"Who's That Lady?"
Creative nonfiction piece about my mother's Alzheimer's and dementia.
Language gapes between us. And she is angry: why don’t we know her language when she has to put up with ours?
Has to put up with being talked to like a languageless infant.
Has to put up with being draped with a plastic sheet to be fed with mouthfuls that are too large, too small, too hot, too cold. Can no one make a decent cup of tea?
Has to endure being washed and dressed in clothes that barely stay on in colors and patterns she’d never choose.
Has to listen to people discussing her condition too quietly for her to hear and the stupid hearing aid doesn’t work anyway.
Has to now endure the daughter, the unbeliever, after all these years still resisting Jesus.
Bellevue Literary Review
"Home is Where"
Ma pushes her wrist against the hair coming out from under her scarf,
--Lina, listen to me. Don’t look at them and don’t talk to them.
She means those Daesh boys who got sent home a month ago. They were taken in last year's raid. Ma says that over fifty kids were stolen from the villages around Baghdad. Normally, Daesh keeps all the kids they steal, but they let 15 of them come home. Pa says they traded the boys for 5 of their guards that got taken by the government soldiers. Our neighbors lost three of their boys and one was only six. None of them came home.
Daesh leaders want boys, maybe aged eight or ten, sometimes a bit older, because they are small and move quietly through the forest. They put bombs on some and send them into crowds. There’s always bombs in Baghdad. It is very sad for the families. How can they have a burial when they don’t have a body?
Random Sample Review
NOW ONLINE HERE!
That Spring, Simi Valley turned green. The storms started in December and billowed through March. In other years, the apple blossoms would have been chewed dry and brown by the end of February.
That Spring, Simi Valley turned
floodings of poppies across the valley’s dustiest corners
How did they get here?
How did they—
We needed something serious, something noble for the flowers
we quoted Oprah:
You can either see yourself as a wave in the ocean
or you can see yourself as the ocean.
You can read the whole story here.
We love dancing, Shaj and me. We get the new moves in the internet café. Sometimes we can watch YouTube and Vimeo over someone’s shoulder. We practice the dances at Shaj’s house because she has her own room. I like the modern dancing where you shimmer your shoulders and hips like a wave. I like to think of being a wave that can just run away into the sea.
Summer Contest 2019
"Home is Where"
Sun comes squiggling through the leaves and when I look up the hot-sparkles go into my eyes and into my nose. I run around the corner from the kitchen before I sneeze. If Ma hears me, she’ll tell me to milk Elsa, our goat. Elsa hates me. We take her milk and sell her babies.
Wisdom Competition 2019
"Home is Where"
After school, I help Ma with weeding the vegetables and washing the clothes. And then we make the dinner. I wash the rice. Ma washes the lentils, and my sister sits on the ground and washes stones in the dirt.
Ma pushes her wrist against the hair coming out from under her scarf,
--Lina, listen to me. You don’t look at them. You don’t talk to them.
She means those Daesh boys who got sent home.
Me, I don’t care. They went away and now they came back. Lots of boys disappeared that time and most of them didn’t come back.
It was two weeks after Burhan’s first birthday when Daesh came in their black-and-dust shirts. The whole village ran into the hills, and Ma hid us in a small cave in the ground under the prickle bushes. I held on to Burhan.
My oldest cousin Riad wouldn’t stay in the cave and they got him while he was looking for berries. It’s trash that he died.
ANOMALY Literary Journal
Scrolling across the club walls: slash of silhouettes like a fist of razor blades, X’d arms and legs, Nagel hair. And they’re gone. The famous Troix-Croix Gymnasts. Twenty-two hours, countless takes. Three seconds of on-screen time. Count that. One-one-hundred-two-one-hundred-three-one-hundred.
Wedge of eight suits, shoulders slicing past the girls on reception, looking at no one looking at everyone. Bodyguards orbiting, blunt dog heads turning, ears looped with wires.
The suits are high on the win and the celebration still only three hours old. They shouldn’t even be there but the center of their group, short black hair, wide grin, maverick eyes, is young enough to insist. It’s my party. Landslide win.
Read the whole story here, live at ANOMALY.
The Comstock Review, 2019
"4,500 Complaints 2014-2018
Office of Refugee Settlement, HHS"
A report about the abuse of unaccompanied minors in the custody of the Office of Refugee and Resettlement prompted this poem. You can read the report here.
the shaking starts/ all of us/ even Francisco and he’s 11
months we’re here/
we’re here until they
are sick of us/ until we get used up
NOVELS and COLLECTIONS
FISSURES OF MEN
FISSURES OF MEN is the sequel to THE GEOGRAPHY OF KITCHEN TABLES and follows Cebo’s journey after he is awarded a year's scholarship to Cal State Channel Islands. He moves from a South Africa that is still in turbulent recovery from apartheid, to a post-election turbulent America dealing with political and social issues that have exacerbated cultural and racial divisions.
…on a plane.
That is not true because it starts in Johannesburg in a small, dark, sweaty room. Me, just as sweaty because I am standing in front of the sangoma. Without turning my head: smoke and strings of seed pods, beads, bones and long twisted strands of things that were once human. It is not wise to look closely in the sangoma’s house.
She sits in a green velvet armchair, her glasses strung around her neck on a strand of orange wool, a Glamor magazine close to her face. She holds out a palm. I move forward and hand over the MP3 player for her indlamu prayers and the Megadeth songs that she says help to clear her head.
TRIP WIRES, story collection
Leapfrog Press Fiction Award 2017
Copies at my book store, below.
TRIP WIRES travels around the world, with stories, many in children's voices, set against turbulent socio-political backdrops from Afghanistan to Syria to Columbia to America. The terrain is different in each story, but all of these young people face the dilemma of being without resources even as they try to find and maintain relationships.
Click here to buy a copy.
Featured in Snowflakes Arise here.
Interview with Cassidy McCants, Nimrod International Journal here.
Interview with San Diego Writers Ink here.
Reading at E.P. Foster Library 5/30/2019 here.
Excerpt from "Against the Stranger":
Heartstop and careful finger off the trigger. I didn’t hear him. What’s wrong with me?
Skinny boy, yellow pants dragging in the dirt, head tilted far back to stare down his nose.
It’s one of those quiet deployments on the Afghanistan border. We’re on the outskirts of the outskirts. If we were any further on the outskirts we’d be pants.
One of those bombed-out towns just like you see in movies, except this one has three-leg goats that hobble and chew through the trash, and fat-tailed sheep with deep red furrows ploughed through their fleeces. Some of the little kids say nothing. Some of them shake. A lot of them shake. Their hands, their heads. One kid’s knee shakes like it’s a small flag.
SMALL CHANGE, fiction chapbook
Gold Line Press Competition 2016
Copies at my book store, below.
Audio preview here!
A boy crawls through a tunnel in the Gaza Strip to bring back supplies to his family and neighbors despite the high risk of the tunnel being flooded, gassed, or bombed. On the eve of the Arab Spring in Libya, a girl and her best friend disguise themselves as boys to train for a school sports competition, knowing that if they’re caught they will be severely punished. Four young girls, three of them pregnant, decide to escape their abusive husbands and attempt to cross from Morocco to Spain.
Set against these turbulent backdrops, the children’s voices, apolitical, remind the reader of the distilled best of human relationships. With no resources and armed with only loyalty, guts, and tenacity, they risk their lives for their friends.
THE GEOGRAPHY OF
Novel set in post-apartheid South Africa
Jan, Afrikaaner, and Motsumi, Sotho, marry in the heady post-apartheid days of Nelson Mandela's presidency. Despite their parents' objections, Jan and Motsumi settle into their life and have 2 kids, believing in a glowing, post-racial future. When Jan's promotion gives them the chance to move to a better neighborhood, they face considerable racial slurs and threats. A street gang attacks their nine-year-old daughter, Liseli, and the family begins to unravel. This story examines the roots of where we come from, and the astonishing strength, and capacity for love and forgiveness that children have.
I stepped over the leaking plastic bag, and wrenched the gate open. A short, bald, red-faced man, startled eyes, dry old mouth open, skittering backwards in his tackies. I reached back, grabbed the bag by the knot and turned back to see him disappearing down the alleyway by our house that lead to the backfield. I ran after him as he tried to sprint, his fake Nikes turned out, his old bowed legs struggling, waving both hands like he was trying to stop a bus. Finally he stopped and turned around, gasping, sweating,
I took two more strides and launched the stinking bag. Gaping astonishment as it split and splattered over shoes, pants, shirt.
--You—you fokken bitch—
--I have returned what is yours. Literally masimbakho. Your shit.
Arjun Kulkani brings his family to North West London, England, after Indian Independence. While he struggles to fit in, his family adapt almost seamlessly. When he is diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, he suffers a further loss of identity. Even as his body fails, Arjun gains more understanding of his youthful impatience, his careless cruelty to his family, and how to love even those he doesn’t like.
Sometimes Sunila goes to stand at the bottom of the garden pretending to tidy up the compost heap, and allows the forbidden thought to come: divorce. She can only whisper it. It’s a bad word. Bad people do it. But in the Women’s Own magazine at the doctor’s office, she read that Elizabeth Taylor had done it. She’d done it so many times that it was just part of her normal routine. Get up, put on face cream, divorce Richard. How daring it sounds, so chic.
Click here to buy a copy.
To contact me directly, please use the form below.
TRIP WIRES FEATURED AT SNOWFLAKES ARISE
December 10, 2019
Huge thanks to Darrell Laurent, chief editor at Snowflakes Arise. He's featured TRIP WIRES for the whole dang week -- yee ha!
Read the profile and a sample chapter here.
ECTV: El Camino High School and CAPS Media, Ventura
INTERVIEW WITH JESSICA LLAMAS
Leapfrog Press, June 2018
These stories follow young people and children as they struggle for survival in turbulent settings across the globe, from Afghanistan to Los Angeles.
Press: Nimrod International Journal interview with Cassidy McCants here.
Metaphorical prose is abundant, achieving a poetic quality while evoking profound emotions and creating lifelike characters. Racism, classism, and injustice are captured in ways that ignite justified feelings of rage. TRIP WIRES is a beautifully written collection, both poetic and melancholic.
Deeply moving in their confrontations of unimaginable tragedies, each story evokes a bold, emotional response.
--Kate Asher, Foreword Reviews
This is what life looks like when conflict repaints the canvas against which [the] characters seek love, family and a moment's stability. [Sandra Hunter's] keen eye for twinned details―the fleeting safety of an imam's lap is set against a prayer rug in the back room of a California suburban home, far from neighbors' eyes―lends this collection a rare power and poignancy. Not to be missed.
--David Rocklin, The Night Language
In spare and unflinching prose, the stories in TRIP WIRES depict children and young adults struggling to deal with the brutal consequences of war and social upheaval. I am deeply grateful to Sandra Hunter for the courageous and sympathetic way she tells these young people's tales.
--Jean Hegland, Into the Forest
Within this poignant collection, there’s a thread that compels her characters to reach for survival, and it’s this gossamer wire, these small miracles of love, that electrify her stories.
--Shilpa Argawal, Haunting Bombay
WHAT READERS ARE SAYING
Sandra Hunter writes with unflinching honesty and a profound love of humanity. Passionate and visceral, I found myself reading a line over and over tasting the power and stark poignancy of this collection ripping apart the wounds of injustice, racism, separation, the turbulence of human relationships and more.
Each short story of Trip Wires packs a huge emotional impact on the reader. There are themes of survival, humanity and loss of ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances. Ms. Hunter brings awareness to these real-life situations and encourages the reader to learn more.
Trip Wires by Sandra Hunter is excellent, empathetic, terrifying hard writing, and I was riveted by it. Each short story burns like a fuse headed straight toward explosives and I couldn't put it down. No lie, I missed out on a day of cycle commuting because I wanted to read on the metro instead of having to put down this gripping collection and take up my handle bars.
Gold Line Press, August 2016
SMALL CHANGE does what great fiction should do. Rather than strive for newness for the sake of novelty, or reinvent language to showcase the writer’s chops, it approaches language in a new way because the material—struggling for life and love in the Middle East—demands it. Fresh, invigorating, and profound, I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I did.
Fiction judge of the 2016 Gold Line Press Competition
Each of Hunter’s three stories does what stories should do, using small moments in time to touch larger themes. Here the touching, sometimes tactile, sometimes cerebral, sometimes brutal, sometimes beautiful, presses against the Middle East, a place where turmoil too often touches its people. SMALL CHANGE points to big change with quiet grace, touching hard places and hopeful places.
Author of BOTH MEMBERS OF THE CLUB, THE NUMBER OF THE MISSING, BELMONDO STYLE, and HEADLOCK. He teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and is editor of J Journal: New Writing on Justice.
October 22, 2016.
Interview with Camille Bradshaw of Gold Line Press
Interview with Natalie McNair of Speaking of Marvels:
Video of Why There Are Words May 11 2017, reading.
WHAT READERS ARE SAYING
I was so gripped and moved by those three stories, and they've continued to haunt me.
The voices are unique and yet hit me in my solar plexus. The topics are today's topics and written in a way that people can feel at one with the characters.
This is a 'small' book which could 'change' your understanding of childhood, as viewed from the perspective of children from other cultures who are facing adult challenges.
Losing Touch is a quiet novel about the Kulkani family. Originally from India, the family has emigrated to London and have settled into their new surroundings without much fuss. Well, except for the children's wishes to sever ties with India - they want to fit in and embrace British culture. Oh, and Arjun's wife, Sunila, who doesn't understand why women have to adhere to the husband's rules regarding money, housework, parenting, etc. - times are changing, women can manage their own monies and should be able to spend it on themselves (instead of giving all of their earnings to their husbands and getting in trouble if one pound is missing). As for Arjun, he just wants his family to remember where they came from and to mind him when he tells them what to do. Of course, life has other plans for Arjun and his family.
--A Bookish Way of Life
Review by Carve Magazine here.
Bios for re-use
Sandra Hunter’s stories have won the 2018 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, 2017 Leapfrog Press Fiction Award, 2016 Gold Line Press Chapbook Prize, and four Pushcart nominations. She is a 2018 Hawthornden Fellow and the 2017 Charlotte Sheedy Fellow at the MacDowell Colony. Books: TRIP WIRES, stories, fiction chapbook SMALL CHANGE, and debut novel, LOSING TOUCH.
Sandra Hunter’s fiction has won the 2018 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, 2017 Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest, 2016 Gold Line Press Chapbook Prize, October 2014 Africa Book Club Award, and four Pushcart Prize nominations. She is a 2018 Hawthornden Castle Fellow and the 2017 Charlotte Sheedy Fellow at the MacDowell Colony. Books: LOSING TOUCH, a novel (July 2014), fiction chapbook, SMALL CHANGE (June 2016), fiction collection TRIP WIRES (June 2018). She teaches English and Creative Writing at Moorpark College and runs writing workshops. Favorite dessert: Salted Caramel Insanity from Donut Friend.
Sandra Hunter’s fiction has won the 2018 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, 2017 Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest, 2016 Gold Line Press Chapbook Prize, October 2014 Africa Book Club Award, and four Pushcart Prize nominations. Her story "Fishers of Men" was included in the 2018 Write Well Award Anthology. Her story “Finger Popping” won second place in the 2017 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. Her story collection TRIP WIRES was published in 2018, the chapbook SMALL CHANGE was published in 2016, and her debut novel LOSING TOUCH was published in 2014. She completed her second novel THE GEOGRAPHY OF KITCHEN TABLES set in post-apartheid South Africa, and is working on the sequel FISSURES OF MEN. She is a 2018 Hawthornden Castle Fellow and the 2017 Charlotte Sheedy Fellow at the MacDowell Colony. Sandra Hunter lives in California where she teaches Creative Writing and runs writing workshops. She reads for Nimrod International Journal and Anomaly Literary Journal. Favorite dessert: Salted Caramel Insanity from Donut Friend.
Sandra Hunter’s short story collection, TRIP WIRES (2018) won the 2017 Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest. It presents voices of young girls and boys—some of them children—set against turbulent socio-political backdrops such as Afghanistan, Syria and Colombia. Her fiction chapbook, SMALL CHANGE (2016), won the 2016 Gold Line Press Chapbook Competition. The three stories, set in Palestine, Libya, and Morocco, are told in children’s voices. Her debut novel, LOSING TOUCH (2014), is about immigrant Indians settling into 1960s London and examines the double loss of identity through immigration and chronic disease.
Recent works include stories such as “Meanwhile the Forests Continue to Die”, winner of the 2018 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition; "Fishers of Men" included in the 2018 Write Well Award Anthology; and “Finger Popping”, 2nd place, 2017 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. She is a 2018 Hawthornden Castle Fellow and the 2017 Charlotte Sheedy Fellow at the MacDowell Colony.
Sandra has finished her second novel THE GEOGRAPHY OF KITCHEN TABLES set in post-apartheid South Africa. It follows the story of an interracial couple who marry in the rainbow glow of Nelson Mandela’s election. When their 9 year-old daughter, Liseli, is bottle-raped by a gang, the post-traumatic stress threatens to shatter the marriage. She is currently working on the sequel FISSURES OF MEN that follows one of the characters as he studies abroad in America.
She also collaborated with sculptor Lisa Sanders on a fiction, video, and 3D art installation titled THE GIRL AND THE SHEDDING FOX that was exhibited at the Durango Arts Center in Durango CO through June 2019, and at Yavapai College, AZ in October 2019.
Sandra runs writing workshops and gives readings and presentations. Favorite dessert: Salted Caramel Insanity from Donut Friend
Professional Memberships: PEN America, Association of Writers & Writing Programs, Hedgebrook Cedar Deep Giving Circle, Women's Writers Project, Women's National Book Association, American Association of University Woman.
Agent: Celia J. Taylor-Mobley, Writers House
WHAT I'M UP TO
Portland OR, Jan 2020
Work stuff: Finishing up the mss edit and will be sending it off to my agent soon. Deep breath. And just heard that I'll be heading to Homer, AK, in October for a Storyknife residency. Vibrating from the guggle to the zatch.
Yum stuff: Kabocha squash is a !**?! to peel but delicious when roasted and mixed with persian cucumbers, vegan mayo and a squirt of sriracha.
Random stuff: Delighted to announce that I'm now reading for Anomaly Literary Journal and Nimrod International Journal.
WHAT'S HAPPENING 2020
Place: Little Switzerland, NC
So jazzed to be going to my first artist's residency in this bucolic NC setting. I'll be working on a series of photo-text pieces based on my mother's Alzheimer's and dementia.
NIMROD INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL
Delighted to announce I'll be reading for Nimrod International Journal. The Literary Awards for fiction and poetry are open now--submit! 1st prize: $2000 + publication. 2nd prize: $1,000 + publication.
IT'S COMING -- THE 2020 WRITERS FESTIVAL!
Date: March 6, 2020
Place: Oxnard High School, 3400 Gonzales Road, Oxnard, CA 93036
We're taking the Festival to Oxnard High School! We're hoping to reach more underserved schools to bring writing and performance to high school students. The Festival is also open to everyone in the community, $40 OT+D. We have an amazing line-up of workshops: fiction, poetry, song-writing, and stand-up comedy. All levels welcome.
DEEP DIVE INTO THE SENSES WORKSHOP SERIES
Dates: March 7, 14, 21, 28, 2020
Place: Malibu Civic Library, 23519 West Civic Center Way, Malibu
Through hands-on exercises, samples from books and videos, group work, meditation, and feedback, we'll practice sourcing the body for luscious delights that will enrich our writing.
WE HAVE BLAST-OFF!
INTRO TO POETRY WORKSHOP
Date: April 13, 2020
Place: 29901 Ladyface Ct, Agoura Hills, CA 91301
Fun workshop exploring how to start and develop a poem. Just add water! Kidding. No water will be hurt during this workshop. You'll learn how to generate a brand new piece--even if you've never written a poem before. All levels welcome.
NOVEL/MEMOIR WORKSHOP SERIES
This one's for you!
Dates: April 16, 23, 30, May 7, 2020
Place: Westlake Village Library, 31220 W Oak Crest Drive, Westlake Village
Workshop series dealing with characters, setting, tension, and those crucial first few pages.
Join me as we plunge knee-and-elbow deep into your work and emerge with a clearer sense of narrative arc and overall story development.
Dates: October 1-28, 2020
Place: Homer, AK
So honored and delighted to be heading to Storyknife in Alaska to work on the novel-in-progress.