Joseph, Sheri 1967-
Joseph, Sheri 1967-
Writer. University of Georgia, Athens, instructor and editorial and teaching assistant for Georgia Review, 1994-2000; Morehead State University, Morehead, KY, assistant professor of creative writing, 2000-02; Georgia State University, Atlanta, assistant professor of English and creative writing, 2002-06, associate professor, 2006—. Member, board of directors, AIDS Coalition of NE Georgia, 1998-2000. Five Points literary magazine, fiction editor, 2004—.
Associated Writing Programs.
National Magazine Award finalist, for "The Elixir"; Bread Loaf Writers' Conference fellow; MacDowell Colony fellow; Tennessee Williams Scholar, Sewanee Writers' Conference, 2001; Walter E. Dakin fellow, 2003; Peter Taylor fellow, Kenyon Writers' Workshop, 2004; Yaddo fellow, 2006; Grub Street Book Prize, 2007, for Stray.
Bear Me Safely Over, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Stray, MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2007.
Contributor to anthologies, including Birds in the Hand, Farrar, Straus, and After O'Connor: Stories from Contemporary Georgia, University of Georgia Press. Contributor of short fiction to literary journals, including Georgia Review, Kenyon Review, Shenandoah, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Other Voices.
Sheri Joseph's first book of fiction, Bear Me Safely Over, is a cycle of short stories that can be read as a novel, the stories all involving the same characters and a continuing plot. In what a Publishers Weekly reviewer called "a gutsy, realistic, and lyrical portrait of country people struggling to find meaning in their constricted lives," Joseph introduces the reader to her three main characters. Paul is a gay teenager who has been arrested for prostitution and is verbally abused and humiliated by his stepbrother, Curtis. Curtis plays in a band and is engaged to Sidra, a sympathetic young woman whose sister died of AIDS. She is drawn to Paul for complex reasons and ends up taking him in after he fights with his family, much to the disgust of her fiancée. More trouble develops when Paul begins to develop a romantic relationship with Kent, a member of Curtis's band. Pam Kingsbury of Southern Scribe observed: "Joseph handles the book's themes—loss, homophobia, families reinventing themselves, and religious fundamentalism—with subtlety and assurance. Her characters, no longer religious but deeply spiritual, reach a kind of salvation by the book's end."
In Stray, a 2007 novel, Joseph continues to examine the relationship between Paul and Kent from Bear Me Safely Over. A strange love triangle develops after Kent, now married, renews his affair with Paul. Overwhelmed by feelings of guilt, Kent decides to end the relationship; in turn, Paul insinuates himself into Kent's life by making friends with Maggie, Kent's wife, who works as a public defender. Kent reveals the affair to Bernard Falk, a college professor with whom Paul lives, prompting a violent fight between Paul and Bernard. When the older man is found dead the next day, Paul is charged with murder, and Maggie, who has grown attracted to Paul, agrees to take his case. Joanne Wilkinson, writing in Booklist, called Stray a "compelling tale of reconciliation and redemption as the lovers are forced to face their flawed perceptions head-on."
Joseph once told CA: "Bear Me Safely Over, my first book, has been read by many as a novel, but it's actually a cycle of short stories. The idea was important to me in composing the book, which is multivocal and alinear, circling around various members of two Georgia families about to be joined by marriage. As I write, I try to let my characters tell me their stories and to let one story or voice rise out of another, so that they answer one another and the book builds naturally with a sort of balance of dissent like that of human communities.
"I seem to write a lot about family in various forms, especially about people who feel excluded or unsatisfied by traditional family structures, yet cannot deny a need for connection on that level, who therefore seek substitutes. And I also write about the religious impulse, again of the sort thwarted by traditional religion that nonetheless can't stop seeking something authentic to replace it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Advocate, July 23, 2002, David Bahr, "Family Feud."
Booklist, April 15, 2002, John Green, review of Bear Me Safely Over, p. 1382; December 1, 2006, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Stray, p. 22.
Cincinatti CityBeat, May 5, 2002, Brandon Brady, "Writer's Block: What a Kick!"
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2002, review of Bear Me Safely Over, p. 279.
Lambda Book Report, May, 2002, Andrew Beierle, "Handsome, Headstrong, and Sexually Precocious," p. 17.
New York Times Book Review, November 25, 2002, Ann Powers, "Sex, Death, and Rock ‘n’ Roll."
Publishers Weekly, March 18, 2002, review of Bear Me Safely Over, p. 75; October 16, 2006, review of Stray, p. 29.
Southern Scribe, September, 2002, Pam Kingsbury, interview with Sheri Joseph.
Daily Texan Online,http://media.www.dailytexanonline.com/ (March 10, 2006), Nicole Taylor, "Let Talk about Sex."