Category Archives: Women’s Equality

Shaking it, By Adriana Paramo

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserShaking it

By Adriana Paramo

By the time I arrive at the ladies only gym where I’m supposed to do a Zumba® demonstration, a few of the women are already at the lobby waiting for me. It’s hard to communicate with them, first, because they are Arab and don’t speak English fluently, and second, because I didn’t expect them to be in full Muslim garb: black robe, head covering, black veil over their faces. I say hello, sign in, and open the studio.

While I plug in my ipod and get ready to start, the women disrobe in the hallway. I see their reflections in the mirror. Under their black abayas, they have animal print leotards and figure-hugging leggings and Victoria’s Secret t-shirts and loud multicolor sneakers. They fill their water bottles; friends kiss each other in the right cheek, two, three, four times; they checked their cell phones one last time before the class, and walk in, ready to party.

I start out nice and slow with “Cumbia Arabe,” a song that invites a few machete motions of the hand, a shuffling travel across the room, and a very basic salsa step. The women do their best to follow. They try, I mean, they really try to make sense of this rhythm from faraway lands and histories, this rhythm of incandescent drums, possessed accordions, relentless gourds, and high-pitched flutes. They need to relax, let their guard down, and simply feel the music, I think while I study their apprehensive moves in the mirror. And just like that, some let loose and a few of them do some Arabic-inspired hip shaking. So far so good. At the end of the second song I hoot with my chirpiest fitness instructor’s voice.

“Are we warm yet? Wooh, wooh.”

They don’t hoot back. My imitation of an owl either confuses or embarrasses them. I can’t tell. They are shy, not sure about how to behave in this unchartered territory of latinness, let alone make animal sounds. Maybe they need something faster. I go for a merengue—more like a perico ripiao—that involves some serious grinding, pelvis back-and-forth shaking and my version of a clean twerk. Three of them stop, showing no intention of following me, and it dawns on me that maybe I’ve gone too far, that I’ve crossed the line, that I’m teaching a class of hip-gyrations, frantic pelvic-tilting, and booty-jiggling to a group of ultra conservative Muslim women. I’m sure they feel nude, exposed. They are anonymous under their black abayas and burqas, and this anonymity is their shield when they are outside their homes, but here, in the dance studio, they are naked before each other.

What was I thinking? I’m in the Middle East to finish writing a book not to teach Latin dances. Zumba® is a thing on the side, something that I do for fun, which come to think of it, maybe I shouldn’t do after all. It crosses my mind that this kind of dancing might even be forbidden in this country; that the moment the word gets out about all this rattling and shaking I’ll be sent back to the sunshine state on the first available plane. But just like that, I see the women, self-conscious and hesitant, giving this dirty grinding thing a go. This encourages me to do more. I lunge into a crazy quebradita of high hill-Billy jumps and back-kicks; I show them some serious pectoral-pumping, which makes one of them hold her bouncing breasts with both hands. She gives me an embarrassed, mortified smile. But a smile nonetheless.

I figure that if they are offended, they’d either stop and leave the class, or report my vulgarity to the manager. They do neither. Most of them have never worked out and came to the class just because they heard I’d be playing Latin music, which they love. They can’t do full squats, or lunges, or Pliés. The 1-2-3-pop of the bachata confuses them and the four-beat measure of salsa makes them giggle. I play Gloria Stefan’s “Wepa” and half way through it I shout: “Walk sexy!” and I do my sexy walk with both arms extended over my head, hips popping right and left. They don’t walk sexy. Not here, anyway. If they do, they do it for their husbands at home, or at weddings where older women walk about looking for future wives for their sons.

“Are you ladies having a good time? Whoohoo!!!” I get nothing in return. They heave and gasp for air. Every time one goes out to the water fountain I wonder if she’d return to the studio, or if I’ve scared her away with Pit Bull’s reggaeton and Carlos Vives’s vallenato. They all come back, sweaty and breathless. I can’t stop smiling. I shout my most Colombian wepa, Weh – pah, a word of jubilation that makes sense to no one in the room.

During the water break, as we wipe the sweat off our faces, I have a childish thought. Would it not be fantastic if we could stage a So You Think You Can Dance for world leaders? Before one more settlement is demolished in Gaza or one more gun is fired in the West bank, let’s get Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu on the dance floor. Dance off your differences, Hot Shots, and let the best dancer win. I know it’s shallow. Please allow me some levity here as I’m a dancer, a musical being and therefore, a child at heart. I interpret the world through dance. My surroundings are filled with notes and trebles and beats. I dream about music. If whistling is a musical expression, then my mother was a world class musician. My sister is a contralto, my brother a baritone, my father was a fantastic dancer. Rhythm is in my blood. I can accurately describe the personalities of the women in my classes based on how they move: the bold and the reckless, the timid and the afraid, the butterfly trapped in a diving bell, the risk taker, the hard worker, the perseverant, the patient, the unstoppable, the firefly, the warrior, the unhappy. Can we get Petro Poroshenko, Vladimir Putin and the leaders of each side of the Ukrainian conflict in a locked ballroom, watch them sashay across the floor to a martial waltz, shake their stiff hips to a dirty mambo, and not let them out until they have exhausted and out-danced each other?

Current conflicts have caused thousands of casualties, millions of refugees, social tragedies, political instability, and human misery. Not a laughing matter. Yet, I look at the women in this room, including me, and realize that thanks to music we have crossed that infinite bridge that separates our cultures, languages, upbringings, religions. It is through music that we conquer our differences and everything that sets us apart. Through music, right here, right now, I’m not a Colombian, Spanish-speaking writer, working out with Arabic-speaking Muslim women. No. This gym is a sorority. We are sisters. Sweaty sisters. That’s why as I get back on the stage, it dawns on me that the world leaders have tried everything to patch up their differences: peace talks, armed responses, truces, green zones, etc. They have tried everything, except dance. Why not? Dance is as old as the human race is and we’ve had war dances in every corner of the planet and in ever period of our history. The Greeks had the Pyrrhic War dance, the Maoris do the Haka, the Brazilians have the capoeira, the Scottish Highlanders still do the Ghillie-Callum, Native Americans (Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, Apache, Shoshoni, Lakota, Paiute, etc.) have had, historically, impressive war dances as close to real wars as they get.

I know, I know. This is childish, simplistic and out of touch with the realities of modern life, but something tells me that Obama would’ve passed his executive order on immigration a lot sooner had he gone face-to-face on a dance off with his opponents.

At the end of the class, after cooling down to “Hay Amores,” a bolero by Shakira, I stay behind getting my things together. By the time I come out, the women have already changed into their abayas and burqas and I can’t tell who is whom. I recognize their shoes, the shapes of their bodies, and the eyes of a woman with heavy mascara and thick eyeliner that sweat did not smudge. I ask them if they had a good work out and I hear a few nice, and thank you. One woman asks me as she fastens the burqa at the back of her head, “From where you?”

“I’m from Colombia,” I say. Her face disappears behind the veil as she translates into Arabic for those within earshot. Someone mentions Thalía, the name of a popular Mexican singer. I tell them that the singer and I are from different countries. I switch to my baby Arabic.

“Ana Meen Culumbia.”

“Oh, Culumbia. Fee America?” she asks.

“Na’am,” I say. “Yes, I’m from South America. Fee America Al-Janoobeea.”

Among unintelligible words I hear the names Shakira and Sofia Vergara. It would have been amazing to hear them say Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Toto la Momposina, but I’m happy with Shakira.

“You Latina?” one woman asks.

We hold gazes. Something within me swells and wants to burst like a piñata. I’m far away from the mountains of my beloved Colombia, from the lushness of my second home— Florida—where I’m surrounded by people I love; I’m here in the Arabian Desert teaching women to do the cha-cha-cha. How could I explain to them what it really means to do what I do? The geographical and cultural borders that I cross when I’m inside the studio; the religious boundaries that music erases when we dance together; this hour-long community of sweaty mothers, wives, daughters, sisters colluding to transcend our obvious differences just because we can.But of course I don’t say any of this. I just smile and say, “Yes, habibti, I’m Latina.”

About Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace Adviser

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserWriting for Peace Adviser Adriana Paramo is a memoirist, mother, daughter, wife, friend, student, sister, teacher, dance instructor, and award-winning author of two nonfiction books:
“Looking for Esperanza” and “My Mother’s Funeral.” 

Learn more about her work here.

 

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DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

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DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013“Occupied” 2013

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Contributors: Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

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Beyond the Sea, by Vicki Lindner

Vicki with JimBeyond the Sea

An excerpt from Baby, It’s You,  a memoir

By Vicki Lindner

 

Author’s Summary:

“Beyond the Sea” is Chapter 17 of Baby, It’s You, my memoir-in-progress about love, race, and rebellion. This story of an ill-fated interracial relationship begins in the early ‘sixties, before the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Birmingham Crisis, and the church bombing that killed four African American teenagers in 1963. Also yet to come is the March on Washington, the Assassination of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Bill, and nation-wide protests against the Vietnam War. With no computers, we wrote on typewriters, and couldn’t imagine the feminist or sexual revolutions. In spring, 1962, however, when the scene below takes place, these changes were blowing in the wind. Although I’d won the “Miss Morris Hills” contest for reciting my own funny “odes,” and was the high school’s star journalist, as well as an actress, I was a renegade, a self-declared Existentialist, determined to defy cultural expectations that all girls were meant to become mothers and housewives. “Jim,” as I call him, the handsome, sensitive boy I fell for, (and address as “you”), was an amazing track star, and the only African American in my large high school. Ready to take on the world of discrimination and prejudice, personified by my southern mother, I had no idea that New Jersey was a surprisingly racist state, known to blacks as “The Georgia of the North.” As for Jim, he wanted, reasonably, to be accepted for who he was, but he rejects the Civil Rights Movement, and when prejudice and taboo come down upon us, he runs from me, only to return declaring his love. We are apart more than we are together. When this chapter begins, the reader knows that the important adults in my life are trying to persuade me that Jim and I, and the “mulatto” children they believe we will have, do not have a future. My Dad, a brilliant engineer, who has worked for the local Arsenal since World War II, will soon become an internationally known authority on conventional ammunition, including weapons now banned by international law. My mother has threatened not to send me to college if I don’t stay away from Jim. My father, as you will see, has another solution. But both of our lives are full of secrets.

Beyond the Sea

Dad suggests we take the rowboat out. “Come on, it’s too nice a day to sit around mooning.”

“I’m reading!” I retort. I hold up The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin’s new essay collection. I know this was the book because I wrote, “I don’t see Jim as a ‘priapic black stud,’” a Baldwin quote, in my journal. Still, Dad is the only family member I can stand at the moment, and I’m pleased he’s asked me to join him.

Recently, he’s traveled to a lot of foreign countries. The Arsenal sent him to Vietnam. From Germany, the last place he went, he sent me two postcards. On one, with a picture of a fountain surrounded by marble monkeys, he wrote that Braunschweig had been hit badly in the war, but was rebuilding fast. In Cologne he’d visited the university, an “awe inspiring” cathedral, and traveled down the Rhine by ship: “While I didn’t see maidens beckoning to me, or hear any irresistible siren calls, I saw the impressive country side and fabled castles,” he scrawled. On a page of thin blue parchment stamped “Hotel Europa, Weimar,” he described the “torturous streets full of hurrying students,” Goethe’s house, herring and black bread, and said he hoped I’d someday find a professor and settle down to raise my brood in a university town. (I pictured a hen pecking worms into cheeping beaks, but didn’t wonder why my father failed to imagine that his bright daughter could become a professor herself.)

He never said what he was doing in Europe. Mom, who complained that Dad didn’t discuss his job with her, had no idea either. But from a newspaper clipping I recently found in his desk, I now conclude that he was making sure West Germany’s defense system was interoperable with ours.

“I want to make you an offer,” he says, as we slam out the door. Suspicious.

We plunge down the steep bank that leads from our backyard to the lake, our shoes sliding on slippery dead leaves. Spring is underway. The maples and oaks have untwisted their twigs into yellow-green sheaves; soon they’ll thrust shady umbrellas above their black trunks.

Although we’ve lived in our big new house in Randolph Township less than a year, my secrets already infuse the grey boards of this dock. Dad has no idea that we kissed down here one winter night, you holding me inside your letter jacket, warding off the sky’s cold glitter. Now it’s too risky for us to be together this close to our house.

I also hang out here with Izzy, my tall skinny friend. He told me about the book he found in a box of his dead father’s stuff—Love without Fear, by Eustace Chesler. “It explains how to explore a woman’s body,” he said. He and Edie, his rich New York girlfriend, had gone through all of Eustace’s preliminary exercises; he wanted to do it with her so bad he could hardly stand it, but she stuck to her goddamned rules. I was dying to know what these exercises were; I didn’t think you and I did them. Sometimes I thought I loved Izzy, too, platonically, of course, not the desperate yearning way I loved you. “Your words are like sun on brown water,” I wrote in a poem dedicated to Iz. “I need not watch your face to know how your eyes crinkle to ripples and what shade of blue they are.”

Mystical events, I’d found out, could happen on this dock. Last week Lorraine and I dangled our feet over the side as she complained about her mother, who’d forbidden her to go to the senior prom unless she lost five pounds. “With Dean, for Crissakes!” Back in October they’d promised to go together if neither managed to score a real date.

“Oh pu-leez,” I’d groaned, clutching my throat. “Dean pushes that huge belly of his around like a baby carriage!”

Lorraine’s laugh clanged like a can of pennies spilled on the floor. (She didn’t tell me her mother had taken her to a doctor who’d prescribed “diet pills” for appetite-control. Later, she figured out how to get more herself.) “I did make out with him once,” she confessed, “when I was insanely frustrated.”

This weathered platform on the windy lake, near yet far from the manicured lawns of the suburban world above, freed us to be our disconsolate, alienated selves. After we quit laughing we screamed “Crash!” at a passenger plane flying overhead. Oh God, the aircraft took a sudden dive toward the trees, spewing exhaust fumes. “No, please, it was a joke!” we yelled at the sky. Miraculously, the plane heard us and righted itself.

Now Dad unlocks the chained oars. After I clumsily maneuver to the rocking hull, he pushes the “Renee Dee” into the lake. Mom named the second-hand rowboat after her step sister, Renee. Recently we’d learned that my aunt’s fifth husband, Horace Dee, was a bigamist. He had other wives all over the place, and the stores came to take back the fur coat and diamond ring he’d bought my aunt on the installment plan. “When it comes to men, my sister never had an ounce of sense,” Mom summarized.

The water is olive-colored, clear; you can still see to the bottom, not yet strangling with slimy seaweed, as it will be in the August heat. I see the skeleton of another house, sprouting in the new development on the opposite shore. The foundation scars the red dirt that was covered with thick sumac and birch. Already this place is ruined, I think.

Dad rows, his brown hands, not too hairy, gripping the oars. Though it’s chilly, he’s wearing his oil-stained gray shorts; his legs, permanently tanned, are shapely with graceful ankles, like mine. In an old photo of him at 16, he posed, slender and muscular in an old-fashioned one-piece bathing suit; he’s still handsome, and his eyes are still blue, but his greying hair is no longer black. Today he’s wearing a bag of salt around his throat to ease his chronic laryngitis, an old Polish remedy from my Jewish grandmother. I trail my lily-white fingers in the sorrowful green water, like a captive princess in a fairy tale.

“Ahem,” Dad rasps, clearing his hoarse throat, “are you aware of what’s happening in Viet Nam?” He already knows the answer: I’m not aware. When I do read The Times, not that often, I skip those parts, always boring and confusing, and focus on theater reviews and ads for linen dresses with wide leather belts. All I know is that Vietnam is a tiny country somewhere in Asia. We never talk about it in American Civilization class.

“We’re putting more of our people in there,” Dad tells me. He was right. In October of ’61, we had increased American troops and advisors from 600 to 16,000. According to an April, 1962 edition of Life, we’d just sent an additional 4,000, plus helicopters, transport planes, and tactical aircraft, armed with rockets, bombs, chemicals that defoliated jungle along the highways, and sentry dogs to flush out the Viet Cong. All this had cost billions. Yet, President Kennedy warned that it would take “skill, stubbornness, and perhaps ten years” for the South Vietnamese to win the war.

In fact, contrary to official reports, the Vietnam conflict, really a civil war, wasn’t going well. Ngo Diem, the Catholic monk that President Eisenhower had pulled out of a U.S monastery and sent back to Saigon to rule the South, was a problem. The shy, reclusive President ignored our military advisors and listened only to his brothers and flamboyant sister-in-law, Madame Nhu. He seemed to believe the U.S. was in Vietnam to keep his wealthy, elite family in power. He put on big parades in his own honor that Vietnamese citizens weren’t allowed to watch, and did nothing for the Buddhist peasants, who the Viet Cong either killed or helped.

When I scrolled through microfilms of Morris County papers, looking for articles about you, I discovered that on February 27, 1962, three days after you won the National Hurdles Championship in Madison Square Garden, two pilots in President Diem’s own Air Force bombed the Saigon Palace. Borrowing U.S. Navy AD-6 Skyraiders, they engulfed the former home of the French high commissioner in napalm flames, frightening the tame deer on the lawn. Finally they crashed and were captured. This was the third failed coup against the leader, but the histories I’ve read never mention it, and my father didn’t either.

What he was likely to say is, “I trust you understand The Domino Theory.” His tone indicates his doubt.

“Not exactly.” On my forays into Greenwich Village, I’d seen old men knocking walls of black and white dotted squares onto concrete tables in Washington Square.

“It means if we let South Vietnam fall to the Communists,” Dad explains, “the Russians and Chinese will swarm in and take over that entire part of the world.” (In fact, after the third failed coup, the Russians had warned that U.S. aggression against the Viet Cong, in violation of the 1954 Geneva Accord, threatened “alarming consequences” for world peace.) (“Consequences” signified nuclear war.)

“No kidding,” I say. “Is that why you went there?” A Mallard takes off, its tiny wings twittering to hold its heavy body aloft. The duck flies toward the island where “Spring still coys her petticoat frill of first green,” as I wrote in Izzy’s poem.

Then Dad gets to the reason why he lured me into this No Exit boat. “I understand the Wellington boy will be going to Georgetown.” Here we go again. I clutch my red cotton cardigan to my torso, wishing for the warm wool letter sweater you gave me, now hidden from Mom’s prying eyes in my bottom drawer.

“Maybe,” I say, pretending indifference. “I think they want to give him a scholarship, but I’m not sure he’s going there.”

This is the truth. When I bring Georgetown up, you don’t say how great it will be for us to be together in D.C. next year. Recently you’d mentioned trying to get into Michigan, where Hayes Jones is, and I didn’t know whether to feel hurt or relieved. I couldn’t quite picture us in D.C. Would we have an affair? I liked the exciting, dangerous word, but the actuality was hard to imagine. What if you dumped me? Or I met someone new? (I couldn’t see myself wearing a scarf and sunglasses in a fraternity boy’s convertible, like the coeds in Glamour.) If you dated other girls would I flunk out, deranged by jealousy and suicidal despair? (I don’t consider that under different circumstances I might get to know you.) Anyway, no one picked a college because it was close to someone from high school. Couldn’t you be in love in two different places?

Now Dad comes out with it: “Your mother and I are thinking of offering you a chance to study for a semester or two at a French university.”

“Huh?” I’m startled out of my musings. “I’m going to American University in the fall as you very well know,” I say with the contempt that denigrates my parents’ intelligence. (Today I’d ask, “What the fuck?”) How did they dream up this bizarre-o punishment? A breeze riffles up wavelets that slap the Renee Dee with a resonant blip.

“Europe would provide a wonderful opportunity for a future writer,” Dad argues. “‘Fabulous,’ as you would say. Think of the interesting characters you’d meet—poets, actors, jazz musicians…. You’ve been studying French for a few years now, and the Sorbonne offers language courses for foreign students. You could postpone American, and enroll there next year, a more knowledgeable and mature young woman, truly prepared for what higher education has to offer. I can attest you’d enjoy experiencing another culture.” He clears his sore throat. “I’ll be kicking around over there myself, consulting with the allies, so we could dine in authentic cafes and explore the Louvre together.”

“Not France!” My squawk flies out of my mouth like a goose.

“But you’ve always said you wanted to live in Paris someday.”

“Someday, not now,” I sob. “You’re just trying to get me away from Jim.” Tears gush out of my eyes. “I hardly ever see him anyway.” This is more or less true. Last weekend, you told me, you were up in Lake Telemark, playing pool with your new Scandinavian buddies. “Maybe I’m part Swedish,” you said, “Why I have these blond hairs on my arms.”

The boat moves farther away from the shore. “You’re just trying to get rid of me,” I rant at my father, “for no earthly reason.”

“That’s not what your friends are telling us.” The slack muscles in Dad’s arms are straining as he leans into the oars, and his soft furry stomach contracts into folds.

“What in high holy hell are you talking about?”

“Watch your language,” he warns. (He’s slapped me for saying “shit” at the dinner table.) “As it happens, a friend of yours called to tell us they’d seen you with him.”

“Who?” I retort. None of my friends would rat me out. Or would they? For the first time, I feel paranoid. I flip through a mental rolodex of everyone who knows about us. A few weeks ago we hung out in Morty Barr’s kitchen listening to his mom tell how she eloped with his dad a week after they met. She’d hugged you and didn’t act like she minded seeing us together. But maybe she did.

“Someone you think of as a very good friend,” Dad says mysteriously. Was Morty himself the tattletale? I wouldn’t put it past him, the double-crossing little skunk. Could it be Ruthie? Quel Horreur! She definitely qualified as one of my best friends. But recently she’d hinted that the girl hosting the Thespian cast party was against us coming together. I felt shocked and betrayed when Ruthie said, “I don’t think it’s such a good idea either.”

“Maybe they’re lying,” I say to my father. “Did that ever occur to you?”

“You’re the one who’s been lying,” Dad states. “To your mother and myself.”

So people I believed were allies were spying on us. “Where did they see us?” I demand, my voice wavering. I consider jumping over the side and swimming for shore in the icy water. It would serve Dad right if I drowned, or came down with pneumonia, but if I made it, he’d be there at the dinner table, angrier because I worried him with that stupid stunt.

“You have no idea where I go or with who,” I rave on. The last time we got together, we were making out in a strip of woods bordering a two-lane highway while Lorraine and your older brother, Nat, just home from Europe, waited in the car, swigging red wine straight from the bottle. Nat, who’d been a major baseball star at Morristown High School, amazed Lorraine with his stories about the West Bank of Paris. Neither of them would have called my parents.

Dad’s mouth tightens, meaning he’s fed up with me.

“You were the one who taught me that all people are equal,” I say, keeping my eyes on the bottom of the boat. Dad doesn’t reply. He turns the Renee Dee around, his arm pulling one creaky oar.

“I REFUSE to go to France!” My self-control cracks; I’m screaming now. “If you make me go, I’ll run away! I’ll kill myself!” These are my favorite threats but they sound hollow, unconvincing, leftovers from the distant past. As Dad knows, I haven’t run away from home since I was twelve, bundling my babysitting money in a scarf like a hobo would. I’d planned to take the bus to New York, and after that? I didn’t get far. Now I lock my door and run away to my secret thoughts, my poetry and journal. When Mom put me “incommunicado” for not cleaning my room, and wouldn’t let me talk on the phone, I wrote to Lorraine, “I may kill myself. I will swim out to sea and drown like the girl in that Moss Hart play, “The Climate of Eden.” Then I admitted, “I’m only toying with the idea of such a dramatic gesture.”

Now I come up with a more original bombshell to drop on my father: “If you force me to go to France, I’ll become a prostitute on the Champs Elysees.” The girl knows she’s losing it—while she maintains a haughty dignity in fights with her mother, her father quickly reduces her to an infantile fool—but she can’t resist adding, “And I won’t take money from Negro men!”

Dad assumes the bemused expression that distances him from his own Irritation. “That might prove a fascinating subject to write about,” he responds coolly.

After more weighted silence, he asks, speaking just above a whisper, “Do you want to try rowing for a while?”

“No,” I say sullenly, folding my arms across my chest. “You got us out here, you get us back.”

“You’re hurting your mother,” Dad croaks, implying he feels no pain himself.

As I suspected, this all came from her, the Racist. Maybe she dreamed up this Paris scheme when I told her I was moving to France after college. The girl believes that her father, who is big on civil rights, secretly approves of Jim, but sides with his wife to save his marriage.

Now he says, “It may not seem like this to you, but Mother and I are mainly concerned with your happiness.”

About Vicki Lindner, Writing for Peace Adviser

vicki Lindner (3)Vicki Lindner is a fiction writer, essayist, and journalist who has published a novel, Outlaw Games, and many short stories, essays, magazine and newspaper articles. She has written about a wide variety of subjects: cooking, bird watching, loneliness, dinosaurs, sculpture, not having children, travel, and medical malpractice. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies, including The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Fiction, Chick-Lit; Post Feminist Fiction, Witness, the Best of Terrain, Del Sol, The American Literary Review, Gastronomica, New York Stories, In Short: An Anthology of Short Creative Non-Fiction, American Nature Writing, Northern Lights, and The Seneca Review. Her short story about karate, “Barefoot to the Bridge in Winter,” was the Fiction Premiere for New York Woman. Most recently, Lindner’s essays were published in Shadowbox and Western Humanities Review. Learn more about her work here.

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Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserFCC Commissioner Clyburn Does Reddit Chat, Is Evasive On Net Neutrality

Stay abreast of Climate Change, Net Neutrality, and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

DoveTales Now Available In PDF Format

Writing for Peace supporters can now enjoy our beautiful journals in PDF format. Our 2013 “Occupy” and 2014 “Contrast” editions are now available for just $4.99.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013“Occupied” 2013

Book Description: A full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways.

Contributors include: Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Paula Dawn Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Manual A. López, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon,John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas

Plus 2012 Young Writers Fiction Contest Winners: Shadia Farah, 1st Place; Caroline Nawrocki, 2nd Place; Tait Rutherford, 3rd Place

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition“Contrast” 2014

DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, 2014 “Contrast” edition features poetry, essays, and short stories from our 2013 Young Contest Winners, as well as established and emerging writers, and strikingly beautiful black and white photography from our Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz.

Contributors: Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Plus 2013 Young Writers Contest Winners:

Fiction: Jordan Dalton, 1st; Nneoma Ike-Njoku, 2nd; Kasturi Pananjady, 3rd

Nonfiction: Paean Yeo, 1st; Janani Venkatesh, 2nd;  Vienna Schmitter-Schrier, 3rd

Poetry: Jessica Metzger, 1st; Peter LaBerge, 2nd; Janani Venkatesh, 3rd

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestHelp spread the word! Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

 

Support Writing for Peace

Our administration is board operated and volunteer based, so your contributions go directly towards publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to our contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We hope you will join the generous contributors who make Writing for Peace possible. Writing for Peace is  a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Make your tax-deductible donation today.

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

Loving Through The Truth, By Lyla June Johnston

Winslow Homer - The Rapids, Hudson River, AdirondacksLoving Through The Truth

By Lyla June Johnston

It took a lot of strength and courage to admit that what was happening to me was abuse. It was hard for me for two reasons 1) I thought that only weak and dumb girls get abused. I didn’t want to admit I was abused because I thought it made me less of a person. And 2) I didn’t want to hate them. And it was easier to love them if I found a way to rationalize/normalize what they were doing to me.

Well it turns out that the dark actually targets strong and smart girls. It doesn’t want them to succeed in bringing the light they were born to bring. Rape can fool the woman into thinking she is not sacred. And if she thinks she is not sacred she can begin to think that she is not worthy of carrying the medicine of the Creator to the people. And if she thinks that she is not worthy of carrying the medicine of the Creator to the people, then she stops bringing that light to the world. This is what happened to me.

I did bring good things to the people but when I did it felt more like I was “making up” for the bad person I was. It didn’t feel like I was simply being the beloved and beautiful medicine woman that I was. That we all are.

Instead, I felt like an imposter when I would try and help the world. How could a “tainted” woman advocate for purity? When I did advocate for love and healing, soon after I would intentionally do crass things just to show to everyone that I wasn’t trying to “be something I’m not”. I felt more like shameful, outside ally of the pure. Not a true part of the pure. I didn’t think I deserved to be a part of that marching band. The dark won this way for many years. I shut the valve and the medicine could only trickle, if that. Luckily this was only temporary. One day someone came along to remind me who I was.

They taught me that just because I was sexually, emotionally and physically abused it did not mean I was “less than.” I realized I was not a weak and feeble “victim,” but a wounded veteran who had come home from a great battle. The battle of being woman in the 21st century. Indeed, it is hard to be woman within a system that routinely works to destroy their self image. It did not mean I was weak, it meant I was taken advantage of before I was old enough to understand the battle.

Once I realized that being abused doesn’t mean you are a bad person, I could admit that what was happening to me was abuse. It was still hard and took a lot of courage but now I am able to say, “that was really wrong and it happened to me.” This process of realization took several years and is still ongoing. The good news is I no longer feel compelled to be around people who make me feel bad. The reason I felt compelled to be around these kinds of people is a whole ‘nother story…

So number 1 was taken care of. I now understood that I was still respectable and even beautiful despite the fact I had been abused. But number 2 had yet to be resolved: I didn’t want to hate the other person. For this reason I would shy away from admitting that what they did was wrong because it was hard to love them in the face of that truth. Once I could fully see that what happened was wrong, I could feel the urge to hate start to make its way in. Hatred and bitterness are such uncomfortable feelings and I knew I was not designed to house them within me. I also knew I could not help the world when I was in that state.

Number 2 was resolved through an exquisite process some people call “forgiveness.” Forgiveness does not mean that what they did to me was okay. And it does not even mean that I would ever have to go within a 50 mile radius of these people ever again! It was something that happened within me. It was something that happened for ME. Not for them. It returned me to my natural state. And it went like this:

I stood in the middle of a river. The beautiful water was flowing all around me. This is literally what I did, not a metaphor. As I stood there, I thought of all the ways I was manipulated and coerced. I thought of all the ways I was exploited and taken advantage of. I saw in my mind’s eye the face of the very people who picked me up while I was too drunk to see and took me for their own. And I said, “Even though you have tried to mine my body for your own personal gratification, I still hope that you are healed and that you live a happy life and that you are reconnected with Creator in a good way. Creator may you please bless and help and heal this person, your child.”

And with that, I kid you not, an IMMENSE amount of palpable weight was released from my being. It flew out of me and into the river and into the trees and into the soil and out into the sky. Far, far away. I was free. I had released. I was my self again, not my hatred.

There’s much more to the story than that. But it was these two things, realizing it was not my fault/I was not a bad person and choosing to love these people with all my heart (from a safe distance). With those two things I was able to admit that abuse is abuse, not love. It was not easy but it wasn’t impossible at all. It was and is incredibly liberating and helped me get to a safe place.

About Lyla June Johnston, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserLyla Johnston is a 24 year-old poet, musician, anthropologist and human being, from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for peace unfolds both outside of herself through community organizing and within herself through continual prayers to forgive and love a wounded world.

After studying Human Ecology at Stanford University, Lyla founded Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration and honoring of children and young adults worldwide. She plans on attending Harvard Business School to obtain the platform she needs to disarm the private sector and repurpose the capitalist infrastructure for healing and social change. Her ancestors are Diné and Cheyenne and it is from this ancestral worldview that she derives her visions for helping to create a culture of peace and generosity. Learn more about her work here.

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Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserNow Is The Time To Take Action To Save The Internet

Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestHelp spread the word! Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

 

Your Library Isn’t Complete Without DoveTales!

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The “Contrast” edition includes the beautiful black and white photography from Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

 

Writing for Peace Granted 501 (c) 3 Federal Nonprofit Status

What does 501(c)3 status mean for Writing for Peace? Well, some things will not change; our administration will continue to be board operated and volunteer based. That means 100% of contributions go directly towards the considerable costs of publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We are grateful for the support of generous donors and the Colgate University Research Council.

Here’s what will change: Your donations can now be deducted from your Federal income tax! For those who chose to support us before that was the case, we are deeply moved by your belief in us, and we are so happy to finally be able to say your contribution is a deduction. For your records, our Federal Tax ID Number is 45-2968027.

If you’re a believer in Writing for Peace, we hope you’ll consider donating to support a simple mission with a profound affect on the lives of our young writers. You can make your contributions here.

As Jordan Dalton (16), put it:

Jordan Dalton, 2013 Fiction, First Place“Since writing my entry for Writing for Peace, I’ve come to realize that my work really can make a difference in the world. Words have the power to spread awareness, hope, and inspiration to people who would have otherwise despaired. We all have the ability to create, and create in the name of beauty and change. I can only hope one day to spend my life doing just that.”

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

Peacemaking more than prize, By Andrea W. Doray

Malala2Peacemaking is more than a prize

By Andrea W. Doray

 

With the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan became its youngest recipient at 17, sharing the award with Kailash Satyarthi of India. Shot in the head by the Taliban in October 2012 when a gunman boarded her school bus, Malala made a remarkable recovery in England, where she continues her advocacy for girls’ rights to education that began when she was only 11 years old.

I was deeply disappointed last year when Malala’s 2013 nomination did not result in the Peace Prize, that pre-eminent, political, and often controversial award handed out every year by the Norwegian Nobel Committee on behalf of the estate of its founder, Alfred Nobel. I was gratified this year for Malala’s well-deserved recognition, as well as for the spotlight this award has cast on both education and peace.

Not all efforts at peaceful activism can result in such prizes, of course, and this is the case — so far — for Fort Collins-headquartered Writing for Peace, a now-global organization that began as a local Young Writer’s Contest in 2011. Today, the nonprofit Writing for Peace shares an international stage with its high-profile advisory panel. Sponsorships from educational institutions such as Colgate University help produce an annual publication, “DoveTales: An International Journal of the Arts,” which attracts literary submissions from around the world, as well for its Young Writers Contest.

Writing for Peace helps cultivate empathy through education and creative writing to develop a foundation of compassion on which to build a more peaceful world. Its goal is to inspire and guide young writers so that their literary focus can be part of bringing nations closer to nonviolent conflict resolution and societies that value human rights.

Teachers all over the world are preparing their students for a relay race of unprecedented consequences. Our generation is passing them a heavy baton: a world in crisis. If we are to hope for a more peaceful world, we need future leaders with vision, clarity and empathy. The Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest challenges these students — including contest winners from South Korea, Vietnam and Nigeria, as well as the U.S. — to develop global and cultural awareness while refining their writing skills.

Among the Writing for Peace advisory panel members are poets, novelists, memoirists and essayists — artists such as Sam Hamill, who founded Poets Against The War, and Karachi-born Syed Azfar Ali Rizvi, now a Toronto-based documentary filmmaker who survived ethnic cleansing as a child in Pakistan. Young Writers Contest judges are no slouches either, including Guggenheim Fellowship winner Antonya Nelson and New York Times best-selling author Steve Almond.

Yet, as impressive as this may be, it’s work with young people that drives the mission of Writing for Peace. The first Young Writers Contest in 2012 resulted in five entries from U.S. students. By 2014, Writing for Peace has received submissions from students in 24 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Great Britain and the Netherlands, as well as Bangladesh, Macedonia, the Maldives, Malaysia and the Philippines.

This impact on young people around the world is reflected in the words of Kasturi Panajady, 15, from Karnataka, India, “Since Writing for Peace, I have become bolder in terms of sharing my work.” Jordan Dalton, 16, from Indiana, said, “I’ve come to realize that my work really can make a difference in the world.”

Although it’s not likely that Writing for Peace will be nominated for a Nobel Prize (yet), such activist efforts at empathy through education prove that peacemaking is more than a prize. As Dalton puts it: “Words have the power to spread awareness, hope, and inspiration to people who would have otherwise despaired.”

[This article first appeared in the Denver Post on October 18, 2014.]

Andrea Doray, Writing for Peace Board MemberAbout Andrea W. Doray

Andrea W. Doray (a.doray@andreadoray.com) is a communication consultant, writer and editor, and is a youth writing instructor at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She serves on the Board of Directors for Writing for Peace. Learn more about her work here.

 

Small Writing for Peace logoWriting for Peace News

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserManaged Democracy, Expendable People

“As the elections draw near, the plutocracy and crisis of democracy become more visible. ”

Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestHelp spread the word! Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

 

Your Library Isn’t Complete Without DoveTales!

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The “Contrast” edition includes the beautiful black and white photography from Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

 

Writing for Peace Granted 501 (c) 3 Federal Nonprofit Status

What does 501(c)3 status mean for Writing for Peace? Well, some things will not change; our administration will continue to be board operated and volunteer based. That means 100% of contributions go directly towards the considerable costs of publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We are grateful for the support of generous donors and the Colgate University Research Council.

Here’s what will change: Your donations can now be deducted from your Federal income tax! For those who chose to support us before that was the case, we are deeply moved by your belief in us, and we are so happy to finally be able to say your contribution is a deduction. For your records, our Federal Tax ID Number is 45-2968027.

If you’re a believer in Writing for Peace, we hope you’ll consider donating to support a simple mission with a profound affect on the lives of our young writers. You can make your contributions here.

As Jordan Dalton (16), put it:

Jordan Dalton, 2013 Fiction, First Place“Since writing my entry for Writing for Peace, I’ve come to realize that my work really can make a difference in the world. Words have the power to spread awareness, hope, and inspiration to people who would have otherwise despaired. We all have the ability to create, and create in the name of beauty and change. I can only hope one day to spend my life doing just that.”

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

Pilgrim’s Progress, by Robert Kostuck (Part 2)

Butterfly, The Pilgrim's Progress, By Robert Kostuck

The Pilgrim’s Progress

(Part Two of Two)

By Robert Kostuck

Sunday, January 28th, 1945

Now we have rumors of surrender, spoken in hushed voices. What will happen? The Russians will turn to our nation of islands built on the cracked spine of the Pacific Ocean. Depredations continue. We wash linen and clothing without soap, in cold water. Two days ago some rice was delivered, heaven-sent. Unlike my village here the men still go out to fish. Part of their catch is donated to the hospital, also heaven-sent. Mostly there is dashi with fish and greens, also some rather dried-up roots. Someone brought us a large basket—almost 90 kilos!—of last year’s sweet potatoes. Flavor and fiber. Shizuko tells stories of growing up in poverty on a farm. She is eighty-one years old, strong as an ox and missing two fingertips on her left hand.

“Ten years old,” she says. “An argument between me and a knife for cleaning fish. The knife won! Clean living, young woman. Rice wine and plenty of vegetables. Makes one strong and long-lived. Your Buddhist grandmother was right. Too much meat makes the body weak. You have doubt? Look at me!”

I tell her about my tuberculosis, how disease comes with indiscretion to any and all. Always there is weakness and lassitude, other times I cough so much I think it will be my last breath. Because of my illness, I am segregated from the rest of the ‘staff,’ and most definitely from the patients. My volunteer work is limited to laundry and gathering firewood for cooking. There is a park near the city center, once beautiful with decorative cherry and peach trees. Unhindered, each week we go there with the cart and the old men and the young girls cut down the trees. Everything is burned for cooking fires and the wet, green wood smolders and fumes and blows sparks upward to heaven. I want to go on my knees and pray at this perverse cooking fire shrine, bow and make obeisance like Obāsan in front of her Buddhist altar.

*

Thursday, February 1st, 1945

I’ve temporarily stopped working on the novel.

It is becoming difficult and somewhat pointless to continue keeping a journal. I discovered a ream of typewriter paper in one of the abandoned administrative offices here at the hospital. I made a brush from a thin bamboo and my own hair. Ink? That must be the office worker’s India ink that comes in a bottle. I pour a bit in a dish and pretend I have ground a black stick into the sumi stone. Mind you, all pretend. The ink is inferior for anything but practice. My calligraphy takes on a dream-like quality, one day elaborately cursive, next day crude as a child’s first attempts. And that is just my handwriting.

My sister writes:

Yuriko-chan, we miss you and pray for you. Your illness is such that no one will prevent you from leaving the hospital. Here is food, comfort, and the love of family. How can you expect to get well living in a place filled with the sick and dying? Please, Sister, listen. Come home.

*

Sunday, March 25th, 1945

Spring. Patients sun themselves. I am one of them. The wind from the sea and the scents of new life. It seems everyone except me knows how to plant a garden. Seeds for cabbage, onions, and daikon; more donations. Shizuko oversees all, orders the volunteer nurses here and there. The girls obey. Measuring out the space for the rows in the lawns behind the hospital. Grinding up the beautiful lawns and tossing out the white boulders of an unkempt decorative rock garden. In the distance a child’s loud and happy voice shouting, “Ma! Come look!”

“We won’t grow rocks,” says Shizuko. “Better to grow melons and radishes and cucumbers. You came to the right place to be sick. Too bad there’s no medicine.”

She eats less and grows stronger. I eat less and grow weaker.

I sit on a bench in the sun. Sometimes I fall asleep. Messengers and medics arrive in trucks belching smoke and deliver official documents and angry wounded soldiers. So many important papers, so many men. Mail deliveries are sporadic. If my Kuri still writes I have no way of knowing. In my mind I continue to compose the new story. I think it will be my final novel. After this I will retire to my childhood home at the age of forty-two and spend my spinster days writing poetry and feeding my sister’s chickens. If I get better. When I get better.

The new book is equal parts fantasy and autobiography. In fact as I have it now it begins and ends with autobiography. Paragraphs, sentences, entire chapters form, dissolve, and reform in my imagination. Beginning and ending = memories of my own childhood. I never cut my finger with a knife. We had a servant who helped in the kitchen. I see now that my cherished memories were made possible by the labor of others. I was a spoiled child and I became a spoiled woman. The parties, the drinking, the public scenes. We build our lives around fantasy. In the end I am left taking orders from an eighty year-old woman, left eating roots and weeds.

Today I stood at the side of the road as a convoy passed from somewhere to somewhere. Not one soldier saw me, not one turned to look. So now I am invisible, turned into a pattern of leaves and shadows of leaves, turned into smooth river rocks and silky red fox fur. Invisible.

*

Tuesday March 27th, 1945

I drift. Somehow I have run aground in an abandoned fishing village. From the signs everyone left quite suddenly. Nets rot in the boats, gulls pick listlessly at offal on the wet sand. A bicycle leaning on the single automobile, the hood of the vehicle still warm. Smoke curls from the finest house: a western-style stove warm with embers; a pot of broth hastily removed and set to the side. Watery fish broth: I eat until I am full. Back on the beach I find a beautiful seashell, large as my head. When we were children we held shells to our ears, told each other: You can hear the ocean.

I sit on the bench and watch Shizuko guide other hands in the garden. And now sick, coughing Yuriko has been conscripted! My pages of calligraphy discovered! I am pressed to the honorable task of writing letters for the unschooled soldiers. They say tuberculosis is catching but the men crowd around me. Dear Keiko-chan. Fumiko, mother dearest. Brother, I hope this letter finds you well. Secrets and fears, anxiety and anger, sadness and yes, sometimes love. One insists I write to his former employer: You bastard! Where are my back wages!? I never realized the importance of writing for those who cannot read or write. The stories and desires are warring with the plot of my novel. Who will win? The finger or the knife? I will call it unasked-for research notes. Already new stories fill my thoughts, overflow, pool around my heart like moonlight on still water.

*

Monday, April 2nd, 1945

Letters are gathered. I fold the pages into envelopes, write out the addresses. We put the letters in a bag and give them to a surprised military messenger on the way to Kyoto or Tokyo—he’s not sure. Of this I am certain: the letters will never be delivered. The soldiers remain steadfast in their devotion to the Emperor. For them there is no disruption of daily life—this in the face of food shortages!

The worst days are when my appetite returns and there is nothing to eat.

*

Saturday, April 14th, 1945

Shizuko’s garden is lush with tiny green shoots. I’m a small-town girl who forgot her roots in the city. The garden amazes me. I am beginning the second batch of letters but these are now more ‘thinking out loud’ than notices of day-to-day happenings. My novel—all jumbled in my mind now—soldiers and nurses telling stories, prophecies soon to be fulfilled, dreams for the future. They ask about my life as a famous writer. I tell them if they never heard of me then I’m not so very famous. I embellish anecdotes from a not very wild past. Some wildness. That good-looking actor with the dark eyes and quick laugh, for example. Crazy about me, followed me everywhere for months, told me he would die without me. I don’t have to embellish that.

*

Monday, April 23rd, 1945

Today we sent out another sack of letters. Where will they go?

*

Saturday, May 19th, 1945

Today is my birthday. Unlike most women I am not ashamed to tell my age. Today I am forty-three years old. Shizuko clucks her tongue.

“You look older than me,” she says.

I tell her: “I am sick and dying. Disease, unfathomable, directed by a mysterious and probably uncaring god. Besides, you were raised on rice wine and vegetables. Me? I ate too much meat and drank too much Irish whiskey and Russian vodka. And the men! Tempting me, leading me astray!”

We laugh at that.

She holds up her amputated fingers. “We both lived the life we wanted.”

“Yes,” I say, “the life I wanted. Now I am a respectable public scribe composing confessions, testimonials, and love letters for free. If only they could see me now.”

I think: This is the life I was meant to live.

*

Sunday, July 29th, 1945

Who will read this? I lost my appetite. My breathing became so shallow. I thought I was dying. I think I am dying. The girls put me in a tiny hut away from the hospital. They cleaned it out and called it a cottage but it smells of rotted plants and gasoline. A disused storage shed. Each day Shizuko comes in the morning with tea and broth. Unable to stand and use the clay pot in the corner of the room I soil myself in the night. She cleans me. The other volunteers check on me during the day. Outside someone burns incense. A moaning prayer rising and falling in pitch. I have to ask: What day is this? It is Sunday, July twenty-ninth. Why do you need to know? You see, I tell them, I am keeping a journal. I am making notes for my next novel. I am composing—creating—recording—remembering—

*

Tuesday, July 31st, 1945

I can breathe again. The air is hot and dry. There is less food. Wild mushrooms and bits of strange fish in the dashi. What would a sweet potato taste like? Fresh bamboo shoots?

One of the girls brings me a dish with radishes, cucumbers and salt! From Shizuko’s wonderful garden. We are growing our own food. While I was isolated all of the soldiers were evacuated to Tokyo and Yokohama Bay. Now it is just the volunteers and no one to serve.

*

Friday, August 3rd, 1945

Today is the Day of the Ox, hottest day of the year. Shizuko brings back eels from the fishermen and roasts them on an open fire near the garden. As per tradition of course they are expected to keep us cool on this hottest day and provide us with strength for the rest of the year. Much work for a tiny eel! For some reason I am the first served. Everyone watches me eat and swallow. Day of the Ox. Now there’s a folktale I never thought to re-write.

I seem to have misplaced my notes for The Shell God.

*

Sunday, August 5th, 1945

I feel stronger. Does tuberculosis completely leave the body? Obāsan was a spiritual woman. Maybe I can still be like her. I resolve to change my ways.

*

Monday, August 6th, 1945

Today I woke before sunrise. Everyone else is still asleep. The hospital silent and empty. Shizuko was correct about today’s weather—country folk have a secret sense about nature. Clear skies and a breeze from inland. The odors of outdoor fires, of earth giving up summer. Premonitions of autumn. My heart is calm. I think the rest of the year will be calm also. I feel stronger. Maybe I will yet return to Hashikami—my very idealized fishing village. I’ll end my days filling volumes of thin rice paper with poetry, scattering grain for my sister’s chickens and ducks. After all this sickness and traveling—to return. To stay.

To remain.

[THE END]

[The Pilgrim’s Progress was originally published in Roanoke Review, fall, 2013, Vol. 38.]

 

About Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace Adviser

Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace AdviserRobert Kostuck is an M.Ed. graduate from Northern Arizona University. Recently published fiction and essays appear in many American and Canadian literary journals. He is currently working on short stories, essays, and a novel; his short story collection is seeking a publisher. Learn more about Robert Kostuck and his work here.

 

Small Writing for Peace logoWriting for Peace News

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserCommunities Standing Up

“This week we are inspired by the communities that are standing up to police abuse and by the students in Mexico and Hong Kong who are placing themselves at risk in order to fight for their rights.”

Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

Writing for Peace Granted 501 (c) 3 Federal Nonprofit Status

What does 501(c)3 status mean for Writing for Peace? Well, some things will not change; our administration will continue to be board operated and volunteer based. That means 100% of contributions go directly towards the considerable costs of publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We are grateful for the support of generous donors and the Colgate University Research Council.

Here’s what will change: Your donations can now be deducted from your Federal income tax! For those who chose to support us before that was the case, we are deeply moved by your belief in us, and we are so happy to finally be able to say your contribution is a deduction. For your records, our Federal Tax ID Number is 45-2968027.

If you’re a believer in Writing for Peace, we hope you’ll consider donating to support a simple mission with a profound affect on the lives of our young writers. You can make your contributions here.

As Jordan Dalton (16), put it:

Jordan Dalton, 2013 Fiction, First Place“Since writing my entry for Writing for Peace, I’ve come to realize that my work really can make a difference in the world. Words have the power to spread awareness, hope, and inspiration to people who would have otherwise despaired. We all have the ability to create, and create in the name of beauty and change. I can only hope one day to spend my life doing just that.”

 

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestCheck out our 2015 Young Writers Contest! Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

 

Your Library Isn’t Complete Without DoveTales!

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The “Contrast” edition includes the beautiful black and white photography from Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

 

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Pilgrim’s Progress, by Robert Kostuck (Part 1)

Butterfly, The Pilgrim's Progress, By Robert Kostuck

The Pilgrim’s Progress

(Part One of Two)

By Robert Kostuck

 

Thursday, July 6th, 1944

The Emperor’s decree: all civilians who commit suicide before the arrival of American troops on Saipan will be assured equal spiritual grace in the afterlife, same as soldiers who die in combat.

*

Friday, July 14th, 1944

Thousands of men and women—NOT soldiers—took their own lives. Thousands. One era ends but nothing supersedes what has gone before.

*

Sunday, November 26th, 1944

I thought to keep a journal but everything is moving too fast. War, food; dying, food; family, food. It comes down to having something to eat. Can’t write with an empty belly. Time to leave the city—all ‘loose ends’ will be left unresolved. Where will I be welcome? There is really no future for us—for our country. Everything is changed.

Today I look to nature for my writing inspiration. A butterfly, still alive in the midst of autumn. I watch it—glistening and at the same time a bit shabby. A warm day, the door to the hospital kitchen open to the grounds, and this yellow and orange butterfly on the bush near the door. I sit on the step and I am inspired—until I realize the insect is dead. Touch it—it flutters to the ground, brittle, broken. I am like these butterfly wings—wanting to fly but no longer of this world. I told my sister Kuri everything. She begs me to come home and stay there. I will return when I have decided who I am. Who will read this?

*

For future generations: I am Yuriko Suzuki, the well-known author. I was born in 1902 in Hashikami on the northeast coast of Honshu, some miles south of the city. I had an excellent education for a girl, considering the cultural expectations for women in Japan at the turn of the century. Part of my education came from six years attendance at the Catholic Missionary school in Hachinohe. Both of my parents converted to Catholicism before my birth and the Catholic faith is something I will reject and embrace for the rest of my life. I have one older sister, Kuri, with whom I maintain an intimate and intense relationship.

The early years of my career began with a prolific output of short stories. Subsequent success and popularity owe much to the traditional subject matter of this early work. For example, “Shitakiri Suzume” (The Tongue-Cut Sparrow) is a traditional folk tale updated to reflect contemporary society. My modern version seems traditional—up to a point. There is nothing to indicate the time period or place, until the old man in my version of the story takes the smaller basket from the sparrow and brings it home to his greedy wife. In a traditional telling, the basket turns out to be filled with gold, silver, diamonds, rubies, coral, and coins. It is precisely at this point in the story that I introduced my twist on this traditional tale. “The basket was full of treasures—a razor with steel blades, dresses of the newest American fashion, leather shoes, a pearl necklace, lottery tickets, chewing gum, English cigarettes, and a black and silver camera.”

I love quoting myself. Like the American Nathaniel Hawthorne my “twice-told tales” had a built in audience since one would be hard pressed to find a Japanese reader who lacked knowledge of these folktales. At the same time, a gentle humor, picaresque characterizations, and social satire were the very elements that led to my success as a novelist.

In the early 1930s I gained a degree of notoriety due to my involvement as one of the cosmopolitan members of the literary and artistic avant-garde of Tokyo. In 1934, two decisive things occurred in my life. My first novel, Chrysanthemum was published; and I was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After that I wrote in a frenzy. My published writing after 1934 consisted of no less than an average of two novels each year for the next six years. One critic favorably compared Season of the Cranes to the English author Jane Austin, “—because of Miss Suzuki’s formal and mannered approach to delineating adult relationships in a socially stratified society.” I quote from the newspaper and magazines clippings my sister has saved in a large photograph album. Myself, early on I learned to feign indifference to fame and fortune. It does one no good to expose one’s desires, even to so-called friends.

I differed from my peers in the use of the romance novel (everyone wants to experience love!) as an expressive vehicle and by the obvious fact of my being a woman. While authors such as Tatsuzō Ishikawa, Ashihei Hino, and Shirō Ozaki had a decided influence on my work, Catholicism and the folktale tradition also had a great effect on her view of the human condition.

In 1941 war deprivations in society finally caught up to the publishing industry, severely curtailing the publication of new work not related to the war effort. That year I took an assistant editor job with the Tokyo magazine Chūōkōron. Contributions were limited to occasional articles and essays on games, cooking, history, and anonymous book and film reviews. None of my journalistic work was even remotely political in nature except for “My Childhood,” a series of essays that sharply contrasted an idealized national past with an uncertain national future. I wrote these essays during the winter of 1942-43. After that I felt I had nothing left to say. War controls destinies. I was no exception. I left Tokyo for the small fishing village of my youth. For ten months I lived a withdrawn life, solitary and self-contained. I questioned my actions in this life. I wondered, and constantly doubted, whether or not I had done anything worthwhile.

In November of 1943 I relocated to Hiroshima.

For one year I have worked as a volunteer in the military hospital. Days I attend to injured soldiers, nights are spent revising the notes for my new novel, The Shell God. It is decidedly a roman á clef, quite the opposite of my previous belles lettres. Realism, not romantic fantasy. There is too much of life and death here in the hospital for me to imagine anything else. I will tell the soldier’s story. He is Everyman, and in his limitless wandering he makes solid our nation’s torn and dying soul. His name is Ando; the woman he loves, Matsuko. Like the traveler of old he will make a pilgrimage through the rural world of the past.

The hospital is filled to the roof with fear. Fear smells like pus and hydrogen peroxide, night soil and ether. Days the men spend bragging. Nights are for nightmares and screams. The volunteers—me and the other women and girls—have sleeping quarters in the same building. Quiet only comes before dawn. In the past year three men have committed suicide. Two with knives, one jumped from a window on the third floor. That one broke his spine and did not die for two and a half days. There is immense difficulty in feeling sympathy for the injured and frightened soldiers who take their own lives. Yet some days I pity them enormously. Some days I envy them.

My own health deteriorates.

*

Saturday, December 9th, 1944

The village sits close to the sea. Pine trees spread down the slopes and line the streets, almost reaching the beach. On foggy days, the village and huge pines vanish in the mist. On these days I wander the enclosed beach, hearing only the splash of unseen waves, and the muted sound of my own footsteps in the wet sand.

The pines are dull aches in the fog. With effort I recall sentinel duty, passwords, and sharp voices. Slow my pace as memories seek and find me; then walk on firmly, resolute with even steps, pacing like an acolyte. My boots scrape the sand. Waves scratch the shore. I think it is home. It might be anywhere.

*

Monday, December 25th, 1944

Today is the Christian holiday of the birth of Jesus Christ. Rumor has it that there will be no attacks or bombing nationwide. The Americans take a day of rest. Our only doctor has been called to another hospital. He left today, hoping for an uninterrupted train journey. We wish him a safe trip. It is almost impossible to keep the sheets and bandages clean without soap. One of the older women, Shizuko, ordered two of us to bring heavy flat stones from the river. We hauled them in a cart. She put the stones in the bottom of the basins and showed us how to rub and clean the fabric on a rock, like long ago.

My sister Kuri writes:

Yuriko-chan, forgive me. I was not able to hide your fine city clothes. Our house was searched and all available clothing was taken. What would the army want with fashionable western dresses? Mother dear was heartbroken. The fishing boats lie in disrepair. The men stopped going out soon after you left for Hiroshima. They say there are demons and ningyu in the water. Superstition, but who can blame them? The men spend all day in the forest digging bamboo shoots and trapping songbirds.       

We had to kill the goat and now all that is left are a few chickens and ducks. We all soon will be vegetarians like Obāsan!—you know how she was confirmed Buddhist all through her life. I often wonder how mother and father ever converted to the faith Catholic. Although I know you are helping the war effort I miss you and I wish you would return. Love, your sister, Kuri.

My own physical pain from the complications of the tuberculosis is exacerbated by these hospital experiences. Perhaps by sublimating personal experience within fiction I will finally be able to have something to say, will be able to say it well.

*

Tuesday, January 2nd, 1945

I sleep in my clothes. No fuel for any type of heat. Coal, oil, gasoline—all gone. Wood is for cooking and sterilizing medical instruments. One young man, a boy really, a city boy with a Kyoto accent. His left leg was amputated one week ago just below the knee. Now gangrene sets in. His body flames with fever and the air in the ward so cold you can see your breath at noon. Burning and freezing at the same time. And moldy rice. Moldy rice! Me, who used to stay up until dawn at wild parties. Writers, artists, actors. The endless tables of food—the saki, beer, and gin and tonics. Now I am happy to share roots and weeds with my fellow volunteers. Kuri-chan, when did we ever go hungry?

*

(To be continued next Monday…)

[The Pilgrim’s Progress was originally published in Roanoke Review, fall, 2013, Vol. 38.]

 

About Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace Adviser

Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace AdviserRobert Kostuck is an M.Ed. graduate from Northern Arizona University. Recently published fiction and essays appear in many American and Canadian literary journals. He is currently working on short stories, essays, and a novel; his short story collection is seeking a publisher. Learn more about Robert Kostuck and his work here.

 

Small Writing for Peace logoWriting for Peace News

 

Writing for Peace Granted 501 (c) 3 Federal Nonprofit Status

What does 501(c)3 status mean for Writing for Peace? Well, some things will not change; our administration will continue to be board operated and volunteer based. That means 100% of contributions go directly towards the considerable costs of publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We are grateful for the support of generous donors and the Colgate University Research Council.

Here’s what will change: Your donations can now be deducted from your Federal income tax! For those who chose to support us before that was the case, we are deeply moved by your belief in us, and we are so happy to finally be able to say your contribution is a deduction. For your records, our Federal Tax ID Number is 45-2968027.

If you’re a believer in Writing for Peace, we hope you’ll consider donating to support a simple mission with a profound affect on the lives of our young writers. You can make your contributions here.

As Jordan Dalton (16), put it:

Jordan Dalton, 2013 Fiction, First Place“Since writing my entry for Writing for Peace, I’ve come to realize that my work really can make a difference in the world. Words have the power to spread awareness, hope, and inspiration to people who would have otherwise despaired. We all have the ability to create, and create in the name of beauty and change. I can only hope one day to spend my life doing just that.”

 

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserA Declaration of Principles and Action for a New World

“We will combat the toxic forces on which domination and tyranny variously rely, such as the patriarchy, hegemony, colonialism, and racism that exist within external oppressors, and even within our own movements at times.”

Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestCheck out our 2015 Young Writers Contest! Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

Your Library Isn’t Complete Without DoveTales!

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The “Contrast” edition includes the beautiful black and white photography from Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

manifesto, by radhiyah ayobami

Writing for Peace Welcomes Guest Writer, Radhiyah Ayobami

 

manifesto

Radhiyah Yemayatoday i heard a story that made me very happy. in fact, it actually made me feel joy. it was a story about a close sista-friend of mine. i have known her for about ten years. we met when our children went to the same cultural school (our friendship has outlived the school as well.)  i was in my early 20’s- she was about 30. i was transitioning into the cultural world, growing locs, and exploring different traditions. she had already been married to a community leader, and she eased me into her circle and her way of life. she introduced me to roots reggae dances and was the first person i met who blessed herb before smoking it. she took me to african spiritual events and explained the protocol; how to cleanse before entering, when to stand and when to kneel, how to give an offering and receive a blessing. wherever we went, folks cracked into wide smiles as soon as she was on the scene, she was forever being waved at across a crowded room, greeting other smiling people, and being enveloped by hugs.
 

as the years progressed, we went through the same initiations, starved through the same fasts and partied at the same events in long skirts and headwraps on a wednesday night and were late getting our kids to school in the morning. we piled our children and some other folks children in a half-working car and drove to all-night drum circles where they fell asleep under trees as we meditated by the fire, we survived on the same small handful of greens in a foreign country when it had rained too much and everybody was hungry, and when the sun came out we all washed up outside in broad daylight, everything jiggling, breasts that had nursed babies, waistbeads, and our locs heavy with water from the sea.
 

and then came the curves of life. we went to city offices and through housing systems, patching together the help we needed to move forward. we created resumes and got jobs that paid on the books and took out taxes. we transitioned out of our small communities and found that wearing extra long skirts and yards of cloth around our shoulders was sometimes not practical when working with small children or in various other settings. she was first to cut her locs and put on pants, and one day she came walking around the corner on fulton street with no headwrap, no multi-colored skirt swishing her ankles and no scent of sacred oil, and i walked right by her. she had a short afro, creased pants, and a folder full of resumes, and something about the outfit reminded me of the colorful birds i saw languishing in cages at the zoo. months later, when my son and i lived in a building that awakened us with five am fire alarms, she wrote me a letter that helped me transition out of that place and into an apartment where my porch was the entire roof and i could sit and watch the sky.

 

and then we went into the next decade of our lives, and i listened to her laugh become a little less loud as she watched friends and family marry and waltz across the dance floor in each other’s arms as she raised her children and drove to the occasional roots dance on her own. we began to talk about the beliefs and traditions that kept us bound to the idea of being honorable women. elders told us that we shouldn’t be out past nine o’clock. imams said we should be in by maghrib. at the drumming ceremonies, we couldn’t uncover our hair (even though it was hot by the fire, and the breeze through our locs would have been the greatest blessing.) in almost every tradition, we were lectured against smoking herb, and told to have husbands instead of lovers, so we wouldn’t damage our spirits. so me and my sista-friend began to have conversations. we began to wonder, under the skirts and scarves and rules and admonishments, where we could find the seed of joy. our communities and traditions had sustained and nurtured us, but now we were in a new cycle of life, and it was time for change. we talked and argued with each other, we fasted and went to steam baths and spiritual events and prayed and sat with our own thoughts. and then, we moved.
 

she broke the no lovers rule first, and invited me over for  tea so we could talk about it, and it was a conversation that lasted all night. it was winter when she broke that rule, and it was summer when i broke it, and i ended up writing a lot of poems. and we discovered some things. we discovered that another human being, particularly a partner, fixing a meal that you like or washing your hair or giving you advice on a complicated problem late at night even though they were tired or rubbing your foot deep enough to ease out the soreness of the day was just as holy as a drum ceremony or lighting an incense stick or the pouring of water- and maybe, even more holy than that. we discovered that the best rules to follow were the ones that brought our spirits balance and joy.
 

and after awhile, my sista-friend stayed in pants. she never went back into daily headwraps and long skirts- although she would wear them occasionally for events or if she felt like it. i stayed in long skirts and wraps because my womanself loved them, but sometimes wore jeans if i wanted to, and we never gave up dancing or late nights or wine or bud. we still prayed and chanted and burned and poured sacred water- but we carried no flags but our own.
 

and then today she called me, ashamed, because she was out on a date with a man that made her heart glow, and they had a little taste of wine and a little smoke, and they went to a roots party, and she ran into folks she knew, and there she was in a short skirt and a wild afro, kinda high, kinda drunk, with a strange and non-cultural man, and all the women were in there with headwraps up to the ceiling and skirts down to the floor. well, i fell out. i laughed and laughed. because at the age and stage that we’re in now, does it really matter? we are far enough into this journey that we know most things are between us and the creator. when i was living in the five am fire alarm place, i was plagued with headaches so bad that i walked around with tylenol tucked into every pocket, every bag, and even under my headwrap for emergencies. and her letter helped me get into a house where the birds would come sing at the windows in the mornings when the sky was still pink, and i didn’t have a bottle of tylenol in that whole house. and some of those women in those skirts would never do that for anyone else- some of them were devils. i know, because i wear long skirts and i’m a devil when i wanna be too.
 

and i wish my sista- friend a hundred dances in a hundred short skirts, if that’s what feeds her soul. and for the rest of us, i wish us permission to be unbound to whatever it is that binds us. sometimes i look at my life- i’m in an expensive grad school but got no money. i’m an older black woman in an mfa program, which is generally made up of students who are young, male and white. i’m fat but i do african dance and yoga and i love it, even when i’m the biggest person in the class, which is often. i moved across the country with a teenager, which everyone says is the worst time to move a child, and now he’s closer to the honor roll than he’s ever been. i’ve made a lot of mistakes, but my son and i have also had some great adventures. life has been our guide, our teacher and our protector. and as shaky as my progress is, i’m continuing on my journey to be fully unbound, fully engaged in the process of life instead of watching it drift by, and fully committed to living with joy.

 

i  give myself permission to:
 

honor my inner guidance

create my own family makeup

not explain or apologize for my choices

not explain, excuse or defend my size, culture or style of dress

treat my body kindly no matter what it looks like

tell my truth even when it’s uncomfortable

tell the stories of my ancestors

pursue all my passions

ask for and accept compensation for my talents

not be afraid or ashamed of mistakes

choose teachers by spirit and not external affiliations

walk away when i need to

humble myself only to the elements; water, sun, trees, land & sky

(& of course the creator)

 

and so it is!

 

radhiyah ayobami: brooklyn born by way of the south, telling stories of black womanhood, motherhood & folks in invisible spaces, believes word has the power to shift consciousness, writes & workshops with pregnant teens, inmates & elders, africana studies graduate of brooklyn college & mfa prose student at mills college in oakland, california, where she is working on a collection of nonfiction essays & the trees give her poems.

 

Writing for Peace News

  • 2014 DoveTales “Contrast” Edition Released

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for Peace Our Second edition of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is available for purchase. The 2014 issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso
Cassandra Arnold
Maggie Bàra
Henry Braun
Lorraine Caputo
William Cass
Lorraine Currelley
Colin Dodds
John Garmon
Diane Giardi
Mark Goad
Veronica Golos
Sam Hamill
Dawnell Harrison
D. Iasevoli, Ed.D
Allan M. Jalon
Shelley Kahn
Richard Krawiec
Paula Dawn Lietz
Cory Lockhart
Shannon K. Lockhart
Veronica Marshall
Sandra McGarry
Iwona Partyka
Sy Roth
Andrew Sacks
Carol Smallwood
Julia Stein
Samantha Peters Terrell
Bänoo Zan

  • 2015 Young Writers Contest

Our exciting 2015 Young Writers Contest Judges Panel will be announced on September 1st, along with our Contest Guidelines!

  • Facebook

Our Facebook page is your go-to source for inspiration about writing, peace, and the intersection of the two. Your likes and shares increase our reach and help spread the word, so come by for a visit, share your ideas and questions. We’d love to hear your thoughts about writing and the many ways you are making a difference!

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

A Gift of Empowerment, by Melissa Hassard

Melissa Hassard, Writing for Peace AdviserI grew up in the South, the daughter of a misogynist who physically abused both his wife and her son. I remember spending a lot of time in my room with books and journals, trying to escape the yelling, trying to escape the dark mood in our home.

My father did well at his work and we had money, that was never an issue, but his demons were deep — he the son of an abusive father and raised by an abused mother. His youngest brother died accidentally, but at his mother’s hand, and so thick was her trauma and mental disease, that she was committed for the rest of her life in Dorothea Dix, the state mental institution in North Carolina.

And while it’s true that women suffer at the hands of men, so do men suffer at the hands of women. In this world of wars and violence, we must listen to the voices that advocate for peace, compassion, and empathy. We ourselves must also speak out.

Writing, to me, is a way of not only expressing yourself, but also — when you find your voice and learn to use it — a gift of empowerment, a gift which comes with the responsibility of speaking up for those who cannot, and speaking out against the inhumane and the wrong, the cruelty and injustice in this world. In that voice, we also find our work.

I am deeply honored to have been asked to serve on the Writing for Peace Advisory Board.

Melissa Hassard is speaker, writer, poet, mother, womanist, and activist — currently residing in North Carolina.

Her background is public relations, advertising, and travel, and she considers herself a student of the world, who loves travel, history, culture, and language.  Writing is as much a part of her life as breathing.

Partner at Sable Books and founder of Women Writers of the Triad, she is blessed to work with writers on meaningful projects — from helping writers publish, to teaching writing to survivors of domestic abuse, to organizing local community workshops and readings.

Her essays and poems have been published in various journals, is she is now revising work for a first book, that will no doubt take her years to finish.

Learn more about Melissa here.

Writing for Peace News

  • 2014 DoveTales “Contrast” Edition Released

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for Peace Our Second edition of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is available for purchase. The 2014 issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winner, and the following contributors:

Jodi Alonso
Cassandra Arnold
Maggie Bàra
Henry Braun
Loraine Caputo
William Cass
Lorraine Currelley
Colin Dodds
John Garmon
Diane Giardi
Mark Goad
Veronica Golos
Sam Hamill
Dawnell Harrison
D. Iasevoli, Ed.D
Allan M. Jalon
Shelley Kahn
Richard Krawiec
Paula Dawn Lietz
Cory Lockhart
Shannon K. Lockhart
Veronica Marshall
Sandra McGarry
Iwona Partyka
Sy Roth
Andrew Sacks
Carol Smallwood
Julia Stein
Samantha Peters Terrell
Bänoo Zan

  • Facebook

Our Facebook page is your go-to source for inspiration about the craft of writing, peace, and the intersection of the two. Your likes and shares help spread the word about Writing for Peace.

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

Border Crisis, by Pilar Rodríguez Aranda

Border Crisis, or Juárez City is Inside Our Closets

Pilar Rodriguez Aranda, Writing for Peace Adviserby Pilar Rodríguez Aranda

(To read this post in Spanish, scroll down.)

Everyday I read, listen to, and witness the decomposition of our “human” societies, and everyday I become more convinced there will never be a real change if we do not work on the very base of it all: our own self, our family, our neighborhood and our local community. It is there where we find such barbarities that I really don’t understand why we are amazed these happen, of course amplified, at a global level: abuse of all types, beatings, rape, humiliation, war. What happens inside our homes and among our neighbors is the very reflection/root of our sickness, the microcosms of what happens in the immensity of this beautiful planet, our great home, which we systematically keep murdering. We know it, and yet…

I once was at a conference with all kinds of academic “experts” on violence; while the speaker was offering a summary of his latest research or book, a friend who knew this man told me he had beaten his girlfriend; and in that same conference there were at least two other cases of lecturers who abused women or, similarly, his coworkers. I believe Peace starts within, but not a fantasy/imagined/unrealistic peace, where we all act as if separate from the rest… Peace is something we seek, a conscious act, it requires will and a lot of “work”, because, when you have grown in a home where violence is the norm, then of course we will accept and even crave for it outside: radio and TV announcers who can’t seem to talk normally but always screaming; news about ugliness, war and devastation; commercials which are full of lies and immorality; entertainment which is all blood-kill-explode, full of “bad” people, which are always from some “alien” place, colored people who come from “the other side” of our “border”. Borders…another one of those cruel human inventions. A patriarch will never allow anyone from “outside” to meddle with whatever is happening inside his home, and almost everyone else seems to accept this, still. So, my neighbour beats his kids or his wife, and I say nothing. Remember that “Silence = Death”? Well, we still haven’t gone beyond the tiniest of peeps…

Some think that’s a job for our politicians…yet, everyone seems to loath them! And not only Americans, but Mexicans, Cubans, Chileans, Spaniards, Argentinians… Are there any exceptions? Maybe Uruguayans at this point, maybe Icelanders. So, we complain, we denounce, and nothing happens. These so called “representatives” choose their “causes” according to popularity or economic gain, so, of course, it is not surprise when one of them says that femicides is not a pressing problem, even though there’s a constant increase in all forms of violence against women. A lot is being said and written right now about the thousands of Central American children who are waiting to be deported back to their no-future land… But who is talking about those we know nothing about, the “disappeared” ones, killed for their organs, subjected to prostitution and slavery? This year alone, and only in Mexico, there have been 45 thousand children reported disappeared. Who is talking about them?

The US has never truly been “the promised land”, and yet, the media keeps selling this concept of “America the brave and perfect democracy”, hypocrisy at its height! But even if the “American Dream” is just a lie, if you compares one single fact, like minimum wage, it is so easy to understand, I mean, if I make 8 dollars a day, of course making 8 dollars an hour will seem much more attractive. And if at home the alternative is getting killed or becoming a victim, the choice is even easier. In the documentary “Which Way Home”, a kid says he wants to go to the USA because he wants a different life. The interviewer asks him, what kind of life? and he responds, any other.

We know about US intervention in all of Latin America, about corporate rulings, puppet governments, coups d’état, rigged elections, and so on, and yet nothing has changed. I sometimes try to explain to my Mexican friends that my US friends feel the same as we do, and they are powerless to change the direction of their own government, just as we seem powerless to do the same with ours. But, are we really that powerless, or is this just another illusion?

To be honest, I understand nothing. I look around and no one seems to care. People go about their daily life, working, shopping, entertaining themselves; more people will gather to celebrate a soccer game than to protest about anything! I don’t understand humanity’s fascination with death and the end of the world. Someone once told me it had to do with the prophecy of the apocalypses. So, following this logic, if according to the bible, sooner or later the world is coming to an end, why should we care? We are all going to die anyway, why not hurry the fact? Is that how it goes? I also don’t understand a religion which accepts money to aggrandize their churches and protects their own criminals but has no empathy for those who are (still, somewhat) innocent, and suffer; I don’t understand those can’t open their hearts to an eight year old child who has crossed all of the terrain called Mexico on foot, surviving all kinds of atrocities, and wish to send him back… Him and thousands more like him. And I don’t understand why everyone acts surprised, when for many years this situation has been built by their own government and their own indifference.

Once, while showing films on the violence happening in Juárez City in one of the many “sub-cities” that are part of the immense urban mess called Mexico City, an elementary teacher said, “Juárez is in our closets”. She was thinking about the raped, battered, abused little kids who she sees everyday in school, forced to act as if everything is alright, as if their home is a happy place, and life is a piece of cake. And of course, how can she even suggest this kid’s soul, mind and body is being systematically killed? Her parents will deny it, her siblings and even her grandparents or aunts will deny it. Not a peep. What happens within our walls is our business…

Well, guess what? Not anymore. What happens in the US is as much my business as what happens in Nicaragua or in China or in Portugal, and whatever happens in a child’s home should be as much my business as what happens in mine. A lot is being said (and supposedly done, but who believes in politicians?) about the present crisis in the US border. I have no answers, I don’t even pretend to offer a true analysis, such is the task of “experts”. All I can say about these children is, at least they are alive! There is still hope, except, sending them back means denying them that, once again. Where is the love, the compassion, the braveness in this? Our closets are about to burst.

***

La crisis en la frontera, ó Ciudad Juárez vive en nuestros clósets

por Pilar Rodríguez Aranda

Todos los días leo, escucho y soy testigo de la descomposición de nuestras sociedades “humanas”, y todos los días me convenzo más de que nunca habrá un cambio verdadero si no trabajamos en la base de todo: nuestro propio ser, nuestra familia, nuestro barrio y nuestra comunidad local. Es ahí donde encontramos tales barbaridades que realmente no entiendo por qué nos sorprendemos de que éstas sucedan, claro, amplificadas, a nivel global: abuso de todos tipos, golpizas, violación, humillación, guerra. Lo que sucede dentro de nuestros hogares y entre nuestros vecinos es el reflejo/raíz misma de nuestra enfermedad, el microcosmos de lo que sucede en la inmensidad de este bello planeta, nuestro gran hogar, el cual seguimos asesinando sistemáticamente. Lo sabemos, y sin embargo…

Estuve alguna vez en una conferencia con toda clase de académicos “expertos” en el tema de la violencia; mientras un conferencista ofrecía un resumen de su última investigación o libro, una amiga que conocía a este hombre me contaba que él golpeaba a la novia; en esa misma conferencia había al menos dos casos más de presentadores que habían abusado a mujeres o, de manera similar, a sus compañeros de trabajo. Yo creo que la Paz comienza dentro, pero no una paz fantasía/imaginada/irreal, donde todos actúan como si estuvieran separados de los demás… La paz es algo que buscamos, un acto consciente, requiere de voluntad y mucho “trabajo”, porque cuando uno ha crecido en un hogar donde la violencia es la norma, entonces, claro que vamos a aceptar, e incluso ansiarla, en el exterior: locutores de radio y televisión que parece no pueden hablar normalmente sino siempre gritando; noticias sobre la fealdad, la guerra y la devastación; comerciales llenos de mentiras e inmoralidad; entretenimiento que es todo sangre-mata-explota, lleno de gente “mala”, que vienen de un lugar “ajeno”, gente de color que vienen “del otro lado” de nuestra “frontera”. Fronteras…otro de esos crueles inventos humanos. Un patriarca nunca permitirá que alguien de “fuera” se meta en lo que sucede dentro de su casa, y casi todos parecen aceptar esto, todavía. Así que, si mi vecino golpea a sus niños o a su esposa, yo no debo decir nada. ¿Recuerdan aquél, “Silencio = Muerte”? Bueno, pues todavía no hemos pasado de emitir el más leve de los píos…

Algunos piensan que ese es un trabajo para nuestros políticos…y sin embargo ¡todos parecen despreciarlos! Y no solo los norteamericanos, sino los mexicanos, los cubanos, los chilenos, españoles, argentinos…¿Hay alguna excepción? Quizá los uruguayos en este momento, o los islandeses. Así que, nos quejamos, denunciamos, y nada sucede. Estos llamados “representantes” eligen sus “causas” de acuerdo a la popularidad o a la ganancia económica, así que, por supuesto no es de sorprenderse cuando uno de ellos dice que los feminicidios no son un problema apremiante, aún cuando hay un aumento constante de todas las formas de violencia en contra de la mujer. Mucho se está diciendo y escribiendo en este momento sobre los niños centroamericanos que esperan a ser deportados de vuelta a su tierra sin futuro… Pero, ¿quién está hablando de los que no sabemos nada, los “desaparecidos”, que han sido asesinados por sus órganos, sujetos a la prostitución y esclavitud? Solo este año, y solo en México, han habido 45 mil reportes de niños desaparecidos. ¿Quién está hablando de ellos?

Los Estados Unidos nunca han sido en verdad “la tierra prometida”, y sin embargo, los medios continúan vendiendo el concepto de “América, la valiente, la democracia perfecta”, ¡la hipocresía al máximo! Pero, aún si el “Sueño Americano” es solo una mentira, si uno compara un solo dato, como el salario mínimo, es entonces fácil de entender, digo, si yo gano 8 dólares al día, es obvio que ganar 8 dólares la hora me parecerá mucho más atractivo. Y si en casa, la alternativa es que te maten o te conviertas en víctima, la elección se hace todavía más fácil. En el documental “Which Way Home”, un niño dice que quiere ir a los EEUU porque desea una vida distinta. El entrevistador le pregunta, ¿qué clase de vida?, y él responde, cualquier otra.

Sabemos sobre la intervención de los EEUU en toda Latinoamérica, sobre el dominio de las corporaciones, los gobiernos títere, los golpes de estado, las elecciones amañadas, y así sucesivamente, y sin embargo, nada cambia. En ocasiones trato de explicarle a mis amigos mexicanos que mis amigos norteamericanos se sienten igual que nosotros, y que son igual de impotentes para cambiar la dirección de su gobierno, como nosotros somos impotentes de hacer lo mismo con el propio. Pero, ¿es verdad que somos así de impotentes, o es solo otra ilusión?

Para ser honesta, no entiendo nada. Miro alrededor mío, y a nadie parece importarle. La gente continúa con su vida cotidiana, va al trabajo, de compras, se entretienen; ¡se reúne más gente para celebrar un partido de fútbol que para protestar por cualquier cosa! Yo no entiendo la fascinación de los humanos por la muerte y el fin del mundo. Alguien me dijo alguna vez que tiene que ver con la profecía del Apocalipsis. Así que, en esa lógica, si de acuerdo con la Biblia, tarde o temprano el mundo se va a acabar, ¿para qué importarnos? Todos vamos a morir así que, ¿por qué no apresurarnos? ¿Así es como va la cosa? Tampoco entiendo una religión que acepta dinero para agrandar sus iglesias y protege a sus criminales pero no tiene empatía por aquellos que son (todavía, de algún modo) inocentes, y sufren; yo no entiendo a aquellos que no tienen su corazón abierto ante un niño de ocho años que ha cruzado todo ese terreno llamado México, a pie, sobreviviendo toda clase de atrocidades, y desean enviarlo de vuelta… A él y miles como él. Y no entiendo por qué todos actúan sorprendidos, cuando por años esta situación ha sido creada por su propio gobierno y su propia indiferencia.

Una vez en que mostrábamos películas sobre la violencia en Ciudad Juárez, en una de las muchas “sub-ciudades” que conforman el inmenso caos urbano llamado Ciudad de México, una maestra de primaria dijo, “Juárez está en nuestros clósets”. Ella pensaba en los pequeñitos que ve todos los días en la escuela, violados, golpeados, maltratados, forzados a actuar como si todo estuviera bien, como si su casa fuera un lugar feliz y la vida una rebanada de pastel. Y claro, ¿cómo va ella a sugerir que el alma, la mente y el cuerpo de este niño están siendo sistemáticamente asesinados? Sus padres lo negarán, sus hermanos, e incluso sus abuelos y tías lo negarán. Ni pío dirán. Lo que sucede detrás de nuestros muros, es nuestro asunto…

Pero, ¿saben qué? Ya no más. Lo que sucede dentro de los EEUU es tan mi asunto como lo que sucede en Nicaragua, en China o en Portugal, y lo que suceda en la casa de cualquier niño, debe de ser tan mi asunto como lo que sucede en la mía. Mucho se está diciendo (y supuestamente haciendo, pero, ¿quién le cree a los políticos?) sobre la actual crisis en la frontera de los EEUU. Yo no tengo respuestas, ni siquiera pretendo ofrecer un análisis de verdad, tal es la tarea de los “expertos”. Lo único que puedo decir sobre estos niños es que, ¡al menos están vivos! Todavía hay esperanza, excepto que, enviarlos de vuelta significa negárselas, una vez más. ¿Dónde está el amor, la compasión, la valentía en todo eso? Nuestros clósets están a punto de reventar.

Pilar Rodríguez Aranda @100TPC 2012Writing for Peace Adviser, Pilar Rodriguez Aranda is a poet, video artist, translator by trade and border-crosser by vocation. She was born in Mexico City, but lived in California, Texas, and New Mexico, for a total of 13 years; she presently lives in Malinalco, Estado de México and tries to commute to the capital city only when necessary.

Click here to learn more about Pilar.

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Our beautiful “Contrast” 2014 Issue of DoveTales has been delayed due to printing issues. We should have a release date very shortly! We apologize for the delay, and thank you for your patience.

 

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Malala Yousafzai’s Journey to the UN, by Alexandra Kinias

Malala Yousafzai’s Journey to the UN

by Alexandra Kinias

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a breath of fresh air in an environment polluted with gunpowder and radicalism. She is a spring blossom growing in a field of thorny bushes, only to be injured by their needles. In October 2012, on her way back from school, Malala’s school bus was ambushed by the Taliban. She was shot with one bullet, which went through her head, neck, and ended in her shoulder. The young girl was left to die, together with two of her friends who were also shot on site. She was fifteen years old.

Though Malala was not the first to be assaulted by this terrorist group, she was specifically targeted in this tragic attack that was condemned worldwide. Many other girls face the same fate together with their teachers in sporadic attacks around Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan where the Taliban influence dominates. The girls’ only crime was going to school.

Malala’s journey to recover from her brain injuries was remarkable, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The young girl has demonstrated, throughout her life, nothing but strength, resilience and courage.

Growing up in the Swat province in Pakistan, Malala had experienced the Taliban’s rule first hand. A smart young student, in 2009, at the age of 12, she wrote for a BBC blog under a pseudo name about her experience living under the Taliban during the battle of Swat. As the war intensified, her family was dispersed from their hometown and Malala ended up living in a refugee camp for a few months. Later that year, after her family reunited at the end of the war, she returned home only to find that the Taliban had closed the girls’ schools. Inspired by her father’s activism in political life, Malala committed herself to become a politician and an activist for girl’s rights. In the documentary for the NYTimes, Class Dismissed, she explained why she wanted to be involved in the political life, “I have a new dream … I must be a politician to save this country. There are so many crises in our country. I want to remove these crises.”

By the end of 2009, she had received wide international exposure and began to publicly advocate for female education. She brought the world’s attention to the critical situation of girl’s education in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In her speeches, she bravely condemned the rule of the Taliban and demanded the right of girls to go to school. After receiving the National Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan, her name received wider recognition, but that came with a price: her life was in peril. At the age of 12, Malala was receiving death threats from the Taliban. But in defiance of them, she didn’t deter from the active role and the course of life she had set for herself. As the death threats failed to silence her, the Taliban leaders unanimously agreed to kill her in a meeting they held in the summer of 2012.

The Pakistani Taliban justified their failed assassination attempt by claiming Malala was the symbol of the infidels and obscenity, and announced that, if she survived, the group would target her again. They blamed her father for encouraging her to attack the Taliban in her speeches. According to the Taliban, Malala’s defending her right and the right of girls to go to school was propaganda against Islam, but the truth of the matter is that the Taliban view women’s education as a direct threat to them and what they represent. Malala was shot in the head. They wanted to blow her brain out. That’s exactly what the Taliban want; to rob women their right and privilege to think. Taliban fear the education of women. With girl’s education they will lose their control and dominance over them, this control that only thrives with ignorance.

After the recovery from this reprehensible attack, Malala emerged stronger and more resilient than ever. On July 12, 2013, on her sixteenth birthday, she delivered a speech to the UN that was viewed by millions of people worldwide. On the event that was dubbed as Malala Day, she was draped with the shawl of the late Benazir Buhto, the Pakistani politician who was also assassinated by another radical group. Malala captivated hearts with her speech and received multiple standing ovations as she delivered her powerful statement that incited peace, forgiveness, courage and strength. Her speech to the UN was not just a blow to the terrorists who wanted to silence her, but also a reminder of which side the world is standing. The battle between darkness and light is long and fierce. Even though the weapons of the darkness are more deadly, but as Malala said in her speech, “Pens are mightier than guns.”

The aspiring young woman is setting an example of hope and determination. She is a role model of defiance for all the girls who are battling to go to school under inhumane conditions, and bullets. Malala believes that education is the only hope for a better future and she is determined to fight for every child’s right for education.“So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first,” Malala said.

To view Malala’s Speech at the UN, click here.

Reprinted with permission from “Silenced Voices, Wasted Lives.”

Alexandra Kinias, Writing for Peace AdviserAbout Alexandra Kinias

Born and raised in Egypt, Alexandra Kinias graduated as a Mechanical Engineer in 1987. She pursued a career overseas with a multinational corporation that built power distribution plants on the Caribbean Island of Antigua and Barbuda.  She moved to America in 1995 and worked for a company that did business in the Middle East and Europe. In American, Alexandra began her career as a writer. She studied screenplay and creative writing. A screenplay writer, novelist and a photographer. Her passion for movies, books, art and extensive world traveling is translated in her writing and photography. She co-wrote the story of the movie Cairo Exit, censored in Egypt, yet received international recognition and won best non-European film in the European Independent Film festival.

She is an advocate for women’s rights. Her blog Silenced Voices, Wasted lives is dedicated to women’s issues in general and women in the Middle East in particular. Her published fiction novel Black Tulips takes place between Egypt and the USA. Black Tulips reveals the hardships that women living in male dominant societies are exposed to. Her articles are published in Kalimat magazine, a North American publication about the Arab region. Alexandra lives with her husband in Scottsdale, AZ and she is working on her non-fiction book Silenced Voices, a collage of her articles about women’s issues. Learn more about Alexandra Kinias and her work here.

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Writing for Peace Young Writers' Contest2014 Young Writers Contest

The Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Submission guidelines here.

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DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

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