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On “New Life”: An Interview with Dan O’Brien

“My aim has been to look as squarely as I can, with clear eyes, at the truth of what human beings are capable of doing to each other. This is Paul’s aim too. Denial is a killer, and if we all felt the horror that so many are forced to experience I know there would be less violence in the world. This is a conviction I’ve had about life and about my writing long before I met Paul, though in the past I probably spent most of my time concentrating on stories of emotional violence, often of child abuse. It’s all the same. The weak are exploited and abused by the powerful, and silence, obfuscation, denial is a complicity that must be confronted.”

Excerpts from OUR WAR

Supermen sleep in transit every time—
no guarantees of when we’ll sleep again, or if,
so we tuck chin to flak jacket and light out
for anywhere else. We wake bitter and panicked,
plane dropping too sharply for Stinger missiles, look up,
read the taut, terrible smiles.

Integrating Black & White, Chipping Away at Unproductive Scapegoatery

Tonight in Wilcox County, Georgia, the “white” prom, a private party sponsored for high school students by parents, goes on as planned and as it has since the schools were integrated thirty years ago. Since integration, in a county with about 10,000 people and a high school with a graduating class of about 100, two private proms have occurred each year, one for “blacks” and one for “whites.” Last year, police were called when a biracial student showed up at the “white” prom. Apparently, one drop rules.

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by Preeta Samarasan

Among some of my oldest relatives, there’s a custom of recording weddings gifts given and received in order to ensure that no family is left feeling cheated. So, for example, if Jupiter Uncle gave Volkswagen Uncle’s daughter one thousand and one ringgit* on the occasion of her marriage, then when Jupiter Uncle’s son is getting married, Volkswagen Uncle will consult his wedding-gift book, look under Jupiter Uncle’s name, and duly stuff one thousand and one ringgit into the clean white envelope he will slip into his shirt pocket on the morning of the wedding. The custom works in reverse, too: Jupiter Uncle will write down in his own book what he gave at Volkswagen Uncle’s daughter’s wedding, so that he will know exactly how much to expect when his own children are getting married.