‘Fish And Fences’ by Veeda Bybee

Fish And Fences by Veeda Bybee, 2020

The magic trick:

Clearly discussing the good and bad of the story’s setting

We’re off to Idaho this week.

There are many things to say for this story and its thoughtful, affecting consideration of small-town race-based assumptions and expectations. I most appreciated the clear way it laid out the good and bad of rural life. The bad comes in the form of the story’s conflict. But there is good too.

Our narrator sums it up, “Also, living in a small town gives me more opportunities than my cousins have living in the city. They have to try out for everything. Dance teams. Soccer. Debate. It’s a huge deal if they make something. Here, most everyone gets a spot. Not to say there isn’t amazing talent – just not as much.”

Sometimes that kind of thing can be overly didactic, I guess. But here, as it operates in the background behind the story’s plot and themes, it works perfectly to not only establish the setting but to make a case for the setting.

And that’s quite a trick on Bybee’s part.

The selection:

My cousins in California don’t know how I can take being one of the few people of color in a mostly all-white community. They ask me if all I eat is potatoes and all I listen to is country music. They don’t know what they are missing. Sure, I actually do eat more potatoes than rice, but that’s because potatoes are great. You can mash them, scallop them, bake them, and fry them. Mom puts fresh potatoes from the garden in our curry, and Mrs. Alton down the road even makes them into potato rolls. She shares them every year at Christmas. She always gushes over the plate of fried wontons Mom delivers, but I love her rolls like candy.

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