Andrew Malan Milward is a distinguished name in Mississippi, where he serves as a professor at the University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Writers and editor in chief of the Mississippi Review. But as a native of Lawrence, Kansas, Milward has never forgotten his roots. His deep interests in the state’s history and socio-political evolution—from a more liberal and progressive stance to now conservative—inspired him to follow-up his first story collection, The Agriculture Hall of Fame: Stories, with I Was a Revolutionary.
This new collection of eight short stories gives readers a fluidity of history before shifting back to more recent and contemporary subjects, with each narrative sitting independently in character but also interconnecting. In the opening short story, “The Burning of Lawrence,” two narratives are placed alongside each other, one describing the 1863 raids by pro-confederate forces led by William Clarke Quantrill, and the other focusing on a relationship between two Kansas University history undergraduates during the 2000s. Milward forms a connection between the two stories by expressing the grim realities of war. “I want the reader to experience the flux of history and that kind of movement,” says Milward.
He details the 1863 burning of Lawrence while simultaneously revealing to the reader that a Jayhawk student would eventually enlist to fight in the Middle East, only to lose his life in the process. This phenomenon forces his former college lover to come to terms with this reality and ponder about what occurred in Lawrence over a century earlier.
Milward initially wanted to structure the collection chronologically before realizing that it would be best to have the reader experience the depth and evolution of Kansas history. With respect to the opening short story, he continues by explaining its general significance to the entire goal of the collection, stating that it “illustrates the motive of the book.”
When asked what key idea he was trying to convey overall in I Was a Revolutionary, Milward replied by explaining that culturally Americans can gain an appreciation for the complexity of where they live. He encourages readers to see how the past speaks to the present and the country as a whole. “We can all develop an appreciation for the complexities of our homes,” says Milward. “An understanding of where you come from and what legacy you inherit, good or bad, when you say you come from somewhere.”
Milward is currently working to build on his success with I Was a Revolutionary through with a nonfictional novel about basketball. In this coming book, he wants to honor his love of basketball and elaborate on how it has been complicated by issues of politics, history, race, and class. Again with a love for his hometown, he wants to tell the story of Kansas basketball with the intention of explaining American sports in a more general sense.
Milward will be attending a public reading and signing for I Was a Revolutionary at the Brazos Bookstore on Friday, April 29.
Free. April 29 at 7 p.m. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet St. 713-523-0701. brazosbookstore.com