Bleachers: Fifty-Four Linked Fictions by Joseph Mills
"In Bleachers, Joe Mills pulls back the curtain on an oft-ridiculed segment of society, the 'soccer mom' (or dad!) and reveals the deeper recesses of the human psyche. The realization that to have a child is 'the death of the self,' that some days the best you can do as a parent is 'just be there,' and myriad other epiphanies. From Pre-Game to Post-Game, from 'Aging' to 'Zidane,' there are life lessons for player and parent."
—Shaindel Beers, author of Secure Your Own Mask, Winner of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize
"I am not sure I have encountered a writer who can so completely, and continuously, blindside me with a smack of emotion as Joseph Mills always does. Reading several of these stories, I was nodding along, thinking yep, yep, yep . . . and then WHOA. I found pieces of myself in so many of the parents, and so clearly identified other family members and people I know in some of the other characters. I love the connections between the stories and how he perfectly captures life as a parent. This is simply fantastic."
—Jamie Rogers Southern, Bookmarks
In Bleachers, the debut short-fiction collection by award-winning poet Joseph Mills, fifty-four stories take place during two youth soccer games, capturing the thoughts, concerns, realizations, and perspectives of the parents on the sidelines and in the stands.
As these spectators watch (or don't watch) the players on the field, their narratives interweave to form a portrait of community and of parenting—always unpredictable, often complicated, and rarely what it seems. From A to Z ("Aging" to "Zidane"), Bleachers can be read as a primer on parenting and family, as well as a paean to sports.
If, as Dr. King said, Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America, then Saturday morning may be the most integrated as families gather to experience the victories and losses, both great and small, of the game that brings them together, "forming, then breaking apart, then reforming . . . . temporarily cohering" as a team.
Like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, Joe Mills doesn’t remember learning to read. It’s an ability he always seems to have had. As a child, he hauled around a Falstaff beer case full of comic books on his family’s frequent travels. Now, he always carries a bag of books on trips. These usually go unopened because he ends up reading (and buying) what he finds on his journeys. He knows traveling would be much easier if he didn’t carry the bag, but he can’t bring himself to leave it behind. He currently lives in Winston-Salem where, to make his problem less obvious, he has divided his library among several locations, including his house, car, office, and classroom at the UNC School of the Arts.