Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines
by Mark Lyons
A Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection, Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines has already been critically acclaimed as “an important landmark in the literature of multiculturalism.” Author Mark Lyons takes readers on a cross-country, road-tripping, time-traveling tour of unforgettable and deeply human short stories.
Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines are meditations on how strangers meet in the most unlikely places and move on with a new perspective of their place in the world. A snake-handling preacher–cast out and lost on the highway–finds faith and redemption in a junkyard. A hitchhiker feasts on road kill with a hobo on the Great Plains and discovers the Cosmos. A Mexican-American Border Patrol officer arrests a monad–a wetback–that asks him a question that makes him confront his own history. An artist whose paintings are rendered colorless by her abusive husband commits an act of vengeance and deliverance. A soldier returns from Iraq and mediates on the fate of the tumbler pigeon he left behind.
These stories are about communities, of people finding ways to survive the night together, of pulling each other out of sinkholes. A rural village embraces a Vietnam vet and tries to keep him afloat, to steer him to safety. The inmates of a chronic public hospital ward, a hermetic magic mountain, dream of escape to a life outside and confront the reality that this is their last home, their last stop on the line, that all they have is each other.
“This collection of short stories cleverly exploits the idea of descants, those impromptu roadside shrines that commemorate loss, calling to mind both those who have left and those who are left. A gifted storyteller, Lyons has a wonderful ear for dialect…an engrossing collection giving ordinary people their due.” –Kirkus Reviews
[Roadside shrines] ”Strike us as sad and tragic, but usually only in an abstract way. Always in a hurry to get somewhere, we fly past them without a second glance or a second thought. Mark Lyons asks us to slow down, pull over, and turn off the engine. While the image of the descanso may tie the stories together thematically, what truly unifies the collection is Lyons’ impressive ability to capture the voices of a wide range of characters. The voice of each emerges so naturally that it’s easy to forget that only one person, Mark Lyons, lies behind all of them. Lyons manages to create a world rich enough to make many novelists envious. [This collection] deserves to be read and relished. [They are] stories worth savoring.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
Mark Lyons wrote, translated and Espejos y Ventanas / Mirrors and Windows, Oral Histories of Mexican Farmworkers and Their Families, published in Spanish and English by Temple University. He was a recipient of Pennsylvania Council of the Arts fellowships for 2003 and 2009, and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
As director of the Philadelphia Storytelling Project, Lyons uses digital storytelling in his work with teens, the immigrant community, and homeless veterans. Participants record their stories, mix them with music, and share them on CDs, the radio, webcasts, and public venues. He recently completed a project with immigrant youth who created dolls, recorded stories about their fears of their parents being deported, and implanted their recorded stories into the dolls to create talking StoryDolls.
Lyons has worked in the Latino community for the last twenty five years, as a health worker and community organizer. He was the director of the Farmworkers Health and Safety Institute, a consortium of grass-roots organizations in the U.S. and the Caribbean. The Institute trained farmworkers to use theater and other popular education methods to train other farmworkers concerning health and safety issues and workers’ rights. He also worked for several years in a community health center, as a provider and health planner.
He also edits Open Borders, the Wild River Review series of immigrant stories.