By Jolee Lindin
Gorilla, My Love is a collection of short stories written by Toni Cade Bambara. This collection was published in 1972 by Random House. Bambara is also the author of The Black Woman, Tales and Short Stories for Black Folk, and Junior Case Book on Racism.
Gorilla, My Love leans towards being a feminist collection, with a lot of the narrators being young girls. Throughout the collection Bambara indulges the audience in her female characters by giving them badass personalities and qualities. This includes more than just the narrators as well. Hazel is one of the narrators of the collection and she tells it how it is. One of the most memorable moments of Hazel’s narration is in the short story “Gorilla, My Love”. She emphasizes that if someone says something, they better mean it: “Cause if you say Gorilla, My Love, you suppose to mean it” (Bambara 170).
Another powerful female character, who isn’t a narrator, is Miss Moore from the short story “The Lesson”. Miss Moore is kind enough to take the children to different educational places to teach them different things. Although the children’s parents think Miss Moore is a little strange, they still allow their children to take these wonderful opportunities that Miss Moore presents to them. The children don’t always enjoy where they go, but Miss Moore doesn’t let the children get to her. She continues to use her patience to give the children a great experience.
Because female child narrators seem to be an ongoing theme throughout the collection there seems to be this idea of innocence, but also this feeling of tension between the generational gap throughout the collection. You see examples of both these things in the stories, “The Hammer Man”, “Happy Birthday”, and “Basement.” In “The Hammer Man” there is an incident between the narrator, a young girl, and Manny with the police. The narrator and Manny are at the park shooting hoops when the police come by and ask them, “Who unlocked the gate?” (Bambara 40). Although the narrator and Manny aren’t doing anything wrong the police try to get them to leave. However, the narrator stands up to the police saying, “this here’s a free country. So why don’t you give him back his ball” (Bambara 41). This shows the innocence of the narrator, but it also shows the tension between the generational gaps of the characters as well.
This was a great collection to read and I really enjoyed learning about the cultures of different time periods for different people. Using children as narrators was a risky but rewarding idea. I could really connect to the stories and put myself in the shoes of the narrators. It allowed me to see from a different perspective that I really enjoyed diving into. Although this story collection was “straight-up fiction,” the events that took place and the themes that were present seemed very realistic. They took you for a journey while also staying connected and true to the whole collection. I believe many high school students would enjoy this collection because of the funny but simple stories included within the collection. It is also very focused on the younger generation at this time and the innocence of younger kids to teenagers that kids now might be able to relate to.
By Taylor Hackbarth
Amy Hempel’s short story collection Reasons to Live was published in 1985 by Alfred A. Knopf INC. Reasons to live was the first short story collection that Amy Hempel has published, and she has published other collections like Tumble Home and The Dog of the Marriage. In the setup of this book, Amy Hempel has the stories in no particular order that I could find. All of the stories seemed to be random, and I do not believe that any of the stories are connected by characters. I do believe the stories are connected by the message each story leaves the reader with. In all of the stories, the meanings and messages of the stories are to show the main character’s reason to live. The stories also show the reason for the character’s actions.
One of my favorite stories in the book was the story “Pool Night”. This was my favorite story because I think it shows human nature very well. This story is about a flood that had taken everything from the main character and how she remembers it happening. I like this story because it shows how humans handle a situation in different ways. Some of the characters are sad, some of them are resigned, and some of the characters make the best out of the situation. One of my favorite lines from this story is the line describing the pictures of the character’s family: “They were faded, but the fugitive images remained. Emulsion on others had turned metallic bronze; the snapshots held deep tarnish, like a mirror.” I like this line because it does a wonderful job of describing the pictures and the scenes of her stories. This is just one example of how the author uses descriptions in her stories to help the audience understand the story better. People should read her writing because the stories help show different reasons people keep going. When I was a student, sometimes I just wanted to quit, but having a good reason to continue got me going again. This book can help people find these reasons.
By Emma Bloom
The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender, published in 1998, is a diverse collection of short stories that views love through different lenses: of a wife and a husband who was injured in the war, the ups and downs of young love, lasting love in elderly couples, and the struggle of a relationship under peculiar circumstances. The story itself is not the typical take on the classic love story, instead focusing on the difficult truths of each relationship, the reality of each one all the while with an element of the bizarre.
Aimee Bender’s works have been nationally recognized, being published in GQ, Harper’s, The Paris Review, and heard in This American Life. Her works earning credible awards, including the NY Times Notable Book award, SCIBA award, and the LA Times pick of the year. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt would be best suited for high school students and above, particularly those who are interested in romance stories.
A particular aspect of writing that Bender used often was the concept of the “crooked picture,” where the story begins in the middle of an event or dialogue, leaving the reader questioning and curious. The first line of the collection was from the story “The Rememberer,” and began with “my lover is experiencing reverse evolution.” The reader does not know why and what is causing this “reverse evolution” or even what exactly that could be in this case, pulling the reader deeper into the story with interest. Or the way Bender chose to open the short story “Skinless” with “Renny’s phone privileges being revoked when they discovered a swastika carved into his headboard.” Topics like these are not a typical way to begin and would most likely take the reader by surprise.
I deeply enjoyed Bender’s interpretation of love, where it wasn’t perfect and there was always a way that the lovers were different from each other. She was blunt in the reality and detail of each relationship but romanticized the uniqueness and its eccentricates.
By Tanner Jensen
“It’s a small story really, about, among other things:
Written by Markus Zusak in 2005, The Book Thief tells the compelling story of Liesel Meminger and her best friend Rudy Steiner as the two experience the normal trials of childhood during the rise of Nazi Germany. The story itself is told from the perspective of death, lamenting the loss of life and recounting his experiences with the two children over the progression of the war. The book explores the innocence and strangeness of childhood, the development of love between a foster girl and her parents, and most of all the way that words can bring people together and open up possibilities.
Liesel is a young girl adopted by Hans and Rosa Hubermann, a German couple living in Molching, the plot centering around Liesel’s experiences as a young girl in Nazi Germany, experiencing the normal childhood moments of making friends and getting into fights as well as joining the Hitler Youth and watching parades of prisoners marching towards the camp outside of town. As she grows more accustomed to her new foster family, Liesel opens up, connecting in particular with Hans as the two learn to read together using spare supplies from Hans’s career as a house painter. Writing and reading become a window of opportunity for Liesel to explore the world, and kickstart her career as a thief of books: from unattended graveyard manuals to Nazi book burning piles. For Liesel, words become a new way of looking at the world, leading to some fantastic imagery from the author:
It brewed in her as she eyed the pages full to the brims of their bellies with paragraphs and words. You bastards, she thought. You lovely bastards. Don’t make me happy. Please, don’t fill me up and let me think that something good can come of any of this.
It’s a bit of an investment at ~550 pages, and the slow burn beginning might turn some away. Some reviewers also take issue with the relatively slow pacing of the story, which generally follows the daily lives and experiences of Liesel and Rudy, not all of which are intense or dramatic moments. I happen to think that pacing works well as a slow burn that builds a real emotional investment in the characters, one that really pays off in the end. Liesel and her family are some of the most believable and likeable characters I’ve ever experienced, and seeing Liesel and Rudy grow up and deal with both the innocence of childhood and the horrors of Nazi Germany is one of the hardest things I’ve ever sat down to read through.
I can’t recommend this book enough to anyone interested in an emotionally gripping drama with some genuinely fascinating characters, one with some of the most creative use of language and descriptions I’ve ever experienced.
“You cannot be afraid, read the book. Smile at it. It's a great book—the greatest book you've ever read.”
—The Book Thief
Reviewed by Gwen Hart
In her fourth poetry collection, Like (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2018), A. E Stallings uses her mastery of poetic forms to explore subjects as diverse as language use, current events, and the weight of loss.
The title poem, “Like: the Sestina,” is an unusual twist on the sestina form. Usually, a sestina has six end words that alternate in a prescribed pattern (e.g., see Tyler Van Swol’s “Bear Down: A Sestina” and Grant Lenz’s “The Show Goes On” in the third issue of Hot Dish Magazine). Stallings’ sestina, however, uses some variation of like for every end-word in the poem: like, dislike, alike, look-alike, unlike, money-like, I’m like, he’s like, etc.). The acrobatic uses of like are delightful and surprising, even while highlighting what “real speech is like,” as Stallings writes.
Stallings also takes on current events with several powerful poems about the plight of refugees. In “Empathy,” Stallings compares the life of a middle class family to that of a family of refugees setting out on a dangerous journey across water without proper equipment, their “cheap life jackets / No better than bright orange trash.” The contrast between the two families is striking, and the startling ending of the poem cuts right to the heart. The multipart poem “Refugee Fugue” fleshes out the issue even more. The poem contrasts scenes and perspectives, from children on holiday “making their sandy town” of sand castles while “Small bodies” of immigrant children “wash ashore, / Sea-chewed, a few days dead.” Each section of the poem takes on a different form—heroic couplet, rhymed quatrain, list, and so on—emphasizing the many voices represented across the sections.
In a tour-de-force multi-part poem in the middle of the book, “Lost and Found” (linked to here in Beloit Poetry Journal), Stallings describes a mother’s dream journey through “the valley of the moon /where everything misplaced on earth accrues,” from the houses of long-dead grandparents, “letters / we meant to write,” lost hours of sleep, faded beauty, and much more. I heard her read this poem at West Chester University’s Form and Narrative Conference, and the audience was held in thrall at the imagery—and the poignant ending, which I will not ruin here.
In conclusion, anyone who enjoys poetic form, or who is simply interested in the best of today’s poetry, will be well rewarded with a trip through A. E. Stallings’ Like.
By McKeely Tjaden
Becoming jane is a movie based on the life of Jane Austen. Becoming Jane is a Romantic Drama film that was released on August 3, 2007. The film takes place in the late 1700s- early 1800s. It is not common for women to wed for love. They don’t get a choice in who to marry. Becoming Jane is available on Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, and DVD.
Jane Austen is played by Anne Hathaway, as a young English writer. Janes parents have nothing to give her financially. Jane needs to wed to make it in life. Her parents find a wealthy and fitting man for her. Jane is worried if she were to marry him, she would lose her creativity in her writing. Jane writes about her life experiences and her love story. When she feels something for someone, she feels the need to write it down and tell people about it. Jane wouldn’t have anything write about if she didn’t love the man she marries. Jane doesn’t want to marry for money, she wants to marry the man she falls in love with. Her parents want what’s best for her. Jane’s mother married for love and they don’t have a lot, and the last thing she wants for her daughter is to end up like her.
Tom Lefroy is a bright young man. He is a lawyer, but he doesn’t like to follow the rules. His uncle sends him away from the city out to the country to straighten up. He believes this works until his uncle finds out the truth about Jane’s marriage offer. Tom Lefroy is played by James McAvoy. Tom has no money or property.
Becoming Jane was a very interesting movie, there were things that I loved about this movie. I really enjoyed the rebelliousness that Jane had towards her family. She knew what she wanted in life and she was not going to let anyone tell her what to do. I think other people would enjoy this film because it’s not just about Jane’s tough times in her writing, but it also shows us the struggle of her love life. I think Highschool kids will really enjoy this film. In the world now teens are always looking for love. This movie is a perfect example of not letting your parents tell you who to marry and marrying the person you love.
Here are some links for writers who want to continue to submit their work. These are a mix of multiple sources varying from Midwest, Youth, and International focuses. The bullet points are literary magazines Hot Dish Editors have found and give our full support to.
New Pages Youth Guide (https://www.newpages.com/writers-resources/young-authors-guide)
Entropy (https://entropymag.org/category/where-to-submit/) (https://entropymag.org/where-to-submit-december-january-and-february-2018-19/) (https://entropymag.org/small-press-database/)
Poets & Writers (https://www.pw.org/literary_magazines)
All links should lead to thier respectful websites.
Over the month of January former Buena Vista University student Haylie Book joined Hot Dish over a skype call to talk about her experience in the publishing world. Here are some of her comments about the oppotunity.
Why did you decide to pursue an internship? What were you hoping to get out of it?
I knew I had money saved up from my Dean’s Fellows, and I wanted to use it to get some kind of cool experience, whether it be traveling abroad, a J-term class, or some internship experience. I started talking to Dr. Gwen Hart about internship opportunities, and I really liked the idea of getting involved with a publishing company. It sounded really cool because I love books and reading, so I wanted to learn more about the other side of it.
How many internships did you apply to originally? Why did you apply to those places specifically? What was your strategy in presenting yourself in internship applications?
I applied to many internships, probably around 10 or so. I had a longer list, but then decided I wanted to be in the Minneapolis area, so I shortened it to fit that. I chose that area because there are so many publishing companies around. When applying, I tried to show each place that I was interested in their publishing company, specifically. I had a template for my cover letter and other submission materials, but I would diversify it for each company I applied for, in order to direct it specifically to their company. This meant including their values, specific pieces of work they’ve published, etc. Just trying to show each one that I had really done my research on their company.
When and where did your internship take place? (Company, city, dates, etc.)
The Creative Company is located in Mankato, Minnesota. I started in the first week of September, all the way through the third week of December. I would be in-house once a week and work from home the rest of the week.
What kind of work did you do at your internship?
There were many types of work that I was doing. It began with simple editing and proofreading of shorter works. I then would work on fact-checking those works, to ensure every “fact” in the manuscript was correct. I then would move to longer manuscripts. I also looked over their marketing materials for errors and continuity. I would enter data for potential customers to look over, such as ISBN numbers, authors, age ranges, grade ranges, etc. Towards the end, they began letting me be the first eye on a fresh new manuscript, meaning I was the first person to read through and edit/proofread/fact-check it, which was pretty cool. Another fun task they gave me was to go back through older manuscripts, and re-fact check them (in case any facts had changed) and then remove up to 40% of the material and enter in new information or stories. This allowed them to republish the materials to fit the times a bit more.
What was your favorite experience at your internship? Least favorite?
My favorite experience was being the first eye on a manuscript. It could be a bit intimidating, but it would be pretty cool to be the first one to look at this manuscript. At that point, there are so many changes that can be made. I like being the person to suggest those changes, especially when you would see those changes made in future drafts. My least favorite was the editing of shorter manuscripts. Many of them were kindergarten level, so barely any words on a page. You could do it in a total of two minutes; it just didn’t always seem as important as the other work I was doing.
Overall, what do you think was the benefit of performing this internship? What do you think you got out of it?
I learned so much about working in a professional environment. Having to communicate with my supervisor, the other editors, the designers, etc. was pretty eye-opening into the world of the publishing industry. There is constantly so much happening, and dates that need to be met. They’re a smaller company, so I was really able to learn all of the inner-workings of the publishing industry and learn how vital communication between all parties is. I would say my communication skills definitely improved, especially since I was only in-house once a week. I had to communicate over technology often, which was something I maybe wasn’t so sure of before this internship. I also just learned so much about the publishing industry, including the ways that they market materials, their processes for editing/proofreading, and even how they distribute their books. Overall, it was a pretty neat introduction to the publishing world, but also gave me many benefits into the world of being an adult and working with a company.
Is there any advice you would give to other students (college or high school) about either the value of an internship or how to get one?
I think an internship can be so helpful, first of all to show you if you truly enjoy the work in that specific industry. It can also be nice to learn about working in a professional environment and helping you gather/strengthen the skills you’ve been learning in the classroom. I think every student should complete at least one internship during their time at BV, especially considering how willing BV is to help and accommodate students before and during their experience. It can be so eye-opening to actually be put into the work you’ve been studying and practicing for, and you’ll learn pretty quick if it’s what you really want to be doing or not. As far as getting an internship, I think it’s important to really research the places you are applying to and diversify your materials to show that company that you actually know them and what to work for them. It sets you apart from people who don’t diversify their work, and I think companies can definitely tell when you send in the same cover letter/other materials to many different companies. Show that company that you are interested in them specifically and tell them why you are interested in them.
Instructor Clark McFerren has been teaching English for over 40 years and through all three editions of Hot Dish Magazine has pushed his students to submit their work. What drives Mr. McFerren to support his students and Hot Dish? We, the editors, asked ourselves this and finally decided to email these questions to Mr. McFerren. Down below are his responses.
What classes do you teach and for what grades?
This year I am only teaching seniors: two classes of British/Western Lit. and one section of AP Lit. and Comp.
What drives you to have your students submit to Hot Dish?
Hot Dish is valuable for at least three reasons:
How do you help your students when they wish to submit a poem or story?
This year I focused on form fitting function, so Hot Dish editors were probably inundated with sonnets, villanelles and sestinas. These forms have well known set rules regarding format, rhyme, word placement and, in the case of the sonnet, meter. I had a few students who have written sestinas and villanelles far superior to any I have attempted. Unfortunately for Hot Dish they were required to send at least one of those forms and they could send others after that in free verse or another format of their choosing. In most cases the rigid forms taught them how to improve their "personal" poetry.
Who is your favorite author or what are your favorite books?
Among my favorite poets I count Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, Stephen Crane, T.S Eliot. Among my favorite authors I count Mark Twain. Dante, Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O'Connor, Jane Austen, and C. S. Lewis. For old timers like me Shakespeare is a given in both categories.
Do you have any words of wisdom for young and emerging authors?
I got some advice from Kurt Vonnegut about writing. He had given a reading at the University of Iowa in the late 70s (my memory isn't precise). Afterwards he and a group of grad students went across the street to Joe's, a bar he had frequented when he was in the Writers' Workshop. I was stupid enough to ask his advice. He was drunk, but it was good advice--which I never took. He said, “Somebody always asks that g--damned question. It'll cost you the next round. If you want to be a writer, just write and nothing else."
Now God bless you and get back to class, Clark "Mick" McFerren!
P.S. That next round cost me $15. In today's money that's about $45!
This week Hot Dish Magazine is excited to present High Schooler Mary Graff's thoughts on writing, being published two years in a row, and advice for emerging authors.
How does it feel to be published in Hot Dish two years in a row?
I am very grateful to be published in Hot Dish two years in a row. I have been able to share poems with a wide arrange of feelings, that I hope the readers are able to feel.
What is your writing process?
When I sit down to write my poems, I do not have a set writing process, but I do tend to prefer to write alone in silence.
Where do you draw inspiration for your pieces?
I like to channel common emotions that everyone can relate with and understand.
Has there been anyone that has helped or inspired you with your writing?
I am very thankful for my AP Literature and Composition class for giving me opportunities to work on my writing. My teacher, Mr. McFerren, allowed me to write with creative freedom, and create works I am truly proud of.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other young and emerging authors?
If I could give any words of wisdom for the youth and emerging authors, it would be to not rush your work and never write anything that feels forced, your inspiration will come to you and you will crate something amazing.