Rachel Thompson interviews Zehra Naqvi, winner of Room's 2016 poetry contest.
Rachel Thompson is the founder of Lit Mag Love, an online course that supports writers in their efforts to submit to literary magazines, the former managing editor of Room, and a current member of the editorial board. She will edit our March 2018 issue, "Family Secrets," which is open to submissions until July 31, 2017. Assistant editor Arielle Spence asked Rachel a few questions about the nature of secret-sharing, her own family secrets, and what she looks for in a submission.
The Offing is an online literary magazine that publishes "work that pushes literary and artistic forms and conventions" and seeks out and supports work by and about those often marginalized in literary spaces. Their new editor-in-Chief, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, is one of fewer than 100 Black American women to ever earn a Ph.D. in Physics. She is an expert in theoretical cosmology and is also internationally recognized for her anti-racist, feminist, and pro-queer writing and activism.
2016 may have sucked, but on the bright side, it inspired some incredible writing (see #3 on this list). Last year we shared our top 15 most-read posts of 2015, and I thought I'd continue the trend—and so, here are the ten most-read posts on roommagazine.com in 2016.
Falling in Love with Hominids is a collection of fantastical short stories filled with an innovatory mix of characters grappling with existential and everyday questions—what’s for breakfast? should I bring a child into the world? how did that elephant land in my living room? Written over the course of a decade, many of the stories play well together, sharing a succulent, earthy-otherworldliness that Nalo Hopkinson’s fans know and adore.
Character is king here. Hopkinson always imbues her narratives with awareness of race, class, gender, and privilege that never gets in the way of the story—yet it’s remarkable because it underscores the lack of this awareness in most media. A fierce opening story, “The Easthound” has post-apocalyptic teenagers so fleshed out and intriguing that they blow away the paper-thin “heroes” dominating most YA books and cinema.
Though it’s not a YA book, there are quite a few young characters given the compassionate Hopkinson treatment: notably in a hamadryad-myth based tale, where a “fat” teen fuses with a tree spirit to triumph at a cruel party game. In the book’s introduction, Hopkinson describes her development from despondent teen to a fifty-something optimist who learned to “trust humans in general will strive to make things better for themselves and their communities . . . despite the fact that sometimes I just need to shake my fist at a mofo.”
There are occasions in this book where there isn’t enough room to establish an alternate world and tell a story there, particularly in the micro-fiction pieces. This and a few devices that feel forced, such as the story entirely narrated to a rat-orchid hybrid, are the only things not to fall in love with in this otherwise adoration-worthy collection.
Hopkinson’s reframing of The Tempest uses a dual narrative and themes of internallized racism told by now-siblings Ariel and Caliban: “The real storm? Is our mother Sycorax; his and mine. If you ever see her hair flying around her head when she dash at you in anger.” And the story “Old Habits,” situated in a ghost mall, where in the first paragraph the narrator tells us, “This is not going to be one of those stories where the surprise twist is and he was dead!”
All in all, Falling in Love with Hominids is an entertaining and humane book that affirms why Junot Díaz refers to Hopkinson as “one of our most important writers.”
Getting a peek of an avid reader’s bookshelf is one of life’s simple pleasures. If you’ve ever shown up to a house party and gone straight to the host’s bookshelf, you know how satisfying it is to snoop through other readers’ libraries. The editors of Room love reading (obviously), and we’re giving you a glimpse of our shelves and sharing how we get the most out of our sacred reading time.
"I've heard quite a few myths about writing contests and will try to debunk a few here ..."
We’re willing to talk about how snowflakes are unique, and we’re way more complicated than snowflakes.
Room had the the pleasure of taking part in the first ever Festival of Literary Diversity. Check out what our Roomies had to say about their experience.
Currently on Newsstands
Room 40.3, Migration
Edited by Nav Nagra
In this issue:
Rasha Abdulhadi, Juliane Okot Bitek, Ariane Both, Aimee Henny Brown, Leonarda Carranza, Rose-Anne Chabot, Karla Comanda, Marita Dachsel, Stacy Gardner, Branwyn Holroyd, Sandeep Johal, Sharon Kirsch, Katherine Koller, Lydia Kwa, Emily McKibbon, Amanda Merpaw, Shelley Marie Motz, Dorothy Nielsen, Rita O’Grady, Kimberly Peterson, Claire Polders, Ramna Safeer, Nilofar Shidmehr, Arielle Spence, Chanda Stallman, Catherine J. Stewart, Florence Treadwell, Sarah Wolfson, Annie Wong.