Essay · Memoir

What’s a Monarch Got to Do With It?

Queen Elizabeth II died a few days ago. I am not British and do not like the monarchy as an institution, and yet the queen’s image has been one of the watermarks that has shaped the landscape of my life.

When I was born in France, she was already queen across the Channel. By the time I was a teenager, her son, now king, was already hunting with hounds on horseback, and his mother let him do it. I remember seeing photos in the newspapers and thinking that there was no difference between the English and the French nobility. I liked neither. I did not like hunters, period. For that reason, I also did not like French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, an avid hunter. While still in high school, I concluded that there was no difference between aristocracy and republicanism as both their respective representatives showed off their power by romanticizing ritualized violence against those with limited to no means of defending themselves.

I was myself a misguided romantic when I moved to the USA, however. In middle and high school, when I started learning English as a foreign language, people of the Commonwealth were still called British subjects. I knew with certainty that I would not move anywhere that would require me to become the subject of any queen or king, so I chose the United States of America as my terrain of exile. And to those who tried to oppose my move, I would say that everyone in the USA was naturally good and courageous enough to crush the forces of evil so prevalent in the old world. What’s strange is that I was a good student, one who had already learned in books that I was wrong, and yet I couldn’t stop myself. I had to believe that there was a Good God in the USA.

I’m older now. I’ve traveled out of the old world, and I’ve also traveled out of the new world, both literally and figuratively. Here is the conclusion I have reached:

Is there a monarch out there, anywhere, who can ritualize genuine kindness towards the earth and all its lifeforms? Is there a monarch out there who will steadfastly brandish that torch and keep it lighted as we blow life into our dying earth? To that one, I will bow.

Announcement · Memoir

From “Revenge Savings” to “Breaking the Ties That Bind”

My parents, who split up before my first birthday, hated each other with a passion and disagreed on everything except on one matter of importance: that I should never have been born. My father told me that it would have been better for me. My mother told me that it would have been better for her. I believed them both. It is not that surprising, then, that, around the time of my sixteenth birthday, I became paralyzed and nearly died. I did go to the threshold where you can no longer return to your body, and I stayed there a while pondering my future. I understood that if I kept traveling farther from the hospital room in which I lay, however, my new life would be worse than if I returned to live on as the kid who should never have been born, so I grudgingly reintegrated my quarters. During my out of body trip, I also learned that I was supposed to figure out what I had come to do in life and do it, but I was clueless about how to proceed with my newfound mission.

I learned that both my parents were wrong: my life was not in error. I also learned that I was supposed to figure out what I had come to do in life and do it. At sixteen, however, I was clueless about how to proceed with my newfound mission. How was I going to learn how to want to remain alive long enough to figure out what I had come to do in life and do it? It would take over a decade to find the answer to my question. “Breaking the Ties That Bind,” my newest creative nonfiction story [Mothership — Talon Review Volume 2 Issue 6], explores that moment when an unexpected, horrifying confrontation with a transgenerational monster becomes the catalyst that allows me to envision the meaning of the rest of my life.

“Breaking the Ties That Bind” started its story life with fewer than three hundred words and was promptly rejected by a couple of magazines that publish short shorts. The story grew to a respectable 1,500 words, but I was still hesitant to send it out to publishers. The subject matter – fighting an intergenerational matrilineal monster – was taboo. But then again, I had already published “Revenge Savings” which is about another taboo subject in Tangled Locks Journal. Since Teresa Berkowitz, the publisher, had steadily boosted my confidence while helping me develop an online presence, I had learned to trust her editorial input. With the help of Teresa’s editorial feedback, “Breaking the Ties That Bind” found a permanent home in Mothership — Volume 3, Issue 6 of The Talon Review.

Much gratitude also to the editorial team at UNF’s The Talon Review. “Breaking the Ties That Bind” found its perfect home!

Announcement · Fiction · Memoir

A Toast to Digestive Health and to a Fantastic Editor

For half a year now, I have been suffering from often painful digestive health problems. I thought that perhaps I had done all the digestion I could do in one lifetime both physically and metaphorically speaking. And yet, to keep on living, I had to keep on digesting, so how would I do that?

One day, the thought occurred to me that I would need to split my digesting into two parts: the French part and the American part. My problem seemed more manageable that way. Here is what I would do: draw two circles in white chalk on a blackboard. The circle to the left would be smaller than the circle to the right because I only had about twenty years of French living versus thirty-five plus years of American living.

I drew the circles from left to right because I had learned to write from left to right and because I had assimilated the arbitrary construct that time traveled from left to right. I would digest my binational living from the oblong area where both circles intersected. With my piece of white chalk, I started highlighting that area of intersection so it would look like a cloud because I felt at ease on planes above clouds and, on land, I did some of my best thinking with no roof above my head.

Almost imperceptibly, I had become the French sixth grader who loved her math class. I barely took the time to notice the inkwells on the neatly arranged wooden desks from which my classmates and I watched our teacher draw shapes and circles and letters and numbers. I had walked up to the blackboard and started drawing my cloud inside the oblong area of the two intersecting circles that symbolized my life. The chalk dust made me sneeze.

My teacher, Monsieur Raoul, had stepped to the side and was waiting for me to finish. I did not get scared when he called me to the blackboard to solve a math problem, but now I was, and I froze. I was too close to the board. I could no longer see the circles for what they represented, and the cloud I was drawing seemed like a ridiculous thing to do in a math class. I was failing the exercise.

Somehow, I retreated forward to the present time, but outside of the larger circle that should have represented my American life. I was back on my couch in the suburbs of Los Angeles with a roof over my head and no clouds in sight. My two dogs were asleep next to me. It became suddenly clear that figuring out what was going on at the intersection of my binational life was a futile exercise, at least for now. Instead, I thought of focusing on the single thread that ran through all my splits at the seams: dogs. My love of my canine family members and their love for me will be the subject of a future post.

2021 was a good year for my published work. For now, I am trying to close the door to the year 2021 as elegantly and productively as I can. During the first week of 2022, I learned that a very short fiction piece I had written last year will be anthologized by Poets’ Choice, an Indian publisher based in Mumbai, but two of the stories I wrote last year are still looking for a home.

Because I have been unusually exhausted for the last few months, I feared that I may not have the energy to keep writing in 2022. That was a depressing thought. I needed help, but I did not know how to articulate the type of help I needed regarding the future of my writing. Thankfully, I did remember how empowering and joyful it had been to work with Teresa Berkowitz, the editor of Tangled Locks Journal, and I reached out to her.

In the fall of 2021, I had the especially good fortune to have my short memoir, “Revenge Savings,” published by Tangled Locks Journal. Teresa is extremely supportive of my writing so I sent her my 2021 unpublished fiction and creative nonfiction for developmental feedback. Tangled Locks Journal has launched services to support writers including developmental editing and promotion.

I have been lucky to study and work with gifted English professors, but Teresa is truly the best editor I have met for both fiction and creative nonfiction, and she also works at baffling speed. Best of all, Teresa once again boosted my confidence. Her detailed feedback is also allowing me to reflect on the type of writing I want to pursue next.

I am welcoming in 2022 with renewed energy and, health permitting, I will be writing a short memoir this year.