In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do.
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If every woman is a nonconsensual researcher looking into the word “misogyny,” then my most painful and powerful work was done in Pocahontas County. It could have been done in any other place, because misogyny is in the groundwater of every American city and every American town, but for me, it was done here. Looking into the Rainbow Murders became part of this work.
Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg
For dinner, it was cabbage and chitterlings. The butcher either threw the stuff away or had it out on display for cheap, so the child’s mother bought bags and bags for him and put them in the fridge. There were so many ways to cook these: in a broth with ginger and noodles, grilled over charcoal fire, stewed with fresh dill, or the way the child liked them best—baked in the oven with lemon grass and salt. When she took these dishes to school, other children would tease her about the smell. She shot back, “You wouldn’t know a good thing even if five hundred pounds of it came and sat on your face!”
When they all sat down for dinner, the child thought of the notes her mother threw away, and about bringing one to her father. There had been so many last week, maybe it was important. She listened as her father worried about his pay and his friends and about how they were all making their living here in this new country. He said his friends, who were educated and had great jobs in Laos, now found themselves picking worms or being managed by pimple-faced teenagers. They’d had to begin all over again, as if the life they led before didn’t count.
The child got up, found the note in the garbage, and brought it to her father.
He waved the note away. “Later.” He said this in Lao. Then, as if remembering something important, he added, “Don’t speak Lao and don’t tell anyone you are Lao. It’s no good to tell people where you’re from.” The child looked at the centre of her father’s chest, where, on this T-shirt, four letters stood side by side: LAOS.
Editor Paul Reyes
Excerpt from How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa
Dolce, Holly thought as Beth approached the repeat sign for the third time. Dolce as my nails digging into my thighs. And, once again, Beth took the first ending. As a family car. As clipped. As crippling. Thus, it was less likely that she’d just made a mistake–but Holly still didn’t know quite what she was witnessing. Larry was the only other person beginning to get a sense that the event was starting to wobble. He didn’t have the musical vocabulary to say what exactly–and he’d heard his wife practice the piece so often that it always seemed interminable–but an image entered his mind of shadow-puppet birds. As some dumb lumbering. No, a train approaching a switch and somehow skipping the rails. As a Turkish march. A funeral march. A Turkish funeral march. As montage–Hark!–cultivate.
Editorial Assistant Suzie Eckl
Excerpt from Make/Shift by Joe Sacksteder