The Center for Fiction was thrilled to welcome Narrative “30 Below 30” author Morgan Talty to the stage in honor of his debut short story collection, Night of the Living Rez. The collection is a striking amalgam of stories about what it means to be Penobscot, told through the eyes of various individuals in a Native community in Maine. Talty’s work is a celebration of contemporary fiction and the magic of the short story, challenging our imaginations of perspective and place with persistent humor and compassion.
Talty joined author and educator Ashleigh Bell Pedersen (The Crocodile Bride) for a fantastic discussion of self, people, and place on the leading edge of the contemporary short story.
Night of the Living Rez
By Morgan Talty
Published by Tinhouse
Set in a Native community in Maine, Night of the Living Rez is a riveting debut collection about what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century and what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after tragedy.
In twelve striking, luminescent stories, author Morgan Talty—with searing humor, abiding compassion, and deep insight—breathes life into tales of family and a community as they struggle with a painful past and an uncertain future. A boy unearths a jar that holds an old curse, which sets into motion his family’s unraveling; a man, while trying to swindle some pot from a dealer, discovers a friend passed out in the woods, his hair frozen into the snow; a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s projects the past onto her grandson; and two friends, inspired by Antiques Roadshow, attempt to rob the tribal museum for valuable root clubs.
A collection that examines the consequences and merits of inheritance, Night of the Living Rez is an unforgettable portrayal of an Indigenous community and marks the arrival of a standout talent in contemporary fiction.
The Crocodile Bride
By Ashleigh Bell Pedersen
Published by Hub City Press
Set during the swampy summer in 1982, this stunning debut novel follows eleven-year-old Sunshine Turner and her troubled father Billy as the secrets of their family’s past swirl around them in the one-road town of Fingertip, Louisiana.
During a hot summer of June moods, grub worms, and dark storms, Sunshine discovers stones in her chest – and learns the dangers her coming-of-age will bring about in the yellow house she shares with her father. Without the vocabulary to comprehend Billy’s actions or her own changing body, Sunshine turns to a story passed down through the generations of the Turner family: in the dark waters of the Black Bayou lives a crocodile with an insatiable appetite, and a woman with a mysterious healing gift. As Sunshine’s summer unspools, she turns to the one person who will need no explanation of the family secrets she carries—the crocodile bride. The Crocodile Bride is at once a heartbreakingly tender coming-of-age tale and a lyrical, haunting reflection on generational trauma. Reminiscent of Jesmyn Ward and Helen Oyeyemi, Ashleigh Bell Pedersen is a promising new voice in American fiction..
Morgan Talty is a citizen of the Penobscot Indian Nation where he grew up. Named one of Narrative’s ’30 Below 30,’ Talty’s work has appeared in the Georgia Review, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, Narrative magazine, LitHub, and elsewhere. He lives in Levant, Maine.
Ashleigh Bell Pedersen
Ashleigh Bell Pedersen
Ashleigh Bell Pedersen’s fiction has been featured in New Stories from the South, the Kenyon Review, the Iowa Review, Design Observer, the Silent History, A Strange Object, and the New York Public Library’s Library Simplified app. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She currently resides in Brooklyn, where she writes, acts in theater and film, and attempts to teach her dog, Ernie, proper leash manners.