Tag Archives: Matthew Salesses

Different Racisms for Different Races

21 Mar

I’m at Ball State today for the InPrint Festival, an annual event celebrating authors and their first books. The 2nd night of the event is a panel where BSU invites an editor as well to discuss the process of editing, of selection and creation. I’m the editor, of sorts. In about 40 minutes, I’ve to stand in front of a class and talk about Vouched Books and why it’s important. That’s somewhat terrifying.

I have some down time right now, and instead of preparing anything for the presentation, I chose instead to read an essay by Matt Salesses, “DIFFERENT RACISMS: On Jeremy Lin and How the Rules of Racism are Different for Asian Americans,” at The Rumpus, which I saw all over my twitter feed yesterday.

Coincidentally, poet Gleen Shaheen who is also taking part in the InPrint Festival was just speaking to a similar point at lunch, how at times in his writing education he was told not to write about his Arabic heritage, that to do so was “cheating” on some level. Salesses mentions a similar barrier to his own early writing in the essay:

I know many Asian American writers who refuse to write about Asian Americans, out of a fear of being typecast, or a fear of being seen as “using” their ethnicity, or a fear of being an “Asian American writer,” or something. And really, I understand that. I have been one of those writers. This may not come as a surprise, at this point in this essay, but for a long time, I wrote only about white characters. I wrote about them because I grew up with people like them, but also because they were the people in books and because I, too, feared the label, or at least told myself I did. What that fear really is, it seems to me now, is a fear of not being taken as seriously as the White Male Writer, who has so long ruled English literature.

The essay is fantastic and eye-opening and altogether aching. Salesses uses the backdrop of the Jeremy Lin-sanity to highlight how flagrant racism against Asian Americans really is, how even positive racial stereotypes (Asians as hard-working, respectful, kick ass ninjas) are still stereotypes, still a form of racism.

It is hard to call someone who thinks he is complimenting you a racist. But the positive stereotypes people think they can use because of their “positivity” continue (and worsen) the problem. Thinking you can call an entire race “respectful” is thinking you can classify someone by race, is racism.

Read the full essay at The Rumpus.


3 Jan

This is one of the coolest contests I’ve seen: write a short fiction piece, featuring Matthew Salesses, short fiction writer, as the protagonist. Awesome prize list, rad judges, cool protagonist (check that interesting biographical detail list).

Still, if you enter, you better step it up. Just check out the first entry, by Sean Lovelace.*

Matt Salesses on Crowds

“There are lost crowds and then crowds of poets who read other poets who write poems for poets, you know, that type of thing. Sometimes, while giving a reading in the hub of Boston, I can sense whether a particular crowd is one thing or the other. Sometimes the mood of the crowd is disguised, sometimes you only find out after two or three or, you know, four hours of reading what sort of crowd a particular crowd is. And you can’t speak to them in the same way. The variations have to be taken into account. Some crowds like Tang lyric poetry, while others enjoy modern adaptations of the Tang lyric poem. Other crowds you try a flash fiction and they’ll seize you by the throat! They will rip the urinals out the bathroom walls and throw them at you! Understand? They want something long and slow and sustained. You have to say something to them that is meaningful to them in that mood.”

*(Full disclosure: I make an appearance, or rather a non-appearance appearance, my absence marked, in one section; still the story rules and such even with(out) me.)

SSM: wigleaf Top 50 [Very] Short Stories

11 May

I’m going to take a break from vouching specific stories today to instead vouch 50. The wigleaf Top 50 [Very] Short Stories of 2011 list was just released a few days ago, and I wanted to point everyone to it.

And, okay. So 2011 isn’t even half way over yet, but wigleaf is aware of that, and the award is always somewhat retro in that 2010 sort of way.

But I want to take a quick moment and talk about how awesome this list is, not only for the readers, but for the authors who made it, because I’ll embarrass myself right now and say when Andrew from Freight Stories called me in ’09 to tell me I’d made it, I was all, “Oh, cool. That’s pretty rad. Thanks for calling.” I had never heard of wigleaf, and only knew a couple of the other authors on the list. And let’s face it, I was kind of an ass.

If you’re reading this now, and you’re on this list, and you’re thinking that: don’t do that.

Let me tell you now, there are 1000s of stories published every year that fit the requirements for this award, and I’m not just talking about Ol’ Shmoe publishing on his blog. I’m talking stories published in really incredible online journals like PANK, The Collagist, Used Furniture, Lamination Colony, Word Riot, storySouth, Abjective, &c. &c. &c. Some real competition. And from those 1000s, the editors of wigleaf cull a longlist of 200 stories, and from there, a guest editor chisels it to their favorite 50.

If the process isn’t enough to convince you where you are, look at some of the names around you: Blake Butler, Matt Bell, Tina May Hall, Tadd Adcox, Aaron Burch, Roxane Gay, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Matthew Salesses, Jim Ruland, Amber Sparks, Terese Svoboda, James Yeh, David Peak, Kyle Minor, &c. &c. &c.

If you don’t know these names yet, then get reading. I didn’t know most of them a couple years ago either, and now I feel like I’m just catching up to where I could be as a writer and a reader if I had.

To all the writers who made this year’s top 50, a huge congrats to you, and I hope you recognize the honor of it. To all the readers out there, spend some time with this list. You’ll find in it the tremblings of a new literature.

SSM: “The Man In the Hills” by Matthew Salesses

6 May

I’m still surprised at how little I’ve heard around the web about Our Island of Epidemics by Matt Salesses. But, I am glad to see the stories up around the web in various places, including one of my favorites, “The Man In the Hills,” up at Necessary Fiction.

We woke up and could do magic. It was the latest epidemic on our Island of Epidemics. We disappeared into boxes and reappeared at friends’ houses, springing out of their closets. We hovered for seconds in the air before our feet touched down again. We shot sparks from fingers and they zigzagged across the sky like banners. We made ourselves bigger or smaller.

But then we discovered we weren’t magicians: we didn’t know how our tricks were done or how we did them. We disappeared and reappeared in closets, waiting for someone to change clothes. Our feet left the ground to our surprise. Our fingers burned with sparks and we couldn’t hide where we were. We made ourselves bigger or smaller.

Read the whole story at Necessary Fiction.

Salesses has also recently collected all of the stories from the collection published online into a map of the island.

But, I’d highly suggest snagging a copy of the chapbook from PANK, too.

Win a Free Copy of Our Island of Epidemics
Comment with a few lines or a story about a disease you would like to spread on our island of epidemics. It can be anything–boils, bastards, breathlessness!

Next Wednesday, author Matt Salesses will select his favorite epidemic to win a free copy of Our Island of Epidemics!