Characters You Imagine, People You Never Meet

Glendaliz Camacho

Publisher’s note: In the Small Press Picks review of our anthology The Female Complaint, one of the stories singled out for praise was Glendaliz Camacho’s “Noelia and Amparo,” which “turns the traditional wife-mistress/unfaithful husband tale on its head.” Here Glendaliz describes her “unearned homesickness” for a mythologized Dominican Republic, and how it inspired the story.

The Dominican Republic is a mythologized place for me.

In thirty-six years, I’ve been there once for a few weeks as a tourist, but it’s a place that cannot escape my imagination. Since I grew up in the most famously Dominican neighborhood outside the country, it revealed enough of itself to engender love and wonder. It’s the noncustodial parent I idealize, but having grown up as American as MTV and breakfast cereal, I find that its inner workings will always be unknowable to me. I suppose I set so many of my stories in the Dominican Republic to cure myself of this curious case of unearned homesickness.

In the same vein, I imagined characters in “Noelia and Amparo” in order to know people I would never meet—in particular, my great-grandmother. I had only heard snippets of things about her over the years. My father grew up in her house with many of his cousins. At night, when they called out goodnight to their grandmother from their beds, they faked other voices until they exploded into giggles and she realized that, Wait a minute, there cannot be that many grandkids here. Continue reading

Your Mid-Flight Snack: A Little Psychological Warfare

Joanna Lesher

Publisher’s note: In this post, Joanna Lesher describes the inspiration behind “Diversion,” her hilarious contribution to our anthology The Female Complaint. The story takes place in the cramped quarters of a turboprop plane, where the narrator overhears the boasts of a misogynist male passenger and decides to take a subtle revenge. You’ll never think of flight turbulence the same way again.

Like most of the stories I write, “Diversion” is a combination of truth and wishful thinking.

In 2011, I was living in Hiroshima and working as a teacher at a private English conversation school.

Though English is a compulsory subject for every Japanese student, the lessons focus primarily on reading and writing. As a result, many Japanese English learners have trouble with speaking and listening comprehension. Hence the market for conversation schools.

And hence the tendency of some male foreigners to make lewd comments in English about Japanese women, secure in the assumption that these women wouldn’t understand what was being said about them. Continue reading

Along Came the Questioners

Catherine Haustein

Publisher’s note: “Grave to Cradle,” one of the stories in our anthology The Female Complaint, envisions a nightmarish near-future where everything—including science—is owned by the “Cochton” family, a nifty combination of the Koch brothers and the Walton (Walmart-owning) family. My favorite line: a resuscitated Isaac Newton tells the protagonist, “I’ve avoided women as I have avoided being shot through the knee with an arrow, but I find you affable.” Here the author, chemist Catherine Haustein, discusses how she came to write the story.

I almost don’t dare tell how I came to write “Grave to Cradle.” It started with a politician visiting my school. She came to discuss the future of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education in Iowa. Being a chemistry professor, I was summoned. The politician, groomed by special interests, reached out to us with a message that sounded like this: Our corporate donors need your science to make more money. Give it to us and you will be rewarded. And so will we.

There was no wonder or curiosity, no joy, no “We the people.” The slums wouldn’t be saved; the poor wouldn’t be cured. It was science for the selfish, and it was ugly. I was ashamed of myself for being a scientist. Continue reading

I Can’t Promise That No One Gets Killed

Rosalie Morales Kearns

Publisher’s note: This is the introduction I wrote for our short story anthology The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly Women (Shade Mountain Press, 2015).

There are so many stories behind these stories.

First, the anthology’s title phrase, with its multiple meanings that can’t be pinned down. The term “female complaint” evokes nineteenth-century patent medicines. It hints that femaleness itself is some kind of malady. It speaks to the patriarchal tendency to dismiss outspoken women as complainers.

Then there’s the story of why I chose this theme, which is connected to the story of why the pieces are all by women writers, and that’s connected to the story of why I started Shade Mountain Press. Some readers may remember a glorious wave of women’s anthologies in the 1980s and early ’90s, titles like Midnight Birds: Stories by Contemporary Black Women Writers; Dreams in a Minor Key: Tales of Magic Realism by Women; and What Did Miss Darrington See? An Anthology of Feminist Supernatural Fiction. I was in my twenties at the time, and I devoured these books; I was starved for them. The canon was skewed male; most of the work I was assigned or encouraged to read had been by male authors. Now it seemed that just over the horizon was an era when this exclusion of women would be a thing of the past. Continue reading