The new (spring 2009) issue of J Journal: New Writing on Justice, is now available. And in the continuing spirit of Short Story Month, I’m happy to tell you that this issue includes my short story, “For Services Rendered.”
If you’re not familiar with J Journal, here’s a brief description:
J Journal: The Literary Journal of John Jay College of Criminal Justice features new writing on crime, criminal justice, law and law enforcement. Housed at CUNY’s John Jay College, one of the nation’s premier criminal justice institutions, J Journal examines the justice issue through creative work, directly and tangentially. Our contributors include established and new writers, professionals in the law enforcement field, lawyers, professors in the humanities and social sciences, and prison inmates. Unlike other Criminal Justice journals, J Journal presents its analyses of contemporary justice issues through creative, not scholarly work. The Journal’s short stories, poetry and creative nonfiction expand the question: What is Justice?
In an earlier incarnation, “For Services Rendered,” which is set in the 1930s and 1940s and explores the unusual connections between the family of a high-level Nazi and that of the pediatrician who cares for their daughter, appeared in the U.K.-based Solander: The Magazine of the Historical Novel Society. The story has always mean a lot to me, for a number of reasons.
Mainly, I’ve always felt attached to it because I began working on it about a year after the death of my paternal grandmother, from whom I’d gleaned the story’s kernel: When she arrived in the United States in 1938, my grandmother was 23. She found a job working as a nanny for a Jewish-American family whose baby daughter went to a pediatrician who had himself been advised to leave Germany by a high-level Nazi whose offspring the pediatrician had treated. Later, my father, too, became this physician’s patient.
I’ve always believed that this is one of my strongest stories (most agents and editors have seemed to agree). My faith in it was also confirmed when the story received an honorable mention/finalist status in two national contests.
But I’ve kept tinkering with it over the years, particularly as some very smart and dedicated agents and editors have offered additional suggestions. And I think it’s even better now that it’s been through J Journal editorial process.
You see, editors Adam Berlin and Jeffrey Heiman are terrific. They really “got” what the story was about, and they offered incredibly helpful, incredibly respectful editorial suggestions within that context. I never thought that their ideas were “out there,” rooted in their own egos and literary preferences (contrasted with, say, the MFA faculty member who kept insisting on a greater role for the Nazi couple’s child…perhaps because her own [only] novel featured a child protagonist???). For Adam and Jeffrey, the comments were all about the story, and how it might be improved. I’ll admit–it didn’t hurt that these editors were pretty complimentary about the story overall, and made it clear that they’d truly be happy to publish it.
And I’m truly happy that they did.
Check out J Journal here. Like all literary journals these days, J Journal could really benefit from an increased subscriber base. If its premise appeals to you–and if you like the excerpts from past issues that are online (so far, excerpts from the new issue don’t seem to be), please consider subscribing. Thanks so much.
(cross-posted on My Machberet)