I identify personally with each of the four selections this month.
My grandmother passed down to me Civil War stories that her grandfather had told her. A Union cavalryman from Kentucky, where the war was literally brother against brother, he had two brothers who fought for the Confederacy. Whenever he rode into battle, he was afraid that he would inadvertently kill one of them. My great great grandfather chose to fight for the North for one simple reason: He did not believe in slavery. Long after the war ended, in the 1890s, he was given a federal pension of ten dollars a month. His two brothers who’d fought for the losing side received no federal pension, but were given five dollars a month each by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. That’s about all I know about my great great grandfather, as I attempt to reconstruct him.
Davon Loeb’s ancestor, to whom he introduces us in “A Reconstruction of Great Great Grandfather,” played a different role in history—he was one of the slaves freed by the Civil War. This is a personal story, passed down through history and reconstructed in our own time. It’s an important story, and one that deserves to be heard, and I am proud to help it make its way into the world.
Another piece that reminds me of my family stories is “Tocadiscos” by Yasmin Ramirez. Many people don’t know this from looking at me, but I am half Mexican. On my mother’s side, I have a number of Mexican cousins who are even fairer than I am—they have blond hair and blue eyes. One of my great grandfathers, it is said, was exiled to Mexico from Spain for being a religious heretic. I’m just as proud of him as I am of the Union cavalryman on my dad’s side of the family. Like Yasmin Ramirez, I grew up with Mexican records on the turntable. I’ve never read anything about this experience, and so it’s with great personal interest that I present her piece to you.
My childhood next brings us to “Sunday Malaise” by Francis DiClemente. Yeah, being a kid on a Sunday, tell me about it. Having to get dressed up for church. The dread building about the weekend being over, with the hard certainty of having to go to school in the morning. What a feeling of grim reality at the bottom of my gut. And then everything ending with the closing credits of whatever TV show happened to conclude at 9:00 pm. Bedtime, with my mom telling me, “Okay, the party’s over.” Which she thought was funny because it was the title of a popular song. Francis DiClemente’s arguments against the existence of a childhood Sunday are even more extensive than mine, and you will enjoy how he dramatizes them.
In “Living the Questions” Dorit Sasson tells us of some adventures she had as a youth in her father’s country of Israel. I’ve had a number of adventures in my mother’s country of Mexico, including one that was nearly life-threatening, which I wrote about here. Mind you, all I was doing was riding a bus. Sasson’s experiences involve hitchhiking—which I’ve never been brave enough to do—and I’m sure that you are going to greatly enjoy her adventure.
Whether or not you’ve had experiences similar to the ones these authors are sharing, you will find something to relate to in each of their pieces, because they all have something to tell us about what it means to be human. And I think that’s what we’re interested in hearing about when we pick up a piece of creative writing.
As always, I’m busy looking for new work to publish. I invite you to submit nonfiction on a topic of your choice. I’m looking for creative nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, memoirs, and personal essays—with the understanding that these categories often overlap. Up to 10,000 words. Please submit today. And I very much look forward to reading your work.