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“Hausfrau Dad,” by Yongsoo Park

Hausfrau Dad

Yongsoo Park

“Go ahead, Christopher. Reach out and grab your destiny,” said Jimmy, as the dozen guests, who had gathered to celebrate his son’s first birthday, oohed and aahed, eager to see which item the boy would pick to set the course for the rest of his life.

Jimmy thought the boy, who’d taken on only his and Grace’s best features, looked incredibly handsome in a traditional hanbok. The things one could buy on the Internet these days. A couple of clicks on a computer and a hanbok, sized perfectly for an average one-year-old boy, had appeared at their doorstep.

Guests shouted encouragements and offered commentary as Christopher’s hands wandered over the items in front of him: a toy stethoscope, a toy golf club, gold coins, a flute, a wooden spoon, a bundle of thread, and a calligraphy brush. A buffet of life trajectories spread out for all to see. Each item, a portent of what might be.

When Christopher’s hands moved toward the golf club, Mark, Jimmy’s good-natured brother-in-law, shouted, “Looks like there’s going to be an athlete in the family!”

Then, when Christopher’s hands moved toward the toy stethoscope, Jimmy grinned in anticipation. He had purposely set the stethoscope directly in front of the boy. He found it funny that he was behaving like the stereotypical Asian parent when his own parents had been so atypical. They’d never pushed him to be a doctor or lawyer. A part of him was grateful for this, but a part of him blamed them for not holding true to the stereotype. Had they crushed his dreams when they’d had the chance he might be a successful doctor or lawyer by now instead of the struggling writer and Hausfrau Dad he’d become.

Just then, Christopher’s hands settled on an item Jimmy had placed at the farthest edge of the table.

“He picked the calligraphy brush. That means he’ll grow up to be a scholar just like his father,” Jimmy’s mother shouted proudly like only a mother can do about a mediocre child.

Jimmy’s heart sank. It hadn’t even occurred to him to include the calligraphy brush on the menu for the day, but his dear mother had shown up with it and insisted on its inclusion.

“It’s tradition,” she’d reminded him. “You yourself picked this very brush on your first birthday.”

Tradition. With that single word, Jimmy’s mother had changed the course of Christopher’s destiny. As guests congratulated him, Jimmy forced himself to smile and told himself over and over that nothing is written in stone and a calligraphy brush didn’t have the power to determine a life. But he didn’t find himself very convincing.

About the Author

Yongsoo Park is the author of the novels Boy Genius and Las Cucarachas, the memoir Rated R Boy, and the essay collection The Art of Eating Bitter about his losing battle to give his children an analog childhood.

James R. Gapinski’s favorite books of 2015

To wrap-up the year, our managing editor, James R. Gapinski, chimes in with his top five books of 2015. A few days ago, Melissa Reddish also shared her list.

Binary Star, by Sarah Gerard

If you want predictable syntax crammed into neat boxes, look elsewhere. Binary Star takes risks. Come for the inventive structure, stay for the characters who seem to be in a constant state or implosion and/or explosion.

Scrapper, by Matt Bell

Scrapper tells a riveting story set in a near-future version of Detroit, ravaged by climate change. Its unassuming blue collar protagonist has waaaaaaay more shit going on than first meets the eye. This book is its own masterclass in character development.

The Seven Good Years, by Etgar Keret (Translated by Sondra Silverston, Miriam Shlesinger, Jessica Cohen, and Anthony Berris)

Etgar Keret’s memoir explores the seven years between the birth of his son and the death of his father. Yes, the book builds toward a death, but it’s more about celebrating life. And it’s filled with the sense wonder and whimsy that have become a staple of Keret’s work.

Gutshot, by Amelia Gray

The stories in Gutshot have a visceral intensity to them. They rip open your perceptions of what a story is and can be. They scream at you and dare you to flinch. Yeah, you might bleed out by the end, but you’ll feel alive the whole goddamn time.

 Citizen, by Claudia Rankine

I’m not surprised that Citizen is also on Melissa’s top-five list as Book I Would Slip into Everyone’s Bag When They Weren’t Looking. I gave this book to my partner over the holidays—then she received a second copy from her sister. When you read this book, you want to share it. And you want to share it quickly. These pages have urgency. You’ll finish it in one sitting, and if you’re not already a proponent of #BlackLivesMatter, you will be. Read it. Now.

Carmiel Banasky at Wordstock

As we announced earlier this week, Carmiel Banasky will be a panelist at an upcoming AWP panel presented by The Conium Review.

Meanwhile, Carmiel will be involved in the Wordstock Festival in Portland, Oregon. We hope that our Pacific Northwest readers will come out and show their support.

The Wordstock Festival is on November 7th. It takes place throughout the day, then the inaugural Portland Lit Crawl kicks off in the evening. Carmel Banasky will give a Pop-Up Reading at 1:00pm in Northwest Art (Main Building, 3rd Floor), followed by the panel “Lost and Found: Fiction on the Threshold” at 4:00pm in the Whitsell Auditorium (Portland Art Museum, Main Building, Lower Level).

Carmiel is also reading at Lit Crawl Portland later on! See her at the “Tell Your Truth: Write with the Writers” even at the Burnside Proper Salon and Showroom. From the description, it sounds like the reading transitions into a brief collaborative workshop, so be prepared for an interactive experience.

Tickets for the Wordstock Festival are still available, and the full Lit Crawl schedule is available here. (FYI, you do not need a ticket for the Lit Crawl. Tickets are specifically for the Wordstock bookfair and events taking place earlier that day at the Portland Art Museum).

Carmiel’s debut novel is The Suicide of Claire Bishop, out now from Dzanc Books. Other authors at the event are Monica Drake and Debra Busman.

Find this Lit Crawl reading on Facebook and invite your friends!

Amelia Gray at Late Night Library’s “All Fines Forgiven”

amelia headshotAmelia Gray (our recent contest judge, author of Gutshot, and other awesomeness) is coming to Portland! She’ll be performing at the Late Night Library event, “All Fines Forgiven.” The event is a book-themed variety show, with performances and talk segments. What is Amelia’s segment going to be all about? We’ll see, but our managing editor thinks maybe it will involve knife throwing and/or chainsaw juggling (not making any promises, but not ruling it out either). Other performers include musician Whitney Mongé, Natalie Graham, Carola Dibbell, and Dao Strom. Arthur Bradford hosts.

Friday, October 23rd at the Clinton Theater in PDX at 7:00pm. Find more details and purchase tickets through the Late Night Library website.

Announcing the 2016 Innovative Short Fiction Contest Judge: Lindsay Hunter

Lindsay Hunter headshotWe’re excited to have Lindsay Hunter as The Conium Review‘s 2016 Innovative Short Fiction Contest judge. The winner receives $500, publication, five copies of the issue, and a copy of the judge’s latest book. The contest guidelines are posted. The submission period starts on February, 1st, 2016.

Lindsay is the author of Ugly Girls, Don’t Kiss Me, and Daddy’s. She lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and a couple of pit bulls.

Thanks again to all those who submitted to the 2015 Innovative Short Fiction Contest. We hope you’ll submit again in 2016.