Co-edited by two sisters, Susan Burmeister-Brown and Linda B. Swanson-Davis, Glimmer Train is a well-regarded magazine containing primarily short-stories. While many of GT's authors have impressive lists of past publications, other writers earn their first publication here. This issue includes stories by Geoff Wyss, Jenny Zhang, Daniel Torday, Evan Kuhlman, Nona Caspers, Olufunke Grace Bankole, Daniel Wallace, and Ken Barris. There is also an interview with Victoria Barrett by Debra Monroe.
In “Silenced Voices: Ragip Zarakolu,” Sara Whyatt, Program Director of the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN, describes the hard-knock life of Turkish publisher Ragip Zarakolu. Zarakolu opened Belge Publishing House with his wife in 1980, in Istanbul, and was under constant threat, culminating in the bombing of his publishing house building in 1995. Whyatt notes that Belge publishes “books that would otherwise not find publishers in Turkey, specializing in minority and human rights, including Kurdish and Armenian.” Zarakolu and Belge continue to be under fire today, and Whyatt provides contact information for those who want to call “for an end to the trials against Ragip Zarakolu and others who write and publish on minority and human rights.” This information as well as updates on PEN's actions can be found here: PEN International.
This issue of Glimmer Train also contains a number of tales about family dynamics. The most captivating of them is “We Love You Crispina” by Jenny Zhang. Zhang's story, told from the perspective of a child narrator, Christina, evokes a truly impressive range of emotions from the reader. Christina’s working poor family is trapped in devastating poverty and cannot seem free themselves from this vice no matter how many times they move to a new apartment and try to start over. And yet, the story is rife with humor. Zhang showcases how smart fiction can transform harsh realities and deliver them in a way that is not pedantic and instead makes for a fulfilling read:
The worst of it was when I was six and lived in Washington Heights in a shared room that was all mattress and no floor. My skin itched like there were little tiny ants carrying sticks of fire and doing somersaults and cartwheels all over my skin.
And later in the story:
When we moved to Bushwick, we all slept on the same mattress again, because there wasn’t any room for my smaller mattress, and because the hoods on our block stole it before we even had a chance to drag it up the stairs to our new apartment. They also stole my dad’s car radio every few weeks, and then sold it back to him on the street corner by the Jewish deli.
In Evan Kuhlman’s “Toy Soldiers,” we are privy to the changing family dynamics of the narrator and his kid brother after their mother marries a military man they call “The General.” And the dynamics in Daniel Wallace’s “The Mailman” are uniquely portrayed as a widow corresponds through the post with her deceased husband and struggles to ward off thoughts that her grip on reality may be slipping away.
"26 Bones" by Olufunke Grace Bankole demands close reading with these opening lines:
My father and I were pinned by inadvertence. The trouser-draped calf of his dead leg trapped the hem of my dress to the door of hi Peugeot 505. Had he known he was touching me, he'd have yanked the leg with a hand. But he was unaware of all this because he couldn't feel either: the leg or my dress.
It is evident in reading the stories selected for publication in Glimmer Train that strong, unique narrative voice is an important element, and one the magazine consistently provides.