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In These Times the Home Is a Tired Place

World War II in the Central Pacific

Jessica Hollander

Publication Year: 2013

When an unwed pregnant woman is pressured to get married by her boyfriend, parents, and the entire culture around her, she sees a feverish intensity emanating from the path to domesticity, a “paved path shaded by thick-trunked trees, lined with trim grass and manicured mansions, where miniature houses play mailboxes and animals play lawn ornaments and people play happiness.” Jessica Hollander’s debut collection exposes a culture that glorifies and disparages traditional domesticity, where people’s confusion, apathy, and anxiety about the institutions of marriage and family often drive them to self-destruction. The world in Hollander’s nineteen stories appears at once familiar and vividly unsettling, with undercurrents of anger and violence attached to everyday objects and spaces: a pink room is “a woman exploded,” home smells “of laundered clothes and gas from the grill,” and the sun “is so bright the sky fills with over-exposure, wilting the corners to orange, to red, to black.” Here people adopt extreme and erratic behavior: hack at furniture, have affairs with high school students, fantasize about sex with “monsters,” laden flower bouquets with messages of hate; but these self-destructive acts and fantasies feel strangely like a form of growth or enlightenment, or at least the only form that’s available to them. As characters become girlfriends, wives, husbands, and mothers, they struggle within their roles, either fighting to escape them or struggling to “play” them correctly, but always concerned with the loss of individuality, of being swallowed up by society’s expectations and becoming “a mother” or “a wife” instead of remaining themselves.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Series: Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction

Title Page, Awards, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

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You Are a Good Girl I Love You

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pp. 1-9

A note posted on my fourteen-year-old sister’s door, a warning: Our house has walls and doors like any other house and inside each house are rooms and inside the rooms are beds with covers and no matter how much you kick the sheets mom shrinkwrapped to the mattress the covers are heavy on a chest...

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If We Miss the Beginning

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p. 10-10

If it doesn’t stop snowing will we miss the beginning? If we miss the beginning and if the beginning is what matters should we encourage the snow and say sorry it was the snow? If the groom gave better directions would we be there already and would the boy stop crying and would we not have to...

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This Kind of Happiness

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pp. 11-19

In the middle of a mandatory meeting about proposal distribution, the girlfriend excused herself, took the stairs to the second floor bathroom, where space belonged to her: all these cubes she could enter, doors she could latch. Here, she...

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I Would Stop

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pp. 20-22

My spike-haired aunt: the speech corruptor, the hamperer of plans—my mother warned me. At the airport, waiting for me at baggage claim, she wore a papier-mâché parrot. The bird wobbled against her chest. “You can’t lollygag at the airport.” She squeezed my arm. “Tell me about—”...

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What Became of What She Had Made

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pp. 23-36

Lynette hadn’t heard from Christine in six months and three days. There’d been something of an argument, nothing abnormal. Her daughter was unpleasant on the phone, and Lynette questioned her about her life and whether she ever planned to take it seriously. She figured stubbornness had kept...

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The Year We Are Twenty-Three

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pp. 37-46

Our refrigerator makes a lot of noise. It creaks. It cries. It moans and whines. Orange dots cover the bottom of the door and disappear near the handle. No matter where the temperature’s set, it’s too cold. The vegetables are frosty; our drinks are slushies: orange slushy, Coke slushy, milk slushy...

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Put the Animals to Bed

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pp. 47-50

The little boy said they were brothers. The aunt—never before a brother—was pleased. The boy had her sister’s light blonde hair. He held the aunt’s hand the moment she arrived, pulled her to the floor with his collection of horses and cowboys and various ranch fixings. Among the brown and gray...

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March On

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pp. 51-62

Mired in the late processes of moving, my mother left trails of things everywhere: clothes strewn from dressers, condiments rolling by the refrigerator, stacks of books leading from shelves in ragged, precarious steps. I hadn’t realized these things were left: they’d been so well hidden in drawers, behind...

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The Good Luck Doll

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pp. 63-65

Claudia’s mother sent the doll in a large yellow envelope that was torn at the top and dirt-smeared. The doll looked familiar: squeezable, dressed in overalls with a white lace-collared shirt adorned with the bright, awkward dots and wavy lines of someone unable to hold a marker properly. A girl with...

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In These Times the Home Is a Tired Place

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pp. 66-73

1. Only one dream the mother remembered: driving, dead bodies on the road, the word PAPER large and black on a billboard. Sometimes she made up different dreams when she woke panicked in the gray morning, imagining an airport chase, a lake drowning—but they weren’t really hers, only dreams she believed...

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How to Be a Prisoner

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pp. 74-77

Ben was my summer boyfriend, my “older man,” Mom called him. He was twelve, and I was eleven, a skinny eleven, though I believed my breasts appeared acceptable to those who mattered. He lived usually with his mother in Florida. He had a beautiful red face with a scar outlining his jaw from once playing...

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Like Falling Down and Laughing

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pp. 78-93

The students in my first class at Stewart Wade High gathered on metal bleachers. In almost-adult clothes, they held leather bags and waxy-bright books; they were skinny but tall. Stretched little kids. The gym smelled of rubber. In Michigan I’d taught Advanced Junior Lit, but here in Chapel Hill, Brant and I...

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I Now Pronounce You

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pp. 94-101

In bed, the wife heard the sports announcer. Heard the cheers and chants while washing her face in the bathroom—she didn’t care. She didn’t care her new husband woke before her, the sneak, and went downstairs to watch early-morning sports television. A good decision to marry him...

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pp. 102-104

Before the trip to Grandma’s, I emptied my closet and cut the buttons from my clothes. I stuffed them in my pockets and ran my hands through the cold plastic discs the whole way to Lansing...

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January on the Ground

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pp. 105-115

I was having trouble, lately, flitting around. The thing was, people told me about the choices I’d have in college, how I’d learn all this amazing stuff. But there were no classes about bat-eating cults or the origin of jack-o-lanterns or how to carve things in the wood of dead trees. There was a lot...

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Ruckus, Exhaustion

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pp. 116-118

In a van with two bench seats, the boys slept. Taped blankets over windows blocked fussed-up brush and green road announcements, and when the parents pointed roadside they pointed out only to each other. A lump of squirrel. A farmhouse painted pink. An elephant cloud split open just ahead...

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Staring Contests

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pp. 119-126

She sits on the brown carpet looking at me, two naked Barbies in front of her, but she isn’t playing with them. I peek at her over my paperback, and she raises her eyebrows and lets out a gasp. Her cheeks turn pink, but she doesn’t look away...

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The Problem with Moving

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pp. 127-129

One move leads to another move, and nowhere feels as good as you want it to feel; your childhood feels wrong, and this place feels wrong, and the next place feels wrong, and so you move again. Find a new job, a new apartment, meet a neighbor at the mailboxes; he has a dog named Kidney that terrifies...

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Blooms Lined Up Like This

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pp. 130-141

Mid-March—that wet trampled month, time of rashes and sopping lawns and garden gloves changed constantly—the postcard arrived. Discovered by my thirteen-year- old son Mason back from an egg run to the corner store; he came into the kitchen heralding our mail piece by piece—Junk!...

E-ISBN-13: 9781574415384
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574415230

Page Count: 152
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction

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Subject Headings

  • Young women -- Fiction.
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