Ricardo Wilson

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SHAFTSBURY — A Shaftsbury author was a finalist for the 2021 Vermont Book Awards. His writing “deals with Mexico and the United States and … ideas of Blackness,” he said.

Ricardo Wilson, 45, is the author of “An Apparent Horizon and Other Stories” that was published in 2021. It’s a collection of two novellas and short stories. It was entered in the fiction category of the competition. 

Before he began teaching in the English Department at Williams College, Wilson was born and raised in Los Angeles, Calif. He then bounced around the country from Upstate New York to Virginia, until he finally landed in Southern Vermont.

He and his wife have been in Bennington County for about three years. They moved to the area right before the pandemic hit.

Wilson said he came to academia and creative writing late in the game. He didn’t go to grad school, where he got a degree in comparative literature, until he was 30, “which I think is a blessing in a lot of ways.”

He discovered creative writing was his “genuine passion” after he finished his undergraduate degree. He then spent his twenties attempting to carve out time in his schedule to write.

Wilson’s stories, specifically in “An Apparent Horizon and Other Stories,” cover several topics that create a “certain productive anxiety,” Wilson said. The stories allow the reader to recognize “the fictional nature of our own imaginations.”

Wilson said there are moments in his stories that destabilize the “imaginative nature of our own realities” and the violent consequences of that.

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One story focuses on an environmental activist in California. She loses her father and “circles around the trauma of that loss,” said Wilson. The story also contains a white environmental activist who goes on a hunger strike in relation to “land issues in California.”

This story, said Wilson, “becomes very much a portrait of the city that I grew up in.” He also connects the violent aftermath of the Rodney King verdict to the protagonist’s backstory.

“These are very personal stories that, in many ways, are managing grief,” said Wilson. He lost his mother 10 years prior to the publication of the collection, and while that loss had an influence on his writing, he also wanted to bring attention to the history that sustains “the cities and landscapes that we inherit and walk on and are oftentimes unaware of.”

Another story in the collection incorporates the Panama Canal as an “engine of economic growth and how important it is to (our) economic stability as a nation,” said Wilson. “There are echoes to the institution of slavery that are are uncomfortable to look at.”

His father's side of the family is from Panama. Wilson’s grandparents and great-grandparents “worked to bring this thing, (the Panama Canal), into existence,” he said. He went back to Panama to conduct research more than 10 years ago to write this story.

The story, “The Death of Sam Brown,” was originally published as a 60,000 word novel. Eventually, Wilson decided it was a good idea to cut the story down to a 20,000 word novella.

Wilson said, “It's a difficult story, but in a lot of senses the most palatable story coming from a writer of color.” The story will teach the reader about Panama and the people that live there. “It grounds the reader in a familiar sense of exploring kind of an ‘other’ and then the rest of the stories kind of complicate that.”

Since his latest publication, Wilson is preparing to launch Outpost, his creative writing residency program out of Shaftsbury. He is also working on other literary projects, but he’s keeping them close to his chest for now.


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