by Claire Oxford
“Alright, are we done?” said Kenyon Review Fellow Melinda Moustakis on May 2 after she ended her farewell reading in Cheever Room, took her last question, and exhaled a short sigh of relief.
A Kenyon Review Fellow who began in 2014, Moustakis has taught courses in the English department, read submissions for the Kenyon Review, and worked on what she hopes will be a novel. As her fellowship comes to a close, she looks ahead to another creative writing fellowship at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
At the reading, Moustakis mainly read excerpts from her 2011 book composed of short, interconnected stories entitled Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories and from her novel-in-progress, written in a similar format. The stories are rooted in her Alaskan family history and its rough-and-ready legacy of homesteading. The former won several awards: the Flannery O’Connor Award, the Maurice Prize and a 5 Under 35 selection by the National Book Foundation.
The texts have a concise, cutting rhythm and bold, grizzled imagery of living in the bare Alaskan wilderness. In her first reading from a section of Bear Down, Bear North entitled “Trigger,” she led with a bang: The speaker narrates conceiving a child while hunting moose on hers and her husband’s Alaskan homestead.
When comparing herself to her favorite authors like American novelists Marilynne Robinson and Toni Morrison, Moustakis said “My writing looks more like a bear scratched a tree.”
Annie Hartley ’19, a student in Moustakis’ Introduction to Fiction Writing class said she enjoyed her professor’s energy throughout the semester. “I really love Dr. M,” Hartley said. “She’s super funny and super smart. She makes the whole three hours [of class] enjoyable.”
David Lynn, editor of the Kenyon Review, offered his parting comments on Moustakis: “[She] is not only a first-rate talent who’s really going to go on to great things in the literary world,” he said. “She’s brought a lot of life and vitality and humor and wisdom over the past two years and we’re really going to miss her.”