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Foreword In Lucy Ferriss' story "The Windmill," two American teenage boys walking in a field in Belgium are surrounded by a herd of cattle. Pressed on all sides, nuzzled and licked by the hot-breathed creatures, they don't quite know what to do. Afraid, embarrassed, these boys from the burbs aren't sure that they can even tell cows from bulls. Realizing the ridiculousness of the situation, however, they do figure out one thing: that they know very little about the world. "We're standing here like a pair of goofs," one of them says. Then their conversation slips from embarrassment to something larger, something that might become one of those curious lifetime memories. Naïveté, youth, and the peculiar—often unexpected—nature of learning are themes that run through much of this issue. Franklin Fisher's splendidly realistic saga "Her New Last Name" chronicles the life of a girl growing to adulthood in the West of the early 1900s, weathering vicissitudes and undergoing the transformations of youth. Fisher's story calls into question the truism that life in the past was slower, suggesting that harsh material circumstances and the imminence of death can turn human experience into a roller coaster of change. Ha Jin's story "Flame" is set in contemporary China, also a place of relative economic scarcity. A Chinese woman—a competent, married, relatively successful nurse—receives a note announcing that her old true love is about to come for a visit. While seemingly guileless, "Flame" is a sly critique of materialism in Chinese culture and expectations conditioned by selected memories of youth. "Flame" also suggests that the hard choices life throws up to the young often don't seem like choices at all. They are by definition "unfair" to the one who has to make them, an idea shared by Steve Yarbrough's unusually suspenseful story "The Rest of Her Life." Wally Lamb's "The Solitary Twin" is from his upcoming novel J Know This Much Is True. In it, a thorny, lonely, not easily likable man is desperate to do something for his terminally ill mother, and he becomes caught up in an adventure of discovery almost despite himself. Lamb's first novel She's Come Undone was a blockbuster, and we expect great things for his new book, as well. Walt McDonald is the poet of no excuses and no easy solutions. He often writes about pain and loss, in plain, no-nonsense, refreshingly unapologetic terms. Like McDonald's, Pamela Greenberg's poems are set in the open air; they describe a girl growing up who spends most of her memorable hours outdoors. At; times, she walks in solitary bliss beneath the open sky with "whole cornfields swaying at my footsteps"; at others, "the field troubles [her] with longing." Sandra McPherson's poetry shares an interest in the young, particularly in the lessons learned through the odd details of education and experience. The constituents of knowledge and character, McPherson implies, come from unexpected places. In her personal essay "A New Youth" Debora Freund describes growing up as a schoolgirl who moved to Israel in 1959. While she defiantly learns about the life around her, life in the streets, the naïveté and arrogance of youth blinds her to the life of her own mother. This issue's found text is a story by Charlotte Brontë, written when she was still a child, over fifteen years before the appearance of Jane Eyre and her later adult novels. The story behind the story is part of the interest of this piece, and it has captivated readers of the Brontes beginning with Charlotte's first biographer. The Brontes lived in the parsonage of a tiny village on the lonely Yorkshire moors. At quite young ages they began to create stories to entertain themselves. They made "plays," which were not just random creations but interconnected sagas that evolved like television serials. When Charlotte was eleven years old, she began to write down some of their stories, and eventually abandoned acting them out in favor of just writing them. At first, she constructed amazingly small "magazines ," meant only for the eyes of children. How she wrote in such...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 5-6
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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