The East Bay Review Debuts
Tha Town’s newest literary journal makes a splash online as Oakland’s latest good read.
Over beers in a rental in Mendocino one evening, six young writers kicked around the idea of starting a new literary magazine-a journal that would publish what they liked to read, not be too polite, and tap into the East Bay’s thriving literary scene. All friends from graduate school and living in and around Oakland, they talked into the night about carving out a niche to showcase great writing from the region. Alex Herrington, the cartoonist in the crew, started sketching a logo for the magazine featuring Oakland’s own Jack London, and they agreed that it was a perfect fit. "London is what you think of when you think about writers and the East Bay-working class, renegade, and really good," says Jeff Chon, a nonfiction writer in the group. When the party of six woke up the next morning, it still seemed like a great idea, and the East Bay Review was launched.
The inaugural issue of the quarterly journal was posted in the summer and got more than 1,000 views within the first few days. "We reached out to some well-established writers with deep East Bay roots, and they were really excited about the local connection," says Chon, the e-zine’s editor and chief. Issue one includes fiction by writer Eric Miles Williamson, who grew up on 62nd Avenue and is known best for his novel East Bay Grease about a boy raised in the Oakland ghettos of the 1960s. There’s also poetry by icon Ishmael Reed, professor emeritus at Cal, founder of PEN Oakland, and author of the classic Mumbo Jumbo. The second issue, coming out later this month, includes more East Bay notable writers like Berkeley-based Monica Wesolowska, author of the best-selling memoir Holding Silvan: A Brief Life.
While The East Bay Review is definitely a destination for the literary-minded, with a range of poetry and essays to go along with the short stories in each issue, the magazine also includes alternatives to the standard literary fare like comics. "Most of the editorial staff [Gen Xers and Millennials] grew up reading comics about Spiderman and superheroes, so we’re familiar with that form of storytelling, and we like that as a medium too," says Chon. And there are newsy stories, interviews, and book reviews, too. The section "Dispatch" covers East Bay happenings and issues in-depth. Joel Bahr’s story in the first issue gave readers a view into the city’s grittier adult entertainment with a ringside seat at Hoodslam, the independent wrestling show (think Hulk Hogan) held inside the Oakland Metro Operahouse each month. Next up in "Dispatch" is a timely piece by Oakland-native Kaya Oakes about how gentrification affected her personally.
Quickly becoming a place to read and be read in the East Bay, the online journal plans to do one print edition a year. "Oakland is the literary epicenter and we radiate from there," says Chon, "Our primary goal is to champion great writing."
You can check out The East Bay Review free on the web at www.TheEastBayReview.com.