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Week 8/9/20

PUBLISHED: August 24, 2020

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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The second time it happened, I got a phone call while I was working in my lab at Stanford. I’d had to separate two of my mice because they were ripping each other to bits in that shoebox of a home we kept them in. I found a piece of flesh in one corner of the box, but I couldn’t tell which mouse it had come from. Both were bleeding and frenzied, scurrying away from me when I tried to grab them even though there was nowhere to run.

“Look, Gifty, she hasn’t been to church in nearly a month,” Pastor John said to me. “I’ve been calling the house, but she won’t pick up. I go by sometimes and make sure she’s got food and everything, but I think—I think it’s happening again.”

I didn’t say anything. The mice had calmed down considerably, but I was still shaken by the sight of them and worried about my research. Worried about everything.

“Gifty?” Pastor John said.

“She should come stay with me.”

I’m not sure how the pastor got my mother on the plane, because when I picked her up at SFO she looked completely vacant, her body limp. I imagined Pastor John folding her up the way you would a jumpsuit, arms crossed over the chest in an X, legs pulled up to meet them, then tucking her safely into a suitcase complete with a handle with care sticker before passing her off to a flight attendant.

Assistant Editor Heidi Siegrist
Excerpt from “When My Mother Came to Stay” in the Atlantic


“Well, you’re just a little liar, aren’t you?” he says, and I want to say, Yes. Yes, I am.

“You don’t ever lie to spare feelings?”


“Interesting,” I say. Of course, it is not interesting that he has been allowed to live candidly. It is not interesting that he cannot conceive of anything else. He has equated his range of motion with mine. He hasn’t considered the lies you tell to survive, the kindness of pretend, which I illustrate now, as I eat this bacterial hot dog. This is the first time I sort of understand him. He thinks we’re alike. He has no idea how hard I’m trying.

“You can be yourself with me, you know,” he says, and it’s all I can do not to laugh right in his face.

“Thanks,” I say, but I know he doesn’t mean it. He want me to be myself like a leopard might be herself in a city zoo. Inert, waiting to be fed. Not out in the wild, with tendon in her teeth.

Editorial Assistant Suzie Eckl
Excerpt from Luster by Raven Leilani


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