Better Late Than Never, Again. Our first double issue: Summer 2018

Tell the truth. If you were paying attention, you thought that we had shuffled off into magazine oblivion. We’re sorry. But here is a beautiful, thick magazine to make up for it.

We think you won’t be disappointed. Take a few trips with us during these last days of summer:

  • Biologist Connor Wood takes us out into the field to trap coyotes, “100 Years Past the Middle of Nowhere.”
  • Jennifer Lang moves us to Israel to become the mother of soldiers and there is “No Going Back.”
  • Ben Miller immerses us in 1980s Manhattan during his and poet Anne Pierson Wiese’s “First Forever.”
  • Plus sojourns in 1960s Baltimore, Elizabethan England, American Childhood, and alternate visions.


An Announcement

1966: A Journal of Creative Nonfiction is a tiny operation in the greater endeavor of Literature. The journal is published by a small staff of volunteers, headed by our editor. If you’ve submitted in the past year, you’ve noticed that we are very behind. Part of this is the normal backlog of submissions one might expect at a small magazine; part of it is caused by more special circumstances: the publication of our editor’s first book. Because we find ourselves so behind, we will not be publishing a Winter issue so that we can get caught up on our reading and other administrative tasks. We will publish a double-issue in the Spring, due out in May. If you have submitted, please know that your work is still under consideration and we will reply as soon as we are able. We apologize for any inconvenience or disappointment.


Kelly Grey Carlisle and the Staff of 1966: A Journal of Creative Nonfiction

Better late than never, the Summer Issue!

The Summer 2017 issue is finally here!

Just in time for Father’s Day:

Patti See writes her (very much alive) father’s obituary and Erin Pushman pieces together her grandfather’s war story.

And in remembrance of fathers’ sons:

James Halford remembers the loss of the forty-three of Ayotzinapa Normal School and Amanda Bales contemplates a face of World War I.

Eluding our Editor’s attempts at categorization:

Contemplating practice and contemplative practice, Jacob Slichter exhibits “Stick Control,” while Pascha Sotolongo considers romantic leads, love, and A Patch of Blue.


What We’re Reading

My Heart is an Idiot by Davy Rothbart

My Heart is an Idiot is a collection of stories in which Davy Rothbart falls in love with 13166633different girls, usually abruptly, and always unsuccessfully. This may seem tedious at first. However, Rothbart transcends the initial adventure/hazard of falling in love by exploring the events that take place along the way. A story about travelling to meet the girl of his dreams becomes a story about hauling the carcass of a dead moose off the road. While watching his date make out with another guy at an LA club, Rothbart teaches Pau Gasol the meaning of the term “suck face.” While these turns of events are fun, Rothbart truly shines when he writes about the friends he makes; the stories stop being about his feelings and become a window into these strangers’ lives. Rothbart manages this beautifully because he treats everyone he meets– from the pretty girl on the airplane to the hitchhiker he picks up– with genuine interest, even fascination. Thus, it’s hard not to fall in love with these new friends, too.


–Maria Teresa Kamel, Assistant Editor

Best American Essays 2016

We’re excited to say that Antonia Malchik’s essay, “Bitterroot,” from the summer 2015 issue of 1966 has been selected as a “notable essay” of 2015 by the editors of The Best American Essays 2016

You can read this wonderful essay here.

Congratulations, Antonia, and thank you for allowing us to publish your work!

In other “notable” news, our editor, Kelly Grey Carlisle, also received a nod for her essay “Permutations of X,” which appeared in New England Review.

Many thanks, as always, to Robert Atwan and the other editors at Best American. The Best American Essays series celebrates our genre every year and brings all of us amazing essays we might otherwise have missed. It also encourages many writers and small magazines through the recognition of their work in the “notable essays” list. That encouragement means a lot and we’re grateful. You can purchase Best American Essays 2016  at your local, independent bookstore.

Summer Reading Roundup

Some of us at 1966 were able to get in some quality reading time during our summer break. Here are a few books we liked, new and old. Now we’ll be returning to our Fall Reading: submissions to the magazine.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau).

I have long been a found of Coates’ writing for the Atlantic, but only started reading this book in the days before Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed by police officers. Reading it that week provided me with a double-sense of deja-vu—both from my own memories of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and from Coates’ discussion of them. Written as a letter to his teenaged son about being black in this country, Coates’ prose is as elegant and moving as the system of white privilege is brutal and ugly. Coates’ love for his son and his people—“They made us into a race,” he reminds his son, but “We made ourselves into a people”—shines through every honest, beautiful, brilliant page. Readers should not look for comfort or simple answers in these pages, but may instead find a steely hope that through struggle against the system, one might regain the dignity and honor (but not the lives) that the “people who think they are white” have stripped away. KGC

Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku by David Davis (U of Nebraska Press).

Duke Kahanamoku has long been a sports hero of mine. What the book makes clear, however, is that Duke was also a moral hero for all time. Because of the ill-considered rules of amateurism in the early Olympics and discrimination against athletes of color, Duke was never able to translate his swimming and surfing fame into much more than subsistence living. And yet, he willingly became an ambassador and advocate for sport, Hawaii, her culture, and the Hawaiian people. He was generous to all who asked for his time and carried himself with dignity, kindness, and wisdom. Also interesting are Davis’ accounts of the early Olympics, especially the haunting Antwerp games that followed World War I, when, as they boarded their ship to Europe, the US team passed by stacks of freshly-offloaded coffins from the war and where athletes strolling in the battlefields outside of town came upon still-unburied remains. KGC

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (Knopf).

The singular gift of this book to its reader is the chance to enter a brilliant scientist’s mind and to see the world (both natural and personal) the way she does. Jahren is an award-winning plant researcher, currently at the University of Hawaii, and through her memoir, we are able to understand just how difficult that kind of achievement in science is. She takes us through the unremitting hard work, disappointment, and loneliness of being a lead investigator, then allows us to experience the thrill of discovery and success. As the book makes painfully clear, our nation does not adequately support scientific research without clear commercial value. We also don’t give plants enough credit for being the absolutely fascinating and weird creatures they are. As much as I enjoyed Jahren’s personal story, I found her lessons on plants just as fascinating. The book was almost a perfect balance of what we love here at 1966—compelling story mixed with research that make that story more complex and relevant. KGC

My Father, the Pornographer by Chris Offut (Simon and Schuster).

A man goes through his dead father’s things and learns more about him. The situation is more interesting if those things include a literal ton of pornography, most of which his father wrote. And the book becomes a compelling read if the son happens to be Chris Offut, himself a wonderful writer. What I appreciated most was that even though there was, in a sense, no mystery to the experience—Offut knew his father wrote pornography before he began—the book is laden with mystery. It is a mystery that relies not on the shock-value of pornography, but on a sensitive, intelligent author slowly excavating the mind of his dad—a distant, unloving father about whom the author knew very little. KGC

Sex Object by Jessica Valenti (Harper Collins).

Jessica Valenti’s is a vital voice and an important advocate for feminism. Through her column and internet platforms, she has introduced many readers, especially younger readers, to feminist issues. She has shown many women that they are not alone. And so, I wanted to like this memoir more than I did. Perhaps it was because I was already aware of many of the issues her story illustrates, but I was not moved by the book, even when I wanted to be. A subjective emotional response is, of course, not necessarily a measure of a book’s quality, but by the end of this book, it was what I found missing. Valenti’s experiences should be disturbing, painful, angering (and sometimes joyful)—and yet, by the end, all I felt was tired. As Dayna Tortorici at the New York Times notes, perhaps Valenti is tired, too. And she has surely earned the right to be, dealing not only with everyday sexism but also with the misogynist trolls of the internet. So, my lack of enthusiasm is perhaps a fault of the writing or perhaps it is actually one of its strengths (isn’t it good to show women are worn down?)—or perhaps it is only a result of my being a female reader who also lives in this culture. KGC

 The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (1927; Harper Perennial 2015)

Now here’s something novel: fiction presented as creative nonfiction.  Thornton takes on the voice of a research CNF writer, searching for the meaning behind a fatal (and fictional) bridge collapse in 1714 Peru.  As might be expected from the guy who gave us Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, it’s a sprawling yet patient work.  He critiques attempts to impose religious significance on tragedies, but he does so with understanding and compassion; he writes of servants and nobility, actresses and nuns, all with equal tact; he depicts the nuances of daily interaction and the existential dread that can accompany it; he weaves a triptych of overlapping relationships and themes.  If it all sounds a bit precocious, his sincerity keeps it all in check.  It’s short, moving, and holds up great on its second read. RD



The Summer Issue is here!

Just in time for your poolside reading–unless you’re suffering from the same weather pattern that has settled over us in South Texas–the Summer Issue of 1966: A Journal of Creative Nonfiction is here!

In this issue:

  • Patti See meets The Badger at the Mayo Clinic.
  • Gary M. Almeter counts loneliness and Jennifers.
  • Jim Ross shares a Y with some mysterious guests.
  • Gretchen Legler considers wealth and apples.
  • Jennifer Young and the State of Ohio remind us that we’re still parents.
  • Robert W. Henway takes us round a cemetery in Iowa City.
  • Anne Kaier finds a kind of healing, but not in Lourdes.
  • Bob Cowser, Jr. contemplates the wee, small hours.

All these gifts. Happy Summer!


It’s perhaps fitting that our final blog post before our next issue comes from Elizabeth Mosier, whose “I Have, I Fear, the Literary Temperament” closed our last issue. In that piece, Mosier demonstrated her skill as a thorough researcher with an eye for hidden, fascinating narratives, uncovering the story of Dorothy Burr Thompson, an engaging diarist torn between becoming a writer or a scholar. In the piece below, she recounts the story of Hercules, a slave who escaped Mt. Vernon, the plantation of George Washington.  


It’s high tourist season in Philadelphia, and so not at all unusual—if slightly unsettling— to find a man beside me on the regional rail platform clad in breeches, buckled shoes, and a tri-corner hat. He’s commuting, as I am, to Independence National Historical Park, but he’s costumed for interpreting history at the Visitors’ Center, while I’m clad in privy-picker jeans and black t-shirt for my volunteer work at the archaeology lab.

Like any city, Philadelphia has its versions: public and private, seen and unseen, drafted and revised. This summer morning, the two of us proceed down busy Market Street, parting at 6th and Market Streets, the location of George Washington’s residence and slaves’ quarters from 1790 – 97. This complicated narrative—democracy framed upon the faulty foundation of slavery—first drew me to the site. That week, a team of archaeologists revealed the mortared stone walls of the “Philadelphia White House” and, in the process, disturbed the surface of a story last interpreted for the United States Bicentennial.

When I first visited the dig with my daughters, I couldn’t help but read the emerging revision as a writer would. There, in the ground, was the visible footprint of the bow-windowed room that architectural historians say is the precedent to the modern-day Oval Office. Washington added it to the house for the purpose of meeting visitors at his level, not elevated and enthroned like a king. And there, five feet away, was the open-hearth kitchen where the enslaved man called Hercules cooked the president’s meals.

One version of the story is shaped by this proximity: the symbol of democracy next to the brick and mortar evidence of slavery. Here, in this ironic setting, Hercules rises from plantation slave to celebrated chef, his talents and loyalty to Washington rewarded with unusual privileges. He makes an income from selling kitchen scraps, buys fine clothing, strolls Philadelphia’s abolitionist streets. Narrative tension is sustained by the dissonance between text (the appearance of liberty) and subtext (the reality of bondage)—and satisfyingly resolved in March, 1797, when Hercules escapes.

Or so the story goes. Structurally, this version is as elegant as the portrait presumed to be of Hercules, painted by Washington’s own portraitist, Gilbert Stuart. But portraiture is not a story. And that is the problem at the root of this narrative: a complete dramatic action is elusive when the protagonist isn’t free to act. Or when the protagonist vanishes.

If this were fiction, the writer might attempt to open and deepen the draft by shifting narrative point of view. Seeing events through Hercules’ eyes would compel the writer to develop him as a character—not simply present him as an ironic figure in Washington’s conflicted tale.

But this is history, and only facts can free the narrative from the limits imposed by its frame. In fact, the age and provenance of the famous portrait isn’t fixed. The tall toque Hercules wears is a style that wasn’t popular until later, in the early nineteenth century; Stuart scholars don’t acknowledge the painting as part of the artist’s body of work. And a discovery by Mt. Vernon research historian Mary V. Thompson not only recasts the story’s climax, but also offers an ending that opens into Hercules’ probable future.

In the Mt. Vernon farm report dated February 25, 1797, Hercules is listed as “absconded for four days,” meaning Hercules fled to Philadelphia, not from it (as Washington later wrote in a letter to his secretary, Tobias Lear). Meaning Washington’s birthday (February 22) was the occasion for his flight. As Washington hosted parties in Philadelphia, the culinary artist supposedly valued for his skill and loyalty was in fact at Mt. Vernon, assigned to the hard labor of digging clay for bricks—and, it turns out, plotting his escape.

And the portrait of Hercules—which journeyed to aristocratic residences in Paris and Gloucestershire, England, before reaching its current home in Spain’s Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza—could have been painted by someone other than Stuart, after Hercules fled to Europe from Philadelphia and joined the household of a British diplomat.

Though the ground at the President’s House site is now covered, the dig for hidden stories continues. And I’m reminded of what Independence National Park Service archeologist Jed Levin explained to me when I first signed on for the long project of processing artifacts:  archaeological research is intended to illuminate what is uncovered at the dig, and not merely to preserve it.


In the end, it didn’t surprise me that the “interpretive text” for the President’s House memorial took longer to construct than the ghost structure built at the site to enclose this monumental story.

The first draft, briefly on display at the Independence Visitor Center, elicited conflicting reviews—too concerned with slavery, not concerned enough with slavery, dominated by well-known figures like Washington and Adams—and rare consensus that the long-awaited memorial was “unimaginative.” Writing crafted by committee is often mediocre, in part because the process of compromise moves vivid, often opposing, views toward the duller middle. And this particular project is constrained by a marketing agenda separate from its historical one; you sense the rush to reassure visitors with a falsely balanced presentation, one that seeks to “brand” Philadelphia even while it liberates the stories of Washington’s nine slaves: Moll, Austin, Richmond, Giles, Paris, Christopher Sheels, Joe Richardson, Oney Judge, and Hercules.

But there is judgment in any narrative, whether overtly stated or conveyed by framing, emphasis, and omission. As a writer, what I found most revealing in the draft was the persistent use of passive voice to tell the story of slavery: History is lost to these Africans, who were kidnapped and transported to America and given new names and forced to learn a new language. The agent is missing in these constructions, either unknown or (still) unacknowledged.


Elizabeth Mosier’s nonfiction has appeared most recently in the HerStories Voices column, Cleaver, Creative Nonfiction, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. Her essay, “Believers,” was selected as notable in The Best American Essays 2015. A seven-year volunteer technician for the Independence National Park Archaeology Laboratory, she is at work on a collection of essays on archaeology, memory, and home. 

What We’re Reading (4/21)

Submissions. We’re reading a lot of submissions a lot of the time. But we at 1966 also, of course, love our free-reading, and below are some of our latest favorites:

Tongue Tied: The Lives of Multilingual Children in Public Education edited by Otto Santa Anna – The book includes a compilation of creative nonfiction essays and poetry on the denial of children’s right to speak their native language and more scholarly essays on the subject. The book takes a critical look at the United States’ political and educational policies and how they have affected the lives of language minorities. Some of the first hand accounts include the works of Amy Tan, Sherman Alexi, Richard Rodriguez, and Maxine Hong Kingston. Although the work stresses loss, it also gives hope for the future. (Ileana Sherry, Managing Editor)

“The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” by Edgar Allan Poe – Upon watching Stonehearst Asylum, a 2014 movie based on Poe’s work, I became curious about the tale and decided to read it. As Poe’s works tend to do, this short story transports the reader into a dark yet colorful world: this time, that of a quite unconventional mental institute through the eyes of an unsuspecting physician who may or may not be off his rocker himself. (Nipuni Gomes, Assistant Editor)

Gay Berlin by Robert Beachy – We’re still at the point in American history in which a significant demographic can be locked out of history syllabi for “moral” reasons, so we need all the vital, readable works of queer history we can get. Enter Robert Beachy: a scholar who writes with a CNF author’s eye for narrative. In just 250 pages, Gay Berlin outlines how 19th century Germany birthed the modern gay identity, introduces us to a number of captivating and virtually unknown civil rights heroes, and provides a surprising account of a diverse and flourishing queer culture in pre-Nazi Berlin. A subtly poignant, eye-opening text; essential for anyone interested in queer history. (Ryan Diller, Web Editor)