In the sea of faceless humans, we ache to have our identity confirmed through connecting with others who are kindred spirits. On a remote ranch in 1960s Montana, a boy’s lonesome quest to find others who aspire to a literary life turns up a questionable kindred spirit.
“This is an excerpt from my writings during a particularly tough time in my life. It was a period that made me realize the thin line between sanity and insanity. Each small decision during this time decided the kind of person I have become today.” — Ayushi Jain
This recounted moment of personal history, which induced the author to reflect on the many times he’s been told that he looks just like someone else, started out as a holiday greeting to colleagues and friends a few years ago. Using analogies to quantum physics and to the distinction between particles and waves, it addresses how we are all connected to each other and mutually entangled, to make it resonate (albeit subtly) with some of the pressing issues of our day: e.g., isolation, identity politics, polarization, silo culture, and whose lives matter.
This piece speaks to the lasting impact of colonialism within the Caribbean. It shows how degrees of African-ness can be used to separate peoples within a shared narrative. As the witness, the author is an added layer of American diaspora struggling to accept the microaggressions enacted by the fair collector using the pejorative “negra” (black) towards a person of Haitian descent.
“Can You Believe it?” is a meditation on a weekend the author spent with some friends at a kung fu retreat about twenty-five years ago. Through this personal narrative, the author ruminates on the nature of belief, reviewing how martial arts and religion have had an influence on him and the culture at large.
Do those who live in a democratic state take their freedoms for granted? How does the behavior we exhibit when we travel outside our home country reflect national and cultural values? The following personal history piece is a sketch of life under two brutal dictatorships: François Duvalier (“Poppa Doc)” of Haiti and Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. Vacationing here in 1961, the author narrowly avoided being shot. “A Tale of Two Dictatorships” records a one-day experience with two very strange American tourists. They should be a lesson on how not to behave abroad.
Living in a civilization that offers no clear rites of passage to adulthood, we are left to craft our own. And this is often less of a craft and more of a crash, a clash with conditions that no longer fit our growing anxiety about who we are. Stranded without a vessel, abandoned on the continental shelf of your future, you are left to deal.
“The Ones Who are Left Behind: An Armenian Story” details the close relationship the author had with her great aunt (who witnessed the murder of her family), the author’s search for identity, and a reckoning with a brutal collective past. The essay explores how trauma can travel through generations as the author self-reflects on her struggle to harness her emotions to get better, not bitter. Nestled within this personal essay, there is a universal message of hope and healing from suffering and loss.
The following personal history piece focuses on the author’s journey in the mental healthcare system, through both psychiatry and psychotherapy. It also deals with how stigmatizing and detrimental the system (and the world) can be to those with mental illnesses. This memoir-style essay tells the story of the author’s illness like it’s the big bad wolf, and walks the reader with her on the journey to coping with it. It’s a piece that not only talks about the author’s individual reality, but also the greater reality of the world of psychology, psychiatry, and mental illness.
Once, I was trying to reach some sort of comfort in a rush, so I took a shortcut through a city dump but was struck helpless when confronted by hunger. And I must confess that among those landscapes of trash, I secretly wished that hunger were loud and contagious, like some disease that we are not allowed to ignore.
What are your relationships with food and hunger like?