Today we are happy to announce the news of past contributor
BJ Hollars! BJ’s collection of nonfiction stories titled Harbingers was just published early this month by Bull City Press. The
tryptic of essays explores the possible harbingers present in the lives of atomic
bomb scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, civil rights activist Medgar Evers and
the author himself. Hollars notices that while a harbinger is defined as a sign
of something to come, it is often best interpreted in the aftermath.
More information about the collection can be found here, his fiction piece for S[r]’s Issue 6 can be found here, along with his nonfiction piece for Issue 10.
Hello, readers! We are happy to announce that B.J. Hollars, a contributor featured in the Fiction Section of our 6th issue, has written a new book available here, titled Flock Together. A chapter preview is available here and provides a sobering glance at the ivory-billed woodpecker, now gone due to deforestation. The book follows a journey to investigate many of America’s now extinct bird population.
From Hollars’ website:
After stumbling upon a book of photographs depicting extinct animals, B.J. Hollars became fascinated by the creatures that are no longer with us; specifically, extinct North American birds. How, he wondered, could we preserve so beautifully on film what we’ve failed to preserve in life? And so begins his yearlong journey to find out, one that leads him from bogs to art museums, from archives to Christmas Counts, until he at last comes as close to extinct birds as he ever will during a behind-the-scenes visit at the Chicago Field Museum. Heartbroken by the birds we’ve lost, Hollars takes refuge in those that remain. Armed with binoculars, a field guide, and knowledgeable friends, he begins his transition from budding birder to environmentally conscious citizen, a first step on a longer journey toward understanding the true tragedy of a bird’s song silenced forever.
Told with charm and wit, Flock Together is a remarkable memoir that shows how “knowing” the natural world—even just a small part—illuminates what it means to be a global citizen and how only by embracing our ecological responsibilities do we ever become fully human. A moving elegy to birds we’ve lost, Hollars’s exploration of what we can learn from extinct species will resonate in the minds of readers long beyond the final page.
Today on the SR pod/vod cast, we’re proud to feature B.J. Hollars sharing reflections about his recently-released book, From the Mouths of Dogs: What Our Pets Teach Us about Life, Death, and Being Human.
Touching and reminiscent as it walks through past and present childhoods gifted with family pets, B.J.’s podcast “Counting Down Dog Years” brings lost moments of time into the present and, comfortingly, reminds us that this – the soon-to-be past – will help to create the future.
B.J. Hollars is the author of several books, including Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence and the Last Lynching in America, Opening the Doors: The Desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa, Dispatches from the Drownings: Reporting the Fiction of Nonfiction, and Sightings: Stories. His book From the Mouths of Dogs: What Our Pets Teach Us About Life, Death, and Being Human was released in 2015, as was This Is Only A Test, a collection of essays.
Hollars serves as a mentor for Creative Nonfiction and the reviews editor for Pleiades. An assistant professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, he lives a simple existence with his wife, their children, and their dog.
In the photo, Jeff and I are busy fighting the bad guys, even if I don’t quite know who they are. This is 1989 or so, in my backyard on Breconshire Drive. It’s fall (note the naked trees in the background), and while the photo appears to depict me as a little grown-up (complete with backpack flung confidently over my shoulder), one oft-overlooked detail in the photo immediately returns me to child form.
It’s the shoes—me trapped in my Velcro, while Jeff’s in laces. This, of course, was humiliating for me, and while I quickly rectified the problem by practicing bunny ears on every pair of shoes in the house, this picture forever served as proof of the difference between us: he who could double-knot while I couldn’t manage a single; he who could catch the bad guys while I didn’t know what a bad guy was.
The outtakes from “Breconshire Drive” are far longer than the essay itself. For instance, the final draft makes no mention of our days spent gathering crawdads in empty bread bags down by the creek. Nor does it detail the rash of burglaries that overtook our neighborhood one summer, how our golf-club-wielding fathers were not all-powerful after all. Instead, what remains is an essay on a friendship boiled back to basics, a single memory serving as the touchstone for other memories that might emerge. On its own, my nostalgia-induced work on a walk shared between friends hardly deserves the space it was graciously given. But it’s my hope that my essay on “a walk shared between friends” is actually an essay about a walk shared between friends who are soon to realize the troubling truth of mortality—that even at the age of 7, our walks were coming to a close, that my strides were too short to meet Jeff in his new home in Michigan.
Let me be clear: I don’t expect readers to feel sorry for the 7-year-old version of me. After all, losing a best friend is what being 7 is all about. Jeff and I had watched enough crawdads die in our bread bags to know that even people with good intentions sometimes hurt things that didn’t deserve it.
Sure, I was devastated, but mostly because the world seemed suddenly disinterested in adjusting its plans on my behalf. I could slam my bedroom door as much as I wanted, but it wouldn’t keep Jeff’s family’s U-Haul from backing into his drive. And even after he left, I learned that I couldn’t ride my bike back and forth along his stretch of sidewalk long enough to remove the “Sold” sign from his front yard. In short, I was shocked less about Jeff’s leaving than the world’s failure to retract its cruel fate. I was 7, and while I felt I’d previously proven myself as an all-powerful being (after all, no one else in my school had won back-to-back blue ribbons in the plant show), the world seemed just as unimpressed by my powers as it had our golf club wielding fathers’.
Kill my umbrella tree, I begged to a God I’d never met. Just promise me you’ll blow up Michigan, too.
He didn’t. My umbrella tree died anyway.
Years later, Michigan remains intact, my water can gathers dust, and the most tangible piece of our friendship that remains is the photograph described above, the one of me looking dumb in my Velcro shoes. Though perhaps the worst part isn’t the Velcro, but that I—the Velcro-shoed boy—seemed certain that eventually we’d get those bad guys, even if the bad guys weren’t guys at all, but a place beyond Breconshire Drive.
B.J.’s essay “Fifty Ways Of Looking At Tornadoes” is forthcoming in Quarterly West.
Michael’s new book is Four for a Quarter. It is separated into four sections, with each section further divided into four chapterettes. The book returns again and again to its originating number, making chaos comprehensible and mystery out of the most ordinary.
With a little over two weeks before the launch of Issue 6 of Superstition Review, section editors are reviewing the remaining submissions in Submishmash and corresponding with artists, writers and interviewees to gather their biographies and put the finishing touches on the issue.
Our Art Editors are pleased to welcome George Rodrigue, who is best known for his Blue Dog paintings, and digital canvas artist Charles Harker to the upcoming issue. Fiction Editors have been busy confirming accepted authors Andrew Arnold, Renee Nicholson, B.J. Hollars, Jason Olsen, Rachel Kadish, and Michael Schiavone.
Look to the Superstition Review blog next week as we continue our progress.