Bio

  • I was born in Boston, and I swim back there like a salmon every now and then.

  • I grew up in Central New Jersey, near a flavor-factory town where, in the autumn weeks leading up to Halloween, the blacktops always smelled of candy corn.

  • I met my wife Sarah at Bard College, where neither of us belonged. So we belonged to each other instead.

  • Taking a year off of college to live in a hundred-year-old cottage heated by a woodstove, the both of us worked as assistants to the assistant accountant at a waste paper company. While wandering downtown, I stumbled into a used bookstore in New Haven, where I picked up C. Scott Moncrieff's version of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, and I could not put it down for a year. Even in translation, Proust did things with language I had not realized were possible. I wanted to do the impossible too.

  • I seriously engaged with my education for the first time at Providence College, where I met (among other influential professors) one Peter Pond, a former Catholic missionary turned self-described “mystic,” who taught a course on “Peace Studies” in his home. His lifelong reckoning with the philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. forced me to reconcile the idleness of my life and pursuits with the weighty troubles of the world, and to wrestle with these concerns in my fiction.

  • Within the space of a few months in the year 2001, I got married, I started graduate school, we were attacked, I began working as an editorial assistant at The Atlantic, I found out I was going to be a father.

  • After quitting a magazine job where the boss doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, I taught two semesters at an inner city Community College where nearly a third of my students were functionally illiterate. My love of teaching came completely unexpectedly. I knew somehow that, if teaching writing was fulfilling work at this low of a level, it would always fulfill me, and so far it always has.

  • Equipped with this knowledge, I went back to study for my PhD at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, where I learned how much more I still have to learn.

  • I visited Vietnam for the first time with my father, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1962, in January of 2007, and had not been back in 45 years. Every day since then, I have been anticipating my next visit there.

  • I have three sons, and I am from a family of three sons. If not for the predictable tragedy of war, my father too would have had two brothers.

  • I live in Warrensburg, Missouri, a town best known for a dog named “Old Drum” who famously inspired the phrase “A man's best friend is his dog.”

  • My first story collection, Memory Sickness, won the Elixir Press Fiction Award and was published in 2011. My second story collection, Pages from the Textbook of Alternate History, was published by Queen's Ferry Press in 2014. My first novel, The Adventures of Joe Harper, will be published by Outpost19 in October, 2016.

  • I am editor of Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing and Reviews, and I teach fiction-writing at the University of Central Missouri.