If Only They Knew
2000/20001 Anthology Writers In The School

If you've lived through grade school, you've got enough material to write about for a lifetime. Flannery O'Connor said that. Now, If Only They Knew is an anthology of writing by local high school students, and the wealth of material is endless. These are students who participated in the Writers In The Schools Program over the past year, working with authors such as Karen Karbo, or the Mercury's own contributors, Stevan Allred and Chelsea Cain.

"So girly girl is struttin down the street giving every car door a little tug to see if it's unlocked. And sure enough, halfway down the steamin street we come to a boxy little Toyota, a gray one, and she steps inside, pleased. I've been following this pair of legs around all night, so I stand outside the passenger's door. Soon as she's settled herself in the driver seat she's got a cigarette in her mouth and only three drags later does she remember to unlock the door and let me in..." That's from "Miss Thang," by Clio Sady of Grant High School. This is a tough short story about a self-proclaimed "bitchy, manipulative harlot," and a narrator with an amputated arm due to a fireworks accident.

An equally hard-hitting, lovely piece is "Somalia to Kenya," by Mohamed Mukhtar, of Roosevelt High School. "In Somalia we met in one place," Mukhtar writes. "All my family, we decided to move to Kenya in two buses. We were 25 people maybe more. We got on the buses and we have little food. We thought that Kenya is close to Somalia. My dad thought that it would take us 2 days to get to Kenya...it took us 30 days to get there by bus...After 5 days my little brother died because of no water and my grandma was very sick. We had to stop to bury my little brother...After 15 days everyone was thinking about dying because every check point they had people that had guns..." This story, in its amazing and compressed detail, reaches a surprisingly happy ending.

The anthology is full of beautiful bits of honest memoir: "Momma calls down, 'Al,' but you ignore her and pretend to be sleeping. Her voice sounds tired and weak, and you wince at its vulnerability and the fact that you take advantage of that," Alexandra Fuller writes, in "The Sidewalk Feels Empty Now." In "Last Summer," Genny Ton writes, "Last summer was the first time I returned to my country in eight years. My mother was to pick me up from the airport. The only description of me that she was familiar with was that, I'm the one with long hair, not too skinny, not too fat." The honesty and the clarity in these compressed sentences is satisfying and heartbreaking too. Lovely, lovely work.