The delicate interplay between past and present, what we carry with us, what we leave behind, and what others take from us is rendered in pitch-perfect prose in “The Makeweight Piece.” This story is set during a distant war in which the starving and the dying cling to art as prayer. As worship. As a way to define who they once were. So much heart is packed between the lines of a story whose tone is at once tightly focused and expansive that my own heart staggers and cracks open. As a reader I’m dying to be touched and amazed. This writing lifts me as though I am a bird and I circle ever higher on thermals of imagery that drop me when they must back into missing paintings and empty frames. Back to earth, back to how Noah must have felt after the flood. Loss and hope resonate in prose so impeccably controlled and so restrained yet so powerful that I am left without words — only thoughts of Irina and her friend, now an old woman on her deathbed — I am left with them entrenched in the place words might have been found.
— Yasuko Thanh
2021 Fiction Contest Judge