Last month, we launched Issue 24, which features wispy, ethereal poems, striking watercolors of the Stebbins Cold Canyon flora and fauna, stories about resilience in the face of war and natural disaster, and essays that celebrate humor and heritage. Wondering what our contributors are reading to keep themselves inspired? Look no further than this month’s Friday Reads.
Sindya Bhanoo speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her story “Tsunami Bride,” which appears in The Common’s new fall issue. Sindya talks about her experience reporting from India after the 2004 tsunami, and how that experience eventually became a story about a journalist in the same position, told from a local’s perspective. She also discusses how the training and techniques she developed as a journalist have shaped her drafting and revision process for fiction, how food often makes its way into her stories, and how her 2022 story collection Seeking Fortune Elsewhere came together.
We launched Issue 24 last week, which features an exciting medley of writing: pieces about journalists and translators, forest fires and traveling icebergs, ghosts, cousins, and parents. Wondering what our contributors are reading? Check out their book recommendations below:
Meera Nair speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her essay “The Desire Tree,” which appears in The Common’s new fall issue. Meera talks about the long process of writing this piece, which explores loss and longing through a visit to a banyan tree in Kerala, India that is said to grant prayers. She also discusses writing from memories, finding the right length for a piece, and teaching revision strategies to her creative writing students.
By the time the car stops at the end of the dirt road, we’ve been jolting along for an hour. Before us is the banyan tree we have come to see—its giant trunk surrounded by hanging roots, its distant crown shutting out the sky.
It is summer in Kerala, and the world is liquid and shimmery with heat. The roads and fields are parched, waiting, suspended in a burning delirium for the moment the monsoon will break. My aunt Sudha and I have just driven through miles of sun-blasted paddy fields, but the abrupt immensity of the tree makes the light feel shadowed, as if dusk has fallen at noon. A hushed feeling comes over me as the dark, looming presence asserts itself.
My mother and I are on a chlorinated river that’s somehow simultaneously the Amazon, Congo, and Nile, floating languidly so we don’t run into the boat in front of us and “don’t scare the wildlife”: the kind of joke the Disney guide, in his safari hat and over-pocketed explorer outfit, keeps making.
“I am living permanently in my dream,
from which I make brief forays into reality.”
—Ingmar Bergman, The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography
Erminia danced the Charleston. My friend Gianluca told me how, almost every evening, his grandmother would pause on the threshold of the French doors that opened onto the terrace and trace out the steps. Her arms swinging, legs twisting, a toe to the front, then to the back, a heel swiveling to the side, a toe to the front again. She confined her movements to the doorway as though she wanted to go unnoticed, and yet somehow she demanded the attention of anyone nearby. Whenever I was at Gianluca’s, I always saw her singing softly to herself.