Oversharing 101: #getoversharing

Smile!

Sometimes I have a problem with oversharing. The lady next to me at the nail salon did not need to know that I got a UTI from not going to the bathroom while I was teaching. Especially when she only asked if I liked being a teacher.

I have a bad habit of revealing very personal information with complete strangers. And it is not until later that I realize I probably should not have informed the person of my private affairs:

Okay, what do I need from the grocery store? Tomatoes, rice, chicken, coffee filters, filter… Huh, I probably shouldn’t have told that lady about my UTI sitch.

That’s kind of gross. And weird. She’s probably freaking her kids out right now by telling them they should tell their teachers tomorrow to go to the bathroom when they need to. Or worse. She’s reporting me as inappropriate to whomever you report something like that to. I don’t know. People figure it out if they have the drive. Yikes. I really need more of a filter.

Okay what was I doing? Oh yeah coffee filters, kale, paper towels.

Over the next day or two, depending on the severity of the overshare, I may shake my head and tell myself I’m an idiot, but neither the embarrassment nor the brief reflection prevents me from oversharing again to a stranger, acquaintance, or friend.

But, I am not alone.

Oversharing happens to be a multigenerational problem (yes, even you, Grandma). Social media is hands down the best vehicle for it. I would dare to say that the majority of things you see on social media are examples.

I am not a huge social media junkie, so thankfully, I do not tweet things like “Got a UTI at work today #TeacherProblems #PainfulWorkExperiences #JustGoPee” with a frowny-face.

Instead I tend to save my oversharing for casual conversations, but shockingly, people do say similar things online. And I judge them for doing it. That’s the weird thing about oversharers—we judge other people but do little or nothing to change our own habits.

We’ve all heard or even had a conversation like this:

“Can you believe Tina posted that comment on Facebook about how her husband cheated on her?!”

“Yikes. Doesn’t she realize she’s sharing that with everyone?”

“I hate it when Jenny posts status updates about what she’s doing all the time. I mean no one cares if you are going to the gym or grocery store. Boring.”

“I know. Did you see my forty pictures of little Molly wearing her ‘three months’ onesie on Instagram?”

“I did. So cute! Did you see what I made for dinner last night? That lo-fi setting almost made it look as organic and delicious as it was.”

“Yeah I ‘liked’ that!”

This brings me to some categories of oversharing.

Embarrassing!

Embarrassing

A particularly popular example of this is the sideways peace-signing pucker-lipped selfie. Sorry teens (and I hope not many others older than seventeen), sideways peace signs are always embarrassing and never cool. I’m confident in that statement. Prior to social media, “selfies” did not exist or at least were not a trend. Once people discovered the lovely trick of flipping the camera around on smart phones, voilà: selfie time. Drunken pics and posts also fall into this category, oh and any post or tweet that contains the word, “epic” (#CampaignToEndTheUseOfTheWordEpic).

Still don’t think you are guilty of anything in this category? Go through all your Facebook pics starting with your oldest album. That pic of you by the toilet in the frat house? Delete.

Scandalous

Scandalous pics and posts are reserved mainly for teens and people in their twenties although some people forget that crazy bachelorette party pics are not suitable for coworkers to see. These pictures can be a half-naked twerking pic (Google “crunkbear”) or a make out pic with a man in a top hat at a bar (#OldTimeyHot). Unfortunately, lots of times these too are selfies. (Wait, so you chose to have the world see you humping the wall because you thought that looked sexy? What?)

Boring

The majority of the stuff on social media is boring. (Don’t think so? Then why do you scroll through it so quickly? Huh? Busted.) Let’s go with some of the worst offenders, like someone’s dinner or a new purchase. Just because you put an artsy filter on it doesn’t mean everyone wants to see it. I get that you are excited about your new IKEA chifforobe. But looking at your post actually gives me heart palpitations because last time I was in IKEA, I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the store.

Attention cousin-of-my-friend-who-I-only-accepted-your-friend-request-because-I-didn’t-want-our-next-random-encounter-to-be-awkward, I don’t care that you’re excited to watch Game of Thrones.

Excessive

New mamas especially love this one. Excessive posts are usually something like forty pics of a sleeping baby (one pic of a sleeping babe equals cute, forty equals a snoozefest). I’m pretty sure that a friend of mine in Aspen has posted every fish he has ever caught. We get it. You are a successful fisherman. Now, please stop sharing.

Don’t forget detailed, multi-sentence posts. God bless Twitter for limiting characters.

Mean

A computer or smartphone somehow gives people the idea that it’s okay to say the mean things that go through their minds, but they don’t say. (Psst, hey, people doing this, if it leaves your head, you’re mean. And clearly need to be aware of the infamous ’90s slogan: “Mean People Suck.”)

I made the mistake of searching for my name on Twitter. (Teachers: Do not do this! You will regret it.) “Ms. Carmody’s ass got fat over the summer” was a lovely tweet I came across. I reminded kids the next day that everything they post on Twitter is housed in the Library of Congress, so be aware of what you write. The student that posted it didn’t get that I was talking to him. While I wouldn’t hold something like that against a student, it certainly didn’t help his plea to accept his work two weeks after the semester had ended.

Cray Cray

Election time, in particular, brings out the crazies. One day you could be chatting with someone about a risotto recipe, and then hours later you pull up Facebook to see her rant about how all Muslims are terrorists or how babies should be given guns at birth. Then you are faced with the awkward decision of if you should de-friend her both physically and through the World Wide Web. You really like chatting about recipes, but clearly, she’s out of her mind. Go ahead and get rid of her. There’s always Pinterest.

*     *     *

I criticize these folks, but I must admit that I am not totally innocent of oversharing through social media. But again, I judged away without realizing I was a culprit. And I continued to think so until I was enlightened by a friend at a Wilco concert.

“Post that baby to Insta,” I jokingly said to him after he captured lead singer Jeff Tweedy making out with the microphone, eyes closed.

“I’m on it! I’ll tag everyone.”

“Sweet. Do you need my username?”

“No, I think I follow you.”

“Oh okay. You do?”

Mr. Corky!

“Yeah, don’t you always post all those pictures of your dog?”

“Well, no. I mean, I have some pictures of my dog, but, really? That’s what people associate with me? Yikes.”

He laughed and said it wasn’t a big deal while I fixated on the fact that I was the weird dog lady on Instagram. Followers: Guess if Kate is single. I’d rather share too many baby pics or even food photos than too many of a dog! I may as well put a ton of shih poo stickers on my car and give up (#CorkAndMeForever).

This made me think that perhaps if all those foodies or proud parents had someone inform them of their oversharing, then they, too, may question their habits.

Thus, I have come up with a few completely unscientific strategies for anyone suffering from an oversharing addiction. I know that I am not an expert on the topic or a therapist, but let’s be honest, chances are if you are spending that much time oversharing on social media, you probably aren’t reading many scholarly journals. Therefore, here are some solutions to these common categories.

Embarrassing

Think of the most embarrassing moment of your life. Mine took place on the back patio of a seedy bar with my entire family when they were visiting me in Denver eight years ago. The bar was empty when we walked in, and they weren’t too convinced with my pleas of it becoming the next hotspot. But we headed to the back patio anyway. Not even a half beer in, my brother-in-law interrupted our conversation with a jaw-dropped, stiff stare at the apartment complex across the street. We followed his stare to discover a couple pressed against the floor-to-ceiling window in their apartment having intercourse for all the patio patrons to see. Including my entire family. After we got over the initial shock of what was happening, we quickly made an exit.

I get that some people are open to discussing touchy topics like sex with their parents. But as far as my parents are concerned, I’ve only held hands with a boy, and that’s all I’m willing to disclose. Therefore, you can imagine that watching a live porno, while brief, is a hard one to chip out of the old bank of memories.

Now, whatever your embarrassing situation may be, picture every person you don’t want there (your parents, your secret crush, your boss, Ryan Gosling #HeyGirl #OhNoGirl) watching it all unfold. Every time you go to post or tweet something embarrassing, think of yourself back in your situation.

Scandalous

Picture the grossest, creepiest person you have ever met. Mine is a biology teacher at the all-girls Catholic high school I attended. He used to wear a lab coat every day (why that was necessary, I’ll never know), and even though he wore that white lab coat, you could still see the dandruff on his shoulders. He used to tell girls he could smell when they were on their period. Um, Hannibal? I have no idea how he kept his job. Maybe because Catholics have a habit of forgiving that sort of thing (ba-dum-ching). Now picture him staring at that pic of you all day. If your profile is public, picture hundreds of him because every creep like him can see you.

R. Kelley

Excessive and Boring

Watch R. Kelly: Trapped in the Closet Chapters 1-22 on YouTube five times a day for a week. You may hate-like it the first time, but if you still like it even after the second or third time (I couldn’t get through one), then chances are there is no hope for your oversharing. Your only other option is listening to that Hootie and the Blowfish song on repeat for a week. Speaking of Hootie, if he can, I mean if Darius Rucker can reinvent himself after the excessive times they played his Hootie song on the radio, you can, too.

Mean and Cray Cray

When you are itching to share an insult or rant, imagine that whatever you are about to share, someone said about your little sister or whomever you care about the most. Wanna beat him up? Chances are someone wants to beat you up too. To literally save face, think of those people before you post or tweet (#LeaveTrollsAs90sToys).

*     *     *

While boring and unnecessary info or photos can’t do much harm, scandalous or embarrassing stories have caused job losses and school expulsions.

Whenever my mom hears about people getting in trouble for social media posts, she always says the same thing: “Why do people want to document things they do, but know they shouldn’t be doing? If I were them, I would make sure that no one documented anything, so it couldn’t be used against me.”

Maybe that’s the influence of McCarthyism, but I don’t think it’s a bad mentality to have. It sure beats the, “Oh our government is spying on us? Oh well. I share everything anyway” attitude. I’m not saying we need to kill our TVs like that bumper sticker says, or, in this case, smash our computers and phones. I actually think that social media is a great way to connect with people, but I think we need a little reinvention. So, moms, dads, kids, millennials, young professionals, Mr. President, or pretty much anyone who read this and found it relatable, I’m leaving you with some advice from my life coach (see, there I go again oversharing): “Think balance.”

 

Kate Carmody is a writer, teacher, and activist. At Lunch Ticket, she is a blogger and a member of the community outreach team. She is currently working on her MFA at Antioch University in Los Angeles and lives in Denver, Colorado.

Litdish: Ruth Madievsky, Poet

Originally from Moldova, Ruth Madievsky is the author of a poetry collection titled Emergency Brake (Tavern Books, 2016). Her poetry and fiction appear in Tin House, The American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, The Iowa Review, The Rumpus, ZYZZYVA, and elsewhere. She is currently at work on a second poetry collection and book of linked short stories. When she is not writing, she works as a pharmacist in Boston.

10 Questions for Ruth Madievsky:

1. Where are you writing us from?

I’m writing you from sunny Los Angeles, though by the time you read this, I might be freezing my ass off in Boston! I was born in Moldova (part of the former Soviet Union) and emigrated to America in 1993. Other than a brief stint in Cincinnati, I’ve lived in LA for most of my life. But for the next few years, I’ll be living in Boston, where my partner will be attending grad school. Leaving the place I’ve lived for most of my life is scary, but I’m excited to see what it’s like to live in a new city. And I hear that Boston has an amazing literary scene! If you or any of your pals/enemies have Boston recommendations, let a girl know.

2. What’s the most recent thing you’ve written?

The most recent thing I’ve written is actually my first article for a science journal! It’s a review article summarizing the latest evidence for diabetes drugs that can also have cardiovascular or kidney benefits and will be out soon in The Permanente Journal. But in terms of poetry, which is probably what you’d rather hear about, I wrote a little ode to a beloved foot clinic in Echo Park. It’s got this rotating sign that people call “Happy Foot Sad Foot.” One side is this beaming foot holding 2 thumbs up, and the other side is this sad, fucked-up-looking foot on crutches with bloodshot eyes. LA lore says that whichever sign is flashing as you drive by is an omen for how your day will go. You can read about it here: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-happy-foot-sad-foot-sign.

3. What’s your writing practice like?

The only writing method that works for me is ass-in-chair, so I pretty much have to hold myself hostage in order to get anything done. I’m never struck by inspiration per se, in the sense of being out in the world and realizing I need to write a poem about something. For me, writing is more of a ritual. I don’t write what I think—I write to figure out what I think. Reading a lot helps! Like many (most?) writers, I prefer reading to writing. Reading all kinds of voices in all kinds of genres and forms helps me see all that writing can be and can do.

4. How does your day job inform your writing?

Ha, my work as a clinical pharmacist definitely informs my writing, but not in a way I can parse out easily. I work very closely with people who are ill (both acutely and chronically) and that kind of work requires a lot of care, attention, and empathy. And also a lot of neuroticism because drugs are dangerous! It’s very easy to hurt or under-treat someone if you’re not extremely meticulous. Those dynamics definitely make their way into my writing and revision process. I tend to revise as a I write, agonizing over every word, rather than getting it all down in a shitty first draft. In my day job, the stakes are very high and fucking up is not an option. Which is probably why I get restless and unsettled when I write something that I know is bad and have to figure out how to make it better. And of course, you’ll definitely see lots of pills and bodies in my work!

5. What are you currently reading? What should we be reading? And why?

Currently, I’m reading Chelsea Hodson’s essay collection Tonight I’m Someone Else, which I’m loving—it feels like a dreamier version of Maggie Nelson. In my to-be-read pile, I’ve got Cheston Knapp’s essay collection Up Up Down Down, Denis Johnson’s last short story collection The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, Evie Shockley’s poetry collection Semiautomatic, and Tarfia Faizullah’s new poetry collection Registers of Illuminated Villages

In terms of recently read-and-loved: Douglas Manuel’s poetry collection Testify is all kinds of gutting and brilliant. Diana Arterian’s poetry collection Playing Monster: Sieche was originally two manuscripts (one about a mother dealing with a stalker and another about growing up with an abusive father) that ended up being sewn into one incredible book. I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of Lisa Locascio’s novel Open Me, which is an erotic coming-of-age story in rural Denmark. And Ottessa Moshfegh’s dark, hilarious, and always fucked-up short story collection, Homesick for Another World is one of the best I’ve ever read.

6. What’s your favorite album?

I’m terrible with choosing just one favorite of anything (which is why buffets fill me with child-like wonder), but the most recent album that completely took me is St. Vincent’s Masseduction. I had never listened to her before, and when I heard this album, I fell hard for her. The songs are so sexy, sorrowful, and unapologetically weird (which, to be honest, is the blurb I’ve always wanted for my own work). My favorite songs off that album are “Hang On Me,” “Pills” (obviously, lol), “Happy Birthday, Johnny,” and “New York.” I recommend that anyone who doesn’t know Masseduction listens to it, has a cathartic cry on a dance floor, and makes out with someone under a full moon.

7. What are some of your non-literary interests/ pastimes?

I’ve recently been indoctrinated into the cult of skincare? My mom has a skincare line called LUMINOUS that I’ve been helping her get off the ground. In the process, I’ve spent a lot of time on the Skincare Addiction reddit, and suddenly I have a lot of opinions about vitamin c serums and snail mucin.

8. What’s a piece of advice you’d like to pass on to young/ emerging writers? Or a useful piece of advice you’ve received.

Read more than you write! Read so, so much. It’s the best way to become a good writer, IMO. Also, imposter syndrome is real and will fuck you up in all kinds of ways, so just know that going in. Being part of a writing community (and focusing on what you can contribute to that community rather than what you can get out of it) helps.

9. Why do you write?

I started writing seriously in my early 20s, after many years of reading work that moved me deeply. I wanted to make people feel the way that certain life-altering poems made me feel. I still remember the summer that I realized that poetry could make meaning out of something that was only ever traumatic and shitty. That quite literally changed my life. Of course, there are many other incredible things that writing can do, but with where I was in my life at the time, that particular transformative quality drew me in the most.

10. What question do you wish we would’ve asked you and what’s the answer?

“What is the strangest pet you’ve ever had?” A hedgehog named Boo Radley, who helped edit my poetry collection! Rest in peace, sweet one.

 

Adrian Ibarra is poet and weirdo living in beautiful Oakland, CA. He is an MFA candidate at Antioch University, Los Angeles where he is the managing editor for their literary magazine, Lunch Ticket. His work, which focuses on poetry as an object that exerts the will of the poet as a force into the physical world, has appeared at The John Lion New Plays Festival, in Burningword, Metaphor Magazine, as well as other journals and magazines that don’t exist anymore.

A Bridge West

I am often surprised by how many people have heard of my hometown of Dayton, Ohio. Dayton once had a major role in innovation and the arts. The city lays claim to both the Wright Brothers and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Funk music was arguably birthed in West Dayton. Major companies like Mead, Reynolds and Reynolds, and NCR once nurtured the working class families that built the Black suburbs that lay fallen today.

I live in West Dayton, which is primarily populated by African Americans. Twenty years ago it thrived with upper middle class families, businesses, and entertainment. While those businesses have been boarded up and torn down since the closing of GM plants and factories, the people still remain and emanate an enviable joy.

In fact, when I drive down Third Street and see the promise of new business development in an area that was destroyed over fifty years ago in the 1966 West Dayton riots;  when I watch children splash in the colorful sprinklers at Mallory Park; when I drive home to my little township and have to slow down to allow a black man riding an enormous shiny black horse safe passage, I find it easy to look past the vacant lots with overgrown brush, the concrete blocks where factories once stood, the buildings that mark in my memory just how often corporate superstores erect structures and then move on for higher ground.

I work downtown, and when I drive over the Third Street Bridge, also known as the Peace Bridge, and watch the couples in their canoes or glance at the joggers who run along the Great Miami Rivers’ edge, I wonder what they see when they look at the gas stations and broken windowed structures that welcome them to my side of town. Do they see the isolation? Do they see the endurance?

One day soon that bridge will be replaced and I wonder if the attitude about West Dayton will change with it?  In the Dayton Daily News article entitled “Artist ‘Bing’ Davis to Help Design Third Street Bridge,” local artist Willis “Bing” Davis is quoted as saying, “The intent is to create a distinctive-looking bridge that is a source of public pride and ‘a lasting symbol of hope’…” The article goes on to say that, “It’s symbolic for many, too, because it connects the city’s east and west sides.”

I realize that to some, West Dayton is a frightening place. I’m not afraid. I think I owe my stepfather for that. While he’s not black (he’s a Lakota Sioux), he lived most of his life in West Dayton and embraced the culture. (Well, embraced might be a strong word. When I was in high school and the neighborhood boys pulled up beside our emerald green station wagon blasting Tupac or Bone-Thugs-in-Harmony, he turned up the volume on one of his traditional Sioux drum songs, much to my embarrassment.)  However, when I was thirteen, maybe fourteen, I needed to make a purchase at corner store. We were near a market I wasn’t familiar with and was concerned. There were bars on the windows and faded ads on the walls and I didn’t want to go inside, but my stepfather made me. He said, “Don’t ever be afraid of your own people.”

It wasn’t until I moved back to the city after living in Yellow Springs, Ohio, that I realized there are some, both black and white, who see the entire West Side as I saw that corner store, something to be leery about and ashamed of, as if not being affluent is an embarrassment, is criminal.

In recent months West Dayton was declared a food desert. Dayton Public Schools announced school closures and one of the last remaining hospitals on the West Side, Good Samaritan Hospital, announced that it would soon be closing its doors for good. Meanwhile, directly across the bridge, in downtown Dayton, developers are building a new outdoor music arena, touting river development, and building so many new condos they seem to sprout up like weeds.

I attend church in West Dayton and during the Wednesday night Bible study following Trump’s election, my pastor announced to the congregation that we would have to learn to take care of one another. He said that any help we’d once known would soon be gone. Less than two years later, in one fell swoop, our access to healthy foods, medical care and public education nearly disappeared. We know that our physical health is connected to food, education and medical care. That fact is undeniable and the roll back of all three in this community feels conspiratorial. But on top of that we’ll soon have to pray for the miracle of divine healing because as the opioid epidemic tramples the community like a storm, sufferers who live too far from local hospitals will need a literal miracle to survive the transport.

It offends me that while people starve in West Dayton, right across the bridge half million dollar condominiums reach for the horizon. We watch from the Peace bridge as it happens. Why is it that we on this side of the bridge have to figure out how to feed and heal ourselves, while on the other side major grocery chains are building, remodeling, and expanding? It was recently announced that a food co-op will open in the coming years, but why does it have to come to that? Why does it feel as though the West Side is being abandoned while the rest of the city thrives?

I am not a business owner or a community leader. I’m a writer who has questions and no answers. Though writing gives voice to the issue, I’m not sure it’s enough. I can’t even protest because I’m not sure what I would be protesting. Who would I be protesting: businesses for turning away Black dollars; the North, South and East Sides that develop and grow because of university expansion, medical field expansion and the survival of some parts of the middle class? To whom do I express my frustrations while knowing it won’t erase the isolation that nearly fifty eight thousand people face when they, by no fault of their own, are sequestered to a lifestyle of lack because they can’t afford to move to the other side of the Peace Bridge? Who is at fault? And more importantly, what can I do to stop it?

All photography by Latoya Leonard.

 

Jahzerah Brooks is a mother, writer and MFA candidate at Antioch University Los Angeles. She currently lives in the Midwest. Jahzerah currently serves as Lead Fiction Editor for Lunch Ticket.

Ray Crest, 2018, Sculpture, Pinewood, Willow, H 55” x W-40” x D- 35”

Spotlight: archiTERRA

Word from the Editor

We are driven by the compulsion to tell stories; everyone.

For two years, I have studied poetry in an MFA program dedicated to educating literary artists to advance social, economic, and environmental justice, and I have worked on Lunch Ticket for three issues.

The 47 student volunteers on staff work hard to make this literary journal a safe and sacred space, from the manner in which we discuss submissions, to how we collaborate with one another. As we work toward our goal to foster equity in publishing, it became even more evident to me that material cannot be divorced from the process; that as editors, we must align our editorial conventions with this vision. During the making of this issue, it was not uncommon for eight or more editors and assistant editors of different genres to engage in a thoughtful discussion of any given piece. We leaned into each other’s experiences to inform editorial decisions. One such decision was refusing to provide a platform for those who work against or trivialize the pursuit of justice.

At Lunch Ticket, we take our mission extremely seriously. We do not tell stories to be a voice for the voiceless. Instead, I believe we strive toward what 13th century Persian poet Rumi calls “the deep listening.” “What is the deep listening? Sama is / a greeting from the secret ones inside … your intelligence grows new leaves in / the wind of this listening,” the poet defines the enlightenment that takes place within when we truly hear the other.

But we must recognize our separation before we can appreciate hearing them: “Listen, and feel the beauty of your/ separation, the unsayable absence.” Without the ability to sense the beauty of our separation, the absence of being a person in this world, Rumi says we might as well be dead. Yet, he gives us hope for justice: “The dead / rise with / the pleasure of listening.” If I had to name a theme for this issue, that would be it. The voices of Lunch Ticket 13 revel in the justice of listening.

We tell stories to honor our ancestors. Telling their stories makes us come alive. In “Babiy Yar” (Fiction), the speaker promises, “I’ll write about our secret war, the war after the war.” Their mother answers, “Start tonight.” In her essay “Souvenirs,” poet and writer Lena Khalaf Tuffaha says “To remember is to resist the transformative powers of violence. If occupation tries to reduce a homeland to collapsing camps and ominous military checkpoints, resistance is remembering its beauty, is seeking out the stones and red anemones and wild thyme of the hillsides.”

We tell stories to speak up and take action. “If I didn’t move, this time it would be Joey on the news. He’d be one of those hashtags on Twitter,” Arriel Vinston writes in “Following Joey” (Fiction).

We are thankful for the words of our past poetry contributors Lena Khalaf Tuffaha and Cortney Lamar Charleston, who generously obliged when I was seeking essays by poets, on any topic of their choosing, for Lunch Ticket 13. A 2017 Ruth Lily Fellow, Charleston writes about his decision to study business when he was in college, “What do you want to be when you grow up? That’s such a White-ass question, if we’re being honest.” Published alongside Tuffaha and Charleston’s essays is Akhila Kolisetty’s “Experiencing Whiteness.” Kolisetty unflinchingly examines her privilege as an Indian American traveling in Sierra Leone.

Numerous pieces examine parent-child relationships: Carolyn Oliver’s poem “Elementary,” MJ Lemire’s essay “Losing Faith,” and in flash fiction, “How to Love Your Child Without Your Neighbor Reporting You to Child Services” and “Picking Out Bananas.” There is also a theme of exploring mental health and confronting stigmas of mental illness: in fiction, Cannonball and Phone Voice, Brandon Melendez’s poem S/c/h/i/z/o/p/h/r/e/n/i/a/, and Elliot Gavin Keenan’s essay Notes to Self.

As Lunch Ticket is working toward our initiative to mentor and publish more young people, I’m reminded that some young people are ready to be heard alongside published writers. A rising high school senior, Michael Wang (“Fleeing Syria”) is our youngest contributor. “Michael cares deeply about issues of social justice,” his bio says. “After reading about Syrian refugees and the ensuing U.S. ban on immigrants, he imagined how a young boy might feel fleeing a war-torn country.” We’re honored to publish Wang’s self-translated YA fiction in both English and French, along with numerous new voices who are being published for the first time in Lunch Ticket 13.

Lunch Ticket is excited to announce our contest winners and finalists. Gabo Prize winner Caroline Wilcox Reul translates selected poems from Carl Christian-Elze’s Our Ghosts and How We Talk To Them. Guest judge Tiffany Higgins says, “I love that the poet and translator have brought into English this concept of a selfie-dream … Reul keeps us in this quirky, ghostly world.” Reul’s prize-winning translations appear alongside other literary works translated from German, French, Chinese, Bengali, Hindi, Yiddish, and Dutch, in our Gabo Prize and translation sections. Diana Woods Memorial Award winner “Arabian Night” by Diane G. Martin “takes us by the hand, invites us deeply into the writer’s lost world,” said guest judge Gayle Brandeis. “A stunning, necessary, gut punch of an essay.”

As we work toward our social justice mission, we are grateful for Juan Felipe Herrera‘s reminder that unity, while sweet, is challenging to achieve. We stand with writers and editors everywhere who have lead by example: recently, the decision of Timothy Donnelly, BK Fisher, and Stefania Heim to step down as poetry editors of Boston Review due to the executive editors’ decision to retain Junot Diaz as fiction editor.

As I reflect upon the chorus of voices that came together to produce this issue, I return to Herrera’s statement about writing as a communal art: “We really are nourished by being in a pact of artists and people.” Being a part of the Lunch Ticket community has nourished and humbled me. I am grateful for the contributions of my peers and appreciate the work and patience required to build a future with equity in publishing.

The right to tell stories belongs to everyone. It is challenging and necessary work. In the words of Jordan Faber’s “Babiy Yar,” start tonight.

 

Jessica Abughattas

 

Jessica Abughattas is the editor-in-chief of Lunch Ticket Issue 13. She formerly edited Lunch Ticket’s poetry section and was a reader for Frontier Poetry. Her essays and interviews have appeared at Palette, Lunch Ticket, and other places. You can find her poems in Thrush Poetry Journal, BOAAT, Literary Hub, and elsewhere. Her latest work is forthcoming in Muzzle Magazine, OSU The Journal, and Tinderbox. You can find her on Twitter (@jessicamelia22) or visit her site (jessicaabughattas.com). She lives in Los Angeles.

Writers Read: Refuge: A Memoir by Ming Holden

Ming Holden’s essay collection is an experiment. Equal parts essay, memoir, and poetry, with a dash of fiction, Refuge: A Memoir bends genre to immerse readers into the lives of the refugees and political exiles Holden has worked with throughout her life. From Syria to Kenya to China, Holden explores the circular, repetitive trauma that refugees and political exiles experience, even after their journey to “freedom” is over. Holden splices images and stories of her own life throughout her memoir. Through a series of her own heartbreaks, betrayals, and narrowly escaped tragedies, Holden begins to question the moral ambiguity of storytelling. Whose stories are these to tell? She writes: “There is no telling. So I tell it slant”(103).

Refuge lacks a traditional structure and it works. Holden’s demands that the reader confronts the reality of the violence. Instead of following her experiences in chronological order, the narrative weaves in and out of past and present, timelines blur, traditional structures are lost—there are gaps. “I fundamentally believe,” Holden writes, “there is no thesis statement for rape”(117). That is to say, there is no thesis statement for trauma. With violence, after all, traditional structures crumble. Logic is lost.

One of the collection’s most compelling pieces, “Jaqueline and the Negative Imagination,” centers around The Survival Girls, a theater group in Nairobi, Kenya. Jaqueline, the troupe’s newest member, portrays her own rapist on stage—an act that ripples through the women in the audience and exposes the depth of the community’s wounds. Like all the stories in Holden’s collection, it’s a story about survival. Like all the stories in the collection, there’s no end. For Jacqueline and The Survival Girls the process of trauma is ongoing. Survival continues into tomorrow. “Jaqueline and the Negative Imagination” explores the process of trauma: its effect on the body and the healing capabilities of creativity. It’s also a piece where Holden allows herself a certain amount of theoretical and philosophical exploration. She questions discourse on violence which assuming confine trauma to a period in time: “Violence and its aftermath disrupt the very systems of the mind and body that structure and order experience”(104). Holden suggests that trauma is malleable, fluid, and always changing.

Ming Holden

After reading stories about Jacqueline and the Survival Girls some readers might find themselves asking valid questions: are these stories filtered through the author’s own cultural experience? Does the benefit of writing about these people outweigh the risk of possibly exploiting them? These are questions which followed Holden throughout her journey: “There are vestiges of colonialism all over this work, and certainly they crop up anytime I speak ‘on behalf of’ or even about these women. Especially to a privileged audience”(108). It’s a careful balancing act: writing about pain but making sure not to reduce suffering to shock value. It’s an act which Holden performs well.

In the end, Holden decides the benefit of storytelling is greater than the risk. These are stories that need to be told, and she has the platform to do so. The moral lines are blurred, but she’s not wrong. At a time when the US government is constructing border walls and turning refugees away, stories like the ones in Refuge are powerful and relevant. Holden stripes away the shock value news sound-bites that surround us every day and reminds us that these voices belong to people.

Holden, Ming. Refuge: A Memoir. Tucson: Kore Press. 2018.

 

Kori Kessler has a degree in literary theory. She just got done traveling Europe and currently attends Antioch University Los Angeles. She is co-associate managing editor of Lunch Ticket and has work published in Tiferet Journal. One of these days she plans on settling down in LA with her dog, Ginsberg.

Writers Read: Refuge: A Memoir by Ming Holden

Ming Holden’s essay collection is an experiment. Equal parts essay, memoir, and poetry, with a dash of fiction, Refuge: A Memoir bends genre to immerse readers into the lives of the refugees and political exiles Holden has worked with throughout her life. From Syria to Kenya to China, Holden explores the circular, repetitive trauma that refugees and political exiles experience, even after their journey to “freedom” is over. Holden splices images and stories of her own life throughout her memoir. Through a series of her own heartbreaks, betrayals, and narrowly escaped tragedies, Holden begins to question the moral ambiguity of storytelling. Whose stories are these to tell? She writes: “There is no telling. So I tell it slant”(103).

Refuge lacks a traditional structure and it works. Holden’s demands that the reader confronts the reality of the violence. Instead of following her experiences in chronological order, the narrative weaves in and out of past and present, timelines blur, traditional structures are lost—there are gaps. “I fundamentally believe,” Holden writes, “there is no thesis statement for rape”(117). That is to say, there is no thesis statement for trauma. With violence, after all, traditional structures crumble. Logic is lost.

One of the collection’s most compelling pieces, “Jaqueline and the Negative Imagination,” centers around The Survival Girls, a theater group in Nairobi, Kenya. Jaqueline, the troupe’s newest member, portrays her own rapist on stage—an act that ripples through the women in the audience and exposes the depth of the community’s wounds. Like all the stories in Holden’s collection, it’s a story about survival. Like all the stories in the collection, there’s no end. For Jacqueline and The Survival Girls the process of trauma is ongoing. Survival continues into tomorrow. “Jaqueline and the Negative Imagination” explores the process of trauma: its effect on the body and the healing capabilities of creativity. It’s also a piece where Holden allows herself a certain amount of theoretical and philosophical exploration. She questions discourse on violence which assuming confine trauma to a period in time: “Violence and its aftermath disrupt the very systems of the mind and body that structure and order experience”(104). Holden suggests that trauma is malleable, fluid, and always changing.

Ming Holden

After reading stories about Jacqueline and the Survival Girls some readers might find themselves asking valid questions: are these stories filtered through the author’s own cultural experience? Does the benefit of writing about these people outweigh the risk of possibly exploiting them? These are questions which followed Holden throughout her journey: “There are vestiges of colonialism all over this work, and certainly they crop up anytime I speak ‘on behalf of’ or even about these women. Especially to a privileged audience”(108). It’s a careful balancing act: writing about pain but making sure not to reduce suffering to shock value. It’s an act which Holden performs well.

In the end, Holden decides the benefit of storytelling is greater than the risk. These are stories that need to be told, and she has the platform to do so. The moral lines are blurred, but she’s not wrong. At a time when the US government is constructing border walls and turning refugees away, stories like the ones in Refuge are powerful and relevant. Holden stripes away the shock value news sound-bites that surround us every day and reminds us that these voices belong to people.

Holden, Ming. Refuge: A Memoir. Tucson: Kore Press. 2018.

 

Kori Kessler has a degree in literary theory. She just got done traveling Europe and currently attends Antioch University Los Angeles. She is co-associate managing editor of Lunch Ticket and has work published in Tiferet Journal. One of these days she plans on settling down in LA with her dog, Ginsberg.

The Mad World

1. I didn’t mean to get serious about running. I try not to get too serious about anything. But here I am. As is the way with most drugs, the hobby was all fun and games until I was a junkie, the crazy kind of addict who wakes up on Thanksgiving morning and instead of curling up to watch the parade on TV, drives ten miles to compete in a 10K Turkey Trot. It’s very disorienting.

Recently I don’t recognize myself. I wonder why I’d do a thing like a Turkey Trot, or any of the races I’ve run, several with less embarrassing titles. In the beginning, I assumed my hobby was just a new stripe of stress-reducing exercise, aided by the exceedingly temperate San Diego clime. I have a demanding work schedule. I’m raising two little girls. Marriage is hard. People find ways to let off steam. Then I realized I was experiencing something more complex, maybe more interesting. Certainly sadder.

Photo credit: Katy Regnier

2. Last September my friend Katy suggested we run together. We had enrolled our eight and nine-year-old daughters in a program called Girls on the Run, which is mainly a bonding/girl-empowering weekly meetup with light exercise, culminating in the girls running a 5K. My older daughter has a lot of excess energy. It seemed like a reasonable plan. Katy thought we might use the girls’ meeting times to go for runs ourselves. It was just making efficient use of an hour. Plus, like my daughter, I had what felt like a lot of excess energy.

San Diego is the fourth running-est county in the country. Athletes can train outdoors here just about every day of the year, and if they like they can do it along the pretty edge of the Pacific Ocean. Alongside runners, cyclists hum down highway 101 in packs of dozens. Surf competitions take place year-round; event tents cover the beach like little circuses. There’s volleyball and hiking and ocean swimming. There’s a lot of yoga. It’s warm all the time. It’s enough to make a rain-loving cynic like me sick. In a simple version of this story, maybe, eventually, I just got swept up in all that motion.

3. By the time Katy lured me in, she’d run a dozen races of varying lengths. From the outside it looked very suspicious. I mean, running long distances (more than, say, a couple miles) looks excessive, unnatural and showy to many non-runners. I had reservations. What about all the jouncing of my lady parts? Don’t runners struggle not to poop their pants? Katy reported that so far, her lady parts stayed fixed where they ought. She said she hadn’t shat herself once. Yet. While I acknowledged that *probably* not pooping one’s pants is a frightfully low bar when choosing a workout, I agreed to try running.

We set a goal. After three months of practice, Katy and I would run a 10k through Disneyland. This is how unserious my new hobby was. No one can be competitive about a run inside the Magic Kingdom. About 60% of the runners are in costumes. Along the route there are photo ops with characters. If you’re serious about this run, you’re being ridiculous. Katy (also a sewing savant), crafted us Mouseketeer Club costumes from breathable four-way stretch Lycra. We wore ears. You get the picture. We didn’t come to win. We just needed to be strong enough runners to finish 6.2 miles. Katy already was. And I’m foolhardy. It was a date.

4. When Des Linden won the Boston Marathon last month (the first American woman to do so since 1985), on the heels of Shalane Flanagan winning the New York Marathon (the first American woman since 1977), I joked to my friends that I knew why American women won those races again. I said: it’s because we’re angry women in the world right now. We are angry running. Running angry-fast. I laughed a little, but I was only partly joking. I wondered if anyone agreed.

Photo credit: Katy Regnier

5. We ran the Disney race and surprised ourselves by placing 11th and 12th in our division (women 35-39). From there, the problem escalated. I was a goner, really. I asked my step mom for guidance—in her thirties, Barbara was an elite marathoner—and she was kind enough to agree. She drew up a plan to train Katy and me for half marathons. Hills and speed drills. Miles and miles. Katy gave me her old Garmin watch. I monitored my heart rate like a deranged seismologist. I read blogs and articles. I tried on and bought and returned lots of shoes. Katy and I traced and retraced the edge of California. We got faster. I was so tired that at night that sometimes I fell asleep before my kids.

6. One day while I ran with Katy on the coast—not talking, pace easy—I noticed my heart rate tick up and up. I realized that whenever I run, even in training, I have the urgent feel of racing. I thought about this over the miles and realized the beginning of what is true: I am driven, bodily, by the irrational feeling that I accomplish something by running. Some task larger than my race goals. I say irrational because there is no virtue intrinsic to fitness. Sure, exercise is good for you. The immediate, anti-stress benefits of endorphin release are real. The bible would have us keep God’s temple nice, etc. (if you’re into that sort of thing). But I understood that somewhere in my consciousness, I equated my physical power, my muscles and steam in motion, as a proxy for political power.

When I say these days I don’t know who I am, I’m talking about every day since November 9th, 2016. I feel I’ve been teetering on the edge of madness for as long as our current president has been in office. The initial event was visceral, a sock to the gut. All that bursting energy—the gladness in casting my vote, the expectation of announcing the woman president to my daughters—was sucked out. I became ill. The weeks progressed. I showed up at marches with other people, mostly women, and I felt my anger dispel. There were many of us, lots of bodies sardined on the avenues, on streets, and in public squares. There was comfort in that, in moving myself toward that action. But the months and the news barreled on over us. The destructive policies are too many to name, the corruption too rife to describe. For the entire first year, I read Twitter instead of books. I walked around, coiled tight, waiting for magic relief; I allowed myself to hope that, eventually, the crimes would emerge there, on the Internet, like a fireworks finale, such that the only reasonable remaining place for the perpetrators—the fake president and his enablers—would be a dungeon somewhere deep in America’s correctional bowels.

Alas.

7. When I say my running is sad, I mean this: everything I’ve done, the accomplishments and defeats of the last eighteen months, the miles and miles, seem now to be responses to the election. Things that should not be related can, with hardly any gymnastics, be tied back to the acute trauma of that moment, to the accretion of offenses that followed. I have felt like the victim of an incomprehensible theft; robbery on a scale so grand I can’t yet see precisely what’s missing or how it was stolen. Over the past year and a half, the crimes’ contours have slowly taken shape. I’m writing this on a Tuesday. Already this week there have been stunning revelations about multiple campaign stooges interacting with as many foreign entities. By Friday there will be more details. Today’s scandal is buried in tomorrow. News is old so quickly, these days. The outrage builds like plaque as those in power bend over to bolster a ridiculous president—over the months it has become clear there’s no crime so egregious that they’ll end the farce.

8. I brought my daughters with me when I voted in the 2016 election. The polling place was their elementary school. I cried when I voted for the woman candidate. In the booth I grabbed the girls and hugged them and told them what an important day it was and kissed their safe rosy faces and felt hope and power. I was energetic, spinning like a buzz saw, sparks flying.

9. What felt like madness in me deepens. It converts to motion. I propel my body forward, sometimes in pain, as a way to tap that sparking power, to pretend I can pull everything crooked straight again. I am going somewhere, I think. The country goes backward. But I dream I am going somewhere. I lie that I am going somewhere. I am getting what’s mine. I am tired, so something must have changed, some difference made. I don’t know. I don’t know anymore. I just have this good memory of power.

Photo credit: Mary Birnbaum

10. On a particularly grueling training day, here is what I tell myself: be the tree. If I am doing sprints or hill repeats and I feel my air start to go ragged and my legs drop like anvils and my heart rings like a big red alarm, I look around and find some big, still landmark in the distance; the tower of a tree, some silent beige house, and I rest my gaze there. I run at the beacon and I think, the tree is not tired. The house is not tired. It doesn’t care. The still, silent forms do not care. In this way, perhaps I slow my thudding heart; I try to achieve some stillness in motion. Maybe lots of runners do this. They become sort of irrational and pleading as they try to go on. Be the effing tree, I say. Be that free.

11. I thought I could show up on November 8th 2016 and cast my vote and help usher justice forward. But who cares that my electoral politics are opposite: it was people who look like me who allowed this deed, who see that it endures. White men and women. White women, some with swinging ponytails, maybe in athletic shorts and tank tops. In a visor and racing glasses, smelling like coconut sunscreen and sweat. Able-bodied women. Women able to take time in their day to run, maybe. Women whose babies are safer, from birth, than the babies of women of color. Women who—in a thousand ways—benefit from systemic racism and the permanent precarity of other bodies. Women with the merest, freshest taste of loss. All this unfathomable destruction to humans and earth will have been done to protect people who look like me. Me and my outrageous fortune. I run to those fireworks that aren’t coming (the theft is plain as day); the white establishment will douse them all, while the rodeo clown does his dance.

12. It’s Tuesday today and I’ve got a tender calf and an iffy tendon. My achilles aches. My psoas muscles, those body-long bands, feel taut as piano wires. Ice packs chill both legs; I’m on my way to shin splints. My step mom says that’s how I’ll fracture my tibia, if I’m not smart. Everything is sore from the chase.

13. Of course, I can’t speak for Shalane Flanagan or Des Linden. I don’t know what makes them tick. Who knows why they won those races. They are heroic runners, for one. Elite racers spend years learning how to be the best. And then, some days, it’s just their race to win. Certainly, if anger actually made a person fast, there are women suffering in some severely oppressed and under-resourced regions who would be flying. Given the opportunity.

I know only what sets me in motion, what urgency lifts my knees even as air is short. It has been that preposterous hope that I’m getting somewhere, that we will get somewhere, even as we—we supposed liberals, we desirers of equality and justice—seem not only to be running in an entirely separate event from the GOP, but also to be running the same tired track that got us here. I’ve been angry running, suffering in my body a little bit and a lot, thinking that someday I’d finally claim the stolen power I chased. But the end game for us is not getting more power. (Mary, you had never lost it.) It’s when people who look like me are willing to give it up.

Mary Birnbaum is editor of Lunch Ticket’s Diana Woods Memorial Prize in Nonfiction. She holds an MFA from Antioch. She has contributed to Lunch Ticket and The Week. Mary was the 2018 recipient of Disquiet International’s Nonfiction Fellowship and a finalist for Chattahoochee Review’s Lamar York Prize. She resides in Vista, California with her daughters and husband. If you like, you can find her on Twitter @ailishbirnbaum