“Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old,” wrote Brian Doyle in “Joyas Voladoras.” His recent death left my heart weary, in this year, this season, this month that had already delivered so much sorrow. May 2017: we mourned for Richard Collins, and then for Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Rick Best, three men murdered by white supremacists—homegrown terrorists. We memorialized wordsmiths Doyle and Denis Johnson, each gone too soon from cancer. We grieved the events in Manchester and Kabul, and remembered so many—too many—who didn’t live all of their two billion heartbeats. Doyle’s passing at the end of a particularly brutal week left me in despair. I knew him only through his words. So I turned to my community of writers with his words resonant in me: “We all churn inside.”
Reading earlier “Words from the Editor” in our archives, I revisited our responses to contentious elections, to white supremacy and terrorism in our streets, in our churches, in our institutions of higher learning. We, the collective we of Lunch Ticket, have been here for five years and eleven issues shining light into as many dark corners as we can find. Our community of forty volunteer graduate students shares a commitment to social justice, a commitment to speaking up. We grieve but we write. And here we are again, publishing art and writing in a version of the United States of America that seemed impossible before the 2016 election illuminated the depths of our darkness. Through our pain in the dawn of this 2017 reality, we came together with language to resist the call of the post-truth sirens; to bring you this issue.
Within Lunch Ticket Issue 11: Summer/Fall 2017 are seventy-seven works we are honored to share with the world. This issue’s essay section confronts the myth of a post-racial America. Featured essayist Amber Wong revisits the question she posed in Issue 10: “Are We There Yet?” Spoiler alert: we’re not. In “The Heavy Bag,” she shares her feelings of isolation and visibility as “the only minority—in a sea of white” that is Seattle. In “Ambivalence,” young writer and activist Ty Kia writes of casual racism in the Midwest: “no amount of privilege will rescue you from the stereotypes your complexion conjures in others.” And Californian Caesar Kent writes of the “correlation between Mexican men and crime—or, at least, convictions that put callused brown hands to work” in his flash essay “Weekend Work Program.”
Many of the pieces in this issue explore questions of diversity. In our Lunch Special, Lunch Ticket staff blogger Angela Bullock discusses Negroland with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Margo Jefferson. Jefferson says, “One of the many barriers for black people has always been the imposition of simplification, stereotypes, assumptions, even definitions of what the best kind of black person is or what a real black person is.” In conversation with our creative nonfiction editor and blogger Meredith Arena, writer and teacher Geeta Kothari discusses “the other” in fiction. Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña, interviewed here by YA assistant editor and blogger Kim Sabin, describes a new diversity and the importance of young people seeing themselves on the page. And in our featured interview, author and translator Katrina Dodson speaks with Gabo Prize and translation editor Lauren Kinney, lamenting the necessity of defending literature’s usefulness in this divided world: “Obviously this is important for humanity, thinking about our own interior experiences and how they bump up against other people’s interior and exterior experiences, so I always feel tired out by the weak position of literature and always having to defend it in this capitalist society, or usefulness-driven society.”
Our narratives counter American myths. From our features come explorations of identity: in both “Arroz y Dulce,” fiction by Rebecca Komathy, and “Scented Brains,” YA fiction by Scarlet Jones, two young narrators face the challenges of biracial identities. In creative nonfiction, Sossity Chiricuzio’s memoir excerpt explores growing up poor and queer in the American West. Nancy Au’s flash fiction, “She Is a Battleground,” is about an old woman finding her voice. N’kenge Feagin writes with “powerful imagery” and “subtle humor” paired with “devastating self-awareness” in her Diana Woods Memorial Award-winning essay, “Dead Daddies and White Castles.” Gabo Prize-winning translator Anne Gutt brings “alive for us the strange and magical world” found in Ukrainian poet Ganna Shevchenko’s “Quotidian Blues.”
Within these pages are voices from around the world, from writers and artists of many colors and genders and ages—from many identities—from Nigeria to El Salvador to Iraq to India, from eerily dystopian to satirical to heartbreakingly real. Our translation pieces originate in French, Spanish, Italian, Urdu, Chinese, and Farsi. The voices are urgent: torrin a. greathouse searches “for porn with bodies like mine / that are not made fetish” in their poetry; Tiffane Levick’s translation excerpt of Emmanuel Adely’s powerhouse multi-POV novel looks unflinchingly at the never-ending war in Afghanistan: “making blood run to defend the free world that is why they are here why they are hot why they are sweating why they are tense why they are concentrating why they are preparing;” visual artist Mellissa Redman’s portfolio seeks “to make the hidden external, to depict how swallowed fears and anxieties would appear if made tangible and visible.”
At Lunch Ticket our mission includes a call to engage with issues of social, economic, and environmental justice. As we celebrate Issue 11 with you, we also prepare to launch Issue 12’s production team. We have re-committed ourselves to our mission, and will have some exciting projects to share with you soon. Our torch stays lit. When you read our journal please share in our passion—fresh literary and visual art balanced with conversations about social justice and community activism—by telling others about us.
“So much held in a heart in a lifetime,” Doyle writes. “So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment.” Take heart in your community and thank you for sharing in ours.