For a while I’ve been interested in the idea of personal mythologies—how we’re shaped by the family lore passed down from parents or grandparents. But what happens when your personal history collides with events of larger cultural significance? Here, Watkins weaves a tapestry of fiction, historical fact, and autobiography to merge her own origin story, including her father’s involvement with Charles Manson, with the larger history of the American West, which is, of course, a history of violence.
First published in The Hopkins Review, Volume 2, Number 2, Spring 2009, and available to read here. Collected in Battleborn: Stories, Riverhead Books, 2012
I return to this story again and again when I don’t know what or how to write. It gallops through time and history, from story to story, from the Comstock Lode and the very founding of Reno, Nevada, to Spahn Ranch where the narrator’s father came to live with the Manson family, and the narrator’s mother witnessing the Nevada nuclear tests in the 1960s. Much of it is autobiographical (Watkins’ father was indeed in the Manson family), and much of it is non-fictional. The incorporation of the essay form into the short story is one of my favourite things to read.
Originally published in Hopkins Review, Spring 2009 and available to read here. Collected in Battleborn, 2012, Riverhead/Granta, 2013
“At night I can’t sleep, I toss and turn
Candlesticks in the dark, visions of bodies being burned” – Geto Boys
collected in Granta 139: Best Young America Novelists 3, 2017; read it online here