In honor of #NationalBookLoversDay, our editors pick their top 3 books

Cade Leebron, Nonfiction Editor

(1) The Colony by Jillian Weise, (2) The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, and (3) Yearling by Lo Kwa Mei-en

Rachel Charlene Lewis, Social Media Manager

(1) Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai, (2) We The Animals by Justin Torres, and (3) Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night by Morgan Parker

Jasmine Combs, Spoken Word Editor

(1) If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson, (2) I Love Myself When I Am Laughing… by Zora Neale Hurston (3) The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Amy Katherine Cannon, Poetry Editor

(1) Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker), (2) Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill, and (3) Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis

Mai Do, Social Media Manager

(1) The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, (2) Howling at the Moon by Darshana Suresh, and (3) The Tale of Kieu by Du Nguyen

See: Sections by Meg Thompson

“Babies need our help.”
—Yo Gabba Gabba, Season 3, episode 5

I.

I felt that pain. It lived in me. It was my daughter.

The woman cutting my hair was also pregnant. “I’m so afraid I’m going to have a C-section,” she said. “Me, too,” I said, and knew that I would.

Contractions are an unreal, seismic pain, like a giant picked you up for a hug that won’t end. At times I thought I was in a dream. That’s how much they hurt, how the pain filled me up. I didn’t think it could be real.

My first car was a ’97 Chevy Cavalier. When I got the license plates, I set about finding the tools I would need. I set each one down on the kitchen table like I was prepping myself for surgery, enjoying the silent ease of organization. When my mother walked in, she saw my row of tools. “Your father will do that for you,” she said. Continue reading “See: Sections by Meg Thompson”

From One Girl to Another by Vicki Iorio

And from that day on everything seems different. At first you feel new and strange…..the way a butterfly must feel when it suddenly discovers it has wings

Nine year old summer. I fall out of a tree. After disposal of buds and twigs, the cleansing of wounds, a deeper blood remains.

Girls have some crazy names for it: my friend, the monthlies, Aunt Flo, grandma coming to visit, falling off the roof, getting the pie

My mother tosses me a box of Kotex. Tells me to stay in my room. Continue reading “From One Girl to Another by Vicki Iorio”

Arabic Tongues and English Ears | Ahd Niazy

When men ask me where I am from, I make them guess. It gives me pleasure to watch their eyebrows furrow, their lips twitch as they search for clues on my face as though it were a map. I find it exciting – watching them fluster and hesitate to share their thoughts with me. I like that they’re scared of being wrong. I like the way they look at me before they answer, squinting in what can only be described as a dangerously pensive manner. They hope their guess won’t insult me, thus putting an end to what is just the beginning of our conversation…

Let me be the curly haired Brazilian in the room tonight. Imagine me at Carnival. Let me sway my Colombian hips to the beat, show you the ways they don’t lie. Let me purr in your ear the way you think a Persian woman does when she’s pleased. Give me some vino, and let me be la signorina bellissima stasera. I’ll tell you about summers in Sicily, then curse at you in a language you can’t understand. I trust that these are the types of fetishizing thoughts – of “exotic” fantasies – running through the minds of the men as they try to place me. There’s just so much sex appeal in the Other. Continue reading “Arabic Tongues and English Ears | Ahd Niazy”

Featured Friday | Meet Heather Derr-Smith

Heather Derr-Smith is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the author of three books of poetry, Each End of the World (Main Street Rag Press, Editor’s Choice Award 2005), The Bride Minaret (University of Akron Press, Editor’s Choice Award, 2008) and Tongue Screw (Spark Wheel Press, 2016). The title Tongue Screw comes from a medieval torture device used to silence women as they were being lead to execution, and the poems in that volume deal with both childhood sexual abuse and rape. Her fourth collection, Thrust, won the Lexi Ruditnsky at Persea Books and will be published in 2017.

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Heather Derr-Smith 

Continue reading “Featured Friday | Meet Heather Derr-Smith”

The Anatomy of Fire | Jane Bradley

In science class we learn the anatomy of fire, the three elements it needs. Fuel, oxygen, heat. Kel and me, we’re not allowed to sit together. I’ve gotta sit up front, where they can watch how I behave, where I can’t do any damage without them seeing straight away. She’s on the back bank of desks, with the window and the blossoming tree; vision seared by sun and hot pink petals each time I sneak a peek. They haven’t clocked that Kelli, in the corner, keeps stealing the scalpels, the ones designated for dissecting frogs. Every week she slides another up her sleeve, faster than I can confiscate. Just in case.

Continue reading “The Anatomy of Fire | Jane Bradley”

Featured Fem | Meet Sylvia Arthur

Sylvia Arthur (avatar)Sylvia Arthur is a narrative nonfiction writer from the U.K. She has written for Clutch magazine, The Guardian, the BBC and News Africa magazine. She is currently working on a book of interconnected essays called African and Other Curse Words.

Fem: In the reading you gave for your upcoming work African, & Other Curse Words, you talk about your experience as a black woman from the U.K. living in Brussels. You say, “If I said I was British, they would say I was African. If I said I was African, they would question why I spoke English, why I spoke it with an English accent, and why I spoke it so fluently.” Can you talk a little bit about that feeling of not really belonging to any of the categories people had for you?

Sylvia Arthur: It’s not so much about not belonging as not being accepted. I think they’re two interrelated but slightly different things. I belong to all of those categories, but people wanted to pigeonhole me into one, reducing me to something they could easily understand rather than trying to comprehend the complexity of who I am. But belonging has as much to do with the internal as the external. I know what I am, who I am, and where I belong, yet it’s so frustrating to tell the truth and be consistently interrogated, which is when you start doubting yourself and what you know to be true. It’s not only frustrating, it’s disorientating, infuriating, and nauseating. It’s like emotional waterboarding. I am Black British, or British Ghanaian, or Ghanaian British. I see no contradiction in that, but the Europeans I encountered just wouldn’t, or couldn’t, accept that. Continue reading “Featured Fem | Meet Sylvia Arthur”