27 Apr

Letter From The Editor: Let Me Introduce Myself

Carlo Munoz ca 2002

In the early part of 2002, Carlo Munoz and I shared a very special relationship. Every weekday evening at 5 PM, we’d meet at a small bakeshop called Valerio’s on the corner of Azusa and Amar in the city of West Covina, California. You see, at 5 PM, the bakeshop took their final batch of pan de sal out of the ovens, so the bread rolls were still hot, fluffy, fresh, and aromatic whenever I stepped into the shop. In other words, it was the perfect time to purchase a bag of pan de sal. Carlo also arrived in the bakeshop at exactly 5 o’clock on the dot. I have to admit, he was as big a motivator as the bread in what brought me to the bakeshop most evenings of the week— maybe a bigger motivator, if I’m being honest. Clean cut, handsome, and with the perfect balance of office attire and wire-rimmed glasses to suggest an attractive amount of nerdiness, he was a joy to look at. I’d bat my lashes at him in expectation, and I think I half-expected him to reach out to me from the television set in the corner of the bakeshop. Because in the year that followed the 9-11 attacks in The United States amidst much of the largely unquestioned rhetoric of “necessary military response,” the comfort of a bread line and a standing appointment with an actor on a Filipino soap opera became my part of my coping strategy at the age of nineteen at a time of military nationalism and fever-pitch Islamophobia.

This anecdote may not be the self-introductory letter that the readership of The East Jasmine Review expects from the publication’s new Editor-in-Chief. What does the self-care pattern of a college student from fifteen years ago have to do with the transitional leadership of a literary journal today? For one, I think that the state of global politics in the current moment is a loud reverberation of the days following 9-11. So much so that the tears I shed on the night of The United States’ 2016 General Election had the same stinging pain to them as the tears I shed days after the twin towers fell in New York. It was a stinging pain wrapped up in the same questions I asked the universe across the fifteen-year chasm of time: What kind of racial violence will this precipitate, and what forms of violence will this new rise of American Nationalism allow people to get away with? (Note: Here I speak of America because by circumstance of birth, I am an American citizen.)

I have tried, in the 5 months since I’ve assumed the role of this publication’s Editor-in-Chief, to write a letter to the readership— to tell you who I am, to share with you how I plan to implement the magazine’s mission to uplift and center voices largely ignored or silenced by the wider publishing world. I was excited to announce that we— the new editors and I— were here to help center the voices of the marginalized. Women of Color. LGBT Writers. New voices. More voices. And then days after he assumed his new job, Donald Trump implemented a Muslim Ban. Showing up at airports in support of the people unlawfully detained and participating in direct action political organizing became the priority, because for all my talk about centering marginalized voices, how could I help center voices but stand to the side while those same voices are systematically smothered?

Photo Credit The Independent (UK).

Systematic racial violence is, of course, not new and certainly didn’t recently arrive in The United States or onto the global stage in 2016 or 2002. But this letter to you isn’t meant to be a history lesson. I mention the long history of global oppression, though, because I think it’s important that you, the readership know who I am and what concerns me as editor and curator of this magazine. While, thus far, I have indicated to you some the things that motivate and inspire my curatorial eye, perhaps it is time that I, in the grand literary tradition of declaring oneself, tell you who I am.

My name is Cherisse Yanit Nadal, and you can find my bona fides here. I am a writer, political organizer, musician, and sometimes-scholar. I am an anti-imperialist, transnational feminist. I am for ending the world-wide genocide and oppression against all women-identified persons. I am for ending the state-sanctioned violence and genocide against black bodies in The United States and the world. I am against gendered violence. I am against racism. I am against transphobia. I am against homophobia. I am against all forms of systemic, state-sanctioned oppression. I am against the rise of global fascism. And I write to you, readers and writers alike, with the hope that as we move forward as The East Jasmine Review community the writing that we feature here will include an intersectional, transnational, and progressive view of the world and literary landscape.

Also joining me as we move forward are our veteran editors, V.E. Duncan in Poetry, and Stephanie Barbé Hammer in Creative Nonfiction. We welcome new editors, Eric Nguyen and Julianne Carew in Fiction, as well as Rozlind Silva in Poetry. You can find out more about them by clicking on their names on the masthead here. We are also fortunate this year in that a Southern California literary non-profit organization has agreed to be our non-profit fiscal sponsor. Thanks to The San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival, we will now be able to accept donations. Check back with our website in the future for more details.

If you are a writer who is interested in writing for us, we are always accepting rolling submissions, but if you would like your work to be considered for our first issue of the year which will be published in late July 2017, please send in your submission no later than June 20, 2017.

Cherisse Yanit Nadal
Editor-in-Chief
East Jasmine Review

20 Nov

Not Your Everyday Conversation

Erin Michaela Sweeney

The text from my sister flashed on my phone: I need to talk to you. But I’m scared.

I texted back: Will call in 10 mins. It would have to wait until my husband and I put our two-year-old down for the night. Why would she be scared? Puzzled and concerned, I hurried through the rituals ending in hugs and kisses. Maybe Robin had broken up with her partner or regretted her new career track?

Three years before, our dad was diagnosed with cancer, and I’d gone through my leukemia ordeal just a year before. They say bad news comes in threes. Had Robin now received terrible medical news in 2012?

Once we wrapped up the bedtime goodnights, I rushed to the living room and anxiously called my only sibling. Robin picked up on the first ring.

I began with our familiar salutation: “Hello, my sister.” Silence greeted me on the other end. “So,” I eased out, “What’s up?”

The quiet lasted so long, I wondered if the line had gone dead. I glanced at the face of my cell to be sure we were still connected. At that moment, I heard my sister stutter-start. She cleared her throat and said softly but matter-of-factly in my ear: “I’m transgender. Do you know what that means?”

It was my turn to pause. I wanted to observe, feel, and process, as was my meditative nature. With a slow syllable, I answered yes. I knew transgender was the “T” at the end of the acronym LGBT. I sensed the need to focus on “transgender” with which I had no personal experience, especially because I’d lived and worked in southeast Virginia—a cloistered, rather homogenous region—the first ten years of this century. It was going to be a steep learning curve.

To ground myself, I pressed the four corners of my feet onto the laminate flooring beneath my chair. I waited for Robin to fill in the gaping holes of my knowledge. When a close friend came out to me as gay after college back in the 1990s, he said I’d come across as nonchalant, which damaged our relationship. I knew the way I reacted to my sister’s news could make or break our close bond. This was not your everyday conversation.

I had questions—some philosophical, others, practical. What did her partner, Lesley, think of this revelation? Was I the last to know, just like two decades before when she came out as a lesbian? Would the haters in the world try to hurt her because she identified as transgender? How did she define transgender for her own life? Most important, would she be happier as a he?

We talked, or, more precisely, Robin talked and I listened with occasional conversational noises to let her know I was still with her. At first, some of what she told me that cool winter evening seemed cheesy or superficial. “Chaz Bono is on this season’s Dancing with the Stars.” “I’m now buying ties.” Uneasiness swept over me—what did ties and Chaz Bono have to do with anything? But I continued to listen to that oh-so-familiar voice.

Robin explained the importance of these signifiers.

After living the wild ride as the child of celebrities, Chaz upended everyone’s expectations. Chaz was formerly known as Chastity, daughter of Sonny Bono and Cher, and more than a ballroom dance contestant. He broke out of the confines of the female box ticked on his birth certificate. The newsstand magazines covered it all. As the first openly transgender person scrutinized by the mainstream media, Chaz’s activism on behalf of the transgender community reached the entire nation. He symbolized what could be for Robin.

When she saw the documentary about Chaz’s transition—a story of a boy trapped in a girl’s body—she identified with Chaz’s years of longing to be known on the outside how he felt on the inside. “Watching the documentary was the final validation of what I always knew in my heart and struggled to reconcile throughout my adult life.”

This conversation happened about a year after my blood cancer diagnosis. The five rounds of chemotherapy to get me into remission and keep me there—each of which was administered in hospital 24/7 over eight to ten days—still greatly affected me. I had what people call chemo brain, where a patient’s cognitive abilities to focus and concentrate are diminished. At that point in my recovery, for instance, I couldn’t keep track of the plot of a short story. Even with my medical shortcomings, I listened as hard as I could to the words tumbling at me and absorbed the passion in Robin’s voice during our hour-long talk. The thought of losing me, something Robin had never contemplated, started her questioning everything about her own life. Such profound reflections, she told me, helped bring to the surface her deeply held belief she was a he. Change was coming. And I felt privileged to be one of the first people to whom Robin revealed her truth.

Back in early 2012, when we had that conversation, the nation’s attention was not yet focused on the transgender community as it is today. Orange Is the New Black, with trans actress Laverne Cox, wouldn’t premiere on Netflix for another eighteen months, about the same time Neil Patrick Harris performed as Hedwig at the Tony Awards. It wasn’t until June 2015 that a transitioned Bruce Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair with the headline “Call Me Caitlyn.” But there was a backlash. In March of this year, North Carolina passed controversial legislation requiring transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to the gender marked on their birth certificate.

During that pivotal conversation with Robin, my mind wandered back in time. My sister and I shared our childhood in a stable, two-parent home with an academic father and a stay-at-home mother. By the time my blurry toddler pictures appeared in our family’s photo albums, my older sister had her hair in an androgynous bowl cut and wore bell-bottoms. No frilly dresses for her.

Robin developed big breasts by the time she was ten, an awkward addition for any girl to cope with, more so for someone who felt always out of place in her body. I remember going to an amusement park with her, our dad, and a school friend to celebrate my seventh birthday. Robin was twelve years old. On one of the rides, the attendant mistook her for our dad’s wife rather than his daughter. We all laughed at the mistake, but the look of horror on my sister’s rose-tinged face made me worry that my chuckles had hurt her feelings.

In high school, Robin was the only girl to compete in the shot put, which took strength and mettle. She gained so much muscle in her arms and back she split the shoulder seams of her shirts. Though her enhanced physique impressed me, I remember wondering how her friends and others reacted. But what did I know? I was just a self-absorbed junior high school kid wanting to blend into the crowd.

Since her high school days, my sister wore a gender-neutral uniform of oxford-cloth, long-sleeve shirts tucked into khakis or button-fly jeans. By adding ties to the mix in her mid-forties, she was declaring to the world her intention to be viewed as male.

“How did Lesley react to the news?” I asked. The two met in graduate school classes for marriage and family therapy. An insightful woman who had previously been a social worker, Lesley was the best person my sister had ever known in her romantic life. Robin gleefully relayed her partner’s reaction: “Took you long enough to figure that one out.” Lesley recognized Robin’s path before my sister’s inner feelings had harmonized with her outward life.

Over the next weeks and months, I would hear from Robin and read about the transgender movement and community, the jargon used, and some of the medical lingo. Though I missed saying “Hello, my sister,” I continued to feel nervous excitement for what lay ahead.

That evening, after Robin filled my mind with definitions, explanations, and stories, we had come to the close of our conversation. In a teeny voice from far away, Robin asked, “Do you still love me?”

My heart leapt into my throat. I wished then that the conversation had been face-to-face and not on the phone. I needed Robin there to embody all those memories. “You are my one and only sibling, the first person I ever smiled at.” I struggled for the right words and finally found them: “I love you unconditionally.”

Time has passed since that conversation. I’ve celebrated five years cancer-free, Rob and Lesley are still going strong, and our sibling connection is as deeply felt as ever. Most important, Rob is a joyful living soul as a he.

author-photoErin Michaela Sweeney is a writer, mommy, yogini, daughter, editor, sister, and napper extraordinaire who lives in Claremont, California. She connects with readers via her newsletterTwitter, and Facebook.

12 Mar

Memory Beauteous-Audio

The following is an audio track for Memory Beauteous in Volume 3, Issue 3

12 Feb

Psychedelic Codeine Mobius Strip

Tim Hatch

i. 

The People’s Republic of Snot 

has, once again, sent an invasion fleet 

into my head 

and I’m tripping 

balls on a bag of shrooms 

because laughing at the news with God 

is the only sensible way 

to ride out a head cold.  I’m wearing 

thirty-dollar socks and I’m pretty sure 

my feet        have an erection.  

My internal organs 

are compressed 

I have weak thumbs 

and a mouthful of disease 

but it’s only five episodes long.  Netflix and Hell 

are kind of the same thing, 

kind of perfect on a cold day, but I want 

to go outside, run        jump        ride a bike 

eat mystery meat on a stick.  The future was 

supposed to be flying cars and teleportation, 

not bagging our own groceries and televisions 

that tweet.  #bullshit

ii.

I stood in front of a 7-Eleven 

without my penis 

selling a wide variety of pork pie hats 

(as you do).  

My mother crouched nearby 

in the underbrush 

blood stringing off her chin 

eating a sable.  

iii.

Glossy, early-morning 

memories of cheating 

on women.  I wish 

I could blame it on being younger.  

Where on earth is 6am?

iv.

      in my mind in the mirror

                my beard says

   walt whitman       hey man, got any change?

v.

Write to Congress!  Demand they solve

all 32,000 FreeCell games!  

Demand they recognize orange 

as a primary color!  Is there any problem 

            America 

         can’t solve?

vi.

Wish I still had my old Pee Chee 

folders.  The ones with the right 

colors (dried blood on goldenrod).  

vii.

Pulling rainbows out of my under-

wear, a look of mock surprise on my face, routine 

disappointment on my wife’s.  Honey— 

Goddammit.

viii.

Is this really        every week?  

All this        mayhem?  This bombing 

of countries with toys?  To save        face?

15 Dec

Wild Flowers on a Table

AJ Huffman

seem wrong, a specifically heinous sacrilege
against their animalistic nature.
Buds that bloom in the darkest corners,
intrusively force eyes to take notice

of their beauty, should maintain the right of root,
should be granted reprieve from any potential

removal, should never know the meaning
of cut or pluck or pick, should have the right

to request a stone to shatter glass
vases that far too closely resemble prisons.

Bio: A.J. Huffman has published eleven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. her new poetry collections, Another Blood Jet (Eldritch Press), A Few Bullets Short of Home (mgv2>publishing), and Butchery of the Innocent (Scars Publications) are now available from their respective publishers. She has two additional poetry collections forthcoming: Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink) and A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press). She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2300 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. www.kindofahurricanepress.com.

05 Jun

Volume 3, Issue 1 Now available!

cover

© Samantha Johnson, June 2015

Volume 3, Issue 1 is now available online! We are slowly moving back to our regular posting schedule. Volume 3, Issue 2 should be posting in early September. We’ll be working over the next few days/weeks to get Volume 2 posted for download.

Keep your eyes open. We’ve got some big news coming up in the next couple weeks and hope you will celebrate with us! Thank you for your support!