Author Archives: Lauren O'Neal

About Lauren O'Neal

Lauren O’Neal is a freelance writer and editor working toward an MFA in creative writing in San Francisco. She has written for publications like Slate, the New Inquiry, and the Rumpus, where she was formerly an assistant editor. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal.

New Quarterly Lit-Mag: The Intentional


I root for my generation the way some people root for sports teams, and there’s nothing I loathe more than trend pieces bemoaning some supposed Millennial flaw, so I’m excited to see a new lit-mag that does the opposite. The Intentional, a DC-based quarterly journal, publishes fiction, essays, poems, and art, focusing on Millennial contributors and topics.

Their third and current issue is organized around the theme of vulnerability, which, because we’re mostly in our twenties, pretty much just means “sex.” People of all ages have a lot to say about sex, of course, but the perspective here is definitely Millennial. What does moving in with your significant other mean as the cultural importance of marriage wanes and the economic incentives to split living costs wax? How do women who choose sex work feel about their jobs, both ethically and emotionally? This approach is epitomized by a short excerpt from Chelsea Martin’s new chapbook Even Though I Don’t Miss You, which explores romantic ambivalence in a Tumblr-ready tone: “I momentarily forgot that you were not just an appendage to me and I said, ‘Do you want to make an OkCupid account?'”

In a generationally uncharacteristic move, the Intentional‘s creators decided to make it print-only (though their website is functional and attractive enough for an online magazine). As much as I cherish the convenience of the Internet, I think they made the right choice putting it on paper. The magazine as a physical object is gorgeous, and its strongest material is visual art, including an intriguing comic strip by Saman Bemel-Benrud and paintings by Erick Jackson that “construct a world in which children rule, but…lacks the playfulness one might expect from such a theme.”

I only hope that next issue will channel the Millennial passion for diverse media representation and showcase the work of more writers and artists of color.

– Lauren O’Neal is a freelance writer and editor working toward an MFA in creative writing in San Francisco. She has written for publications like Slate, the New Inquiry, and theRumpus, where she was formerly the assistant editor, and is currently on the editorial team at brand-new lit-mag Midnight Breakfast. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal.

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Family Life by Akhil Sharma


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Halfway through the twelve years it took Akhil Sharma to write Family Life, his editor, perfectly happy with the then-current draft, urged him to quit rewriting. The temptation must have been mighty; the long silence after Sharma’s promising debut, An Obedient Father, caused his name to be all but forgotten in literary circles, and the pressure to publish again was presumably immense. But the manuscript was not yet “doing what I wanted it to do,” says Sharma. “That book was dense with unhappiness, whereas I wanted a book that contained all the unhappiness but was also full of life.”

What sort of subject matter would require so many years of fine-tuning to achieve a balance between unhappiness and life? To give you an idea, here’s the basic arc of the story: Ajay Mishra is eight years old when his family moves from India to the USA. Ajay’s older brother Birju shows great academic promise, until a swimming accident leaves him permanently brain-damaged. There’s no hope of recovery or even improvement. Birju can no longer see, speak, feed himself, or bathe himself. All he can do is lie in a hospital bed, immobile, speechless, for the rest of his life.

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