In the Spotlight

Episode 33: Journeys: Inbound, Outbound

by Julián Esteban Torres López in Creative Nonfiction

Today we showcase the work of two essayists — Stephen D. Gutierrez and Morelle Smith. We selected these pieces to share with you today because of the kind of inner world exploration many of us have been experiencing during the pandemic lockdowns, while simultaneously craving for a time when we can travel freely once again. Today’s episode takes you into two kinds of journeys: the inner world of the Self, and the external world of traveling through a foreign land. […]

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Current Issue: Issue 21 | Summer 2020 Supplement

Diaspora & Immigration Series

Episode 32: Imaginative Biography: PLACES & NAMES

We showcase Carl Boon’s debut collection, PLACES & NAMES, and speak with the poet. His poems coalesce two kinds of history—the factual and the imagined—to produce a kind of intimacy greater than either fact or imagination. The people who inhabit these places—as we range from Saigon to northern Iraq; Athens, Ohio, to Libya; Ankara to Pittsburgh—become those places, inseparable from their geographies and histories, often unable to escape, bound by memory, nostalgia, and tradition. […]

Deconstructing Dominant Cultures Series

Episode 31: Global International African Arts Movement, Part 2

In the second episode of our 2-part conversation, Tori Reid and Patrick A. Howell of Victory & Noble continue to unpack what it means to be a prophet in the Global International African Arts Movement, as well as what it means to be an evangelist, a seer, and a manifester; they open up about their most memorable conversations with cultural icons and how these conversations transformed them; they challenge the Hollywood industrial complex and push forward to reclaim our voices and tell our own stories. […]

Deconstructing Dominant Cultures Series

Episode 30: Global International African Arts Movement, Part 1

Julián Esteban Torres López speaks with the two complementing spirits behind Victory & Noble, a storytelling company. In this 2-part conversation, Tori Reid and Patrick A. Howell reveal their legacy project, and their energy and determination are sure to inspire, educate, and transform. They both move us forward with a critical optimism rooted in both the real struggles of our past and our present, but also a futurism grounded in the belief that we have the power to harvest a tomorrow that is brighter than today. […]

Deconstructing Dominant Cultures Series

Episode 29: Protesting the Publishing Industry’s White Gaze

In the previous episode, Lisa D. Gray, founder of Our Voices Our Stories SF, joined Julián Esteban Torres López to interrogate the publishing industry’s white gaze. In today’s episode, they discuss how we can protest the industry, and other institutions, and how we can gain power and find power in our everyday lives to dismantle and rebuild the world anew, even when under the yoke of systems of oppression like racism.  […]

Deconstructing Dominant Cultures Series

Episode 28: Interrogating the Publishing Industry’s White Gaze

Lisa D. Gray, founder of Our Voices Our Stories SF, joins Julián Esteban Torres López to interrogate the white gaze of the publishing industry. They challenge its myths about Black and brown communities; call out its performative allyship; expose its diversity, equity, and inclusion problem; and hold it accountable. They also center, elevate, and amplify Black and other People of Color writers, especially women. […]

Deconstructing Dominant Cultures Series

Black Books Matter

As we find ways to impact diversity and equity in publishing and writing and disrupt its “old boy” culture, one critical thing we can all do is buy and read books written by Black and other people of color. This list provides a starting point. It’s for readers searching for themselves on the page and ones who never encountered or meaningfully engaged with someone who doesn’t look like them or share their ethnic/cultural norms and values. These tomes, written by women of color, are ones that you need to read like yesterday. These books and the women who wrote them dare to push for space and give voice to the lives of Black and brown women on the page. Buy one today. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

Stalker, Stalker, Rapist: A (Sub)Version of Duck, Duck, Goose for Feminists

In a child’s game, roles and blame flip with little more than the pointing of a finger. Terminology emerges for experiences that couldn’t be acknowledged without words to label them; new legislation and culture changes follow. #MeToo. But even the most positive changes can be weaponized against those they were meant to protect. Beware the smiling woman. […]

Diaspora & Immigration Series

Ecija Siete

Whether caused by gentrification or war, displacement is an increasingly common aspect of the human experience. Growing up between three cultures and languages, Carmen Morawski’s personal essay, “Ecija Siete,” explores what constitutes home and belonging. […]

Being LGBTQIAA+ Series

Resilience

In search of healing, both for her damaged knee and “broken” sexuality, Erica tests her faith in her own resilience. As she slowly recovers from surgery and the fallout of coming out as a lesbian, she starts to see the dark side of her desperate need to believe in her ability to bounce back. […]

Being Latina/o/x Series

Episode 27: To the Border Crossers

On this episode, we showcase the following four poets out of dozens who took the stage during “Cruzando Fronteras”—an event on immigration and border crossing—to share their personal stories: Alondra Adame, Eva Gonzalez, Gustavo Martir, and Diana Castellanos. Then, Julián Esteban Torres López shares his keynote speech, which tackled the role of storytelling as a tool of empowerment that can disrupt the status quo, confront caricatures, change politics by first changing culture, and help shape new paradigms. […]

Being LGBTQIAA+ Series

Telenovela

J. Daniel Cruz recounts his story as a gay Mexican immigrant in the United States in his journey through acceptance, love, loss, and family ties. Cruz explores the religious, social, and familial struggles that arise when a family member identifies as LGBTQ. […]

Being Mixed-Race Series

Discovering Dangerfield

In the years before my grandmother’s death, she became the enthusiastic genealogist of our family, piecing together tales so extraordinary I can sometimes hardly believe they recount the genesis of our family. Now, after my grandmother’s death, I feel my tenuous grasp on my heritage slipping, so I revisit her expansive research and discover the complexities of my heritage are so much more astonishing than I could anticipate. […]

Being Mixed-Race Series

Excerpt from Memoir: King Leopold’s Daughter

“Imagine my hill at the edge of a road. Imagine a city, Kinshasa, a recent Belgian colony made independent nine years earlier. Imagine my white Belgian father, an architect waiting to make deals with one of the cruelest dictators of our times: Mobutu Sesseseko. Imagine my metisse mother, born as a simple brown girl in Burundi, now the queen of the continent, thanks to papa. Imagine me, a four-year-old brown girl, waiting for the sun to set to sneak out of the house to my castle at the end of a road, on the side of a hill.” […]

Being Latina/o/x Series

Beach Speak

“Beach Speak” focuses on Angelica Julia Davila’s identity as Latinx through the use of the Spanish and English languages. Documenting her struggle with both languages while a child, Angelica explores what it means to accept who one is on the inside. It is a piece that touches on the shame of being seen as different while growing up in the United States. […]

Being Mixed-Race Series

Half-Cooked

This story is about food. And identity. And how each feeds the other. In a series of vignettes and reflections on Hana Etsuko Dethlefsen’s relationship with family, culture, food, and recipes, she explores the bitter-sweetness of an identity that is defined by being in-between. […]

Diaspora & Immigration Series

Eating Lice

My mom was an immigrant for eighteen months. I have been an immigrant for twenty-seven years. What made our migrations different? Mom was borderline illiterate, had six children and chose a husband poorly. I earned a Ph.D., had only one child, married a good man, divorced him, and married a better one. I teach at a university where I’m surrounded by intelligent people with inquisitive minds. I don’t know if education was the key, or who we married, or fate. […]

Being Latina/o/x Series

When My Name Is José

“When My Name is José” is a playful take on when and how often someone’s gotten Juan Carlos Reyes’s name wrong since he was a kid. The concerns are local and universal: navigating a new culture, assimilation, and the politics of speaking up. […]

Being Mixed-Race Series

Why Japanese Persimmons Are Hard

You waited until now to tell me I was the love of your life? More than 2 decades after we met—as we’re pushing 50? Timing has clearly never been our strong suit. Over and over again we find each other. We take turns rushing toward each other like a wave hitting the shore, only to pull away once again. I wouldn’t call you my other half, but no one else is my hafu. […]

Being LGBTQIAA+ Series

Am I Still Bisexual? A Quiz

Using the format of a pop culture quiz, Yolande House interrogates her sexuality and how it has—or hasn’t—changed as she’s grown older. Is sexuality based on experience or identity? Does her lack of recent experience negate a strong identity that formed when she was younger? House’s essay gives a clear voice to the frustrations of how the world looks at bisexuals compared to how bi+ people feel about themselves. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

Lightning Strikes Twice

A ride home from the nice guy at the bar transforms into being dragged into a bedroom, and the narrator struggles with her second experience of sexual assault. […]

Diaspora & Immigration Series

Episode 26: ‘Where Are You From?’: The Wrong Passport

In this in-depth interview with Yaldaz Sadakova—creator of Foreignish.net and author of The Wrong Passport: Memoir Stories About Immigration—we unpack the dreaded question “Where are you from?”, its limitations, how it’s a micro-aggression, and a better question to ask; Yaldaz speaks to how she found new emotional and intellectual anchors after leaving her birth country and how she found her creative voice in a foreign land; her feelings of shame and distress about forgetting her mother tongue; becoming estranged from her Turkish Muslim heritage; we interrogate our hesitation to correct people when they mispronounce our names; she elaborates as to why she’s convinced borders are a form of injustice; and much more. […]

Being Latina/o/x Series

Symbol Not Recognized

“Bureaucracy is colonization’s filing system; at Ellis and Angel island where people were renamed with ‘American’ names, at the border where children are being separated from their families, and thus their namesakes, a brutality perfected in Native Boarding Schools. Over the centuries of the Transatlantic slave trade, cultures, names and entire lineages were stripped from the people in a brutalist gesture to weaken identity. That is why we insist on our complication, our trickiness, reminding the systems that we are multitudes,” Ana Reyes-Bonar. […]

Being LGBTQIAA+ Series

All My Safe Spaces Are Dead

“All My Safe Spaces Are Dead” is a look at the upheaval and restructuring of my sense of self. My sense of safety is a horizon I never seem to reach; a mirage that morphs into something new once I tear my gaze away from its lies. Yet I wake up every morning looking for it, craving it, being unable to live without it. This is my hunt for a place to call home. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series

Egypt, "Fragment of a Queen's Face," yellow jasper, Dynasty 18, New Kingdom, Amarna Period, reign of Akhenaten, ca. 1353-1336 B.C., The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Creative Nonfiction

Open Season

Blending styles including personal memoir, creative nonfiction, and photography, “Open Season” lyrically explores what it means to be a woman in America. The vignettes present flashes of microaggressions that women suffer and internalize every day, […]

Mireya S. Vela, "With Snake."
Creative Nonfiction

Doctores

When people are marginalized, their doctors are, too. A woman remembers her childhood and the decisions she and her family made. Grandmother didn’t like secrets. She said to me, “Secrets come from Satan.” I don’t […]

Being LGBTQIAA+ Series

Being LGBTQIAA+ Series

The Audacity to Live

“The Audacity to Live” is a personal essay that centers around Alondra Adame’s experience as a daughter of immigrants and as a queer woman of color wrestling with her parents’ expectations while learning to become independent and navigating higher education. […]

Being LGBTQIAA+ Series

A Monologue About Coming Out to my Iranian Dad

As a teenager, Sarah Lotfi didn’t yet have the words to explain her sexuality, nor did she conceive that she could ever live as an out-and-proud queer person, so she relied on queer media. She underlines the dissonance between Iran’s harsh persecution of homosexuals and a young Iranian-Canadian’s innocuous coming out story. […]

Being LGBTQIAA+ Series

I, The Universe

The narrator struggles with coming to terms with his identity as he grows up in a sheltered village in rural France. The story takes the format of a mock-scientific theory presenting evidences before reaching a conclusion, through the metaphor of the universe and space. […]

Diaspora & Immigration Series

Lafayette Maynard Dixon, "Sunset Magazine: September," lithograph, 1904, purchase, Leonard A. Lauder Gift, 2015, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Diaspora & Immigration Series

A Guide to Parenting

*WINNER OF THE NASIONA NONFICTION POETRY PRIZE, 2019*

I hope you don’t look Asian
like me.
I don’t want anyone, boy or girl,
reducing you to some Oriental fetish.

You will never know
your grandparents on my side.
I hope you will never know the hunger
that comes with such loneliness. […]

Being Latina/o/x Series

Being Latina/o/x Series

Cruzando Fronteras / Crossing Borders

Why would anyone want to take on the treacherous task of crossing (multiple) borders? Poets Alondra Adame, Eva Gonzalez, Gustavo Martir, David Cruz, and Diana Castellanos share their personal stories on crossing borders and immigration during “Cruzando Fronteras,” an event that provided a safe space to talk about the seeking of refuge. […]

Being Latina/o/x Series

Episode 23: Traces of Home

Filmmaker Colette Ghunim on her first feature-length documentary: “Traces of Home tells the story of what happens when we as first-generation Americans go back to our roots to find out how where we come from shapes our identity. Through Traces of Home, I am telling my own personal story. I’m half Mexican and half Palestinian and both my parents were forced to leave their homes as children, and they both never returned since then. So through my film, we’re going back to Mexico and Palestine to try to find the original houses and to talk about why people are leaving and immigrating and why refugees are leaving as well, during a time when we need to hear it the most.” […]

Being Mixed-Race Series

Salvator Rosa, "Three Figures Around a Globe," 1615–73.
Being Mixed-Race Series

Episode 5: Transracial Adoption

We continue our episode 3 discussion on mixed-race families by digging into transracial adoption. Nicole Zelniker—whose book, Mixed, was the focus of that episode—joins me to interview Leah Whetten-Goldstein about her experience being adopted from China into a white, Jewish family in North Carolina. We discuss side-effects, critiques, misunderstandings, and assumptions surrounding transracial adoption, as well as the beauty of being in a mixed-race family. We get a glimpse into Whetten-Goldstein’s struggle to find an identity growing up in a predominantly white community as an adoptee, and she shares the wisdom she’s gathered along the way. […]

Being Mixed-Race Series

Episode 10: What It Means to be Mixed-Race

Mixed-race U.S. Americans are one of the fastest-growing populations in the United States. In 2017, 10% of all children in the U.S. were mixed-race, up from just 1% in the 1970s. Evidence indicates that this number will only go up: In 2016, it was reported that “47% of white teens, 60% of black teens, and 90% of Hispanic teens said they had dated someone of another race.” It is for these reasons that interviewees Justyn Melrose’s and Danielle Douez’s experiences are becoming more common. […]

Being Mixed-Race Series

Episode 11: Mixed-Race Families Matter

Mixed-race families are becoming more and more commonplace, as evidenced by everything from The Pew Research Center’s data to the latest Census reports. In this episode, we continue to talk about the experiences of those who come from mixed-race families, like Katie Bullard and Jesse Chen. […]

Inside Look Series

Inside Look Series

Episode 1: IM John Donaldson’s Chess World

Do the stereotypes about chess and chess players have any validity at all? Through the eyes of John Donaldson (International Master and chess writer, journalist, coach, and historian) we get a behind-the-scenes look at the most popular game of all time to see if chess really does transcend language, age, race, religion, politics, gender, and socioeconomic background. We also get some interesting anecdotes about Bobby Fischer from his biographer, as well as try to answer the following questions: Is chess a sport, art, or a science? What is the role of computers in the game? How much do privilege and belief play into improvement? How has who plays chess today changed over the decades? […]

Photograph by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash.
Inside Look Series

Literary Agents Answer Your Burning Questions, Part 1

You’ve spent months, maybe years, working tirelessly to tell your story and you’ve done it. You’ve written a book. What follows may be even harder: getting it published. It’s the word on every writer’s mind, and it can be scary, especially if you’re choosing to go the traditional route. In this three-part series, we hope to answer some of your burning questions, like What makes a literary agent tick? How do I craft a query letter? What are the best ways to utilize social media? To answer these questions, we went straight to source: literary agents. This article will give you a glimpse into the inner workings of the publishing world as experienced by literary agents. […]

Nasiona Books

  • Mixed, by Nicole Zelniker

    Mixed, by Nicole Zelniker

    The definition of families is widening, whether it’s because of mixed-race relationships, interracial adoption, or numerous other factors. Today, it is important to hear from a growing population about race, their shifting identities, and what family means to them. At the heart of the issue are the mixed-race families. Many mixed-race children have had difficulties fitting in, whether with one race or the other. In mixed-race relationships, one partner may face racism, while the other may not, or else they will experience racism in different ways. Children who have been adopted into families that identify as a race that is not theirs often find that they struggle to fit in with their families as well as with people who identify as their own race. Not only are these families navigating US American culture at large, but they also must navigate their own family structures and what it means to be mixed. [...]
  • PLACES & NAMES: Poems, by Carl Boon

    PLACES & NAMES: Poems, by Carl Boon

    The poems in Carl Boon’s debut collection, PLACES & NAMES, coalesce two kinds of history—the factual and the imagined—to produce a kind of intimacy that is greater than either fact or imagination. It is this sense of intimacy that brings the poems to life. We encounter real places sometimes—places we see on maps and highway signs—but also places that exist only in the imagination. We encounter names that are both recognizable and almost—or barely—remembered at all: Robert E. Lee next to one of a thousand men named Jackson who went to fight in Vietnam; Jorge Luis Borges next to an unknown boy from Clarita, Oklahoma, who himself would become a poet someday; a man who wishes he were Rocky Marciano hammering the heavy bag in Northeast Ohio, hungry for more than beans or soup. And suddenly it becomes clear how intimately connected in this collection these places and names are as we range from Saigon to northern Iraq; Athens, Ohio, to Libya; Ankara to Pittsburgh; and a strange, sleepy place called Pomegranate Town where someone’s infant dozes in the back of a car on a seaside highway. The people who inhabit these places seem, in a sense, to become those places, inseparable from their geographies and histories, often unable to escape, bound by memory, nostalgia, and tradition. [...]
  • HUSBAND FATHER FAILURE: Poems, by KG Newman

    HUSBAND FATHER FAILURE: Poems, by KG Newman

    In Husband Father Failure, KG Newman explores love as metered sacrifice. In the tinted mirror of self-reflection, marriage and commitment are gauged on leverage and endurance while fatherhood — and a morphing understanding of it — is an equalizer, the bond that humbles and keeps him hanging on. From the kitchen to the front yard, from the mountainside to worn sandlots across suburbia — from a gift of life to a plea of guilt — Newman reminds the reader of the fragility of emotion, the irreversible risk of love, and of the perils and rewards of investing in the modern American family. [...]
  • Vestiges of Courage: Collected Essays, by Mireya S. Vela

    Vestiges of Courage: Collected Essays, by Mireya S. Vela

    Vestiges of Courage is a collection of personal essays that explores inequities and injustice. Raised between two cultures and two languages, Mireya S. Vela discusses how the systems in her family and in society worked to create an abusive environment that felt crushing, confusing, and hopeless. In her book, Ms. Vela delineates her experience of living through sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. This book is much more than a collection of experiences, though. Ms. Vela wants to know how and why abuse thrived in her family. She digs deep to understand why these things happened and how she survived. [...]
  • Eat The Eight: Preventing Food Allergy with Food and the Imperfect Art of Medicine, by Ron Sunog, MD

    Eat The Eight: Preventing Food Allergy with Food and the Imperfect Art of Medicine, by Ron Sunog, MD

    In 2015, after a landmark medical study proved that the early inclusion of peanut in the diet of infants prevents peanut allergy, Ron Sunog, MD, set out to develop a great first peanut food for infants. When most physicians and parents did not embrace this important new information, Dr. Sunog was determined to understand why. Eat The Eight examines how difficult it is to acquire and understand good medical evidence, the complex web of reason and emotion through which people filter medical information, and the imperative to thoughtfully temper the science of medicine with the art of medicine. Parents will learn how a healthful diet can be key to reducing their infant’s risk of developing food allergy. [...]
  • Reporting on Colombia: Essays on Colombia’s History, Culture, Peoples, and Armed Conflict, by Julián Esteban Torres López

    Reporting on Colombia: Essays on Colombia’s History, Culture, Peoples, and Armed Conflict, by Julián Esteban Torres López

    Prolonged war has drained Colombia of its most essential natural and human resources and has created an aggressive and vengeful environment of resentment and resistance. Though the second oldest democracy in the hemisphere, an effective modern nation-state has never existed. Its 200+ years of so-called democracy have been a farce given Colombia’s feudalist innards and fascist corporatism exoskeleton. Further, the continuing armed conflict is exacerbated by the country’s historical lack of hegemony, institutionalized and systemic violence, corruption, socio-political exclusion, lack of social mobility opportunities, and foreign intervention. We must curb the traditional might-makes-right conflict resolution method and the state must gain true legitimacy if Colombians are ever to manifest their potential. Julián Esteban Torres López machetes through the tall weeds of Colombia’s power vacuum and fragmented sovereignty, peels the layers of the country’s flirtation with modernity and class consciousness, dissects the insecurity of Colombia’s security policies, and looks to understand who and what stand in the way of Colombia becoming the El Dorado it could become. [...]
  • Marx's Humanism and Its Limits: Why Marx Believed We Should Achieve Socialism and Communism Nonviolently, by Julián Esteban Torres López

    Marx's Humanism and Its Limits: Why Marx Believed We Should Achieve Socialism and Communism Nonviolently, by Julián Esteban Torres López

    In this long-form essay, Julián Esteban Torres López dissects Karl Marx’s writings to make explicit a Marxian Humanitarian Theory. Torres López surveys and analyzes Marx’s work on violence, revolution, and the treatment of human life, and concludes that not only did Marx see the possibility that socialism and communism could be achieved by peaceful means, but that it should be done so. Torres López challenges the mainstream notion that Marxism has always been a war-machine that leads to tyrannical, authoritarian, and anti-democratic regimes. Instead, Torres López argues that actualizing human potential, while still treating the individual as an end, was the goal Marx endorsed. As Marx got older, he became more moderate in his justifications of violence, and he more intensely adopted the view that humans deserve to be afforded dignity and treated as ends. However, though Marx hoped the road to socialism and communism would not be stained with blood, in most places in the world, he believed, violence used as self-defense would be the lever of revolutions. Nevertheless, though the end may justify force under specific circumstances, much hinges on the uncertainty of the realization of those very ends. [...]