Lit Louisiana highlights the state’s contemporary literature and brings significant books and authors from the past to the readers of Verite.

Flash fiction is a shorter type of short story. It’s a vignette in the life of a character, usually. There isn’t any time for the arc of a plot — beginning, middle, and end. A book of this type allows readers to read, pause, and finish the stories in their minds.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s “The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You” is a collection in this genre. The book focuses on the lives of people living at the edges of society, who, however, are not so much at the perimeters in New Orleans because they make up many of our street acquaintances, neighbors, and friends. Their fates after Hurricane Katrina comprise the heart of the volume.

The collection establishes Ruffin’s facility in the use of dialogue, voice, and point-of-view, most notably in the title story of the book about a young male prostitute, speaking in his own words about a john:

“Jellnik eye you from crotch to mouth. He pull out a pack. He smoke. You pull out one from the pack and light yours with his.

‘Why are you the only one out here this morning.’ …

‘I’m the onliest one you need,’ you say.”

“The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You” is both raw and tender. The book follows Ruffin’s acclaimed “We Cast A Shadow”(a title wordplay on Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”). Ruffin’s first book was nominated for several prestigious awards and named among the best books of the year by National Public Radio and the Washington Post.  

“The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You,” his second book, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and shortlisted for the Ernest J. Gaines’ Award among other honors. Read both books to appreciate the writing coming from Louisiana now.   

EMBERS

Dr. Maurice Martinez was one of the early researchers of New Orleans culture. His film about the Mardi Gras Indians was groundbreaking work at a time long before everyone and his mama began bringing a camera to the second lines.

In recent years, some of his early work has appeared in book forms. Check out “No I Won’t Bow Down on that Dirty Ground,” a fictional effort to bring his research to a younger generation, and “Blackcreole: Too White To Be Black Too Black To Be White, Recollections of a Mixed-Race New Orleans Colored Creole In Limbo.”

The latter offers literary significations to Ishmael Reed’s rollicking “Shrovetide in Old New Orleans” (1978) and “Colored Creole: Color Conflict and Confusion in New Orleans,” the serious 1977 monograph by Aline St. Julien. RIP Maurice.

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Fatima Shaik

Fatima Shaik is the author of seven books including "Economy Hall: The Hidden History of a Free Black Brotherhood," the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities 2022 Book of the Year. She is a native of...