by Cat Jones
Special Guest Judge, Toni Jensen
In the short essay “Grief Exercise,” the narrator mourns a father by imagining he’s not really gone—he’s in hiding, perhaps, or living a double life—even though they know, on some level, the father’s gone. The invention, the conceit, provides a window into both the narrator and the father’s individual lives, as well as into their shared past moments. In scenes that hold strong emotion alongside humor, the essay comes at the subject of grief slant. Readers are left both missing and appreciating the past, alongside the narrator, mourning and living.
Toni Jensen is the author of Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land, a finalist for the Dayton Peace Prize and a New York Times Editors’ Choice book (Ballantine 2020). An NEA Creative Writing Fellowship recipient in 2020, Jensen’s essays have appeared in Orion, Catapult and Ecotone, among others. She is also the author of the story collection From the Hilltop. She teaches at the University of Arkansas and the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is Métis.