H-F Alum Alan Heathcock Publishes “40”


“40” Cover Art

Author and H-F alumnus Alan Heathcock published his second major work, “40,” on Aug. 2. This fictitious tale of a woman who mysteriously wakes up with wings has been acclaimed across the media and praised broadly for its insightful themes and invigorating language.

Heathcock tells the story of protagonist Mazzy Goodwin, whose mission is to find her younger sister, Ava Lynn. A deal is made between Mazzy and the Novae Terrae, a rising power eliciting war with the US government, for Mazzy to become the figurehead of their movement. In return, she will be reunited with her sister. 

Through a thematic facade of love and loss, Heathcock also proposes questions of our world’s climate, civility, and the generational responsibilities of humankind.

The novel was reviewed very positively by New York Times journalist, Wai Chee Dimock, who described it as “dangerous but necessary” in Heathcock’s approach to examining the catastrophes of climate change worldwide. 

Through the novel’s fantastical elements, Heathcock initiates a direct stance against fundamentalist beliefs in blind tactics of environmental justice, and instead introduces supernatural characters to represent the vulnerability of our world’s climate. 

“Assigning responsibility is almost impossible here, and violence in the name of justice is all too common,” Dimock explained in his article, New Fiction Offers Visions for Environmental Justice. “How do we build a new earth, a new heaven, from our ruined planet?” 

This is the question Heathcock begs throughout the duration of his work.

“Like a lot of people, I started to recognize the dangerous potentials in our country, a building anger, and a general discontent that felt more and more violent,” Heathcock explained. “We need to imagine a more benevolent trajectory for ourselves, a future that eliminates old and tired systems of iniquity that have brought and continue to bring suffering into the world.” 

Heathcock’s societal insinuations, such as these, found in 40 are portrayed in a distinct, clever way. The tale opens with the puzzling hook of a woman discovering she was born with wings, which succeeds in triggering readers’ interest to read more of the book and find out what happens next. He is then able to use these surreal elements to emphasize the story’s message, which turns out to be not at all fantastical, but frighteningly enough, very real. 

It’s no mystery, writing and publishing a novel is a long and tedious process, filled with emotions from stressful to exhilarating. Ultimately, publishing a novel can take years and often does. Heathcock loves his job and feels fortunate to be able to do what he loves for a living, but states that it requires diligence and patience. 

Heathcock’s other release, the award-winning collection of short stories called Volt, takes on similar themes to that of 40. He searches optimistically for an underlying sense of welfare, through a surface of brutal realism that engulfs his audience. 

It can be a striking realization to find out that such noble fame can be rooted to a place where we ourselves live. H-F offers so many opportunities for those who want to pursue academia, such as creative writing classes, journalism classes, business or even theory classes. 

H-F English teacher Sahar Mustafah is also a published author and acclaimed for multiple works, most notably her historical-fiction novel “The Beauty of Your Face.” She describes how her highschool experience with writing impacted her career in the long-run: “I took a journalism class as a junior and wrote a humorous personal essay for an assignment. My teacher loved it so much he insisted I submit to Reader’s Digest,” Mustafah explained. “I realized my voice mattered.”

Opportunities to find our voice as writers are constantly surrounding us. “I’m proud of the offerings of Creative Writing and Journalism, which I see as distinct writing experiences, each with its own set of creative challenges,” stated Mustafah. 

Heathcock also believes in the importance of young voices and urges them to speak loudly. “The older generations have largely failed to bring about the changes in our world necessary to break the cycle of history repeating itself,” he explained. “If you’re not putting your story into the world, then you’re at the mercy of those who do.”