashed on a kitchen shelf. Only rarely did the girl beat the boys, though she was next to oldest. There were three of them to her one, an equation of quantity and logic, she’d always understood, but also of weight and matter. Ace and face, she threw down her cards, three lucky wins in a row. She whooped and lifted up from the floor, prepared to wrestle an accord, star-flung limbs and static-flared hair bound in constellation. Instead, this late afternoon, the oldest brother detonated the cards in a rush of edges. Red and black diamonds, spades, hearts, and clubs.