I had one recurring nightmare as a child: I am standing in the dry bed of a creek looking upstream, the sun shining and the stones warm on the bottoms of my feet. Suddenly, a roaring wave rushes toward me around a bend and I have no choice but to be swept along with it. The water drags earth from the river banks until it is so thick with sediment it has turned the color of Swiss Miss.
Latifa Baqa’s gripping stream of consciousness short story “Adam’s Apple” is a highlight of Issue 21’s portfolio of fiction from Morocco. A feminist, human rights activist, and award-winning author, Baqa is interviewed by The Common interns Sofia Belimova, Olive Amdur, Adaku Nwokiwu, and Eliza Brewer. They discuss editing, the devil in the details, and countering the traditional expectation of the male gaze. Nariman Youssef translated the interview, as well as the original story. This is the first of two interviews conducted by the summer interns with Issue 21 contributors; the second will be with Abdelmajid Haouasse.
TC interns (TC): What inspired “Adam’s Apple?” Can you describe your process of writing and revising it?
Latifa Baqa (LB): The idea behind “Adam’s Apple,” like pretty much all ideas you may find in any of my fictional texts, began with a sentence. Meaning that one sentence preceded the idea, in a way not unlike how one note might resonate in a musician’s head before the rest of the tune. This is how it often happens: before I begin writing, a lone sentence rises up in my thoughts, for no obvious reason. I remember how this one stuck in my head for days: “We shouldn’t lay bare what we carry within us more than once.” The rest of the story followed from that sentence, beginning with a minor character who barely features in the narrative: Alzamourie, the neighborhood’s baker, who was a real person in the working class neighborhood where I was born and raised. To be more precise, one element that started making its way into the story was Alzamourie’s teeth. I just could never forget his teeth. It seems almost absurd, but I find more reassurance in the foggy arbitrariness of memory than in the clarity of conventional reality.
I Will Be in the Place You Least Expect to Find Me: 10 Questions with Latifa Baqa
“Places remember what people forget.” – Richard Powers
Instead of speaking, we eat peanuts in the Holland Tunnel: the unshelled, lightly roasted kind from the bulk section of our grocery store. With one hand on the steering wheel, my father takes handfuls from the top, since all the salt falls to the bottom, and my mother digs for those. Outside, the tunnel tiles blur as our Subaru speeds beneath the river and all the buried foundations of New York.
The wall above the desk in my childhood bedroom is covered in sticky notes, index cards, and fading color photographs. They are haphazardly layered, held up by torn pieces of Scotch tape and pushpins at odd angles. Each time I sit, spinning in my blue, cat-clawed desk chair, I reread and remember.
My first college English professor told us everyone should keep a commonplace book: somewhere to put words, ideas, and sentences we want to hold. He said it was a way to mark the passage of time and the changes of our minds. I was intrigued by the idea, but aware it was the sort of thing I’d begin and then forget in the bustling adjustment of no longer being at home. So I wrote down the word—commonplace—but started nothing then.
In our July edition of Friday Reads, two TC interns and one volunteer reader recommend transportive summer reading, ranging from a novel about a trip to Greece to a good old-fashioned western. Read onward for discussions of a braided Faulkner novel, a flâneur novelist, and two cowboys down on their luck.
Recommendations: If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem by William Faulkner, Outline by Rachel Cusk, Hanging Woman Creek by Louis L’Amour.
Here in Western Massachusetts, the harsh New England winter is gradually thawing, and our greyish snowbanks are melting into puddles. Meanwhile, our interns have returned to their spring semester classes and their work at The Common. This March, we’re hearing what’s propelled them through their long winter break toward a brighter and warmer spring.
Recommendations: The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud, The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune, Elizabeth Costello by J. M. Coetzee, A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet