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Witness - 2007

  • Issue Number: Volume 21
  • Published Date: 2007
  • Publication Cycle: Annual

With the tagline “The Modern Writer as Witness,” this publication assembles work by authors from the U.S., South America, Korea, Vietnam and a 10th-century Jewish poet from Muslim Spain.

Among the competent poetry and prose, what stood out was nonfiction by Tim Bascom. In his piece “Community College,” a writing instructor recounts the hectic and hard scrabble lives of his students over the course of a semester, told in a weekly syllabus-like format:

Week 1
Larry can’t come because he went to his dad’s place and found him on the floor, face down, dead. Dwayne can’t come because he’s got black lung from smoking cigarettes. Mindy can’t come because Walmart changed her schedule; it’s either eat or learn.

As the reader can tell, it is what happens outside the classroom that matters here. The narrator is conspicuously absent whereas the students take center stage. Had this piece not been listed under nonfiction, I would’ve read it as a story. Indeed, the ebb and flow of a semester lends itself neatly to the arc of a story.

Fiction aficionados will recognize the names of Alan Cheuse and Jess Row. Cheuse’s “Ben in Amboy” imagines a fictitious sexual encounter between Benjamin Franklin and a Native American woman. Row’s “The World in Flames” takes place in the seedy back alleys of Bangkok where a British backpacker meets an evangelical missionary with a hidden – and harrowing – agenda. Finally, “Dutch Treat” by Josip Novakovich portrays a guilt-ridden former UN Peacekeeper who becomes ensnared by the U.S.-led War on Terror.

With this issue, Witness continues to publish socially conscientious fiction that matters.

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Review Posted on June 16, 2008

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