Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Howland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Howland. Show all posts

09 February, 2016

Bette Howland, "Blue in Chicago"

First person story set in Chicago in the mid nineteen-seventies. The narrator lives by herself on the South Side of Chicago while all of her relatives live in northern suburbs. With the spate of violence in her area of town, her family continues to ask her when she is going to move. She rides the bus to her grandmother's from where her Uncle Rudy, her mother, grandmother, Aunt Roxanne and the narrator go to a wedding and reception of a cousin of the narrator's. Woven into the family story and history are issues of the day, fear, racism, violence, crime, employment, and family dynamics.

The story is divided into nine sections mostly moving chronologically. Some of my favorite lines are, "At her age, it's bad enough being mortal, without having to make apologies for it too."

Here's another line that succinctly shows one way in which racism operates. "And everyone is sure that Irene, for her part, is still anti-Semitic. And why not? If our own prejudices are any indication."
5050 Sheridan, Chicago
"And for some reason I realized this all of a sudden listening to the news this morning, realized that I've been allowing myself to become conditioned--letting this fear, this racism, run away with me."

"I was wondering about this business of bride's side, groom's side. Partitions and more partitions. Why do we always have to take sides? How primitive are these divisions?"

"And I realized this morning that 'security' is not the main thing either. 'Security' is an expensive illusion."

Bette Howland won the MacArthur Foundation award in 1984 and was a close friend of the writer, Saul Bellow. Included in the current issue, No. 23, of A Public Space are an introduction by Bette's son, Jacob Howland, a couple of Bette Howland's short stories, postcards and letters from Saul Bellow to Bette. Howland lived a tough but interesting life and I'm so happy that A Public Space has published this information. The story, "Blue in Chicago," is published online at Commentary.