Smarty Pants Podcast

When the Chicken Hits the Fan

Bobbie Ann Mason on fiction and character

By Stephanie Bastek | April 27, 2018
Flickr/Farm Sanctuary

Bobbie Ann Mason’s short story “Live-Hang,” from our Spring Issue, is the story of two friends who come from different worlds. Dave and Miguel meet in the gutting room of a chicken processing plant. Both are working class, but Dave and his wife, Trish, are white U.S. citizens, while Miguel and his wife, Maria, are undocumented Mexican immigrants. Even though their jobs diverge—Dave uses a connection to get a job installing satellite dishes, while Miguel is promoted to the more dangerous live-hang room—their lives become increasingly intertwined. But then the threat of deportation arrives, and with it the potential of a family being ripped apart. Only a brave and dangerous act can keep these families together. Mason talks about how she came to write this story, and how topical it is—given the recent news about ICE arresting children in hospitals, detaining the single parents of disabled kids, separating families, and raiding workplaces like the chicken plant.



Go beyond the episode:

  • Bobbie Ann Mason’s short story, “Live-Hang
  • Listen to “Our Town,” a two-part story from This American Life about the undocumented immigrants in an Alabama poultry town
  • Read T. C. Boyle’s story “The Fugitive,” told from the perspective of an immigrant with no health insurance and tuberculosis
  • Watch Mississippi Chicken, a documentary about the hardships of undocumented immigrants in another rural poultry town
  • Read “Fallout,” Bobbie Ann Mason’s essay about plutonium contamination in Paducah, Kentucky, or “The Chicken Tower,” her essay about growing up in the town of Mayfield (New Yorker subscription required)

Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.

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