****Glimmer Train – Fall 2014

Jewish man, Miami beach

(photo: by Sagie, Creative Commons license)

Glimmer Train doesn’t usually announce theme issues, except for the “Family Matters” issue, but a clear current in the 11 short stories in this issue is the desires and dislocations of immigrants and the desperation of those who want to immigrate. This is also the issue that includes the wonderful interview with Junot Diaz, covered in part by the First Draft blog.

The frustrations of would-be immigrants are explored in the story “Stowaways,” by Joseph Chavez, in which a man falls from the sky; in the poignant story “Hialeah” by Kim Brooks, about a gathering of Jewish men in Miami, strategizing how to convince the Roosevelt Administration to let a boatload of Jewish refugees land (you’ll remember this real-life episode of the SS Exodus 1947), and “Maghreb and the Sea,” by Robert Powers, which takes on the voice of a would-be African immigrant facing impossible hurdles trying to get to Europe, America—away. Told without dialog, it has the genuine feel of writing from that part of the world.

Other stories tell the trials and uncertainties of people newly in America and the pull of “home.” As author Mehdi Tavana Okasi says in his biosketch, his mother is convinced that, in Iran, he would have become a doctor. “Perhaps she is right. But there is no way to know the other scars I would bear. These are questions that can never be answered, and as immigrants, our lives are filled with them, the what ifs and if only I hads. It’s fantastical and dangerous.” And, thus, the stuff of fiction.

The wide-ranging interview with Junot Diaz also touches on immigration, in his case between the Dominican Republic and the United States. Of the two countries, he says “their shadows fall on each other.” He finds it a useful metaphor because, “all of us are haunted by the other world we call our past.” The immigrant can double down on that haunting.