Amy Bernhard

Amy Bernhard writer

Amy is a writer whose essays appear in The Rumpus, VICE Magazine, Redivider, upstreet, The Toast, Ninth Letter, The Iowa Review, and The Colorado Review, among others. She presently teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Texas-Arlington and The University of Iowa.  She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program, and her work has been awarded grants from The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and the Virginia Center for the Arts. She is currently working on a book about the prison town of Huntsville, Texas.


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Geoff took his place at the front of the room, lowering his tall, rakish frame into one of the stiff plastic chairs. Rummaging in his pocket for a handkerchief, he lifted his eyes to peer out at our wet faces. “This place,” he said, in his deadpan English accent, “is a miserable hell’’ [...]

 “You were my best friend.” The line snares in her throat, and she spreads her arms wide as if reaching for someone, tears rushing to her eyes [...]

 Lately my father spent less time at home and more time after work on my grandparents’ farm, helping his aging father feed the pigs and till the soybeans. He returned tired and moody, retreating to his bedroom (my mother slept in the room across the hall), his presence embodied in the thin blue TV light streaming beneath his closed door [...]

I’m not allowed to drive the golf cart for the rest of the day. “You’ll hurt someone going as fast as you are,” my grandmother says for what might be the thousandth time, raising her wrinkled hand to make an awning for her face as she frowns at us from the front stoop [...]

Paula has stopped noticing the sirens. Every few hours, they sound from the sprawling Walls Unit at the center of town: one sharp, short bleat, followed 30 minutes later by a longer and deeper bellow hanging on the humid air. During her first few months in Huntsville, Texas, the sirens confused my younger sister as she walked to class or stood in line for cheese fries at Mr. Hamburger. No one in town could tell her what they meant. Some thought they marked the start of an execution. Others guessed they [...]


No. 11 2015 [...]

Issue 12.2

(Spring 2015) [...]

That summer the parking lot was always full. Crumpled fountain cups and oily burger wrappers gummed up the pavement. The rubbery throb of pop music from cars drifted on the breeze. Crowds swarmed in and out of Westfield’s heavy glass revolving doors, smiles stuck to their faces like price tags [...]

I checked the mirror again, a line of cars creeping to a crawl on the exit ramp behind me. My leg muscles tensed. I didn’t know what to do back home, in Chicago, everyone would be honking by now, the air alive with that unbroken urban symphony: sirens blatting, brakes squealing, motors glugging in place. Middle fingers waving briskly out of open windows, conducting [...]

Perry looks at me across the table. “How’s the weather today?” he asks. No matter if it’s cold and raining or sunny and perfect I always answer him the same way: “Awful.”

Perry raises a dark eyebrow at me. Grins.

“Well,” he says, “I think I’ll just stay inside then,” and we laugh. I can’t guess from looking at him how long he’s been here exactly, but his shoes, worn down at the soles like a pencil eraser tell me: a while.

Every Wednesday night for six months, I have visited a medium-security prison in Iowa to teach creative writing to locked-up men. Our group changes a little each week, but the three guys always in attendance are the three sitting here with us tonight: [...]



The women compete in only one event, Barrel Racing, which is exactly what it sounds like: cowgirls steer their horses through a brief maze of barrels and the fastest wins. Their hair, long and free, whips the air, thigh muscles straining inside their blue jeans. Onscreen their faces are focused, beautiful. They hold tight to the reins, boots proudly bouncing, and now I really regret not buying a pair [...]

What Happens When You Build a Town Around a Prison?

On the other line, I heard my boss roll his eyes. “Come on, Amy,” he groaned. He was still upset about the other week, when I got so restless that I walked to the Kum & Go gas station across the street and forgot to lock up the store. Kim is mad at me, too. A few days ago she came by the store to ask why I was embarrassing her, but all I could do was stare down at my desk, trying not to cry. Even Ryan is upset [...]

"Resort Home," in The Colorado Review [...]


  in Ninth Letter [...]

'History Lessons' On her Mother and the Amish in The Michigan Quarterly Review [...]