Selected Fiction, Essays and Interviews

 

Short Stories

The Diviner  | Slice Literary

It was a strange sight—my mother bracing her arms against the veranda railing and leaning forward to catch the rain on her tongue. Her calves stretched, tight as a rope, and her skirt rose up, exposing the dimpled back of her knee and a line of thin black strands of hair. The rain came in halting drops that pattered against the roof as loud as pebbles falling one at a time on a sheet of zinc.

Bleached  |  Bare Life Review, Vol. 3

Picture him: Already old at twenty, face and neck bleached a sandy brown with store-bought bleaching cream, arms and ears still a deep brown, upper lip dark and now a stark contrast against his sandy brown face. His lips look like a smokers’. His jeans don’t stretch across his lithe frame, but sit instead low on his hip, the crotch and thigh draping rather than pulled taut against his hip. His shirt is baggy, too large for his thin frame. Soon, he says, I’ll be light-skinned and pretty. He doesn’t laugh. 

The Mating Rituals of Turtles  | Vol. 1 Brooklyn

We’re in Treasure Beach at a literary festival. Rain is coming down around us, pounding the tent, thrumming against it like a thousand hearts beating. Water pools on the ground and on the top of the tent, which dips in places under the weight. Mud oozes beneath our feet and chairs. A songwriter thrums a guitar, and talks over it, explaining the poetry of a Bob Marley song.

Scrubland in the Desert at Noon  |  Vol. 1 Brooklyn

We’re in West Virginia on a mountain road, miles away from the Interstate, when I suspect Mom has Alzheimer’s or something very close to it. I’d seen glimmers of it—her disorientation in long familiar settings, like getting turned around after leaving the Trader Joe’s on Colesville Road, where she has shopped every week without fail for as long as I can remember.

Mirrors  |  Wasafiri Online

Owen had first seen her through glass, and from that angle she was distorted, belly distended as if in pregnancy, face and hips widened. He liked her hair, a round and perfect Afro pulled away from her forehead by a multi-colored scarf, and stepped inside of the store called T’ings simply because of that. She wasn’t a traditional beauty; she had what he thought of as a model’s face with prominent cheekbones, a combination of pronounced angles and curves. He thought of the remainder of her body like that—angles and curves—a combination he wasn’t accustomed to in the women of his past. They’d all been one or the other—slim women with bones protruding, medium-sized with curves all right. <More>

Lucky  |  Crab Orchard Review

My mother has become an icon of sorts. A Jamaican woman, a nurse, she has learned to fly a plane late in her life and in her first solo attempt, the tiny plane she was flying developed the sort of mechanical difficulties that would scare any experienced pilot.

Essays

How the Past Echoes Through Our Lives  | Ploughshares

There is nothing especially remarkable about Papa Stanley’s death, no significant reason I should be thinking about it some 33 years later in the midst of a global pandemic and nationwide anti-racism protests, except it was the first part of what I came to see as a pattern emerging. 

Secrets That Hold Us  | The Millions
“I didn’t grow up with my mother,” Mom tells me. We’re sitting on the front verandah looking out at the grass before us wilting in the afternoon sun and the dwarf coconut trees that line one side of the driveway. The coconut fronds dip with the breeze, revealing green-and yellow-husked coconuts. It’s hot on the verandah; the aluminum awning, put there years earlier to shield the sun and rain, traps the late afternoon heat as well.

What We Leave Behind: Learning About Resilience From Boney M’s “By the Rivers of Babylon”  |  Bare Life Review

Sound falls away, and my immediate surroundings are so quiet it feels life is limited to just two sounds: Boney M’s 1978 hit “By the Rivers of Babylon” playing on the radio, and the barble doves’ coos coming from somewhere in the distance. It is either 1979 or 1980.​

I Can Only Save My Grandparents’ Home by Preserving It in Fiction  |  Electric Literature

In the bedroom of Harlem Renaissance poet Anne Spencer, there’s a mural depicting a well-dressed crowd at a cocktail party pasted to the wall.

Picking Meat From Tiny Bones: Coping with Coronavirus, Isolation and Aging Parents  |  Ms. Magazine

Fish is what my mother craves after the day’s radiation treatment, and from the passenger seat, she directs me to a roadside shop on the outer edge of Discovery Bay where fishermen sometimes sell the day’s catch—parrot, snapper and goat fish tied together in small bundles. 

How I Learned to Embrace Jamaican Patois, the Language of My Youth (essay, Electric Literature)​

There’s something about Jamaican patois that grates and soothes at the same time. It is the language of home. It is the language of the women who lived in my childhood home as helpers, the language of the women who told me and my sisters stories about rolling calves and duppies, the women who plaited my hair morning after morning and got us girls ready for school. 

Searching for Safety and Home: My Family’s Story of Migration  | Scoundrel Time

It is 1931. I picture my grandmother, Annie, standing on a wharf in Santiago de Cuba awaiting a ship. I see her with a hand beneath her pronounced belly. Her two older daughters, Inez and Pearlena; two young sons, Herman and Ragland; and husband, Eustace, stand with her.

Interviews 

Finding Firm Ground: A Conversation With Nadia Owusu | The Rumpus

A conversation with author Nadia Owusu about her debut memoir and her journey through the quakes in her life to finding firm ground.

Imagination as Oasis: A Conversation With Sulaiman Addonia  | The Rumpus 

I spoke with author Sulaiman Addonia about the blurred lines between the imaginary and the real, what influences his writing, and the possibility of redefining the concepts of family, love, and sex. 

Living Memory Keepers: Talking With Alicia Elliott  |  The Rumpus

​I spoke with Alicia Elliott about essay collection, A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, borrows its title from the Mohawk phrase for depression, “wake’nikonhra’kwenhtará:’on.”

Masters of Movement: A Conversation With Morgan Jerkins  |  The Rumpus

I spoke with Morgan Jerkins about her latest book ,Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots.

Your Schooling is Your Voice: Talking With Abi Daré  | The Rumpus

I spoke with Abi Daré about her debut novel, The Girl with the Louding Voice, which tells the story about fourteen-year-old Adunni's fight for an education and the right to choose her own future. 

The Rumpus Mini-Interview Project #195: Curdella Forbes  |  The Rumpus 

Curdella Forbes describes her novel A Tall History of Sugar, out now from Akashic Books, as a fairy tale that is simultaneously a story of danger and an exploration of alternative histories.

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© 2020 by Donna Hemans.