>Iowa Review

>There are many fine stories in The Iowa Review, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Winter 2004/05), including “Instituto” by Roy Kesey; “Cosas” by H.G. Carrillo; and “Name of the Game” by Ginger Strand. Probably my favorite story, though, or at least the one that really grabbed my attention, is “What Coal Tastes Like,” by Mary Jean Babic. The story is about Slavko, a Croatian refugee who, with his father and brother shortly after WW II, arrives in Wyoming to work in a coal mine. Mostly the Americans and other refugees are friendly and helpful, and Slavko is able to buy a DeSoto, get his drivers license, and eventually feel new kinds of loss. Sometimes Slavko hangs out with the other Croatians in the tap room:

“Now and then Slavko joined them for a few shots of someone’s homemade pear brandy. The brandy gave way to bellowing against communism and against Franklin Roosevelt, which gave way to pained stories about vanished relatives, which gave way to to bellowing about buying land for a club of their own. Their shouts sometimes broke out over the mumbling, dusty men playing pool and drinking at the front of the bar. Slavko noticed their disapproving glances. He told the group to keep it down or keep it in English. they did neither. It felt too good to let loose in their native tongue, without stutter or pause, the sweet violence of a voice that matched the intensity of their emotions. Slavko himself got caught up in it sometimes. Other times, he heard his language the way other sin the bar heard it, as a blunt-edged intrusion.”

Good stuff.

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