2017 Amuse-Bouche Archive

John Chang,Untitled_1, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 60x60x2 in

Spotlight: Untitled Mixed Media Portfolio

I was born and raised in Shanghai. By the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping initiated a more open-door policy, but I still had a deep desire to experience America as well as Western culture. Immigrating to Boston to study art in graduate school, I discovered a more complex society than I had imagined. Longing for a democratic system, I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of consumption […]

À La Carte: To All the Daughters

[creative nonfiction] To My Daughter, and All the Daughters, This is the letter I should have gotten from my mother, and that she should have gotten from her mother, and that should have been passed down through the ages like baking cloths, or photo albums, or funeral cards. It is the letter that tells you, […]

Litdish: Dana Johnson, Author

Dana Johnson is the writer of the short story collections Break Any Woman Down and In the Not Quite Dark, and the coming-of-age novel Elsewhere, California, which was nominated for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Southern California, and her work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Callaloo, […]

Shannon Connor Winward

Spotlight: At the Coffee Office

[creative nonfiction] I should be writing. You are not here. For the next one hundred and twenty minutes, you are not my job. “Are you going to the coffee office?” you asked on the way to preschool, your cute phrase for what I do. Yes, yes. Three days a week, three slivers of a life […]

Writers Read: Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh is a work of transgressive fiction that follows the life of heroin user Mark Renton, a.k.a. “Rents,” and his friends known as the Skag Boys. The novel takes place in Scotland with occasional trips to London. Trainspotting is told from several different points of views and includes a revolving cast of […]

Michael T. Young

Spotlight: Reading Langston Hughes

[poetry] I’m on a bus reading Langston Hughes’s articles from The Chicago Defender and I realize it’s like I have no shadow. I’m on a bus sitting where I want to and in this article it’s 1946, and Hughes is in a restaurant and the hostess insists on seating him at the back of an […]

Litdish: Rick Bass, Author & Activist

With a background in geology, Rick Bass splits his time between environmental activism and writing. His work crosses genres and includes non-fiction, essays, novels, and short stories. You can find his work widely published and acclaimed in journals and magazines such as Esquire, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, […]

Chelsea Bayouth, Bluegrass, 2011, colored pencil on paper, 8.5x11 in

Spotlight: Art for Your Existential Crisis

The art in this series, “Art for Your Existential Crisis,” is an ongoing project that began in 2011, when I was in my late twenties and found myself deeply pondering and often immobilized by the most heavy-hitting questions we ask ourselves. Why are we here? Where did we come from? Where are we going? […]

À La Carte: Birth Wrong

[creative nonfiction] When I get to the top of Masada there are the canyons and there are the fortress ruins and there is the desert that stereotypically stretches out like a blanket location designed to set the scene for biblical abyss. There is this moment we are forced to be in together, all of us […]

Padma Prasad

Spotlight: Night of the Bread Knife

[fiction] It was a young and tiny family—a wife, a husband, a three-month old son. They moved into the apartment on the tenth floor of a building which was one of the original high-rises in Chennai. There were six apartments on each floor around a central corridor into which the lifts opened. The corridor was […]

Writers Read: Hunger by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay’s Hunger is a powerful memoir that depicts a very personal narrative while also serving as a work of criticism, exploring society’s inability to see or accommodate the needs of the extremely obese. Her examples range from descriptions of public and private erasure, the dearth of public accommodation, and so much more. In simple […]

Sarah Allen

Spotlight: Cocoon

[fiction] They called girls like her butterflies. At least the moms on Instagram did. Posting pictures of toddlers with low-set ears and thick necks and little girls with strangely puffed hands and feet. They used hashtags like #butterflygirl or #turnersyndrome. More often than not it was photos of blankets or baby toys bought for daughters […]

Litdish: Jeremy Radin, Poet

Jeremy Radin is a poet, actor, and teacher living in Los Angeles. He’s appeared on several television shows including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, CSI, ER, and Zoey 101, in films such as Terrence Malick’s The New World and Wrestlemaniac, and in many plays […]

Brooke Sauer, The More Than Human World, 2017, handmade collage on paper, 12 x 12 in

Spotlight: In Search of Treasure

I live in Los Angeles and spend a lot of time exploring in nature when I’m not working in the studio or teaching. Regardless of what medium I use, my work has a whimsical quality and embodies my love of the outdoors and my awe of the natural world. These pieces are from a large collection of hand cut collages […]

À La Carte: People Going to Work

[fiction] The summer I worked at the casino pool, we took shuttles to and from the employee entrance. We were not allowed to park on property, only at a parking lot on the other side of the highway that added forty minutes, unpaid, to our workday. Sometimes in the mornings if I was groggy, or hung over from two-for-one margaritas from the Paradise Cantina, I walked onto the shuttle first without letting graveyard out. I weaved through them down the aisle, sunglasses on, somewhat ashamed yet inoculated to their glares.

Jessica Mehta

Spotlight: Owl of Forest Park / Jackson Street

Owl of Forest Park Early Saturdays, before the dawn, before the morning birds, I walked the trails of Forest Park beyond the zoo, crushed the arteries of Hoyt Arboretum beneath my spreading feet, turned the fallen petals from the rose garden to shaving peels. It was here, in the darkness of Portland mornings that I […]

Writers Read: How the Body Works the Dark by Derrick C. Brown

Dearest Soon, I think I may be in love with you, Soon. The opening lines of Derrick C. Brown’s latest collection of love poems, How the Body Works the Dark, reveal the heart of his poetry in a sincere, simple declaration. Brown writes about love the way all poets should. His understated tone, diction, and […]

Spotlight: Sonnet II: We’re Not in Chinatown Anymore / Sonnet XI: Fast Paces of Street Market Life

[poetry] Sonnet II: We’re Not in Chinatown Anymore Philly’s Chinatown has no Hollywood, just a bunch of ripped up movie billboards, blockbusters translated into Chinese, signs right in front of the bookshop where I wait: my father is buying his zodiac books, fortunes for the new year. He’s psychic— it’s the Tiger telling his Snake […]

Writers Read: Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress is a quintessential hard-boiled mystery novel. Mosley’s protagonist, Easy Rawlins, is on par with two of the genre’s most notable characters, Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade and Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer. Set in 1948 Los Angeles, the sharply written first person narrative pays homage to its traditional genre conceits. […]

Spotlight: Letters From Indiana

[creative nonfiction] My mom sent me letters from Indiana. Stacks of cards with flowers and curly, purple ink inside. Breathtaking cursive spanned the card. My small hands touched the parts where she’d written sweet girl or my name. She had her first nervous breakdown when I was six years old, and was admitted to a […]

Writers Read: Child of God by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy’s third novel Child of God, based loosely on an infamous murder in Sevier County, Tennessee, portrays a cycle of extreme isolation, perversity, and violence as representative of the natural human experience. The novel tells the story of Lester Ballard, “a child of God much like yourself perhaps,” who, facing a series of unfortunate […]

Brandi Read, The Oppression of Flora, 2015, Medium, Size

Spotlight: Unset in Stone

Stories from Classical mythology have pervaded European culture. My work seeks to address how mythology and the retelling of myths serve to reflect, reinforce, and influence our gender ideologies. Our perception of women is directly affected by how they are portrayed in art, from the stories and poems from antiquity to the way we see women and girls currently depicted in contemporary art and […]

Writers Read: Create Dangerously by Edwidge Danticat

Create Dangerously begins with an essay about the public executions of Louis Drouin and Marcel Numa in Port-au-Prince. Drouin and Numa were Haitians who had met while living in New York City and had returned to Haiti as part of a guerrilla army that intended to take down the Duvalier dictatorship. François Duvalier—Papa Doc—made sure […]

Irene Vasquez

Spotlight: Freehanding Maps of Minnesota / Canción Bilingüe

[poetry] Freehanding Maps of Minnesota I have called you feather down in my sleep, christened you the verge of memory, painted your rivers in the rain. I have written the scene before I even arrive; The breeze floats just enough to rustle the edges of the paper, lines only tenuously drawn. Do your lakes ever […]

Writers Read: Things That Are by Amy Leach

Things That Are is Amy Leach’s whimsical collection of nonfiction essays about the natural world. These essays blend poetry, nonfiction, and nature writing—bending the genre and exploring the boundaries of what form creative nonfiction can take. It’s through the unexpected and illuminating prose that Leach seeks to create a relationship between the reader and the […]

Denise Tolan

Spotlight: Because You are Dead

[fiction] You don’t know I have a picture of you, because you are dead. Before you were dead, I wondered what it would be like to be trapped in your mouth for eternity, like a wedded Jonah. Whenever you said honey or Leeza or, more likely, Lisa, I would feel the rib cage constrict. I […]

Writers Read: Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire

There is a real casual ease by which the poems in Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth present themselves. They are not struggling to find a voice, but are grounded firmly in their style and language. This little chapbook feels solid, weighty, and Shire does a fine job of creating consistency in such a short […]

King: A Street Story

Writers Read: King: A Street Story by John Berger

The blurb for the paperback printing of King reveals the title character, our narrator, is canine. But John Berger blurs species lines in this poignant tale of twenty-four hours in the life of the marginalized inhabitants of a French homeless camp. With Berger’s spare, lyric prose, King is granted first person point of view. He […]

Emma Sloley

Spotlight: My Sweet Amygdala

[fiction] What would you do if you weren’t afraid? I walk out to the car in a state of unusual calm. In the house over there, which I share with my husband and son, my husband has just now informed me that he isn’t in love with me anymore, that in fact he is in […]

Writers Read: Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Night Sky With Exit Wounds is woven from deep threads—the experience of fleeing war and becoming a refugee, migration and the sea, parent-child relationships, and queer sexuality. Life is complex. Layers of emotion, memory, and transformation unite in this journey of one human being. Vuong’s stories and structures made me feel huge possibilities in poetry. […]

Claudia Serea

Spotlight: I Remember the Smells

[poetry] I remember the smell of rusty handlebars, of rotten onions, smoke, garlic meatballs, stale fried fish, and clogged toilets. The local train smelled of skin of man and animal, of cheap tobacco and unwashed clothes, the smell of poverty and cold. The peasants carried raffia sacks stuffed with bread, food for chickens, and pigs. […]

Writers Read: Happening by Annie Ernaux

Near the end of her abortion memoir Annie Ernaux writes, “…these things happened to me so that I might recount them. Maybe the true purpose of my life is for my body, my sensations and my thoughts to become writing, …causing my existence to merge into the lives and heads of other people” (92). Not […]

Jayne Marek, Water Jelly Infinity, 2016, Medium, Size

Spotlight: Northwest Coast Structures

These images, taken in 2016 in the Pacific Northwest, demonstrate my interest in using tonalities and arrangements to elicit abstract shapes from natural objects. My art photographs utilize isolation of detail as a tactic to focus attention; I enjoy discovering how realistic contents can be grasped in new ways when guided by the discerning camera lens […]

Writers Read: St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

On the face of it, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is a collection of ten short stories, many of which take place on the same island, many of which contain strong elements of magical realism, and all of which employ precise, evocative language. In “Ava Wrestles the Alligator,” against the backdrop of […]

Gessy Alvarez

Spotlight: The Last Word

[fiction] I’m wearing my banana-yellow pantsuit and my best ash-blonde, bob-styled wig. He’s an hour late. One of my fake lashes falls on my lap. The glue still sticky on my eyelid. He yells from outside my window. You up there? I press the eyelashes back in place and stumble out of the apartment and […]

To Those Who Have Failed

Writers Read: Vivas to Those Who Have Failed by Martín Espada

Martín Espada, where have you been all of my life? I believe that the universe sends artists, writers and poets gifts of inspiration when they truly need it. Espada is a Latino poet, like me, born in America, who has the eloquence of Walt Whitman and the passionate pulsating spirit of Charles Bukowski. Espada’s poetry […]

Spotlight: Shadow

late night fireplace hiss; you bury yourself in rumpled quilts; woolen sanctums for solitude. circling your callused chest is a prison and epiphany— mouths and pectorals make a reckless truce to learn the metaphors of symmetry. we slipped one quarter in love and the rest in snow; our crumbling house is beige-mess of carpet string, […]

Writers Read: Kingdom Animalia by Aracelis Girmay

This collection of poetry opens with epigraphs by Charles Darwin, including one that lists similarities in the “framework of bones” between different animals: fins and hands, vertebrae in giraffes and elephants, “and innumerable other such facts, at once explain themselves on the theory of descent” (11). The poems shift their subjects from animals to humans, […]

Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier, Black Hole, 2016, Medium, Size

Spotlight: Ordinary Space by Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier

Each piece is made from ordinary items such as balls, light fixtures, outdoor flowers and even a jelly fish. The ordinary does not have to stay as such and this collection is meant to challenge the concept of ordinary and take you to the universe of infinite space, where the impossible is possible.

Writers Read: The Best American Short Stories edited by Junot Diaz

The 2016 edition of The Best American Short Stories, edited by Junot Diaz, plumbs the multiplicity of writing within the English language – and it may be a beacon for the future of the North American canon. The stories contained within this collection represent the vast experience of writing within an “American” life, as opposed […]

Janet Malotky

Spotlight: Ascension / Whale / Post-Apocalyptic Lotus

Ascension When at last it tilted worse to land than leave what happened was this: the birds snipped their gravitational strands. They took two or three or five final wing strokes heavenward and on that momentum traveled, up and out. Kingdom, Phylum, Class: Aves the birds folded splendor, resisted iridescence, overrode any hints of song. […]

Writers Read: Live Girls by Beth Nugent

Live Girls by Beth Nugent is the story of Catherine, twenty-years-old, who abandons her first year of college at a women’s religious university, moves to the nearby city where she takes up residence at a seedy transient hotel, and accepts a job as a ticket seller in a squalid, decaying porn theatre. Catherine is pretty, curiously […]

Spotlight: Eso

When business was slow, the curandero would take his skills to the stable to heal horses. To the ladies at the barn, he speaks English, recommending an ointment, but there is no saying it in English. So, he says it in in Spanish: Cebo de Coyote con Aceite de Víbora. To the horses, he speaks […]

Writers Read: The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

“Somebody’s got to bleed if anybody’s going to drink” (164). In his climate-fiction (cli-fi) novel, The Water Knife, Paolo Bacigalupi’s cinematic writing begs to find its way to the big screen where his vast landscapes, dramatic dialogue, and poignant message on water consumption can reach the masses. While his story lands big, juicy punches, Baciglupi’s […]

Donna Steiner, Swimming with My Eyes Open, July 2016, acrylic ink on clayboard, 6”x6”

Spotlight: Swimming with My Eyes Open

In the last year, both my mother and father died. They were gone within 42 days of each other, one to a stroke, one to heart failure. These paintings, part of a much larger collection, were attempts to convey feelings of being submerged, of being unable to put words to experience, being unable to surface […]

Writers Read: Coal Mountain Elementary by Mark Nowak

Coal Mountain Elementary is a noteworthy example of investigative poetry, which incorporates data and reportage—including statistics, historical documents, news media, interviews, and images—into, most commonly, lyrical and prose poems. Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric (2004) is a well-known example of the former type as it lets the reader enter the […]

Savannah Johnston

Spotlight: Shells II by Savannah Johnston

[fiction] Our room is around the back of the motel, away from the highway floodlights. Hiram and Baby are sleeping in the backseat by the time we pull up, and Mama carries Baby while Daddy slings Hiram over his shoulder like a sack of flour. Myself I walk. I’m grown enough to see the motel […]

Writers Read: The John McPhee Reader by John McPhee

John McPhee writes beautifully. About anything. From conservation and aviation to art and citrus. His voice renders topic irrelevant. Relentless specificity of language is the main attraction. Think ­pieces can blur the line between journalism and literature. Between the academic and the personal. McPhee is investigative nonfiction’s spirit animal. Even The John McPhee Reader’s ‘70s […]

Spotlight: Tapetum

[fiction] I hunt in the morning, because the world makes sense when you watch it beginning. The woods, they wake up like my 5-year-old, Emma. Kind of slowly, fluttering, then suddenly it’s all action everywhere all at once and you can’t keep up. The trees and bushes light up from inside, and then the sun […]

Writers Read: Play it As it Lays by Joan Didion

Play it As it Lays is the perfect novel and Maria is a fascinating mix between Lana Del Rey (the old Hollywood glamor, the detached gloom) and Little Edie Beale (the saltine tins, the psychic instability, the domestic disarray), appealing in large part because she is unapologetically herself. As Amy Schumer highlighted through a now-viral sketch, […]