March 17, 2020

 A Letter from the Editor, Spring 2020.

Over the years, I have come to admire a certain kind of story that the Oxford American, as a quarterly magazine untethered from the demands of a rapid news cycle, is especially well suited to publish. With love, I call it the “OA special,” though “passion project” works just as well: stories that writers have been chasing for years, often to the point of obsession, hooked by a question or a place or a character.

March 17, 2020

A Points South essay from the Spring 2020 issue

The longer I spent with members, I began to see that in some deep unconscious way, this is what drew me to the Juancun community, and perhaps what drew my parents to them, too. Chinese people who were not Chinese, in any easy definition of the term, who seemed defined entirely by what they had lost. It intrigued me that they had made a home in the South, a place that represented an additional loss I had not been able to bring myself to continually bear, dreaming every day of New York City, until I could and finally did leave. I wanted to know how, unlike me, they could stand to stay. 

February 27, 2020

A Points South essay from the Spring 2020 issue

My father said it seemed like we were due for one of those great hurricanes that periodically wipe the beach clean. If a deadly storm was coming, local legend has it that we would be warned. The story goes that a ghost clad in gray stalks the beach in advance of every major hurricane, warning passersby. Those who heed the Gray Man’s warning are spared, and all those who don’t, perish.

March 17, 2020

An Omnivore essay from the Spring 2020 issue. 

My preconceived ideas about Frank’s work after reading The Foxes of Harrow made me question what could make a Black man who came of age in Augusta, Georgia, in the 1920s write stories in which Black people were disparaged, or irredeemably victimized, or absent altogether. But in this reverse chronology that I had accidentally undertaken to explore his work—along with what I was learning about him from his letters, his recorded interviews, and his remaining friends and family—I found myself more willing to take a closer look at what his absence from the historical literary conversation really signifies. 

March 17, 2020

An Omnivore essay from the Spring 2020 issue. 

All kinds of rumors followed Mr. Myers around campus, most of which, it turns out, had some basis in fact: that he was a ferocious tennis player who hated to lose; that he was on his third wife, or maybe it was his fourth; that he’d served in the Marine Corps in World War II and had been the white commanding officer of an all-black unit in the Pacific Theater. But the thing I remember most about Mr. Myers as a teacher had nothing to do with the books we read in his class or the sparse, vague comments I remember him leaving in the margins of papers, at least those he chose to return.

March 17, 2020

An installment in John T. Edge’s column, Local Fare.

Eating fried snapper filets and white bread, arrayed with stylish precision on tissue paper–lined red cafeteria trays, I watched Crasta reduce two fried bream to four glistening bones in less than ten minutes. And I learned that he plans to remodel the market, using the Evans photograph as a prompt. “Do you think it was like this?” he asked, holding out his cell phone to display a picture of a craftsman house, painted a color on the blue side of teal. “I want to get the look right.”

March 17, 2020

Poems from the Spring 2020 issue.

In bedsheets, we are gravel thrown 
from the wheels of a pickup; we are making a mess 
of our bodies, so our lives will be less so.

March 17, 2020

A feature essay from the Spring 2020 issue.

I moved to Texas in 2017 and returned often to Dilley. When I would chat with residents—after a city council meeting, at the nail salon, before a cook-off—they’d ask if I was in Dilley to write about how depressing or messed up the place is. Or they’d scoff: I was just another journalist coming to write about the detention center. Or they couldn’t figure out why someone would want to study a town they found so dreadfully boring. In reality, I was struck by how the town is at the crossroads of three industries: oil, confinement, and smuggling. I wondered what it might take to revive a small town like Dilley—and at what cost. I kept sticking around.

March 17, 2020

A feature essay from the Spring 2020 issue.

History is, in part, the memories we choose to protect and reinforce, to ensure their longevity and influence. In Thibodaux’s protected memory, sugarcane has endured, plantations have endured, Confederate heroes have endured—but not the massacre.

March 17, 2020

A feature essay from the Spring 2020 issue.

I wanted to get away from the noise, but I had nowhere to go. This ended up being a good thing, as I was desperate in writing a story of a religion that was at once immeasurably old while still in its infancy. An unlikely synergy started to form between Felix and me. We were both mixing what raw materials we had. He was throwing coconut shells; I was pounding a keyboard. The noises they produced didn’t sound much different.

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