Meet Our Summer 2019 Interns!

Samantha Samakande

  1. What is your favorite place to read?  
    My favorite place to read is in bed, under a puffy duvet sometime in the very early morning, as I hold in squeals of delight or shock (or both) and try not wake my husband, because the book is just THAT good.
  2. You’re walking up the side of a mountain along a winding, wooded path. You look to your left and discover, by chance, a door in the side of the mountain. Do you open it, and if so, where does it lead?
    The trail up the mountain is a deception. It is the kind of incline whose slant seems very slight at first, but whose steepness sneaks up on you little by little. My own breath begins to lumber out my throat like a fibrous and heavy beast, such that when I happen upon a door tucked snuggly into the side of the mountain, I am struck, immediately, by the urge to open the door. Perhaps there is a place to rest behind that door. Perhaps any horror that could await me on the other side could not be worse than physically exerting myself in this way. With each thought, I feel myself move closer to the door. It is as if by pure gravitational force, that I am being suctioned to this door. The tips of my fingers graze the knob, slick and cold as ice, and almost reluctantly grip it—almost. As I am about to turn the metal, I whisper to myself… “nope.” I release the door, and continue up the mountain.
  3. How do you take your coffee? If you don’t drink coffee, describe your favorite beverage ritual.
    It is very rare to find me sipping coffee, and even then, it is decaf with a lot of cream and sugar. I am, however, a tea fiend. Some of my favorites are green/matcha, rooibos, jasmine, peach, and of course any rich, black, and bitter black tea I can get my hands on. (I also have a secret addiction to Fanta.)
  4. What is your favorite English word and why? Do you have a favorite word in another language?
    I am generally attracted to words that are extremely vivid, words that create a concrete and tangible image in one’s mind, words that feel like you can almost taste them on your tongue. I am especially delighted when such words are complicated by being used to describe things they would never usually be associated with.

    Some of my favorite words right now are: fibrous, suction, sip, sloppy, spilling, skin, spit, splatter, invade, plastic, etc. (I am apparently gravitating towards “s” sounds this season).
  5. You’re on a deserted island. You have one album and one book. What are they and why?
    On a deserted island, I am going Bombay Bicycle Club all the way. So Long, See You Tomorrow and A Different Kind of Fix are my absolute favorite albums by them, but really any one of their albums would hit the spot, because they pay such close attention each instrument and how they all interact with each other to tell such complex stories of sound. Also, Jack Steadman’s voice turns me into a goo every time.

    As for a book, I think I would choose either one of Catherine Lacey’s books, The Answers or Nobody is Ever Missing or, I may even go with Aja Gabel’s The Ensemble. I am just so drawn to books that have great emotional and philosophical depth, as well as that have internalized characters with intricate “thought worlds” and “landscapes of feeling” (as I like to call them).
  6. If you could change one thing about the literary industry, what would it be?
    I wish there was more diversity on the business side of publishing. I feel that seeking out different kinds of stories to tell, and publishing writers across difference is not enough. The literary industry needs to do better in terms of creating access for and retaining people from various, unique backgrounds or identities behind the scenes, where the real systemic power is- where decisions are made about what stories are told, whose stories are told, and how these stories are talked about and evaluated.

Kathy Nguyen

  1. What is your favorite place to read?  
    It’s not the most original answer, but I love to read in the library! Public libraries are always the best. When I was a kid, my dad would take me to the library every Saturday to borrow books to read before bed, so I suppose the habit of going there often has stuck. 
  2. You’re walking up the side of a mountain along a winding, wooded path. You look to your left and discover, by chance, a door in the side of the mountain. Do you open it, and if so, where does it lead?
    I would definitely open the door—you miss all the shots you don’t take, after all! As for what would be behind it, I would like to imagine that I’d have stumbled across a Room of Requirement type of situation, with the door leading me to wherever I would need to be most at the moment.  
  3. How do you take your coffee? If you don’t drink coffee, describe your favorite beverage ritual.
    I could never get into coffee. (I know—outrageous!) I drink tea instead, although I’m not so much of a stickler for how I make it. Often the tea is something herbal, and less often the water is hot. I get so excited about preparing the tea, but after I’ve poured it I usually put the mug aside to focus on my work. Soon I forget about it and get stuck with a lukewarm beverage!
  4. What is your favorite English word and why? Do you have a favorite word in another language?
    My favourite words change all the time! Right now, I would say my favourite English/Italian word is “chiaroscuro,” which refers to the contrast between light and dark. I came across the word as a kid reading Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux, and I think about it from time to time.
  5. You’re on a deserted island. You have one album and one book. What are they and why?
    I would bring along Beyoncé’s self-titled album, because I would need her kind of confidence to get me out of this mess that is being stranded on a deserted island. I would also bring a copy of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi to remind myself of the importance of having a bit of faith.
  6. If you could change one thing about the literary industry, what would it be?
    If I could change one thing about the literary industry, I would make it so that everyone would have equal access to the content it creates and the opportunities it affords. There are of course many ways to go about this, but for me I would like to see more support given to libraries so they can continue to provide the resources that enrich us as individuals and as a community. 

Jerekah Greene

  1. What is your favorite place to read?
    I love to read on my front porch in Oklahoma in the dead of summer, when it’s so hot outside that the pages stick together. 
  2. You’re walking up the side of a mountain along a winding, wooded path. You look to your left and discover, by chance, a door in the side of the mountain. Do you open it, and if so, where does it lead?
    I’m going to assume the mountain is The Lonely Mountain, so that would mean the door leads to Erebor. In my daydreams I’m always in Middle Earth.
  3. How do you take your coffee? If you don’t drink coffee, describe your favorite beverage ritual.
    With milk!
  4. What is your favorite English word and why? Do you have a favorite word in another language?
    I think “love” is my favorite word in the English language. That sounds cheesy, and it totally is, but I think it’s pretty incredible that we captured that feeling and put it in a word. 
  5. You’re on a deserted island. You have one album and one book. What are they and why?
    I think the album would have to be Thank Your Lucky Stars by Beach House, because they’re the only band who can really calm me down. The book is more difficult. Do I say Harry Potter because it’s my comfort read? Do I say Female Masculinity by Judith/Jack Halberstam to make myself sound sophisticated? I think, in all honesty, it has to be Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg. Few books have understood me like that one, so it would probably make a good companion.
  6. If you could change one thing about the literary industry, what would it be?
    I would like the literary industry to be a lot more like Dolly Parton. She has donated millions of books to children who otherwise wouldn’t have had access to them. She is selfless and gorgeous and immensely talented, and even if literary agencies and publishers can’t channel her country music powers, maybe they could try to channel her selflessness and commitment to reading. 

Giancarlo Riccobon

  1. What is your favorite place to read?  
    My imagination. Because when you’re reading, you shouldn’t be wherever you just sat down to read. You should be transported to wherever the characters reside, and not come back until dinnertime.

    In all seriousness, I like to read in some secluded place until everyone forgets I’m even there (and sometimes I forget I’m even there). Places like the sunroom in my house, or the break room at the library. I know of one library that has a little nook in the window designed just for reading. It’s a sort of padded cubby with the teen room on one side and a second-story window on the other. You can’t beat that.
  2. You’re walking up the side of a mountain along a winding, wooded path. You look to your left and discover, by chance, a door in the side of the mountain. Do you open it, and if so, where does it lead?
    Hoping to find a bit of dragon’s treasure, I open the door. Then I gape in horror at what I see. Before me is a metropolis choked with smog. The roads seem to go ever on, clogged with horseless carriages, and there is not a single Hobbit Hill in sight.

    Everything is so strange and unfamiliar, and the only place I seem to fit in is a place called “LOTR Cosplay”—whatever that is. “Love your feet,” one of my kinsmen tells me. “The hair looks so realistic!”

    Yet, after tasting my first slushie, I don’t feel so alone, and I start to think that maybe I can survive in this strange new world. At least until I am pursued by a guy with a typewriter under one arm, who tells me to get my butt back into my story or he’ll kill me off.
  3. How do you take your coffee? If you don’t drink coffee, describe your favorite beverage ritual.
    Actually, the only way I take my coffee is in the form of chilled cafe latte. (Please don’t kill me, but for some reason I don’t care for hot drinks.) Beware, I slurp loudly.
  4. What is your favorite English word and why? Do you have a favorite word in another language?
    Some of my runner-ups include facetious, inarticulate, idiosyncrasy, plutonian, and dastardly. But my favorite is zeugma, and I will take every opportunity to say it. I’m just tickled at how a zeugma allows you to play with the meanings of words and use the same word in two different senses. (Example in a sentence: “The intern gave his interviewer a thank-you card and a headache.”) I dare you to find something that rhymes with it.

    Plus, I love the word Bildungsroman, which comes from the German words “bildung” (education) and “roman” (novel). Aside from being fun to say, it also describes a kind of story I can’t get enough of—the coming-of-age story.
  5. You’re on a deserted island. You have one album and one book. What are they and why?
    If I could only bring one album, then I’d take The Lion King Musical Broadway Cast Recording. There’s a lot of cultural specificity to the music, especially the songs performed in various African languages, yet the story still manages to be universal. I would probably spend a lot of time playing the most uplifting songs, like “He Lives in You” or “Shadowland,” on loop. My book of choice would be The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. There are so many layers, so many hidden gems on every page, waiting to be discovered. I would have many colorful, lovingly-drawn characters to keep me company—like Max, who gets into a lot of fistfights even though he always loses, or Rudy, who runs down the racetrack covered in coal dust because he wants to be like Jesse Owens. Since The Book Thief explores how books give us something to hold onto in even the bleakest of circumstances, it makes an ideal desert-island read. Though, I would bring a hardback version, probably with a waterproof covering. I’ve been waiting for a good time to reread it (so I can appreciate it all the more), and being stranded on a desert island is the perfect way to catch up on my reading!

    How soon does my desert island getaway begin?
  6. If you could change one thing about the literary industry, what would it be?
    If I could change one thing about the literary industry, I would end the vicious circle of “We’ll publish it only if we can sell it.” The literary industry has come to the point where most mainstream publishers will only publish something they know will sell well. A big factor that markets will consider when they are deciding to publish a book would be its comp titles—that is, similar books that have already published. Big-name publishers often use comps as a way of predicting how smoothly something will sail in the publishing world—and avoiding anything that is “too risky.” As a result, that means most markets will only publish something if it’s already been done before. Which means that, excluding a handful of independent presses, we have a system that discourages originality! In some cases, this approach also puts marginalized communities at a disadvantage. Publishers may be less likely to invest in something by/for/about certain minorities simply because there is a smaller audience for them.

Saira Mahmood

  1. What is your favorite place to read?  
    My own room. I love to read in bed.
  2. You’re walking up the side of a mountain along a winding, wooded path. You look to your left and discover, by chance, a door in the side of the mountain. Do you open it, and if so, where does it lead?
    I open it and it leads to a point in an alternate timeline where machines do all the work, and we’ve solved the problem of income inequality. Everyone has roughly the same amount of money and we spend our time making great art, enjoying life and debating how to make society better. The bees are okay, and life is good. 
  3. How do you take your coffee? If you don’t drink coffee, describe your favorite beverage ritual.
    I don’t drink coffee and don’t really have a favorite beverage. I love most carbonated drinks equally for the same reason everyone else does. I’ll treat myself once a month or so to a cold Fanta after walking around my university in the blistering Karachi heat. 
  4. What is your favorite English word and why? Do you have a favorite word in another language?
    My favorite English word is rendezvous because I grew up pronouncing it wrong. I’d read it and heard it but never put the sound and spelling together. I was sure it was ‘ren-dizz-wos’ until I was fifteen or something. I still find that hilarious.

    I have too many favorite words in Urdu but the one that jumps immediately to mind is ‘fanaa’ (فناء) which sort of means ‘destroyed’ but is used to talk about the destruction and subjugation of the self when one is in love.
  5. You’re on a deserted island. You have one album and one book. What are they and why?
    Pakistani sufi-rock band Junoon’s fourth studio album Azadi (translation: freedom) because of its unique sound, catchy tunes, and nostalgia.  It was released in 1997, which is just two years after I was born, and was playing everywhere in Pakistan in the 2000s when I was growing up. I still catch myself humming the songs despite not having listened to it properly for years. 

    The book would be Louis Sachar’s Holes. It’s for young adults – but wonderfully written and keeps you gripped till the last page. Once you’re done, you’ll want to read it again whenever you need to relax. I’m very envious of Sachar and really want to write like him.
  6. If you could change one thing about the literary industry, what would it be?
    I’d stop them from publishing books about the Muslim world that are rooted in poorly researched and overgeneralized stereotypes. If you’ve read one orientalist take on oppressed women and seething patriarchs in Pakistan, you’ve read them all.