The theme of this issue of American Short Fiction is prison, according to Editor Stacey Swann, whether by prison bars or self-imposed limitations. The former is the concern of the pictorial essay, "Captain, Don't You Know Me, Don't You Know My Name?" Nathan Salsburg, curator of this historical collection, notes in the preface, these stunning photographs, interviews, and work-gang songs are from the work of the late folklorist Alan Lomax during his visit to Mississippi State Penitentiary in the late 1950's. This prison, also known as Parchman Farm, is the setting for his 1993 memoir The Land Where the Blues Began, wherein he quotes a 1957 New York Post article describing Parchman Farm as "simply a cotton plantation using convicts as labor."
Suzan Sherman's story, "My Hidden Children," tells of another prison, the Warsaw Ghetto, and of the mother and child who escaped physically but can never escape the memories: the mother having to hide her young daughter in a convent that was unaware of their ethnic heritage, a secret the child kept, although not fully aware of its nature.
"Who Sleeps Where in the Lavu" is an excerpt from Vendela Vida's remarkable (and poetically-titled) novel Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, the story of a young woman's surprising search for her father in Lapland – her mother a stranger as well. Vida is co-editor of The Believer, McSweeney's "monthly magazine, exploring the interconnected worlds of books, music, politics, and art." Josh Magnuson's rodeo cowboy on the skids in "I Don't Say Hello Anymore" makes one want to stage an intervention, and Rumaan Alam's carousing sailors of "Fleet Week" round out this excellent collection of notably diverse lives.