Zondie received a graduate degree in English from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She is currently an MFA candidate working with Ehud Havazelet at the University of Oregon in Eugene. The recipient of numerous grants and awards, she has taught fiction and poetry as a teaching fellow and also in the community.
Zondie draws from autobiography in order to explore the trauma of sexual abuse and domestic violence although she says that a more subtle and comprehensive “understanding of human chaos is achieved when I adhere to the ordering principles of fiction, rather than to the actualities of my experience.”
Judge Aviya Kushner points to the outrageous situations present in Zondie’s story and says they’re:
“scary but exciting: a father having an affair in the next room, as his daughter tries to sleep, is chilling and also gripping. There is humor and a love for life in these pages, where butchers and baby carriages share phrases and a young girl gets a twenty-dollar bill from her boss, as a goodbye gift just before she is fired.”
A selection From Zondie’s story “Before All the Men Have Landed”:
In the end, she’s made my hair like hers: a bun pulled tight – it stitches the skin at my temples and my eyes thin out. On top of my head is a dense bun porcupined with glittery sticks. The only difference is my hair is blonde and hers is black. She’s mimicked the peacock coloring of her eye shadow on my eyelids, rubbed clown disks of rouge on both of us. Suki brings us cheek to cheek in front of the mirror. Over our heads, the decorated buns look like mini-firecrackers. Behind us is Marlene [Dietrich] is black and white, sultry and sedate: she sang to raise the spirits of men. I feel obligated to smile. My smile comes out more like a wince. Suki doesn’t smile. With a placid face and darting eyes, she inspects: her, me, her, me.
Suki pulls me by my elbow, drags me down the short hall to the living room. My bare feet slap behind her heels. My father’s slung like an ancient Greek on the couch, one knee up, one leg straight; he pours nutmix into his mouth. My towel has slipped from my backside and dangles narrowly between the pin of my underarms. I flip it around my right hip; this causes my left hip to come exposed.
My father looks across his game of Solitaire. “Ahh! Twin beauties!” he says. “The transformation has begun!”
We asked Zondie a few questions:
How does the work you do to earn money influence your writing process?
I have to be beyond the idea that my need to earn a living interferes. Nothing can interfere, right? Definitely not my daughters, the infant just old enough to twist one mamma nipple while biting the other. Nothing interferes. My process is impregnable.
Just now I’m lucky to be teaching fiction. That’s getting paid to study what I love and need, plus there’s connection.
I’ve changed influence to interfere, I know.
What text has been recently inspiring?
Ehud Havazelet’s “Six Days” from his second collection is my current tops. It’s a father-son immigrant story, small, and refracts infinitely.
Chekhov, finally. For too long I wasn’t open enough. Alice Munro, always—for her prismatic handling.
These, plus my partner, Otis Haschemeyer, has a stunning novel-in-progress that I’m privy to.
Do you have any advice for future fellowship applicants and aspiring writers?
I’m not sure. Work up your luck? Master psyche management? Apply for things you don’t think you’ll get.
This is going to sound hokey and useless: love life and its people—yourself, everyone, the ways we are. Don’t be sentimental about it and I think perceptivity benefits. I’ve spent years writing on the flatline of justified antipathy—never seeing it.
– today’s post was written by Melissa Ward, Oregon Book Awards & Fellowships intern