As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Letter from the Editors

Dear Readers,

Writing is often a process of discovery, but so is founding a literary journal. You set out on a journey with intention, with heart, and hope you end up not only where you need to be, but where you are meant to exist, and be present. For us, Issue 1 brought together new voices to converse with established ones. Our All Nations Rising issue allowed us to share male voices such as Bobroff, Jimenez, Richardson, and Yazzie who are also included in this issue. Each issue so far provided us with conversations, stories, and words we did not even know we needed. But maybe the best experiences start from a place of unknowing. In Rollins’ poem “I fail to read my ancestral chart” she begins “How do stars position if you do not know the exact time of your birth?” Selecting pieces for Issue 2 brought up questions about personal and cultural histories. We asked ourselves, how do we position ourselves in this world where the present always intersects with our pasts whether it be a personal or collective history?

Issue 2 is about our comings and goings. Correa describes “An exit in numbers” showing how we measure life in our calculations of “1 last attempt over tea. / 2 spoons instead of 1. / 1 throat clearing itself.” Sometimes we break those silences within ourselves and in that breaking comes vulnerability which can be found in Maseko’s “There are no words to describe the stranger / I have become.” The coming to know oneself knows no borders. Maseko’s digging into her own struggles finds commonality with Pino’s “I am,” where she defines herself in opposition to how others see her. As a youth writer, Pino’s desire to push beyond boundaries gives us hope for other emerging writers. In our interview with Annam Manthiram, she addresses similar issues about writers balancing multiple identities, “I am seeking to create my own voice that is unique from the Indian experience and from the canon that has resulted from that experience.”

We inhabit multiple spaces. In the physical and geographical movement we learn more about the world and ourselves. Beltran’s poem acknowledges our preconceived notions about another country, but deals with the reality of both the beauty and ugliness in a place, “I thought this was heaven but it’s not. It’s just another skinny city / where sometimes the sewers don’t work but there are five different words / for one type of fruit and the people know them all here.” Similarly, Chavez takes us on a walk with her through Chicago in her meditative essay “The Brown Line.” She writes, “In the distance, impossibly far, the train rumbles along its metal track, up and down, up and down, long into the night,” and we think of our own metaphoric trains that we are waiting on to take us somewhere, get us from one place to the next. Perhaps it is our faith that keeps us company on the ride as Killelea writes “I know there is a space from which the ancestors watch us. / I stopped there once between two trains about to collide / and I was the missing set of tracks I was the absence of wind I was the glacier melting / and drowning the last word ever questioned.” In our questions of destinations we approach answers from many angles.

Like writing a poem to fit a form, we still struggle with fitting into roles that may have been assigned to us such as daughter or lover. We see this in Midge’s “Savage Ghazel” which allows us to enter into identity and the word “savage” from multiple vantage points. Then, in Manthiram’s creative nonfiction piece she explores what it means to be “wife.” Menominee approaches the “wife” role in poetry “My fingers knot, / be / a good wife.” Gray provides the child’s perspective of a mother in an abusive relationship, “The sky rumbled and woke us. We cracked the door and listened to her crying into silence and morning as rain danced on the window.” Williams’ poems explore gender through the lens of race and historical context, its ramifications, and how it enters our daily lives, “and that I must look tender for my students to feel my words, are organza against their skin.” We are more than our skin and what can only be gleaned from an external viewpoint. Hamza’s spoken word piece encourages us to look beyond simple definitions, “People are more than decimal point bullets, and police baton division signs, / but I don’t want them to remember me as a broken piece of another fraction.”

In these pieces, we find wholeness. We find life, love, loss, hope, discovery, and struggle in their entirety. Yet, we wonder what is it about our human nature that pulls us to measure distances. In Lee’s poem about war we read “I was only one mile from zero when the atom bomb fell. / I cannot remember wishing for peace or deliverance.” Through Lee’s use of paper cranes she adds delicacy to a poem that seeks to embrace healing in conflict. Perhaps our own communal and individual healings come from a careful unfolding of our pasts like maps. We use maps to find direction and situate ourselves even in our relation to others. Liu speaks to this sentiment,“A map I drew of me and you.”  Elhillo uses them to uncover a path of failed relationships “the wrong man is a map home is where he puts the lines.” But, Riaz in her story, “diaspora”  navigates the map of our identities and how those histories affect love, “the truth is like amma i thought i’d never leave home for a man, move countries, shift cities, never thought i could up and leave what little of everything i know for someone or something else that wasn’t mine. i thought i was more woman than a thing to own and discard, leave behind, move out of.”

For us, Issue 2 became about love. Sylvester’s story, “Stairway to Heaven” reminds us that our understanding of love is inevitably intertwined with loss. Writing allows us to name those losses. The act of naming then becomes important such as in Lopez’ poem which is also a prayer, “She named me desert.  She named me una Esperanza de las Estrellas.  She named me Xilonen.” Lopez shows us there is still (and will always be) a connection between the sacred and the mundane.

Through words we dig into our pasts, try to piece together, reimagine, and make sense of our histories. We become the archaeologist such as in Scenters-Zapico’s poem where he “learned how / to love a place quiet.” It is an act of the human condition to examine our ruptures and discover the “how’s” and whys. It is in these quiet spaces and places filled with opportunities for triumph where growth takes place; there, as Foerster writes “Women rise in hundreds from the ashes.”

We are humbled by the continuous support we have received so far. Issue 2 allowed us to share even more writing by talented women from all across the world. We hope that this space we have created continues to grow and more women’s voices are able to rise.

 

Sincerely,

Casandra and Tanaya

me and cassie at stanford may 2013

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Countdown to Launch

Issue 3February 14th, 2014
Online version of Issue 3 goes live!

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