“Justice work is life work,” Ashaki Jackson says in her interview with Lunch Ticket. “Think of it as a chorus: there will always be more than one voice looking for the perfect, rich harmony.” The staff and contributors at Lunch Ticket are part of this chorus. Issue 12: Winter/Spring 2018 is an offering from our search for this harmony. Justice work is a struggle: bringing many voices together in harmony—vocal tuning—is hard work, but beautiful work. It is necessary work.
The news is relentless. In the hours I began writing to you, I learned that Bear Ears National Monument will be diminished by 85%, and the United States Supreme Court will allow the full travel ban to be enforced. But I process myriad and constant devastations like these without succumbing to despair because I find strength in fellowship. For a few years I’ve been privileged to study and practice writing in an MFA program dedicated to educating literary artists to advance social, economic, and environmental justice. Justice work is inextricable from our journal and our parent institution. In my time at Lunch Ticket—two years and four issues—I’ve been surrounded and supported by the student volunteers who make this journal run, who make our community a safe, powerful, and sacred space. From this space I’ve written to you to describe our collective mourning—how each successive issue finds us confronting new instances of “white supremacy and terrorism in our streets, in our churches, in our institutions of higher learning.” I must now add Charlottesville, Las Vegas, and Sutherland Springs to our litany, our dirge.
In this difficult year we built two big, diverse, resonant issues we are proud of, and watched our colleagues build Lunch Ticket Special, a celebration of twenty years of the Antioch University Los Angeles creative writing MFA. I’ve written to you about expanding our mission, elevating our goals of diversity to goals of equity in publishing. We take our mission seriously—it threads through all our conversions, from evaluating submissions to deciding which initiatives to pursue. During the production cycle for Issue 12 we launched two new Amuse-Bouche occasional series: À La Carte and Litdish. The first features short pieces from all genres that engage with our mission to publish work by writers from underrepresented or historically misrepresented communities, and/or writing that highlights issues of social, economic, and environmental justice; the second is a series of interviews with writers and artists in conversation with our staff about literature, art, social justice, and community activism. Some wheels turn slower than we would like, but I anticipate the team of Issue 13 will be able to share with you soon the news of our current seedling, a young voices initiative.
Our community is vibrant. We’ve gained twelve new volunteer staff for the crafting of this issue, and dozens of new voices join the ranks of our published authors. We welcome poet Victoria Chang to the AULA MFA community. When she became part of our faculty, she had already conducted the Lunch Special interview with us. In it, she says that writing the eponymous character in her latest book, Barbie Chang, “became a way for me to write more than about my own experiences as a person of color living in a community that is not always welcoming to people of color, even today in California.” Alongside Jackson and Chang in our interview section, we visit with poet and AULA MFA founding chair Eloise Klein Healy; author Cecil Castellucci discusses her young adult and children’s novels and graphic novels; author Lisa Dickey shares insights into ghostwriting and her own writing; and mystery writer Joe Ide talks story about his multiple award-winning first novel, IQ.
In Issue 11 our essay section explored the myth of a post-racial America. Here in Issue 12 our essays look at workplace silence, workplace violence, and the politics of work in 2017. In our featured essay “The Architect,” Chad Baker brings us the story of his coauthor, Antonio Gutierrez, an immigrant who crossed the border as a small child in the company of family, and who lived the American dream by becoming an architect. When their undocumented status derailed this dream, ending their work as an architect, they became an immigrant rights activist. In her essay, “Workplace Silence,” Nicole Cyrus reveals the sexual harassment and racially motivated violence she has endured at work. And Teresa H. Janssen writes of our national epidemic of school shootings in “Nostalgia”: “Now when I see a boy in a trench coat striding toward my room, I watch, suddenly alert, make a split-second assessment of intent, and even when assured of the child’s harmless cloak of machismo, I sometimes close my door.”
Explore with us. Our themes are often complex and intersectional. In the poetry section, Roshanda Johnson, inspired by Yehuda Amichai, writes:
I wasn’t one of the stolen.
I wasn’t one of the many million
who had once only known
the sweetness of the sea.
I wasn’t confused cargo
stacked like the bricks of Babel
in the belly of a wooden beast.
I wasn’t shackled to my skin,
forgotten in my filth,
a prisoner of fear and promises. (“I Wasn’t One”)
In creative nonfiction, Sean Enfield also writes of the legacy of human bondage in “Paper Shackles”: “We had pushed all the desks to the sides of the room so that we could tape two, thin, boat-like shapes in the middle of the classroom. The class day prior we made shackles out of construction paper. Some of the kids decorated theirs, but I left mine blank—a solid shade of sky-blue upon which my imaginary sun reflected.” I wish I had space here to tell you something about each and every piece, and about more pieces from different genres that reflect similar themes: those that harmonize, those that embrace both suffering and joy.
This issue has strong dystopian themes. From water rights, to food scarcity, to a Chicago under Martial law, and a wave that swallowed the world, our fiction writers do not shy away from the political. In our flash prose and young adult sections, too, you’ll find stories of hunger, survival, and a world seemingly absent of adults. Our work is consistent in its urgency and global in scope: words and images from and about Iran, Indonesia, Nigeria, New Zealand, Vietnam, and beyond; and from the borderlands, from the experience of being Indian in Hong Kong, or Hmong in Laos. Elham Hajesmaeili’s featured art portfolio Pendulum of Identity explores being Iranian in the US. The work is an “observation of an identity shifting between two geographical contexts while sexuality remains the silent power holder.”
We’re thrilled to share our contest winners and finalists. Diana Woods Memorial Award winner Kristine Jepsen “makes powerful use of juxtaposition—between time periods and narrative lines—to create subtle but viscerally disturbing parallels between the fates of cows and of women” in her essay, “Gut Instinct.” Gabo Prize-winning translator Patricia Hartland, “a vigilant translator [who] must look in two different linguistic directions while plotting her course in a third,” translates selected poems from Monchoachi’s Black and Blue Partition: ‘Mistry 2. The language of Monchoachi’s Martinican Creole joins our chorus beside Arabic, Chinese, Danish, French, Hebrew, Italian, and Spanish in our translation and Gabo Prize sections.
Issue 12 is big and beautiful; it is our justice work. As for me, my remaining time with Lunch Ticket can be counted in minutes. I’ve earned my MFA and I must move on. I abhor the impending vacuum. I got to do what I love, for a time. I’ve had the honor of publishing friends and new friends made here, first-timers and professionals. I took the responsibility for this journal from good hands and leave it in good hands. What will I do now, without this education to pursue, this journal to glean inspiration from? Until I come up with a better plan, I’ll rely on the mantra I repeat each week to the team: Onward. There is nowhere else to go. And I’ll think of Ashaki Jackson’s chorus of justice work: “Once you hear it, you shouldn’t want to stop singing.”
Thank you for all of your voices,