In the Spotlight

Episode 68 – Women of Color Writers’ Authentic Voices: Natalie Obando, Part 2

by Julián Esteban Torres López in Interviews

We continue with the second part of Julián Esteban Torres López’s conversation with Natalie Obando, the current national president of the Women’s National Book Association and first Latina to take the helm. They continue to discuss the Authentic Voices Fellowship Program, her experiences and thoughts about the White Gaze in publishing and storytelling industries, how she uses her influence to transition us out of it so we can become more authentic and reflect a more realistic representation, and much more. They also dissect the harmful urge to center the comfort of others by anglicizing our names, thereby decentering ourselves at the outset of relationships, and the kind of impact this form of code-switching has on us and our communities. If you have not already, we encourage you to go back and listen to the first part so you can better situate yourself in today’s episode. […]

Current Issue: Issue 27 | Winter 2022


Episode 67 – Women of Color Writers’ Authentic Voices: Natalie Obando, Part 1

Natalia Obando, current national president of the Women’s National Book Association and first Latina to take the helm, stops by the show to speak with Julián Esteban Torres López about her goal to promote diversity in publishing via grassroots efforts. She discusses her own experience in the literary world as a Latina, along with the origin story and breakdown of the Authentic Voices Fellowship Program she founded. They then transition into a discussion on the White Gaze in publishing and how she uses her influence to transition us out of it so we can become more authentic and reflect a more realistic representation. They end part one of the conversation dissecting the pros and cons of code-switching and how through us coming together in solidarity we can gain more power and lift each other up. […]

BIPOC Music + Spoken Word Series

The Nasiona’s Black Is Beautiful Playlist

With our BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL music playlist, we strive to center, elevate, and amplify the voices and musical talents of Black storytellers and creators. Curated by The Nasiona team, this introduction is more than a simple opportunity for you to learn and be entertained. No. Not just that. That’s a bonus. What we really hope you’ll do is commit to taking action to support these artists, purchase their music, share their work, use your influence and power to create access to opportunity, and become long-term patrons. We hope the playlist animates your body, inspires your soul, and moves your wallet. As we try to impact equity, one critical thing we can all do is buy and experience the works created and produced by Black artists. […]

Disability, Mental Health, & Chronic Conditions Series

Episode 66 – Relationship between Psychological Trauma and Physical Illness

What is the relationship between psychological trauma and physical Illness? Co-producer Nicole Zelniker joins Julián Esteban Torres López on the podcast to interview Molly “Marco” Marcotte to answer this question. Molly “Marco” Marcotte (they/them) is a program designer, evaluator, and consultant in their eighth year of work in the anti-violence field. Existing as a multilingual, neurodivergent, queer, non-binary femme informs every aspect of their approach, particularly in building authentic rapport and community-centered definitions of programmatic success. […]

Deconstructing Dominant Cultures Series

On the Limits of Goodwill, the Golden Rule, and Deontological Ethics: A Social Justice Activist’s Reflections

As we approach Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, I’ve been journaling on the limits of goodwill, the Golden Rule, and deontological ethics. The reflections below are consistent conversations I have with myself as I decolonize my own ethics, because, just like you, I am a product of a culture and a society where these limiting frameworks are prevalent. Some of the biggest obstacles in our quest toward achieving social justice are ideologies and people (which includes innumerable progressive folx) that only equate “real” harm (harm that should be taken seriously and acted upon to find a remedy to reduce the harm) with harm caused by malicious intent. These frameworks and ethical systems directly invalidate, devalue, and gaslight the concerns of those who’ve been harmed, which contribute to and perpetuate oppressive status quos. […]

Being Latina/e/o/x Series

Episode 59 – The Nuyorican Hallway: Belonging & Living Between Worlds

J.L. Torres is the author of Migrations, the inaugural winner of the Tomás Rivera Book Prize. His work focuses on the diasporican experience—living in the inbetweeness that forms and informs the Puerto Rican experience. We dissect the central themes of Migrations—a collection of stories deeply rooted in Puerto Rico’s history—where he elevates the experiences of Othered individuals. This is a far-ranging conversation that spans colonialism, Nuyorican identity, colorism, Critical Race Theory, and healing. […]

Diaspora & Immigration Series


“Hyphenated” revisits a year in the author’s life when she changed her name in order to fit in. She then had to question her hyphenated identity on a trip to her birthplace, realizing that her ancestry was only just a part of her. This essay briefly explores what it feels like to have multiple cultural identities. […]

Being LGBTQIAA+ Series

Fuck the Homophobes

I was inspired to write this piece about homophobia when my partner and I were treated very differently from the customers in our small shop that she has used for years. Even in a place I consider mostly liberal, we encounter homophobia often. We figured we could hide, or just be proud of who we are. So, we decided, fuck homophobes! We are not going away! If even one young person who feels alone can see us and feel less alone, then the discomfort is worth it. This piece was aired on BBC Radio Uploads Suffolk on 7/8/2020. […]

Being Mixed-Race Series

Black and Other

“Black and Other” touches upon some of the layers of my journey to my authentic self, some layers being race and color. When a light skin girl, with long curly hair tells you she’s Black and you think to question her. Think about how white supremacy has carved into us that being Black is not good enough. When she tells you she is Black, do not question her. Because being Black is enough. […]

Diaspora & Immigration Series

An Ounce of Gold

In “An Ounce of Gold,” Hao Tran met with his kid brother on a special occasion and the two relived their past histories as Vietnamese refugees in the United States. The story about the brother was one of thousands of boat people who escaped South Vietnam after the end of Saigon and settled in America to live the stereotypical life of a well-assimilated immigrant. The story dives deeper into the trauma of their pasts and the ambiguity they find themselves in as citizens of no country. […]

BIPOC Music + Spoken Word Series

A Tale of Two Tongues

i’m a chameleon with two tongues in my mouth / Punjabi and English / my mother tongue / and the other tongue / one the language of my blood the other of reason // i couldn’t speak anything except my mother tongue until i was five / Punjabi is what i spoke, it was how i was safe and survived/ Punjab comes from the Persian words panj, meaning five, and ab meaning water / it represents the five powerful rivers flowing across the lands / […]

Being Mixed-Race Series

How to Be Mixed in a One-Drop World

This essay reflects on the life of a multiracial child growing up in a predominately white, isolated, rural town and the complexity of harboring identities seemingly misaligned. It questions the tokenization of mixed-race peoples and what it means to be mixed-race in a world still indoctrinated with the ideology behind the “One Drop Rule.” […]

Being LGBTQIAA+ Series

A Sort of Fairy Tale

This piece describes the author’s first queer romantic experience, which took place after she began working at a commercial BDSM dungeon. As the title suggests, the piece examines the gulf between fantasy and reality, courage and fear, desire and reluctance, as the author navigates a new world. […]

Diaspora & Immigration Series

Nuances of Race and Identity

As a Kenyan of South Asian descent, my sense of identity is deeply intertwined with the East African country that my ancestors chose as their home many generations ago. Growing up in Kenya, I knew who I was. But by moving to Canada, a country where you are defined by ethnicity and not nationality, I experienced a disconnect between how I looked and how I felt. I do not know where I belong anymore. This piece of writing captures an aspect of that realization, and loss. […]

Being Latina/e/o/x Series

Colombiana de Biblioteca

Heightened by the recent unrest in Colombia, a Colombiana-Americana describes the inner conflict of claiming both Colombia and the United States as home, rejected by both countries, and learning to embrace this duality as a gift. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

Just One Picture?

This piece is about the subtlety with which harassment occurs at work. It comes in many forms and sometimes sweeps past us so swiftly that we hardly know how to respond in the moment, how to defend ourselves, or how to defend each other. […]

Being Latina/e/o/x Series

Getting Dressed

The short narrative essay “Getting Dressed” contemplates the relationships between physical appearance, cultural identity, and belonging through the one seemingly simple act: getting dressed. […]

Being LGBTQIAA+ Series

Haunted by a 4-Letter Word

“Haunted By a 4-Letter Word” describes changing personal, political, and societal perspectives on the meaning of the role of wife across fifty years, from the first issue of Ms., to more current discussions of hetero-normativity and marriage equality. The essay tells that broader cultural story through my personal narrative as a straight Catholic school girl of 16, to my current experience as a 68-year-old lesbian-identified bi- woman partnered, then married, to a woman for thirty-eight years. The essay concludes by describing newer meanings of ‘wife’, while acknowledging some of the current complexities of the label for queers. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"


When my mother was young, she was rich / So rich that her father bought her a coat / Straight from a well known department store / At ten after closing time by knocking on the window / And shaking a hand full of money at the manager. / It was a prepossessing coat. / Georgia clay red with a furry collar. / When my mother got a little older, her family was poor / And her mother and her had to share a coat. One had to wait for / the / other to come in, order to go out.It was a hideous coat. / […]

Being Latina/e/o/x Series

When Your Name Is Escobar

In the thirty years that I’ve been living outside of my home country, Colombia, I have been asked numerous times if I am related to the drug lord Pablo Escobar. This is a predictable question since my last name is Escobar. This personal essay aims to understand why the question offends. Cultures are a rich tapestry of references, symbols, history, smells, landscapes, flavours, connections, and meanings. A migrant leaves most of her identifiers and references behind. Beyond a personal outburst of hurt, the essay tackles the effect of reducing a migrant to a stereotype. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

How to Be Alone with a God

I know now that when you turn a man into a god, he does not die. He is inevitable; he is Poseidon with a beard; Hades on a chariot; Pan stealing the survival of the moon. My god sits constantly at my feet, on my shoulder, behind my eyes. Gods, of course, exist for us, silent and taunting, slowly conforming themselves into conjugal intervention until they know our bodies through entrance and scrutiny of entrance. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

What It Means to Be a Woman

To get to your apartment junior year of college, you have to walk a winding path by your old freshman dorm, three newer apartments, and the community center before you arrive at home. Sometimes instead, you take a shorter path through the woods, like when it was below 40 degrees or you were running late to whatever class or club you’d committed to. On this particular night, you wrap your jacket tightly around yourself and opt for the shorter, if poorly lit, path. […]

Being Mixed-Race Series

The Wedding Party

“The Wedding Party” was inspired by an incident I experienced at a family wedding. In the light of the events of 2020, I revisited this moment in time, as well as many other racially charged moments in my life as a mixed race person, and the result was this essay. I hope this essay shares some insight into my experience as a mixed race person and hopefully illustrates the challenges of being mixed race in what often feels like a black and white world. […]

Being LGBTQIAA+ Series

The Permanent Peace

“I’m gay,” I proclaimed to a sea of strange, blank faces. The word hung proud and uncertain, in the air just as out of place as I was, in this place and with these people, my new form and friends. Their chattering stopped dead, and a cold silence flooded the room. Hope hovered precariously on my tongue. Frozen, I stared at my dormmates, their shining, distant eyes fixed on mine. I swallowed. […]

Diaspora & Immigration Series

Ghosts Everywhere

As a mixed-race, Vietnamese person, Gabrielle Behar Trinh’s childhood often felt divided between two worlds. Sometimes, it was painfully obvious how much the world her mother existed in—Asian fruits and foods, language, ancestral traditions, and the memories of leaving Vietnam—thrived by remaining hidden from her father. Told in flashbacks of memories, including the grief following her mother’s miscarriage, this story touches on intergenerational trauma and living in-between. […]

Being Latina/e/o/x Series

How I Became a U.S. Citizen

I wrote this Stand-Up comedy set for the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity, who asked me to speak at a rally they held on April 22, 2021, in Jackson, Mississippi. I wanted to make my green card story funny. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"


My story describes a horrifying threat of violence I experienced at the age of nineteen, many decades ago. I recount the seemingly safe context in which it occurred, how I responded to the threat as it was unfolding and how profoundly the experience impacted on my character development. An important dimension of the story is how my need to be popular and offend no-one at the time led me to ignore my sense of impending danger. […]