stories i like to share : a smattering

Culture & Human Interest

These are the most impactful humans I know. Their stories have taken years to gather, a process that has broken and then repaired my heart. 

This is what survivors of gun violence and school shootings actually say

In the months before the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I discussed ideas with my writing partner, Amye Archer, for a new anthology. It became clear that gun violence, and those left in its wake, was of particular interest to both of us. For her, Sandy Hook changed everything, as it did for many parents across the country. Her twin daughters were the same age as the children murdered on that day, and she has been advocating for change ever since. And for m

My Husband's Support Made All the Difference During My Postpartum Depression

My husband continued to love and nurture me (albeit in ways I didn't always like) when I suffered from an extreme case of postpartum depression. I realize now how important his support was. My Husband's Support Made All the Difference During My Postpartum Depression The author and her baby at 6 months. The author and her baby at 6 months. The author and her baby at 6 months. My First Dose of Postpartum Depression Treatment

What The Mother Of A School Shooting Victim Taught Me About Parenthood

While planning to have a child of my own, I spent hundreds of hours listening to accounts of parents who had lost theirs to school shootings. The horror of their stories crept inside me. And as I spoke with them about their experiences, my journey towards parenthood naturally intertwined. I often asked myself: What would it feel like to parent a child who later died unexpectedly in a school shooting? A rhetorical question for me, but not for Margaret Herbstritt whose 27-year old son, Jeremy, a

‘I Didn’t Want the Killer to Take Everything From Me.’

Today marks one year since a former student walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and killed fourteen students and three staff members, giving rise to a new generation of activism. The date also marks eleven years since a former graduate student at Northern Illinois University (NIU) walked into a classroom at NIU and killed five students, devastating a community. In the following excerpts from the book, If I Don’t Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath

Virginia Woolf and the Language of Trauma

In reference to the sexual abuse Virginia Woolf endured by her half brothers, she once told her biographer Nigel Nicolson, “Nothing has really happened until it has been described.” This line stuck with me, especially after I’d been struggling with the words to tell the story of my rape. During this struggle, I was studying in Sussex, England (also where Woolf lived and died), working on my graduate thesis exploring trauma narratives. My research revealed a connection between the act of recordi

A Friend in the Dark

Karein emails me photos of her father, Christoph (Chris) K. Goertz. He was the leading theoretical space plasma physicist shot and killed at the University of Iowa on November 1, 1991 by a twenty-eight-year-old former graduate student. These photos are for a book I’m co-editing about school shootings. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to download them because I struggle with seeing the faces of the murdered after working so closely with the families. But I remind myself I’ve already committ

National Translation Month (NTM)

I founded National Translation Month (NTM) in Feb. 2013 with my close friend, Romanian-born poet and translator, Claudia Serea. Our goals for NTM are to promote scholarship in the field of translation; to increase the prevalence of translated works in literary education; and to build appreciation for and visibility of foreign language authors internationally. NTM has been featured in and received accolades from the Academy of American Poets, Words Without Borders, Penguin Random House, Harriman Institute, Columbia University, The Paris Review, and many more.

I’m a Survivor of Sandy Hook. This Is What The Past Six Years Have Been Like.

It’s been six years since 20 first graders and six staff members were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. As the tight-knit community of Newtown, Connecticut, grieved, the nation mourned with them. How would they move forward in the wake of such tragedy? And how would they return from the heartbreak? Over the years, answers to their healing emerged in the form of advocacy, school safety, and community-building. In this excerpt from the forthcoming book, If I Don’t Mak

6 Sandy Hook Survivors On Healing, Faith And Forgiveness, 6 Years Later

Student Geneva Cunningham was in fourth grade at the time of the shooting. Cindy Clement Carlson was in the library at the time of the shooting. So, attend every funeral for every child, but attend to your own child who was with her fourth-grade class that day. Go back to school right away, but don’t go back too soon. Describe forgiveness, but don’t prescribe forgiveness. Put this sticker on your car, but not that one. Support grief this way, but not that way. Greet victims’ families in the gr

Silence is the Language of Rape

I thought speaking about my rape was enough to help other survivors realize they weren’t alone. If I talked about what happened to me, I might be able to show how rape destroys lives and provide entry into its aftermath and healing process. But after spending months researching survivor narratives for an upcoming book, I’m reminded that talking about rape isn’t enough to build understanding of its power—especially if no one is really listening. My own story began in May of 2004, when I was for

Getting Pregnant Might Mean Losing The Plus-Size Body I Love

For the last two years, I haven’t been my body’s biggest champion. I’ve gained 50 pounds. The stress of helping a parent get sober, a house purchase, and a new job got the best of me. But now, at 36, with talks between my husband and I about having a baby, I’m feeling the push of fitness’ hand to get in shape, contemplating the idea that getting pregnant might require losing weight. “I want you around another five years,” my husband said over his takeout. “I want you around, too,” I said, flat

The City Is Plastic (Published 2016)

The city is plastic. I eat my salad slowly, pick out the cheese and croutons with my fork. A utensil now, later it will be a piece of cracked litter in the back of a Dumpster. All the plastic on the table — the cups, straws, spoons, lid, tray, table top — it’s all trash. And the cucumbers I like best. I imagine growing them in my own garden. No plastic there, just seeds in the ground, a path of gravel around the bends and twists. The spoons remind me of cucumbers, long and heavy with the weight

How I Found the Right Therapist for Me

I don't remember when my depression started or when it became a recognizable face year after year, day after day, minute after minute. What I began to discover was that this malady, this place of depression, was breaking me apart one piece at a time, starting with my voice, and I realized that I couldn't get through this illness alone. And then one morning, I'd just about had enough. I couldn't bring myself to get out of the bed. I called my doctor — tears filled my eyes, streamed down my cheek

I Thought I Got My Period From Eating a Cherry Snow Cone

I showed my sister the small red drop on my underwear. "What do you think that is?" I remember asking. "Probably something you ate," she replied. I was in fourth grade and my sister's response seemed plausible. I mean it could've been all the candy bars, the gum, or the red dye from a snow cone. I slipped my underwear back on and carried on with day, which included bike riding and spitting into the creek behind my house. However, later that night I got cramps and the pain shot into the pit of m

Writing That Imagines What It's Like to Be: A Review of Kola Boof's Selected Works

If you lean your ear against the page, you'll hear the story of a young Naima bint Harith (Boof's birth name) and the genocide and oppression she's witnessed in her birthplace of the Sudan. The heartbroken and heartbreaking poems in the Selected Writings, taken from her collection Nile River Woman, show a terrible beauty encompassing human triumph and degradation. And that terrible beauty extends to Kola's personal life. (She is a Bint Il Nil, a daughter of the Nile, born on the shores of that f

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