Reading Mindfully: Kirstin Valdez Quade’s “Jubilee”
March 16, 2018 | Maredith Sheridan
Each month we offer you a chance to read mindfully, using literature to consider your reactions to and assumptions about the world in which we live and work. Through these short texts and accompanying questions, we hope to give you a small taste of Books@Work. Grab a friend, family member or colleague to read, share and discuss together.
Winner of the National Book Critics’ Circle’s 2016 John Leonard Prize, Kirstin Valdez Quade’s debut short story collection Night at the Fiestas explores complicated race and class dynamics, with characters who “protect, betray, wound, undermine, bolster, define, and, ultimately, save each other.” The New York Times called the collection, which includes today’s story “Jubilee,” a “legitimate masterpiece.” Quade’s other work has appeared in various literary magazines, and she is currently an assistant professor of creative writing at Stanford University.
As you read “Jubilee,” consider these questions:
- What does it take to change our minds about someone we’ve previously judged?
- Is it possible for a relationship to exist without power dynamics?
- What do we owe to those who employ us? What do they owe to us?
By Kirstin Valdez Quade
When Andrea pulled into the dirt lot by the orchards that adjoined the blueberry fields, she saw she’d timed their arrival just right. Where the farm workers normally parked their beat-up sedans and rusting pickups, the Volvos and Mercedes and Audis were lined up, a faint scrim of dust from the dirt drive on their hoods. Usually Andrea was embarrassed by her mother’s old Chrysler with its missing wood panel, but today she parked it among the luxury vehicles with a sense of vindication.
“Nice rides,” said Matty, nodding appreciatively.
“I told you. They own everything.” She gestured at the trees and at the sky, too, as if the Lowells actually did own the whole wide world. “Like three hundred acres. Practically this entire side of the river. Apples and pears and blueberries, too.”
For several years, the blueberry industry in California had been expanding, and the Lowells had been early adopters. In honor of their eighth annual blueberry party, the field workers—a few of whom Andrea had known her whole life—had been given this Saturday off, paid. “Wouldn’t want the guests in their pearls to have to pick alongside Mexicans.” She snorted, picturing the Lowells’ friends in their Brooks Brothers chinos and silk skirts and strappy heeled sandals making their way down the rows.
Matty shrugged. “I wouldn’t mind a paid day off.”
Continue reading the story in Guernica Magazine.
Image: Alfred Sisley, Pommiers en Fleurs Louveciennes, 1873, [Public Domain] via WikiArt.org