Notes on the Fiction Selections

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March 21, 2022 by The Citron Review

I like NASCAR. It is a weird admission, I agree, but I really like NASCAR. I did not grow up watching it, nor am I that into cars. I don’t even fit the stereotype of someone who should like NASCAR. It took me a long time to be able to admit this to anyone. My enjoyment of the sport all happened by accident.

When my oldest son was younger, he was very into Disney’s Cars. We had the all the toys and watched the first two installments all the time. Once on a road trip, we watched the first movie nine times in a row just so he would be content to be in the car for fourteen hours. So, once, when my husband and I were taking advantage of the fact that my mother was in town and we could have a date, we turned on a NASCAR race so he would not be sad about us leaving. He watched the entire race. And then he kept asking to watch more races. And then he wanted to know the names of all the drivers, and just like I learned the names of all the characters in all of the Cars movies, I learned all of the drivers’ names in the Cup Series. Before I knew it, NASCAR was our Sunday afternoon ritual. There I would be, nursing my youngest and then napping with my youngest against the soundtrack of cars driving in circles at 200 mph.

At this point it was still very much my boys’ thing. But then I found myself rooting for certain drivers, developing favorites, caring about the outcomes of races. Soon it was me who was remembering it was on and reminding my boys it was time to watch. And then it happened—the entire experience shifted, and I was the only one watching. It still took me a few years after this shift to fully admit that I was all in. Two NASCAR t-shirts later, I convinced my husband just this month that we should attend a race in person which solidified my love and rekindled my sons’ interest.

I am still not quick to admit this love to people, but I do appreciate the way nearly everyone I tell shares with me how unexpected they find it. And that is one of the tenets of great fiction, when you read something unexpected and it seeps into your bones and becomes part of you. The fiction we always gravitate towards for our issues give us the ordinary in unexpected ways. Spring’s selections are no different.

First, “What Grows in the Garden” by Erin Armstrong uses magic realism to unfold a story of a woman who swallows some seeds and grows a metaphor left to interpretation. At first this synopsis does not sound like much of a story: a woman swallows seeds. Armstrong never clarifies exactly what the narrator grows and instead of distracting from the overall story, it strengthens the universality of the piece. Add in the precision of language Armstrong uses throughout and the piece’s strength resonates from the page.

“Deer Feast” by Amber Wozniak also works with the unexpected. Wozniak unfolds a simple story of a neighborhood trying to save its landscaping from hungry deer. While a classic conflict of man versus nature emerges, the real story is how the narrator evolves throughout the piece. There is an amazing freedom that comes from learning to work with the natural world that surrounds us rather than trying to fight it at every turn. Wozniak delivers the powerful measure is a profoundly playful way with the addition of Stella, the young character who speaks the most truth.

The final piece, “Locked In, Locked Out” by Carisa Coburn Pineda also presents truth through a young character. Pineda shares a story of a family who has finally achieved their domestic dreams, but models always look better in the store than they do installed in the home. The premise is simple, yet the craft of the language and imagery is what makes Pineda’s story resonate.

I hope you enjoy our spring issue as much as we have.

Elizabeth De Arcos
Senior Fiction Editor
The Citron Review

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Sunflower

George Arents Collection, The New York Public Library. "Sunflower." The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

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