James Yang’s work has appeared in Communication Arts, 3×3 Magazine, Graphis, and PRINT. Yang has won more than 250 awards for design and illustration. His book Bus! Stop! (Viking, 2018) was selected as a standout new picture book by the New York Times, and the follow-up, Stop! Bot! (Viking, 2019), was the 2020 Geisel award winner for the most distinguished American book for beginning readers. His newest book, A Boy Named Isamu (Viking, 2021), is the 2022 Honor Picture Book for Asian/Pacific American Literature.
Today Alice’s students will draw the pheasants. Alice unlocks the props closet in Bantam Hall on the downtown campus and sees the two taxidermied pheasants on a high shelf, exactly where she left them last semester. The pheasants were purchased by the Department of Art thirty-seven years ago, Alice’s first year teaching at Juniper College.
The half-lit classroom smelled like crackers and spilled soda. My class counselor, the dean of educational affairs, and Ella Markovna, my soft-spoken literature teacher, sat along one wall, under the faded reproduction of Pushkin’s portrait. They told me to grab a chair, and I did, putting it as far away as possible. My mother, who taught at the same school, kept inching hers this way and that, unsure whether she belonged with Pushkin and her colleagues or me, the emerging delinquent.
The three women in the kitchen of the large Phakalane home did not look much alike, but they were sisters. Their unlikeness extended to their demeanors—the bearing in their shoulders, the timbre of their laughter, how they looked at one another. They had gathered on a Sunday, a day replete with sun and the bright heat of a Gaborone summer.