Contest judge Scott Russell Sanders chose Patricia Park’s essay, “How to Run a Supermarket,” as the winner of the 9th Annual Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Contest:

“What begins as a wry how-to manual on running a supermarket opens into a study in immigrant-family dynamics, a sketch of social change in a Brooklyn neighborhood, a lament about the poor fit between formal education and retail work, and a coming-of-age story, all deftly braided together by a thoroughly engaging narrator.  … While the essay ends without her having made a decision [about whether to succeed her father in running the business], it seems clear that the narrator has no wish to work 364 days a year, fretting over deliveries, snooping on shoplifters, apologizing to customers, chasing the dream of ‘success.’  Nor does she wish to become, like her mother, a timid servant forever muttering, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’  The second-person narrative voice, which can easily become stilted, is handled here with wit and skill, obliquely revealing a transformative personal history while telling us, with an insider’s precise knowledge, what it’s like to serve the picky, penny-pinching, by turns infuriating and mystifying public.”

“How to Run a Supermarket” will appear in the spring issue, due in print at the beginning of February 2014.

Park’s essay was chosen from among nine finalists that included …

“Holy Land,” by Tom Montgomery Fate
“A Creature Was Stirring,” by Gail Griffin
“Coming Out,” by Penny Guisinger
“The Cast of Sylvia,” by Michelle Pilar Hamill
“Candling Delicious,” by Jennifer Bowen Hicks
“My Brother and What Comes from Wreckage,” by Molly May
“The Saltwater Twin,” by Maia Morgan
“Pes of Pop,” by Dawnell Smith