January/February 2002

Our cover story is a profile of Ethiopian memoirist Nega Mezlekia, whose second book, the novel The God Who Begat a Jackal, is equal parts love story, anthropological study, and history of a nation on the brink of religious war.


Out of Ethiopia: An Interview With Nega Mezlekia

by Therese Eiben

Ethiopian exile Nega Mezlekia's memoir, Notes From the Hyena's Belly, details his remarkable boyhood in Jijiga, a city in the eastern part of the Horn of Africa built on a "dry, sandless desert where even the smallest wind creates devils—whirlwinds of dust that rise high into the heavens and are visible from miles away."

A Celebration of African American Writers

Courts and Cornerstones

by Jeffrey Renard Allen
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An essay on the writing of John Edgar Wideman.

Shadows and Light Moving on Water

by Reginald Shepherd
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An essay on the writing of Samuel R. Delany.

Consequences of Character

by Ruth Ellen Kocher
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An essay on the writing of Nella Larson.

Haki Madhubuti: Third World Press and Beyond

by Ta'shia Asanti
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Third World Press, one of the largest independent black publishers in the country.

Tales of the Heroic

by Major Jackson
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An essay on the writing of Afaa Michael Weaver.

Mad Hope and Mavericks

by ZZ Packer
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An essay on the writing of James Alan McPherson.

News and Trends

Academy Suffers Cutbacks, Layoffs

by Mary Gannon

The Academy of American Poets, the 68-year-old literary nonprofit, has made headlines recently, but not for its latest party or prizewinner. In September the organization, best known for founding National Poetry Month, announced that Executive Director William Wadsworth had been asked to resign by board of directors president Henry Reath. And on November 7, the board voted to lay off eight of the Academy's seventeen employees and to subdivide its new office and rent out half of the space, which the group had renovated and moved into in August.

Slope Builds Press on Level Ground

by Kevin Larimer

A number of literary magazines—APR, Fence, McSweeney's, Open City, Pearl, Pleiades, and Verse—have in recent years pursued book publishing ventures, usually ones that include an annual book contest. Putting an electronic twist on that trend is the bimonthly online literary magazine Slope. This spring, founding editor Ethan Paquin is making the jump from Web journal to print press by launching Slope Editions, which will publish two or three books of poetry annually.

The Loft Revives The Fifties

by Richard Broderick

In honor of poet Robert Bly's 75th birthday last month, the Minneapolis-based Loft Literary Center, in conjunction with the McKnight Foundation, revived Bly's innovative literary magazine—originally titled The Fifties, in honor of the decade in which it was founded—by publishing the first issue of The Thousands.

New Magazine Delivers Big Ideas

by Dalia Sofer

The Great Books Foundation, which for more than 50 years has been reminding the public that a book replete with sophisticated ideas and a "good read" are not mutually exclusive, has brought that same philosophy to a new magazine. The Common Review aims to deliver the riches of intellectual engagement to a general reading audience.

The Practical Writer

First: The Journey to a Fine Place

by Joanna Smith Rakoff
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A profile of debut novelist Nicholas Montemarano.

The Literary Life

What Writers Are Reading: After the Attack

by Anne Landsman
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The books that bolstered writers after the September 11 attacks.

Fiction 21c: History as an Occasion for Literature

by Heidi Julavits
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A writer weighs the importance of factual accuracy while writing fiction based in history.