2019 Viola Award Finalist for Excellence in Storytelling
Working as a tow truck driver shaped Jesse Sensibar’s life in dramatic ways and is the inspiration for his new book Blood in the Asphalt: Prayers from the Highway. Driving on the lonely highways of the American Southwest, he’d tow many wrecked vehicles from the highways. Often at the locations of the accidents, Sensibar would later see makeshift shrines created by loved ones of those affected by the tragic accidents, demonstrating a continued connection to the people lost. In this book, Jesse recounts 10 stories of fatal car accidents and the aftermath that follows. He explores reinvention and resurrection through his photographs and his linked collection of short stories, mourning and celebrating loss, gratefulness, and forgiveness. Blood in the Asphalt: Prayers from the Highway is published by Tolsun Books.
Winding through Arizona, California, and Mexico, Jesse Sensibar contemplates his need to record roadside shrines and succumb to the pull of a highway that gives and a highway that takes away. Sensibar documents his experiences witnessing many horrific losses while cleaning up road accidents. The memorials that arise are no longer a distraction to Jesse but a story waiting to be told. He expresses to the Tucson Sentinel that “these shrines are expressions of public grief, when in our culture death is sanitized and something we don’t talk about much.” Within the book’s pages, Sensibar also shares reflections of his own past struggles with addiction and drug abuse. Having survived and conquered his own demons, Sensibar has great empathy for those who were not as lucky.
Since moving to the high desert of Arizona in the late 1980s, he has worked as a mechanic, heavy equipment operator, strip club bouncer, repossession agent, tattoo shop owner, private investigator, tow truck driver, snow plow operator, wildland firefighter, and college English teacher. He now spends his time writing and promoting the art of storytelling. Jesse can usually be found in the Ponderosa pine forests surrounding Flagstaff, Arizona or in the old barrios of Tucson, Arizona. Since 2016, Sensibar has been the Executive Director of the Northern Arizona Book Festival. He has also received many awards for his work including Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize and The Tishman Review’s October Readers’ Favorite in 2016.