Episodes

  • While we put the final touches on Season Three, we wanted to share an episode from another podcast that we think you’ll love: Black & Published, hosted by Nikesha Elise Williams. 
    On today’s episode, Nikesha’s guest is Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of the historical fiction novel TAKE MY HAND. It's a story based on the real-life Relf sisters of Montgomery, Alabama, who were forcibly sterilized by the workers of a federal family planning clinic in 1973.
    Subscribe to listen to more episodes from the latest season of Black & Published: 
    https://blackpublished.buzzsprout.com/
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  • Thanks to our guests, contributors, and listeners for a wonderful second season!
    Help us fund Season Three of Ursa Short Fiction by becoming an Ursa Member: 
    https://ursastory.com/join/
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  • Deesha and Dawnie chat with Denne Michele Norris, editor-in-chief of Electric Literature and author of the forthcoming debut novel, When The Harvest Comes (Random House). She is also the first Black, openly trans woman to helm a major literary publication.
    Norris discusses her approaches to both writing and editing, sharing insights for writers on working with editors. She also talks about the ways different genres — from fiction to essay to memoir — all require their own approaches. Norris asks questions of herself and of the work, aiming to edit “ethically and responsibly and [tell] a beautiful story.”
    Support our show by becoming an Ursa Member: ursastory.com/join

    Reading List: Stories and Writers Mentioned

    Denne Michele Norris

    McSweeney's 62: The Queer Fiction Issue

    Food 4 Thot Podcast


    "An Almanac of Bones" (Dantiel W. Moniz)


    The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison)


    Everyday People: The Color of Life Anthology (edited by Jennifer Baker) 


    "Daddy's Boy" (Denne Michele Norris)

    Jade Jones


    Going To Meet The Man (James Baldwin)


    Friday Black (Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah)


    Milk Blood Heat (Dantiel W. Moniz)


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky (Lesley Nneka Arimah)


    Difficult Women (Roxane Gay)


    About the Author 
    Denne Michele Norris is the editor-in-chief of Electric Literature, winner of the 2022 Whiting Digital Literary Magazine Prize, where she is the first Black, openly trans woman to helm a major literary publication. A 2021 Out100 Honoree, her writing has been supported by MacDowell, Tin House, VCCA, and the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction, and appears in McSweeney's, American Short Fiction, and ZORA. She co-hosts the critically acclaimed podcast Food 4 Thot, and mentors emerging writers of color with The Periplus Collective. Her debut novel, When The Harvest Comes, is forthcoming from Random House. 

    More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton:


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)


    ***
    Associate producer: Marina Leigh
    Episode editor: Kelly Araja
    Executive producers: Dawnie Walton & Mark Armstrong
    Author photo: Hilary Leichter
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  • This week we’re excited to share a very special episode of Ursa Short Fiction — a Member Exclusive where Dawnie Walton chats with Deesha Philyaw about this week’s big news: Deesha has just signed a seven-figure book deal with Mariner Books for a new novel, THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF FIRST LADY FREEMAN, and short story collection, GIRL, LOOK. The novel is due out in 2025. 
    Enjoy this free teaser from our Member Exclusive episode. To access the full episode, become an Ursa Member: ursastory.com/join.  

    Links


    Author Deesha Philyaw has a 7-figure deal for her next two books (Associated Press) 


    “Back Then” (Mike Jones)


    Peach Pit: Sixteen Stories of Unsavory Women (anthology edited by Molly Llewellyn and Kristel Buckley)

    Mariner Books

    Rakia Clark


    Punch Me Up to the Gods (Brian Broome) 


    More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton:


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)


    Produced & edited by Mark Armstrong
    Associate producer: Marina Leigh
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  • Deesha and Dawnie introduce “What Got Into Us,” a short story by Jacob Guajardo, performed by Vicki Valdeon.
    The story is a candid look into queer adolescence, first loves, recklessness, and unbridled vulnerability. It was originally published in Passages North, and featured in The Best American Short Stories 2018.
    Listen to the story, then stay tuned at the end for Guajardo in his own words, sharing how the story came together, and how he approaches the writing process.
    Support our show and help fund future episodes: https://ursastory.com/join/
    Reading List: Stories and Writers Mentioned

    The Best American Short Stories 2018 (edited by Roxane Gay)


    “I Only Did What Anyone Would Have Done” (Jacob Guajardo)

    “Moonmilk” (Jacob Guajardo)

    “Widowers” (Jacob Guajardo)

    “Good News Is Coming” (Jacob Guajardo)

    “The Seminar” (Jacob Guajardo)

    “Two Queens Walk Out Of A Bar” (Jacob Guajardo)

    Amy Hempel

    Ocean Vuong

    Garth Greenwell

    About the Author Jacob Guajardo lives and writes in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His fiction appears in The Best American Short Stories 2018 and Small Odysseys: Selected Shorts Presents 35 New Stories, among other publications. He is the recipient of the 2020 Robert Maxwell Fellowship from MacDowell. He works from home as a Narrative Designer.
    More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton:

    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)


    ***
    Performed by Vicki Valdeon
    Associate producers: Marina Leigh, Ashawnta Jackson
    Executive producers: Dawnie Walton & Mark Armstrong
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  • Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton go in-depth with Rubén Degollado, author of the novel The Family Izquierdo, which started out as a short story collection about a single family.
    Degollado's story “The Seven Songs” was featured on last week’s episode, and he discusses his journey to writing and publishing the book, as well as how he navigated his writing journey alongside his career as an educator. He first started writing the Izquierdo family stories in the late '90s, eventually developing the family curse and tensions, and playing with point of view to inhabit the lives of the many family members.
    Support Ursa Short Fiction! Become a Member: https://ursastory.com/join/
    Degollado aims to represent his own family, experiences, and community through The Family Izquierdo, and he quotes Toni Morrison, who said “if there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”
    “A lot of the stories I read were about immigrants, and I think those are great stories. I love immigrant stories, but that’s not what I wanted to write. I wanted to write about what happens after. What happens post immigration.”If you haven't already, be sure to listen to last week's episode featuring Degollado's story, “The Seven Songs.”
    Reading List

    "The Seven Songs" by Rubén Degollado (Ursa Short Fiction, Season Two, Episode 15)


    The Family Izquierdo (W. W. Norton)


    The Family Izquierdo audiobook (Blackstone Publishing / Downpour.com)


    The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison)


    Throw (Rubén Degollado)


    "A Temporary Matter" (Jhumpa Lahiri)


    Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (ZZ Packer)


    Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri)


    Sabrina & Corina: Stories (Kali Fajardo-Anstine)


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The World Doesn't Require You (Rion Amilcar Scott)


    Brownsville (Oscar Casares)

    Maurice Carlos Ruffin

    About the Author Rubén Degollado’s work has recently appeared in Literary Hub, CRAFT, The Common, and elsewhere. His novel Throw won the Texas Institute of Letters Best Young Adult book for 2020. His debut literary novel The Family Izquierdo is a long list title for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award. Rubén lives and writes along the southern border, in the Río Grande Valley of Texas.
    More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton:

    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)

    ***
    Episode editor: Kelly Araja
    Associate producer: Marina Leigh
    Producer: Mark Armstrong
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    Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://ursastory.com/join

  • This week we're thrilled to feature “The Seven Songs,” by Rubén Degollado, from his novel, The Family Izquierdo.
    The story is performed by Carolina Hoyos and is excerpted from The Family Izquierdo audiobook, produced by Blackstone Publishing. Our thanks to them for sharing this story with Ursa listeners.
    In “The Seven Songs,” Dina, the daughter of Izquierdo family patriarch Octavio, tells her daughters about her encounter with a neighbor, Contreras, who put a curse on the Izquierdo family. 
    Dina notes the strength, not just of God, but of all the women in the family, in myths, and in music that guide and encourage her to face the enemy. The Family Izquierdo follows what binds the generations together in the family — the love as well as the curse — and in “The Seven Songs” Dina seeks out Contreras to free her family and herself from the family curse.
    “No, I did not go to church, mis hijas. I had to go into the enemy’s camp. The place of evil and idolatry. Of greed and charlatans. That den of vipers where I knew I would find the brujo contreras. We went to the flea market.”Listen to the story, then come back next week for Deesha and Dawnie's conversation with Rubén Degollado.
    Support our work by becoming an Ursa Member: https://ursastory.com/join/
    Reading List

    The Family Izquierdo (Rubén Degollado)


    The Family Izquierdo audiobook (Downpour.com)


    Throw (Rubén Degollado)

    More Rubén Degollado short stories


    About the Author Rubén Degollado’s work has recently appeared in Literary Hub, CRAFT, The Common, and elsewhere. His novel Throw won the Texas Institute of Letters Best Young Adult book for 2020. His debut literary novel The Family Izquierdo is a long list title for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award. Rubén lives and writes along the southern border, in the Río Grande Valley of Texas.
    More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton:

    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)

    ***
    Episode editor: Kelly Araja
    Associate producer: Marina Leigh
    Audio excerpted courtesy Blackstone Publishing from THE FAMILY IZQUIERDO by Rubén Degollado, excerpt read by Carolina Hoyos.
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  • Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton go deep with Nafissa Thompson-Spires, author of the beloved 2018 collection Heads of the Colored People, to discuss Heads’ origin, the texts and other media that influenced Thompson-Spires, inspirations for her stories and characters in the collection, and their shared love for the Notes app.
    Thompson-Spires is candid about her upbringing in California and her own family, and how those experiences have shaped her work in terms of characters, autobiographical-leaning-but-fictionalized events, and even her ideas of place and the ways that racism persists in different ways in different parts of the country.
    Support this show by becoming an Ursa Member: https://ursastory.com/join/
    Reading List: Authors, Stories, and Books Mentioned


    Heads of the Colored People (Nafissa Thompson-Spires)

    Mat Johnson

    The Guardian Interview with Nafissa Thompson-Spires

    Mark Anthony Neal

    Victor LaValle

    Paul Beatty

    Shirley Jackson

    Flannery O'Connor

    George Schuyler

    Ishmael Reed

    James McCune Smith

    Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

    Solmaz Sharif

    Sandeep Parmar

    Charles Dickens

    Hacks

    Reservation Dogs


    Lot (Bryan Washington)


    Milk Blood Heat (Dantiel W. Moniz)


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    Seeking Fortune Elsewhere (Sindya Bhanoo)

    Mary Tyler Moore Theme Song


    'Alright' (Kendrick Lamar)

    Denne Michele Norris


    About the Author 
    Nafissa Thompson-Spires wrote Heads of the Colored People, which won the PEN Open Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Award for Fiction, and the Los Angeles Times’s Art Siedenbaum Award for First Fiction. Her collection was longlisted for the National Book Award, the PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Award, and several other prizes. She also won a 2019 Whiting Award.
    She earned a PhD in English from ­­­­Vanderbilt University and an MFA in Creative Writing from ­­­­­­the University of Illinois. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review Daily, The Cut, The Root, Ploughshares, 400 Souls, and The 1619 Project, among other publications. New writing is forthcoming in Fourteen Days, edited by Margaret Atwood.
    She’s currently the Richards Family Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Cornell University.

    More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton:


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)


    ***
    Episode editor: Kelly Araja
    Associate producer: Marina Leigh
    Producer: Mark Armstrong
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  • Deesha and Dawnie chat with Jonathan Escoffery, author of last week's audio story, "Under the Ackee Tree," from his acclaimed collection and audiobook, If I Survive You. The linked stories follow Trelawny, a second generation Jamaican American, as he struggles through family tensions, cultural and historical loss and reclamation, and exploration of identity. 
    Escoffery talks about his collection and how it came to be—the process of developing characters, tensions, and narrative threads, as well as constructing a complicated family with conflicting generational perspectives on agency, culture, and legacy. 

    Support Ursa Short Fiction by becoming a member: https://ursastory.com/join/

    Reading List: Authors, Stories, and Books Mentioned


    "Under the Ackee Tree" (Ursa Short Fiction, Season Two, Episode 12)


    If I Survive You (Jonathan Escoffery)


    If I Survive You audiobook (Audible)


    Jesus' Son (Denis Johnson)


    We the Animals (Justin Torres)


    About the Author 
    Jonathan Escoffery is the author of the linked story collection, If I Survive You, a New York Times  and Booklist Editor’s Choice, an IndieNext Pick, and a National Bestseller. If I Survive You was longlisted for the National Book Award, the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, the PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Prize For Debut Short Story Collection, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, the Aspen Words Literary Prize, and the Story Prize, and was shortlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize. It was named a ‘best’ book by The New Yorker, The New York Times, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, People, TIME, Oprah Daily, GQ, and elsewhere. In 2020, Jonathan received the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize for Fiction and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He was a 2021-2023 Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.

    More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton:


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)

    ***
    Episode editor: Kelly Araja
    Associate producer: Marina Leigh
    Producer: Mark Armstrong
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  • Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton introduce “Under the Ackee Tree,” a story by Jonathan Escoffery from his acclaimed 2022 collection, If I Survive You.
    The story is performed by Torian Brackett, and it comes from the collection's audiobook, produced by Macmillan Audio. Our thanks to Macmillan for sharing the story with Ursa's listeners.
    This story follows Topper, a Jamaican immigrant who has fled the political violence in Kingston and moved his family to Miami to raise his two sons. “Under the Ackee Tree” is a narrative of leaving and of loss, of destruction and rebuilding, and of the ways we disappoint as partners, as parents, and as children. 
    Support our show by becoming an Ursa Member: https://ursastory.com/join/
    Reading List


    If I Survive You, by Jonathan Escoffery (MCD)


    If I Survive You audiobook (Audible)

    Jonathan Escoffery Publications

    Jonathan Escoffery Interviews

    About the Author 
    Jonathan Escoffery is the author of the linked story collection, If I Survive You, a New York Times and Booklist Editor’s Choice, an IndieNext Pick, and a National Bestseller. If I Survive You was longlisted for the National Book Award, the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, the PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Prize For Debut Short Story Collection, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, the Aspen Words Literary Prize, and the Story Prize, and was shortlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize. It was named a ‘best’ book by The New Yorker, The New York Times, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, People, TIME, Oprah Daily, GQ, and elsewhere. In 2020, Jonathan received the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize for Fiction and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He was a 2021-2023 Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.
    More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton:


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)

    ***
    Performed by Torian Brackett
    Episode editor: Kelly Araja
    Associate producer: Marina Leigh
    Music: “Biosphere” by Yotam Agam
    Audio excerpt courtesy Macmillan Audio, from IF I SURVIVE YOU by Jonathan Escoffery, read by Torian Brackett.
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  • Deesha and Dawnie sit down with Jamil Jan Kochai, whose short story “Enough!” from his collection The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories (Viking / Penguin Random House Audio), was featured in our previous episode.
    Kochai discusses how he fell in love with storytelling and short stories as a form—reflecting on his family, his childhood, and how his stories, characters, and themes come naturally because they’re rooted in his upbringing. 
    Kochai also talks about the challenge of writing as a public experience as he becomes more well-known in the literary world, and how he approaches writing personally, where he consistently returns to the idea of writing as writing — separating writing from “the noise.”
    “In storytelling, sometimes you have to build walls in order to dance within them.”
    ***
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    ***
    Reading List: Authors, Stories, and Books Mentioned


    The Haunting of Hajji Hotak (Jamil Jan Kochai)


    The Haunting of Hajji Hotak audiobook


    One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez)

    “Sonny’s Blues” (James Baldwin)

    Sandra Cisneros


    In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (Daniyal Mueenuddin)

    “Train to Harbin” (Asako Serizawa)


    Inheritors (Asako Serizawa)

    Toni Morrison


    About the Author 
    Jamil Jan Kochai is the author of The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories, winner of the 2023 Aspen Words Literary Prize and a finalist for 2022 National Book Award. His debut novel 99 Nights in Logar was a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel. His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Zoetrope, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and The Best American Short Stories. His essays have been published at The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Kochai was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and a Truman Capote Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Currently, he is a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University. 

    More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton:


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)

    ***
    Episode editor: Kelly Araja
    Associate producer: Marina Leigh
    Producer: Mark Armstrong
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  • Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton introduce “Enough!”, a short story by Jamil Jan Kochai, from his collection The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories.
    Kochai's story discusses intergenerational trauma, violences of both war and refuge, and rage as we follow Rangeena, a mother reflecting on her family and own past.
    The story is performed by Suehyla El-Attar Young, and it's excerpted from the audiobook of The Haunting of Hajji Hotak, produced by Penguin Random House Audio. Our thanks to them for sharing this story with Ursa's listeners.
    Jamil Jan Kochai’s writing is lyrical, his images surreal, and because of the cyclical narrative, the repetition, and obsession with themes of rambling, the story leaves us breathless. 
    “Enough!” interrogates the ways in which we suffocate, the ways we’re haunted, and the ways we survive.
    “Enough rambling, enough advice, enough pills, enough nightmares, enough lung damage, enough ghosts, enough beautiful dying boys, enough bomb smoke, enough burning apple trees, enough staring white neighbors, enough heavy breathing…”
    Come back next week for our conversation with Jamil Jan Kochai.
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    Reading List


    The Haunting of Hajji Hotak, by Jamil Jan Kochai (Penguin Books)


    The Haunting of Hajji Hotak audiobook (Penguin Random House Audio)

    More stories and essays by Jamil Jan Kochai

    About the Author 
    Jamil Jan Kochai is the author of The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories, winner of the 2023 Aspen Words Literary Prize and a finalist for 2022 National Book Award. His debut novel 99 Nights in Logar was a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel. His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Zoetrope, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and The Best American Short Stories. His essays have been published at The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Kochai was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and a Truman Capote Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Currently, he is a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University. 
    More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton:


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)

    ***
    Episode editor: Kelly Araja
    Associate producer: Marina Leigh
    Audio excerpted courtesy Penguin Random House Audio from THE HAUNTING OF HAJJI HOTAK by Jamil Jan Kochai, excerpt read by Suehyla El-Attar Young.
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  • Deesha and Dawnie sit down with Sidik Fofana, author of the acclaimed collection Stories from the Tenants Downstairs, published in 2022. Fofana discusses his journey getting into NYU, being a public school teacher, taking the long road to publishing his debut collection, and finding inspiration in the daily world around him. Fofana talks about creating voice and authentic characters, and he asks the hard question: in the chaos of life, how do we hold onto dreams?
    Ursa Short Fiction is 100% independent and supported by our listeners. Become a Member today to help us keep going: ursastory.com/join

    Reading List: Authors, Stories, and Books Mentioned


    Stories from the Tenants Downstairs audiobook (Scribner / Simon & Schuster Audio)


    “Tumble,” audio short story by Sidik Fofana (Ursa Short Fiction) 

    Lorrie Moore


    The Rabbit Hutch (Tess Gunty)

    Toni Cade Bambara


    Push (Sapphire)


    The Madonnas of Echo Park (Brando Skyhorse)

    Stuart Dybek


    The Women of Brewster Place (Gloria Naylor)


    About the Author 
    Sidik Fofana is a New York City public school teacher, was a 2018 fellow at the Center for Fiction, and was named a “Writer to Watch” by Publishers Weekly. He is the author of the 2022 collection STORIES FROM THE TENANTS DOWNSTAIRS, in which he introduces readers to the residents of Banneker Homes, a low-income residential building in Harlem, where a looming rent increase affects everyone in different ways. Tenants young and old who weave in and out of each other’s lives.
    Sidik earned his MFA from New York University. And he lives with his wife and son in New York City. 

    More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton:


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)


    ***
    Episode editor: Kelly Araja
    Associate producer: Marina Leigh
    Producer: Mark Armstrong
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
    Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://ursastory.com/join

  • Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton introduce “Tumble,” an audio short story by Sidik Fofana about two women, Neisha and Kya, and a childhood fight with long-term consequences. 
    The story is performed by Jade Wheeler, and it’s one of eight linked stories from Fofana’s 2022 debut collection, STORIES FROM THE TENANTS DOWNSTAIRS. This audiobook excerpt comes to us from Scribner / Simon & Schuster Audio—our thanks to them for sharing it with Ursa Short Fiction listeners. 
    As Philyaw noted in her recommendation of “Tumble” in Electric Lit:
    “What happens to a dream deferred thanks to the cruel betrayal of a former childhood friend? What do justice, empathy, and forgiveness look like within a community when traumatized, violated people turn around to traumatize and violate those closest to them?” 
    Listen to the story, then come back next week for our conversation with Sidik Fofana.
    Support our show by becoming an Ursa Member: https://ursastory.com/join/

    Reading List


    “Tumble” (Electric Lit, recommended by Deesha Philyaw)


    STORIES FROM THE TENANTS DOWNSTAIRS audiobook (Simon & Schuster Audio)


    About the Author 
    Sidik Fofana is a New York City public school teacher, was a 2018 fellow at the Center for Fiction, and was named a “Writer to Watch” by Publishers Weekly. He is the author of the 2022 collection STORIES FROM THE TENANTS DOWNSTAIRS, in which he introduces readers to the residents of Banneker Homes, a low-income residential building in Harlem, where a looming rent increase affects everyone in different ways. Tenants young and old who weave in and out of each other’s lives.
    Sidik earned his MFA from New York University. And he lives with his wife and son in New York City. 

    More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton:


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)


    ***
    Episode editor: Kelly Araja
    Associate producer: Marina Leigh
    Music: “Fifth Avenue,” by Phury
    Audio excerpt courtesy of Simon & Schuster Audio from “Tumble” found in STORIES FROM THE TENANTS DOWNSTAIRS by Sidik Fofana, read by Jade Wheeler. Audiobook also read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Nile Bullock, Sidik Fofana, Dominic Hoffman, DePre Owens, André Santana and Bahni Turpin. Copyright © 2022 by Sidik Fofana. Used with permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
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  • It’s a very special “Three Ds from Duval” episode of Ursa Short Fiction! Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton welcome fellow Jacksonville native Dantiel W. Moniz, author of the acclaimed 2021 short story collection MILK BLOOD HEAT. 
    Moniz talks about how growing up in Jacksonville informed the stories in MILK BLOOD HEAT, and how real-life experiences serve as a jumping-off point for the stories we tell. 
    “It’s always as a seed or a starting off point because the story is a thing that allows me to get past what actually happened or what I think actually happened, and then explore what could have happened.”

    Reading List: Books, Stories, and Authors Mentioned


    MILK BLOOD HEAT, by Dantiel W. Moniz (Grove Press)


    “An Almanac of Bones,” by Dantiel W. Moniz (Apogee Journal)


    “Eula,” by Deesha Philyaw (Apogee Journal)


    The Office of Historical Corrections, by Danielle Evans


    The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, by Mariana Enríquez


    Manywhere, by Morgan Thomas


    The Getaway Car, by Ann Patchett 

    Dantiel W. Moniz’s website


    About the Author
    Dantiel W. Moniz is the recipient of a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Award, a Pushcart Prize, a MacDowell Fellowship, and the Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction. Her debut collection, Milk Blood Heat, is the winner of a Florida Book Award, and was a finalist for the PEN/ Jean Stein Award, the PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Prize, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, as well as longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. Her writing has appeared in the Paris Review, Harper's Bazaar, American Short Fiction, Tin House, and elsewhere. Moniz is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches fiction.

    Read More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton: 


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)


    ***
    Episode editor: Kelly Araja
    Associate producer: Marina Leigh
    Producer: Mark Armstrong
    ***
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  • We’re thrilled to present a new audio story, “Rioja,” written by Shannon Sanders and performed by Khaya Fraites. It was originally published in the literary magazine SLICE, and it’s forthcoming in Sanders’s debut collection COMPANY, to be published by Graywolf Press in October 2023. In this story we meet Cole, who is taking his girlfriend Cecilia to a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by his Aunt Peach. It’s Cecilia’s first introduction to the family, and though the encounters seem pleasant on the surface, secrets, family history, and resentment run deep beneath them. Listen to "Rioja," then stick around at the end for Sanders, in her own words, on the origins of the story:“This story really deals with the idea of cultural inheritance. So I'm really interested in how each generation has the potential to build on what the previous generation did. And there's always the chance that we'll do it way better than the previous generation did, learning from their mistakes. But there's also kind of this compulsion to repeat the mistakes of the previous generation, and there's just some legacies that are really, really hard to shake.”Reading List: Books, Stories, and Authors MentionedCOMPANY, by Shannon Sanders (Graywolf Press, October 2023)More stories by Shannon Sanders (website) Danielle Evans ZZ Packer Maurice Carlos RuffinDeesha PhilyawLisa TaddeoAbout the AuthorShannon Sanders’s debut short story collection, COMPANY, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in October 2023; her short fiction has won the PEN/Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers and can be found in One Story, Electric Literature, Joyland, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. Find her at ShannonSandersWrites.com or on Twitter at @ShandersWrites.About the NarratorKhaya Fraites is a voice and film actor/writer based in New York City. Her recent credits include "Rainbow High," the animated series, and "RIP, LOL," the short film she wrote based on her upcoming novel of the same name. For more about Khaya, visit her website at www.khayafraites.com or keep up with her on Instagram and TikTok @khayafraites.Read More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)***Story Credits‘Rioja,’ written by Shannon SandersPerformed by Khaya Fraites Directed by Adwoa Gyimah-BrempongAssociate producer: Marina LeighExecutive producers: Dawnie Walton & Mark ArmstrongAdditional production support by Ashawnta JacksonMusic: “The Doubt,” by Francesco D'AndreaAuthor photo by David F. Choy.***Help Us Keep Going!Ursa Short Fiction is supported by our listeners. Share this podcast with a friend—or become a Member to help fund production: https://ursastory.com/joinLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoicesSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://ursastory.com/join

  • Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton sit down with Jocelyn Nicole Johnson—author of Ursa's Season Two, Episode 3 story, "Virginia Is Not Your Home"—to discuss her acclaimed debut collection, My Monticello, and the journey of its making. Johnson talks about her writing as a direct response to historical events as they occur, much of her work centering Virginia as home, and grappling with complicated histories, experiences, and ideas around identity.
    Johnson addresses the themes that occur throughout her collection, such as that of loneliness, belonging, resistance, violence, and salvation. Deesha and Dawnie dive into questions about perspective, voice, character- and world-building, the writing and revision process, and perseverance as a writer:
    “Control what you can control, which is the writing. Enjoy the writing. Do your best with the writing. What matters is the writing. I just think you want to be thoughtful, but put that thought and care into that part of it, because that's the part that you have the most control.”Reading List:


    "Virginia Is Not Your Home" (Ursa Short Fiction)


    My Monticello (Jocelyn Nicole Johnson)


    My Monticello audiobook (Audible)


    Corregidora (Gayl Jones)

    Octavia Butler

    Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

    Charles Yu


    Beloved (Toni Morrison)

    Danielle Evans

    Jamel Brinkley


    The World Doesn't Require You (Rion Amilcar Scott)

    About the AuthorJocelyn Nicole Johnson is the author of My Monticello, a fiction debut that was called "a masterly feat" by the New York Times, and winner of the Library of Virginia Fiction Award, the Weatherford Award, the Balcones Fiction Prize, and the Lillian Smith Award, as well as a finalist for the Kirkus Fiction Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Leonard Award, the LA Times Debut Seidenbaum Prize, and long-listed for a Pen/Faulkner Fiction Award and the Story Prize. Johnson has been a fellow at TinHouse, Hedgebrook, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her writing has appeared in Guernica, The Guardian, Kweli Journal, Joyland, Lit Hub, and elsewhere. Her short story “Control Negro” was anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, guest edited by Roxane Gay and read live by LeVar Burton. A veteran public school art teacher, Johnson lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    Read more from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton: 

    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)


    ***
    Episode editor: Kelly Araja
    Associate producer: Marina Leigh
    Producer: Mark Armstrong
    Ursa Short Fiction is supported by our listeners. Share this podcast with a friend—or become a Member to help fund production: https://ursastory.com/join
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
    Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://ursastory.com/join

  • Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton introduce their first story pick for Season Two, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s “Virginia Is Not Your Home,” from her debut collection, My Monticello, published in 2021 by Henry Holt and Co.
    “Virginia Is Not Your Home” follows the life of a woman who is attempting to outrun her namesake, and the story conjures questions of origin, of becoming, and of freedom. There is emphasis on movement and escape, on our names as our homes, and on understanding what it is we leave behind when we go. It interrogates the ways we forget and the ways we remember.
    The story is performed by January LaVoy, and it's excerpted from the My Monticello audiobook, produced by our friends at Macmillan Audio. Our thanks to them for sharing this story with Ursa listeners.
    Listen, then come back next week for our conversation with Jocelyn Nicole Johnson.
    Reading List:


    My Monticello (Jocelyn Nicole Johnson)


    My Monticello Audiobook (Audible)

    Jocelyn Nicole Johnson's website


    About the Author
    Jocelyn Nicole Johnson is the author of My Monticello, a fiction debut that was called "a masterly feat" by the New York Times, and winner of the Library of Virginia Fiction Award, the Weatherford Award, the Balcones Fiction Prize, and the Lillian Smith Award, as well as a finalist for the Kirkus Fiction Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Leonard Award, the LA Times Debut Seidenbaum Prize, and long-listed for a Pen/Faulkner Fiction Award and the Story Prize. Johnson has been a fellow at TinHouse, Hedgebrook, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her writing has appeared in Guernica, The Guardian, Kweli Journal, Joyland, Lit Hub, and elsewhere. Her short story “Control Negro” was anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, guest edited by Roxane Gay and read live by LeVar Burton. A veteran public school art teacher, Johnson lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    Read more from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton: 


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)


    ***
    Episode editor: Kelly Araja
    Associate producer: Marina Leigh
    Episode producer: Mark Armstrong
    Audio story produced by Macmillan Audio and performed by January LaVoy.
    Ursa Short Fiction is supported by our listeners. Share this podcast with a friend—or become a Member to help fund production: https://ursastory.com/join/
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
    Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://ursastory.com/join

  • In our Season Two premiere, co-hosts Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton talk with the beloved ZZ Packer, author of Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, a collection first published in 2003 that went on to inspire countless writers. Packer talks about how she found her voice, style, and authenticity as a young, Black, female writer who hadn’t even planned on becoming a writer. She addresses ideas of navigating both physical and figurative spaces and learning how to find a place in the literary world.

    Reading List: Authors, Stories, and Books Mentioned


    Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (ZZ Packer)

    Zora Neale Hurston

    Toni Morrison

    Flannery O’Connor

    James Alan McPherson (Elbow Room and Hue and Cry)

    Lorrie Moore

    Stuart Dybek

    Percival Everett

    James Baldwin

    Anton Chekhov

    Edward P. Jones (Lost in the City and The Known World)


    Alice Munro

    Imani Perry

    Bryan Stevenson (Just Mercy)


    Edwidge Danticat


    Read more from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton: 


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw)


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton)


    Ursa Short Fiction is 100% independent and supported by our listeners. Become a Member today to help us keep going: ursastory.com/join 

    Episode editor: Kelly Araja
    Associate producer: Marina Leigh
    Producer: Mark Armstrong
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
    Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://ursastory.com/join

  • On the Season One finale of Ursa Short Fiction, co-hosts Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton talk to Nana Nkweti, author of the acclaimed short story collection, Walking on Cowrie Shells (Graywolf Press). Nkweti’s story “Dance the Fiya Dance,” performed by Enih Agwe, was featured in Episode 15. Read the full transcript.Support Future Episodes of Ursa Short FictionBecome a Member at ursastory.com/join.About the Author Nana Nkweti is a Cameroonian-American writer, Whiting Award winner, and AKO Caine Prize finalist whose work has garnered fellowships from MacDowell, Vermont Studio Center, Ucross, Byrdcliffe, Kimbilio, Hub City Writers, the Stadler Center for Poetry, the Wurlitzer Foundation, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Clarion West Writers Workshop. Her first book, Walking on Cowrie Shells, was hailed by The New York Times review as a “raucous and thoroughly impressive debut” with "stories to get lost in again and again." The collection is also a New York Times Editor's Choice, Indie Next pick, recipient of starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and BookPage; and has been featured in The New Yorker, Harper's Bazaar, Oprah Daily, The Root, NPR, Buzzfeed, and Thrillist; amongst others. The work features elements of mystery, horror, myth, and graphic novels to showcase the complexity and vibrance of African diaspora cultures and identities. She is a professor of English at the University of Alabama where she teaches creative writing courses that explore her eclectic literary interests: ranging from graphic novels to medical humanities onto exploring works by female authors in genres such as horror, Afrofuturism, and mystery.Episode Links and Reading List: “Dance the Fiya Dance” (Ursa) Walking on Cowrie Shells (Graywolf Press) Nana Nkweti’s website“Nana Nkweti’s Tales of Cameroonians at Home and in America” (Deesha Philyaw, The New York Times Book Review)Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia RankineBloodchild, Octavia Butler“The Secret Sci-Fi Life of Alice B. Sheldon” (NPR)More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, by Deesha PhilyawThe Final Revival of Opal & Nev, by Dawnie WaltonLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoicesSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://ursastory.com/join