black neighborhoods, and the stripping of the black middle class from
areas where they once lived. He concludes that for many Americans, the
idea of integration is “forever illusive, impermanent, the stuff of dreams.”
No nation has fought more wars than ours in so brief a span of history.
Ember Johnson’s essay deals with the post-Vietnam era of the declining
pax Americana. “Serpentine” describes the effects of war on her family.
Her husband, an Iraq war vet and Black Hawk mechanic, dies in a civilian auto accident after coming home from two tours of combat duty.
The family is living in the Midwest, operating a small farm, and trying
to return to a more normal life. They’re challenged by her husband’s
PTSD and hearing injury. Both resulted from an IED exploding at close
range when her husband’s convoy of trucks tried to navigate a serpentine checkpoint. The present scene of the essay takes us to the morgue,
where Johnson says goodbye to her husband’s body and retrieves his
clothes and possessions. It’s an intimate look at the after-effects of war
on an American family, in particular a young wife.
Jocelyn Cullity’s interview of Janet Burroway gives us a look into the
thoughts of the author of many fine books over the past half century,
including Cutting Stone, set in an Arizona town of an earlier era; Raw
Silk, a novel about an increasingly unhappily married textile designer
who departs on a foreign adventure that changes her life; Bridge of Sand,
concerning a white woman who marries a black man in the American
South; and The Buzzards, about an Arizona politician who chooses to
run for president, which eventually rips apart his family.
Carolyn Vega’s Curio Cabinet feature shines light on Charles Dickens’s later-life performances as a professional reader. From 1853 until his
death in 1870, Dickens parlayed a longtime interest in the theater and his
natural acting ability into a secondary career giving dramatic readings
from his work. Over time, he refined his performances, scripting and
rescripting them by cutting down passages from his most popular books
and adding variety to his repertoire.
This issue’s poetry includes our 2018 Editors’ Prize poetry runner-up,
Chris Hayes, who explores the Midwest through a complex lens of ambivalence and fiery love. The speaker, removed from the heartland for some
time, views his home clear-sightedly as a “Launchpad to Oz in a technicolor memory of an America / that persists for exactly half its citizens,
while the rest of us dream our way out of the farmhouse.” Hayes strips
country culture of its idealism and sees it in all its splendor and sins as
he negotiates masculinity, sexuality, and belonging in motel rooms and