Jessica lives in Northport, Alabama, is a recent graduate of the University of Alabama's MFA program, and teaches English, composition, and creative writing at the University. She's originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she returns as often as possible. She lives with her husband Richard and her toddler Oliver, who speaks the language of lions, monkeys, and the wind.
Katherine Anne Porter PrizeSubmitted by Jessica on Wed, 09/25/2013 - 08:06
I am happy to announce that my collection In These Times the Home is a Tired Place is the winner of the 2013 Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Short Fiction. The collection will be published byThe University of North Texas Press on October 15th!
Publisher's Description: When an unwed pregnant woman is pressured to get married by her boyfriend, parents, and the entire culture around her, she sees a feverish intensity emanating from the path to domesticity, a “paved path shaded by thick-trunked trees, lined with trim grass and manicured mansions, where miniature houses play mailboxes and animals play lawn ornaments and people play happiness.” Jessica Hollander’s debut collection exposes a culture that glorifies and disparages traditional domesticity, where people’s confusion, apathy, and anxiety about the institutions of marriage and family often drive them to self-destruction.
The world in Hollander’s nineteen stories appears at once familiar and vividly unsettling, with undercurrents of anger and violence attached to everyday objects and spaces: a pink room is “a woman exploded,” home smells “of laundered clothes and gas from the grill,” and the sun “is so bright the sky fills with over-exposure, wilting the corners to orange, to red, to black.” Here people adopt extreme and erratic behavior: hack at furniture, have affairs with high school students, fantasize about sex with “monsters,” laden flower bouquets with messages of hate; but these self-destructive acts and fantasies feel strangely like a form of growth or enlightenment, or at least the only form that’s available to them. As characters become girlfriends, wives, husbands, and mothers, they struggle within their roles, either fighting to escape them or struggling to “play” them correctly, but always concerned with the loss of individuality, of being swallowed up by society’s expectations and becoming “a mother” or “a wife” instead of remaining themselves.
“These are human tales of vigorously individual characters living with intensity. The author’s ear for revealing dialogue and double-edged humor ground these stories in a reality worth enduring. The characters connect despite suspicion and betrayal, beyond blood, circumstance or embarrassment at their own ridiculous humanity. Each piece is powered by a deep, slow boiling jubilation in the moment-to-moment, line-by-line fact of taking breath.”—Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love and judge
WebConjunctions Live!Submitted by Jessica on Tue, 12/06/2011 - 16:16
1. Only one dream the mother remembered: driving, dead bodies on the road, the word PAPER large and black on a billboard. Sometimes she made up different dreams when she woke panicked in the gray morning, imagining an airport chase, a lake drowning—but they weren’t really hers, only dreams she believed she should have instead of always the one: driving through death and the urge to pull over.
2. The girl spent a Saturday morning cutting snowflakes from a pile of paper she’d found on her mother’s desk. The snowflakes were peppered with sliced negotiations, diamond-pierced words like child and property and alimony, and when the girl finished she strung the flakes together and hung them from her window so they trailed to the berry bush and flapped in the stirred summer wind...
West Branch Arrived!Submitted by Jessica on Thu, 11/17/2011 - 12:59
A note posted on my fourteen-year-old sister’s door, a warning:Our house has walls and doors like any other house and inside each house are rooms and inside the rooms are beds with covers and no matter how much you kick the sheets mom shrink-wrapped to the mattress the covers are heavy on a chest.
My sister’s explanation for why she now slept on her bare mattress naked.
p.s. if this is a problem i will gladly sleep clothesless in the backyard.
My father pounding on the door yelling Beatrice If I’m Late and Beatrice You Think I’m Impressed You Are A Child...
Gargoyle Arrived!Submitted by Jessica on Wed, 11/09/2011 - 15:23
In bed with Romero, and he wants me to do this Ultimate Makeover Zombie Edition. While he explains the deal, I gnaw at his arm – because he likes it, not because I’m the kind of zombie who nonstop gorges on living flesh. There’s nothing uglier than a fatso zombie, like my friend Amelia. I only eat the equivalent of one human a week – just bits and pieces – the lean parts. I could never eat Romero, because he is my Lord.
“Dead is still in,” he says. “But you’re a little too dead.”
The brightness of his apartment gives me a headache. Off with the covers and my body’s blue and purple, some new craters on my belly where the flesh has worn away. I should stop staying here with Romero – it depresses me...
Nap Live!Submitted by Jessica on Thu, 09/15/2011 - 12:25
Next to me at the DMV, you made sense of blurry letters. You saw lights flash temple-level. You bragged about missed speeding fines, then mentioned that time I left-turned from the wrong lane and got a ticket. Like charm is a part of it...
Grocery store decisions are better made together we scour aisles, follow lists on paper scraps marked with vertical checks are half-arrows, lines with elbows, pleased kinks fissure quickly...
Bluestem Live!Submitted by Jessica on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 10:05
For a college-dropout, the most depressing part of the school year was the beginning. All those cars and trucks on campus, parents loaded down with furniture, clumps of nervous students wandering the streets, and the banners everywhere: “Welcome to Tar Heel Country!” It was all so hopeful and exciting. Energy remained energy, even if it was the kind you didn’t want, pulling locals like a magnet, like a spectacle; and I was never good at carnivals. All that color and festivity, the crowds and whirling rides that sent me running for the bushes, where I vomited, watching, in tears...
The Journal Arrived!Submitted by Jessica on Wed, 07/20/2011 - 19:03
Lynette hadn’t heard from Christine in six months and three days. There’d been something of an argument, nothing abnormal. Her daughter was unpleasant on the phone, and Lynette questioned her about her life and whether she ever planned to take it seriously. She figured stubbornness had kept her daughter from calling her back; or else the phone buzzed in a purse on a hook in the morgue, and Lynette really was a horrible mother. It would be her fault somehow...
BLIP is Live!Submitted by Jessica on Tue, 07/19/2011 - 13:44
In a van with two bench seats, the boys slept. Taped blankets over windows blocked fussed up brush and green road announcements, and when the parents pointed roadside they pointed out only to each other. A lump of squirrel. A farmhouse painted pink. An elephant cloud split open just ahead, just above, immersion. Cross into Virginia and the up and down of green mountains, fruit pies and cow pies, stretches of puffed trees ready for picking. To the father, Virginia meant driving through a blast-radius of history. The mother kept her excitement at a low-boil...
Pank is Live!Submitted by Jessica on Mon, 06/13/2011 - 08:45
If it doesn’t stop snowing will we miss the beginning? If we miss the beginning and if the beginning is what matters should we encourage the snow and say sorry it was the snow? If the groom gave better directions would we be there already and would the boy stop crying and would we not have to miss the beginning?...