Art and Cult-yurt Friday: “Yurt” by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum

The New Yorker published Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum’s short story “Yurt” in July 2008. It is a story about the other lives of elementary school teachers…among other things. Here’s the yurt-related excerpt to whet your appetites:

“Roman will be there. And they’re building a second yurt,” Ms. Cruz said firmly, and then glanced up at Ms. Hempel. “Anna is moving upstate,” she explained.

But that explained nothing. “A yurt?” Ms. Hempel asked. “Is that something . . . Yemenese?” She blushed.

“Mongolian,” Mrs. Willoughby said. “I had to ask, too. Not everybody who teaches here is a walking encyclopedia. It’s a big circular tent made out of animal skins. Or, in Anna’s case, some fancy state-of-the-art flame-retardant fabric.” Mrs. Willoughby conjured up a miniature yurt with her hands in the air. “Not like a tepee—more like a circus tent. Made out of yaks.”

Full story can be found on the New Yorker website or in The Best American Short Stories 2009. If you’re really into it, the author published a collection of eight short stories, Ms. Hemepel Chronicles, published by Harcout in September 2008.

(note: I know, it’s Saturday. But I’m actually on a yurtcation, and it’s hard to keep track of time.)


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