Maurice Carlos Ruffin
Credit: Vaughn D. Taylor.

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Maurice Carlos Ruffin in conversation with Deesha Philyaw

How do you capture a city in a couple hundred pages? Maurice Carlos Ruffin joins the ranks of great writers of place with the New Orleans-set The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You. The short story collection focuses on the lives—from hustler to professor to runaway teen—that animate the Big Easy. The book is Ruffin’s second after We Cast A Shadow, a novel about a Black father’s quest to protect his biracial son in a world where “demelanization” procedures are the norm. This time, Ruffin’s book does more than evoke New Orleans—a fleur-de-lis is inserted in the O of “Love” on the book’s cover, and flash fiction about a young man on juvenile probation lives alongside stories about Hurricane Katrina and the destruction that still remains. It’s also a surprisingly rare entry into what Ruffin hopes is an expanding canon. “There aren’t that many short story collections by African Americans coming out of New Orleans, which is weird considering how legendary my hometown is,” Ruffin told Seija Rankin in an interview for Entertainment Weekly. “So I feel like the book is at the vanguard of a movement I hope will happen. I want to see books flooding out of New Orleans. We have so many stories to tell!” On Aug. 23, Politics and Prose brings together Deesha Philyaw, the author of the short story collection The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award), and Ruffin for a conversation about the city of his birth. The online event begins at 7 p.m. on Aug. 23. Free.