23 June 2016
18 June 2016
Gold-capped Mason jars filled with cut green beans line the kitchen countertop in orderly rows. On the table, a crate of new peaches, the irrigation schedule, and a stack of pink flyers: Resurrection Rummage Sale. July 14-15 Friday and Saturday at Our Holy Redeemer. Bernadette finishes the breakfast dishes and starts packing the decent hand-me-downs into paper bags. Her mother takes up the kettle to pour water through the coffee funnel.
"Marsha Neederman has some books for the sale," her mother says. "But leave me the truck so I can pick up another load of hay. Jay will be here inside the hour." Her cup full, she stirs in some sugar. "And drop those flyers by the grocery. They’re going to hand them out at the register.”
"Mom!" Ginny's wooden clogs bang down the hallway. "Where's my red notebook?" She swoops the cup out of her mother's hand, holds it to her lips, hands it back. "Hot, hot, hot."
"Not in that skimpy thing, Ginny Lynn Walters." Their mother adds milk, takes a sip, sets the cup on the sideboard. "We're not those girls," she says. With a basket of clean wet sheets on her hip, she heads out back to the clothesline.
Ginny rolls her eyes at Bernadette. Her lashes are dark with mascara. "Shoulders are the new vagina," she says.
Bernadette hands her a red spiral notebook marked American History. "Don't be crude."
~ from Where She Stands by Sherri H. Hoffman. Available online at The Columbia Review, Vol 97, Issue 2, Spring 2016.
I find it interesting timing for this story to make its way into the world just as the Stanford swimmer’s rape conviction and mediated sentence are in the news, followed by the pleas from his family to dismiss and excuse his crimes. Reassign guilt and/or consequences to his victim. While my story,“Where She Stands,” isn't specifically about rape, it shares at its roots some of the assumptions that empower and institutionalize sexism and male privilege.
The story’s setting is intentional. I moved to a small rural town as a teenager and lived there through high school. From the cities and military bases of my childhood, I arrived with idyllic visions of a place in the country where you could swim or fish in the local river, or raise horses and a garden in your own backyard. Those parts of my naive vision became true, and during those years, the good times were really good.
But rural isolation doesn’t protect girls from being bullied, intimidated, shamed, and/or assaulted by boys secure in a culture in which they are privileged. Whether it's the kid who always sits next to you to cheat off your work or the bully on the bus. The boy who inspired the character of Lane once told me that he would often watch me ride my bay mare in the surrounding fields through the scope of his rifle. Said it as if that was a good thing. As if I should be flattered.
No matter the setting, it remains for #everywoman to find her voice in truth. Draw the line against even the smallest forms of oppression, prejudice, and inequality in order to make a difference.
The unnamed woman who survived the sexual assault by the Stanford swimmer chose to address her statement at his sentencing directly to him. Her complete statement is long and powerful, and I expect the repercussions will continue in the days and weeks to come. Responding to the light sentence, the woman said, “I want the judge to know that he ignited a tiny fire. If anything, this is a reason for all of us to speak even louder.” (Buzzfeed News)
Hit it out of the park, as it were. With a vengeance.
at 10:33 AM
08 June 2016
Nothing in Kigali is what I expect. The city is a swell of hills thick with lights, strings of fog, traffic, and streams of voices. Along the tree-lined street near the hospital, every block is under construction. Bamboo scaffolds cling to the new structures, steel cranes poised between towers of concrete and blue glass. Schools of motos dart to the curb with passengers, helmets over hairnets. Men in dark jeans. Women side-saddle in long skirts and heels. I am forbidden by my husband Dean to take the motos, and when the American doctors arrive, we wait for a cab at the foot of an enormous billboard lit with tungsten lights: RwandAir. Daily flights from Nairobi to Entebbe.
~ from "Stained with Lime" by Sherri H. Hoffman. Available now in Cimarron Review, Issue 195, Spring 2016.
Late on New Year's Eve, 2015, I land in Kigali, Rwanda to visit my parents. My father and brother pick me up at the airport, and we stop for ice cream and wifi cards on our way to a guest house for the night. It's still a couple hours drive to Butare from the capital city. After a day and a half of international travel, I am buzzed and beaten.
I lay awake under the mosquito nets until dawn. The hotel next door parties in the new year with a karaoke mix of 70s disco and rap. I make no resolutions. These days, everything seems insurmountable, and yet, here I am, asking myself what the hell. Again.
By the time I return to the U.S., the memory cards in my cameras and phone are full of photos. My notebooks filled with details and descriptions: places, people, drawings—the start of stories.
"Stained with Lime" is the first in what is coming together as a collection of connected stories, and I'm over the moon to have it appear in Cimarron Review. Rwanda has an enormous story. It is a paradox of change—people, politics, history, future. Big finance and high-tech surrounded by hills terraced in rice paddies, corn, sugar cane, and potatoes. High-rises in metal and glass. Wide asphalt roads covered in red dirt. Rolling blackouts and high-speed internet. Water is a commodity. Plastic bags and bare feet are forbidden. To write about any of it is to offer only a glimpse.
"V.S. Pritchett's definition of a short story is 'something glimpsed from the corner of the eye, in passing.' Notice the 'glimpse' part of this. First the glimpse. Then the glimpse gives life, turned into something that illuminates the moment and may, if we're lucky—that word again—have even further ranging consequences and meaning."
~ Raymond Carver, from Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose.
at 11:23 PM