Everybody Knows You When You’re Down And Out

Amanda Petrusich on blueswoman Bessie Smith: “She got what she wanted by working hard at it, finding new ways to profit from a cultivated skill. Some of the notes she hits are so robust, so fixed and powerful, listening to them feels like walking directly into a sliding glass door. You are stunned and embarrassed, looking around to see who else saw. Her forcefulness just sneaks up like that.”

Source: Oxford American
Published: Nov 10, 2020
Length: 15 minutes (3,914 words)

The Godmother of Soul

At Oxford American, as part of their Southern Music Issue, Rosanne Cash celebrates the life and career of electric guitar pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, an American singer and guitarist who influenced Elvis, Keith Richards, and Johnny Cash. “She traveled the world and left it scorched with her fearlessness and musical originality, inspired fierce devotion from an audience who thrilled to her enormous gifts and her personal excesses, and shook the celestial rafters with the force of her artistic character.”

Source: Oxford American
Published: Nov 10, 2020
Length: 6 minutes (1,629 words)

Back to the Land

Alice Driver shares the story of her dad’s wish to build his own tomb on his own land. “He wanted his death, like his life, to be a work of art—a tomb he designed and filled with ceramics—and one that would allow him to define death on his own terms.”

Source: Oxford American
Published: Sep 25, 2020
Length: 7 minutes (1,914 words)

A Lesson in Acceptance

In Houston, Texas, Bryan Washington explores what it means to be a regular at a restaurant — and how this type of relationship has evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: Oxford American
Published: Aug 17, 2020
Length: 10 minutes (2,540 words)

Underneath The Sweet Gum Tree

“Today, I venture proudly and safely into the straight world outside the confines of bars and clubs once designated specifically as ‘gay’ spaces. I can be free. This wouldn’t have been the case a generation ago.”

Source: Oxford American
Published: Aug 10, 2020
Length: 15 minutes (3,766 words)

Prayers for Richard

David Ramsey wrote a lyrical love letter to Little Richard at Oxford American in 2015. “For all of us, actuarially speaking, sooner or later the end is nigh. So let us dance: black and white, man and woman, believer and heathen. And everything in between. Let us dance, all of us, while we are still able, while we still can.”

Source: Oxford American
Published: Dec 11, 2015
Length: 11 minutes (2,877 words)

An Intersection at the End of America

A portrait of Dilley, Texas, home of the largest immigration detention center in the United States

Source: Oxford American
Published: Mar 17, 2020
Length: 45 minutes (11,400 words)

The Jell-O Rule

The eulogy for novelist Charles Portis, delivered at Portis’ funeral by his friend and colleague Ernie Dumas.

Source: Oxford American
Published: Feb 28, 2020
Length: 12 minutes (3,238 words)

Now I Don’t Know Who I Am

“Mixed (race) feelings about Columbia’s Toro y Moi.”

Source: Oxford American
Published: Nov 19, 2019
Length: 33 minutes (8,446 words)

Like a Shovel and a Rope

“We had nothing to lose,” Cary Ann said. “Fuck it. Band. Family. Let’s give it a shot. . . . Handshake, spit on it. If it gets too nasty we’ll cut and run.”

Source: Oxford American
Published: Nov 19, 2019
Length: 32 minutes (8,147 words)