Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award, the Kirkus Prize, and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, and the winner of the Bard Fiction Prize and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been awarded numerous fellowships and residencies from organizations that include the Michener-Copernicus Foundation, the Yaddo Corporation, Hedgebrook, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. Her memoir, House in Indiana, is forthcoming in 2019 from Graywolf Press. Carmen Maria Machado will be at Amherst College on March 1st at 7:30 for a National Book Awards on Campus Conversation, which is a part of LitFest 2018.
This summer Hilary Leichter met with Machado at her home in Philadelphia, where Machado is the Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania.
Julia PikeThe Thing That Would Unmake You: an Interview with Carmen Maria Machado
This year, Bethany Ball’s debut novel What to Do About the Solomons took the literary world by storm, garnering a rave review from The New York Times and a short-listing for The Center For Fiction’s First Novel Prize. In What to Do About the Solomons, Ball writes a provocative, sexy, and darkly funny tale about a multigenerational family with origins in an Israeli kibbutz. She moves us between decades and continents, from lonely childhood to lonely adulthood to the home raid of an alleged money launderer. Perhaps all in a day in for this intricate family that moves simultaneously closer together and farther apart.
In this month’s interview, Dennis Norris II and Bethany Ball talk writing multigenerational families, awkward sex scenes, and more.
Sunna JuhnAwkward Sex Scenes Are My Superpower: An Interview with Bethany Ball
Some writers present us with a slice of life. Others create a universe. Pakistani novelist Nadeem Aslam, the author of five novels who has been shortlisted for the Man Booker prize twice, is a universe creator. His novels are steeped in the culture, history and traditions of the Muslim worlds of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Kashmir. Aslam emigrated to England from Pakistan with his family, political exiles on the wrong side of the military junta, when he was fourteen. He learned to read and write English by hand-copying his text books. His father was a poet/activist, and his parent’s marriage was arranged, so he experienced first-hand the issues of a society that offers few prospects for advancement for women and scarcely more for a man not from the monied classes.
Jill Eisenstadt’s latest book, Swell, was released to acclaim in June—Rolling Stone called it “the literary comeback of the year,”—thirty years after her debut novel with the same setting, From Rockaway.
In Swell, Eisenstadt tells the story of the Glassmans, a family of four who relocate from Tribeca to Rockaway, New York, in the aftermath of 9/11. The house they move into, like the Glassmans themselves, comes with a fraught history; their confrontation with this past reaches a crescendo that will make readers rethink what it means to love thy neighbor.
In this month’s interview, editorial assistant Julia Pike and Eisenstadt discuss marginalized communities, emotional truth, and the author’s return to Rockaway.
Debbie WenOur Quest for Safety: an interview with Jill Eisenstadt
Mensah Demary as an editor is most known for his work with Catapult Nonfiction, and more recently, Black Balloon. But Mensah Demary the writer is a force to be reckoned with. The Common published his essay “Blood and Every Beat” in our most recent issue, No. 13. In this month’s Q&A, Interviews Editor Melody Nixon talks with Demary about audience and desire, creative partnerships, “getting out of his own way,” and why the personal essay is not dead (“the idea is absurd”).
Isabel MeyersThe Personal (Essay) is Not Dead: an interview with Mensah Demary
In this month’s interview, Saretta Morgan talks with poet, editor, and academic Muriel Leung about her poetry collection Bone Confetti; queer love; how loss can activate political consciousness; Hortense Spillers; and writing in a state of transition. Bone Confetti was released by Noemi Press in 2016.
Flavia MartinezGestured to and not yet quite: an interview with Muriel Leung
Jillian Weise is the author of the novel The Colony (2010) and the poetry collections The Amputee’s Guide to Sex (2007) and The Book of Goodbyes (2013), the latter of which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. Her writing appears in The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Granta, The New Republic, Tin House, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing at Clemson University in South Carolina.
Isabel MeyersMaking Space for the Common Cyborg: an Interview with Jillian Weise
Alexander Chee’s new novel The Queen of the Night, set almost entirely in France under the Second Empire (1866–1872), is the first-person narrative of a silver-voiced American orphan who maneuvers her way to acclaim as an opera singer, via the circus, can-can dancing, prostitution, and service as the Empress’s maid. Three desires drive Lilliet: to free herself from the tenor who literally owns her (having bought her from a whore house), to become a singer, and to reunite with the man she loves. Chee’s novel sumptuously recreates the intertwined worlds of les grandes horizontales or courtesans, the opera, and the court of Emperor Louis-Napoléon and Empress Eugénie with its spies and secret police.
This winter in Manhattan, New York, The Common’s Book Reviews Editor Julia Lichtblau talked at length with Alexander Chee about his forthcoming novel.
Olivia ZhengHorizontal Feminists: An Interview with Alexander Chee
Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet and visual artist. Her most recent collection of poetry, Lighting the Shadow(Four Way Books), was published in April. Griffiths teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and the Institute of American Indian Arts, and lives in Brooklyn, NY. Saretta Morgan corresponded with Griffiths via email over the course of four weeks this summer, during which time they each traversed several locales—Upstate New York, Mexico, Colorado, Vermont and Washington, D.C.—as they discussed form, representation, and the risks of opening oneself up artistically.
Saretta Morgan (SM): Your fourth book of poems came out this year, and you’re very close to completing your first book of photographs and your first novel. You also work in photography and video. Could you share a little bit about your relationship to these modalities? What complications and limitations do you find in each?
Isabel MeyersThe Risk of Being Human: an Interview With Rachel Eliza Griffiths