Monday, July 10, 2017

Ashley Shelby

Ashley Shelby is prize-winning writer whose fiction and essays have appeared in Slate, The Seattle Review, The Portland Review, Los Angeles Review, J Journal: New Writings on Social Justice, The Drouth (U.K.), Sonora Review, Post Road, Southeast Review, Third Coast, and other literary outlets. She's received the Red Hen Press Short Fiction Award, the Enizagam Short Story Award, the Third Coast Fiction Prize, and was recently named a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her newly released debut novel, South Pole Station, has received praise from Publishers Weekly, NPR, USA Today, Time, Library Journal, LitHub, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and Bookpage. It has also been named an Indie Next Pick for July.

Recently I asked Shelby about what she was reading. Her reply:
Like so many others, I’ve been grappling (unsuccessfully, in my case) with the outcome of the 2016 election and the cascading events that have followed. I began to feel like I no longer understood my own country. Then last week I decided to reread Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Zinn’s history is, of course, a devastating critique not only of the United States itself, but also of its historians. Read the current sociopolitical context, however, Zinn’s masterpiece has, in a strange way, provided me with both reassurance and hope. That’s because his history of the shadow side of our country’s story reminds me that what is happening at this moment in time is not without precedent. Colonial government screwed over tenant-farmers—calling them “the dregs of the People—and crushed them underfoot when they rioted. Andrew Jackson flouted federal law in order to support states that wanted to take Indian land. Northern states eagerly aided the post-Civil War states in disenfranchising newly freed slaves. The list goes on almost without end.

And yet through it all, there was resistance. From Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Rebels to Nat Turner’s rebellion, the people fought back against oppressive leaders, against corrupt Congresses, against overreaching executives, against the “dark money” that has pervaded our system of government almost from the start. I see hope in this story of America, and I see in the protestors who march on Washington now, who hold their legislators to account, and who fight for all Americans the descendants of the men and women who safeguarded the foundations of our democracy fifty, one hundred, two hundred years ago. We’ve been here, Zinn reminds us. This isn’t new.

As Zinn quotes Frederick Douglass, speaking in 1857, “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters…Power concedes nothing without a demand.”
Visit Ashley Shelby's website.

--Marshal Zeringue