A few days after our last issue’s publication, in South Carolina, a gunman entered a 199-year-old church during a prayer service. This specific place of worship had held a prominent role in social activism from the slave era to the Civil Rights Movement to the Black Lives Matter movement. The white gunman, in what is now known as the Charleston church massacre, confessed that he attacked the black congregation during a prayer service and killed nine people in the hopes of igniting a race war.
A few weeks later, an officer in Prairie View, Texas pulled a woman over for a routine traffic violation. In viral footage from the officer’s dashcam and a video recorded by a bystander, the male officer, reported to be Hispanic, harasses the black female driver, Sandra Bland, a civil rights activist, forcefully pulls her from the car, threatens her with a Taser, and arrests her. Three days later, Bland was discovered dead in her jail cell. As of this writing, the investigation is ongoing.
This summer, as protests waved across the nation in response to these and other manifestations of culturally-ingrained biases—police brutality, racial injustice, economic inequality—another story about equality also dominated the news. In its landmark decision on the Obergefell v. Hodges case, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law and expanded the scope of human rights in this country. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.” The marriage equality victory didn’t end the struggle for equal treatment and protection for non-heterosexual and non-binary-gendered people, but the ruled marked a significant cultural shift.
Like Antioch, our university-affiliate, Lunch Ticket is committed to dismantling ethnic biases, heterosexism, sexism, classism, ageism, ableism, discrimination based on religious, cultural and political affiliations, and other forms of oppression. As our staff engaged with the summer’s equality struggles, sorrows and triumphs, our submission windows opened, and our editorial teams began reviewing work for this, our Winter/Spring 2016 issue. Our own diversity underscored the powerful outcomes of respecting and reflecting a wide spectrum of values and voices. We were unified in our celebration of marriage equality, in our disdain of racial inequities, and our outrage at the senseless loss of lives. All the while, we have wondered how, as a literary and art journal, Lunch Ticket can make a meaningful difference in the cultural conversation.
In this state, I reached out to LeVan Hawkins to write the featured essay for our Winter/Spring 2016 issue. Individual narratives drive the broader cultural narrative, and as a journal, Lunch Ticket strives to publish work that has been and continues to be underrepresented in the literary ecosystem. LeVan’s talents as a poet, performer, and essayist, are rooted in his fierce commitment to honesty and insights. He is someone who I knew would draw upon his experiences as a black, gay man to illuminate universal truths of great import to all communities. We spoke for a long time about life as a writer, and about the intersections between the personal and political, and when I mentioned the featured essay, he knew exactly what he wanted to write about. However, before our conversation ended, he said, “You know, I wish people would stop reaching out to me to write essays about being black and gay.”
I understood what he meant. For a moment, I wanted to backpedal, to invite him to write about anything of his choosing. But we both knew that I had called because I wanted him to write about exactly that. We need writers willing to share their personal stories about moving through a world that is often oblivious to its own biases and stereotypes. We need writers who are willing to write about the intersection of their personal lives amid the socio-political climate. Their willingness to share their experiences can change the world for someone who identifies with those experiences, yet never sees them reflected on the page. So, too, they can change the world for all of us, by shining a light on experiences that, while new or uncomfortable to some, need to be known by all. And we need publishing platforms: newspapers, film and television outlets, online media, and literary and art journals that are passionate about publishing our collective and individual realities.
At Lunch Ticket, we believe in excellent craft, moving stories, intriguing art, and social activism. Reading and publishing is both a reflective and radical act. It is both local and global and it is unacceptable to strive for anything less than the removal of the prefix “under” from underrepresented. We must shift the meaning of marginalized away from any particular group of people, reserving it for that space where editors and others write notes. When we read works that illuminate the emotional connection between the familiar and the unfamiliar, we gain insight, empathy, and compassion toward others in our global community. This is our mission at Lunch Ticket: to be an amplifier for stories that move beyond historic conventions and traditional constraints into a truer reflection of our diverse, culturally rich, and complex world.
In this Winter/Spring 2016 issue, we feature 65 new pieces, from original material to translated works, across fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, author interviews and essays. Several pieces touch on grief and longing, as in Sara Walters’s “Where the River Ends,” a story in verse about a teenager grappling with love and loss, and in Dana Mele’s “Bats in the Attic,” about miscarriage. Many of our authors, poets, and translators take us on cultural journeys—to China, Vietnam, Israel, Argentina, Turkey, Japan, Ecuador, and more. Others share narratives that capture the complex multicultural U.S. quilt, as in Talar Malakian’s piece “Want Cokes?” about Armenian- and Mexican-Americans, Sabrina Fedel’s “Honor’s Justice” about an Iraqi-American family as their daughter assimilates, and Yoshie Sakai’s video installation, “‘Koko’s Love’: A Soap Opera Tale of One Family” about Japanese-American stereotypes. In their photography collections, Candace Jahn and Brooke Johnson tackle gender stereotypes, and in Robert Robinson’s “Boiler Rat,” he offers an insider view of the working conditions in an Iowa industrial power plant. These are powerful, moving works of art and literature, ones that we believe should be out in the world and read.
Of the whole collection, however, Carmella Guiol’s flash CNF “Lifted” perhaps best sums up what Lunch Ticket is about. In this piece, strangers standing on line at a grocery store connect over an unexpected moment of beauty. Music sparks the shoppers to connect with each other in just a glance across imagined and real differences. Throughout this issue of Lunch Ticket, I hope that you find meaningful engagement with narratives that resonate both familiarly and with strange newness. And, writers among you, whatever your journey through the infinite and constantly evolving combinations of identity, cultural or otherwise, I hope you’ll choose to share your unique voices and perspectives. After all, readers turn to story not only to discover other worlds, but to retrieve something that will be of use to them back in their own.
Take good care,