Content Tagged ‘Ecotone’

Adventures in Fact Checking: Molly Antopol’s “My Grandmother Tells Me This Story”

Our new series, Fact Check, is just what it sounds like: in it, Ecotone editors and staffers offer a glimpse into the world of the literary fact check. This first essay comes from managing editor Katie O’Reilly, who fact-checked Molly Antopol’s “My Grandmother Tells Me This Story,” which was reprinted in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2015.  

Ever fantasized about building a time-travel machine and careening backward through history? If so I highly advise trying the poor (wo)man’s alternative: fact-checking a work of historical fiction. Triple that recommendation if you’re lucky enough to land a story assignment as rich, riveting, and significant as Molly Antopol’s “My Grandmother Tells Me This Story”—the Holocaust-era tale of escape that kicked off Ecotone 16, the Migration Issue.

The story, an excerpt from Antopol’s The UnAmericans, traces 13-year-old Raya, a Jew living in Belarus and working at a “uniform factory,” and her illicit escape from her Nazi-occupied native village. Her travels through a network of sewers, and her inadvertent arrival at the forested work-camp site of a faction of the subversive “Yiddish Underground,” is revealed by current-day Raya, a Brooklyn-based grandma. She tells her curious granddaughter, a contemporary twenty-something, all about helping the camp’s young anarchists to build weapons, sneaking into nearby villages to rob peasants, and scheming to dislodge rail lines serving German policemen—all to attack Nazi soldiers. Raya also relays the story of her migration to the United States. Following a violent coup, Raya and the leader of the forest revolutionaries, fifteen-year-old Leon Moskowitz, attempt to immigrate to Palestine. However, they miss the quota and are instead loaded onto a boat to the States, where they marry and have a family, and where Leon becomes a career delivery driver for a beer distributor.

Fiction can be a tricky nut to fact-check, as its very definition lends authors prerogative to write whatever they please. Editors are not (or should not be) in the business of cross-examining anyone’s imagination or psyche; however, especially when a story’s setting depends upon such a loaded, complex, and recent period of history as this one, our credibility is on the line.

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News Roundup

We’re finishing up the first full week of school at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, the home of Lookout and Ecotone, and are gearing up for a semester of literary action! We’re just a little over a week away from the release of Lookout’s debut novel, and we’ve got news and events aplenty:

Honey from the Lion makes the Literary Hub’s Great Booksellers Fall Review along with books by Jonathan Franzen, Ron Rash, Joy Williams, Lauren Groff, Claire Vaye Watkins, and Marilynne Robinson! Thanks to Mary Laura Philpott of Parnassus Books for the pick. She says, “Lookout Books publishes just one or two books a year, so it’s always interesting to see what they choose to put their faith in next. Matthew Neill Null’s debut novel Honey from the Lion demands your attention from the first page and keeps it until the last, with beautiful prose conjuring an atmosphere that’s rugged and desperate. I could see this being turned into a dark HBO miniseries.”


A proper library has more than just books! Find out what Matthew Neill Null deposits on his bookshelves, what book he’d rescue from a burning building, and a few forgotten books he thinks deserve a revival over at The Quivering Pen’s My Library series.

Want a free copy of Honey from the Lion? The Goodreads Giveaway ends this Sunday, Aug. 30. Head on over and get in the running!

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What’s Your Ecotone?: “What I know now are little things”

In celebration of Ecotone’s tenth anniversary, the first entry in a new series! Earlier this year we asked Ecotone readers and contributors to respond to a survey. One of the questions we asked was, What’s your ecotone? We wanted to know about the landscapes, bodies, cultures you inhabit—about your places of overlap and complication in the world. The answers we received surprised us, made us think, and made us look more closely at our own places. We published a few of them in our anniversary issue. In this new series, we’ll run additional selected responses from the survey and beyond. We’re lucky to begin with poet and former Ecotone managing editor Sally J. Johnson!

Here are just some of the ecotones I live in or that live in me:

1. I’m a Midwesterner living in the South; I say “y’all” now since I hear it so often but also because it’s more inclusive than my original “you guys.” I still say “pop,” even though most people around here would understand me better if I said “soda.” More than my home state and its glorious lakes, I miss how my family used to be all in one place. As my baby brother says, “We used to be so little.” I know he means young but he also means we were together then, taking up a smaller space than we do now, flung out across the country.

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