Vannessa Haydee Weber is a Southern California native recently moved to Orlando, Florida. She is the daughter of a Nicaraguan father and Guatemalan mother, the older sister of two siblings, the wife of a Marine Corps veteran, the mother of several fur-babies, and the first person in her family to attend college. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism from Point Loma Nazarene University in 2010, a Master of Business Administration from Ashford University in 2013, and, most recently, a Master of Science in Research Psychology and Data Analysis from Azusa Pacific University in 2019. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Organizational Development & Leadership from the University of Arizona. Vannessa has spent the majority of her career in higher education and made the transition into the media tech industry in 2022. In 2023, Vannessa founded Veracity Research Solutions, a family-operated company that helps organizations maximize their investment and impact by determining whether their programs and initiatives are successful via data-backed evidence. In her spare time, Vannessa enjoys spending time with family, reading, crocheting, working out, and, of course, writing.
Life in the Shadows
Hours and hours out in the scorching sun,
Sons and daughters wait desperately at home.
Cold, hard bread and clean water are quite a luxury,
Hot coffee diluted but delicious, nonetheless.
Tiny feet running about,
As black as night due to a lifetime surrounded by dirt.
A newborn smiles, not knowing the cruel facts of life,
Too many are dying from hunger and thirst.
Undying hope, never-ending perseverance,
Perhaps brighter days are soon to come.
Holding on to a promise of eternal joy,
Knowing that one day an infinite blessing will arrive.
Amazing valor and everlasting strength,
Holding on to life day after day and night after night.
Working toward progress while hoping for a miracle,
Living life in the shadows as only they know how.
Rosanna Alvarez is a braided storyteller, educator, artist, mother to three guerreras, and a trucker's wife based out of Hollister, California. She is the author of Braided [Un]Be-Longing, a poetry collection that weaves together the most unanticipated spaces of poetic legacy found in the everyday and in everybody. She is the Co-Founder and Editorial Director of Eastside Magazine, an alum of the Macondo Writers Workshop, a fellow with the Anaphora Arts Emerging Critics Program, and recent recipient of the Distinguished Preservation Service Award for her work in writing, publishing, teaching, and performing. She grew up in San José, California as the first-born of nine siblings in a loud and loving Mexican family, siempre rezongando. She remains in awe of the power of Chicana storytelling, with heart in hand, ink to the page, always hollering truths. She also teaches Chicana and Chicano Studies at San José State University.
She reached over and rubbed her white moonstone ring with her left index finger as if to say, “There, there.” Soothing. With her eyes closed, the smooth length of the ring could almost be mistaken for a piano key. It even had a tempo to it that she wouldn’t dare defy.
Everyone always commented on how beautiful it was. If you looked at it from just the right angle, you could see there was an iridescence to it. That always reminded Evelia of the different angles in life. Twists and turns that could shift your perspective ever so subtly. This wasn’t a dynamic she took for granted.
Long and oval like her mother’s kitchen table from her childhood. No fixed edges. You could always make more room. How many had gathered around that table throughout the years? Odd, she hardly
remembers meals at the table. The vivid recollections all center around laughter, jokes, a combination of people sitting and standing. Gathered. Recollecting joy. Moments of exuberant “Happy Birthdays!” and “Yo quiero la flor.” Her mother would sometimes take a knife to the table, waging war against the crumbs that had made home in all of its crevices, hoarding mementos from moments long gone. It was the only way to shake them out.
Still rubbing her ring, she opened her eyes and remembered. The sacred lands of Chimayo were not too far from Las Cruces.
Katherine Tolentino is a writer and filmmaker from Sunnyvale, CA. Her films have screened and won awards at festivals across the US, with her film Ahora que te has ido winning the Best Latino Short Film award at the Central American International Film Festival 2019. She is currently working on a collection of prose poems called SPLIT about her experience of growing up Salvadoran American.
William Gregory received his Master of Arts degree in fiction from Columbia College Chicago. He has a long history in Theater. His musical Welcome to the Shanghai-la was performed at Southwestern College and Electric Butterfly was performed at U.C.S.D. He was a Cabaret/jazz singer for many years. His music/theater writing can be found in In Pittsburgh, C.R.C.(Chicago Rock Coalition) and Midwest Ursine.. His short stories can be found in Hairtrigger. He is thankful for the Goodman theater program Genarrations. His short play La Medici of Beverly Hills premieres at Perceptions Theater in Chicago August
17-20, 2023. He is currently working on his first book of short stories. His newest play will be based on the Posthumous diaries of Pedro Cojulun, a Mayan, gay playwright who fought for indigenous rights amidst the Central American Banana wars. A magical realist journey into the Mayan world.
Clowns and Eddie Gourmet
Going to the Pic n Save was the highlight of the week.
“Vamos a la Pic and Save!” Our Mother would yell. And my sister and I would run to the Dodge, trying to hold our breaths just to freeze the moment, just in case our Mother changed her mind. She always did that you know?”Oh mejor vamos a la middle Eastern store or the Bible book store instead.” We held our breath until we got to Pic n Save.
We sat in the car with bated breath thinking about expensive things from J.C. Penney’s and Sears like French cookies with weird spelling and stinky perfumes or cheap candies I could sell at school. The Pic n Save was a store in California that sold inexpensive mark down items, long before there was such a thing as a dollar store. We were po not poor. Even the word could not afford the extra o r.
At Pic n Save the fun was in the hunt. My little sister and I would spend hours looking through mostly junk and scream out loud when we found something special, alerting our Mother on the other side of the store.
There it was. My black and white Pierrot, sitting on a porcelain ball, shiny with newness, looking alone and rejected. I had to have it, whatever it was. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. When I got to the cash register I pulled out my sandwich baggie full of quarters, nickels, dimes, pennies and a couple random bills and began counting. This was going to take all of the money I had made that week from selling my little baggies of popcorn with chile, saladitos and Chico-stix at school. I was so excited I didn’t care about the people in line hemming and hawing at how long this was going to take.
When I got home I unwrapped my beautiful, glossy clown and looked him up in our World Book Encyclopedia. I learned that a Pierrot was from something called Commedia del arte. Pierrot’s girlfriend Pierrete had left him for Harlequin and Pierrot would be sad for all eternity. I had found a soulmate.
Maybe the ennui started on those nights when my Mother came home from work, her face dripping like a sweaty clown, mascara dripping with sadness.
With no words, she’d strip to her underwear and bra, reaching for the telephone, back when extension chords wrapped around the house and lock herself in her bedroom for hours. I heard her mumbling and sobbing behind the door; the strains of Javier Solis playing in the background.
Maybe it was the sighs she let out everytime the radio played Los Panchos or Jorge Negrete. Maybe it was the jewelry she threw into the Ocean each time a boyfriend left her, telling us that it was the only true way to forget a man.
Maybe it was the way she wrapped her polio-stricken leg in bandages so that her foot would fit in a shoe and maybe, just maybe no one would notice her deformities.
Whatever it was, it called to me. Each time I watched the vinyl spin on my record player, I became transfixed with the songs and words, making the unachievable seem believable.
Over the years my Pierrot collection became quite large. At night I’d stare at them and wonder what a clown could ever do to deserve such pain, like my Mother.
Then I met a boy, his name was Noel. He was the moon and stars in my eyes.
I had no idea what that meant. I’d just heard it in a song somewhere.
Noel liked me, but not like that.
It crushed me. And one night my Mother walked in on me crying in my pillow. An Eddie Gourmet record sang to me on the turntable.
“Ay Billy, you are like me. We are cursed with these hearts. We feel too much.”
As my Mother walked out the door, she swiped one of my Pierrot’s off of the shelf. And as I bent down to pick it up I noticed the dust that had collected on my collection of broken hearts.
I don’t know whatever happened to the clowns. There ought to be clowns.
Enrique Buelna is an experienced History Instructor with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. His research interests include working-class history, civil rights, social movements, immigration, race, class, and oral history. Chicano Communists and the Struggle for Social Justice is currently available from UA Press. He is also working on a screenplay and avidly creates multi-media paintings and sculptures.
Enrique currently teaches in the History department at Cabrillo College. He is skilled in Nonprofit Organizations, E-Learning, Editing, Curriculum Development, and Adult Education. He earned a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) focused in History from University of California, Irvine.
Guadalupe (Lupe) Friaz was raised in Tonyville, an unincorporated area of Lindsay, California to Mexican immigrant parents. They made a living as farmworkers. She and her four siblings worked alongside them on weekends and in the summers. She received a BA from UCSC and a PhD from UC Berkeley. She taught at the University of Washington and a few other places before returning to her first passion as a teacher and healer of children and families. She was a finalist in the Bellingham Reviews, 2021 Conger-Beasley Prize.
"The tortillas fluffed up with the heat from the griddle; as they browned they’d release a floury aroma that was irresistible. One could imagine butter melting into the tortilla, a sprinkling of salt, rolling it up, and eating it in a few big bites. I was to fill up the tortilla basket so I knew to be on the alert and if my brothers weren’t fast enough it would cost them a whack from the rolling pin. They were willing to risk it."
Shizue Seigel is a third-generation Japanese American writer, visual artist and community organizer Based in San Francisco. She explores intersections of history, culture and spirituality through prose, poetry and visual art. Find out more about Shizue at www.shizueseigel.com.
Prior to World War II, her grandparents leased a 140-acre produce ranch near Pismo Beach, and owned properties in San Luis Obispo’s Japantown. She was born in 1946, soon after her family’s release from WWII incarceration. She grew up in segregated Baltimore, Occupied Japan, California sharecropping camps and skid-row Stockton. She’s a college dropout who learned by doing—from the Haight-Ashbury to Indian ashrams, from the corporate advertising to HIV prevention in public housing.
She is the founder/director of Write Now! SF Bay. www.WriteNowSF.com., and has published eight books. Her latest project, Hidden Histories of the Central Coast, connects the Japanese American experience with of Latinx and Asian agricultural immigrants.
Baachan. Grandma. Of you I know facts
not the feelings you did not speak
The year before you died, you dreamed you stood at Nirvana’s gates,
but they sent you back because you hadn’t suffered enough.
Gaman. Endure. Persevere beyond hope.
Kichinto shinasai. Do it just the right way.
Your eyes were like jet—brightly opaque.
They saw all without a hint of weakness.
You left Japan in 1913, when a man from the next village
called you to California. Courted you with photos of horse and plow, promised you muttonleg
sleeves and a feather-plumed hat
So you packed your kimono/steamed over the long ocean to the big land.
You placed your faith in this man, this life, this land and it was good—
though children died and crops failed.
You prayed to the Buddha in the dining room
and Kamisamain the kitchen.
When plows turned up arrowheads
you asked a Shinto priest to come 200 miles
to honor the spirits of the past.
Isshoni, Issho ken mei, together
You and your husband worked with all your might.
on 140 leased acres at the Pacific edge.
You grew peas, lettuce, and cantaloupe that thrived in the moist sea air,
worked around alien land laws, shipped your produce to L.A.,
dressed your kids in sailor suits and fancy dresses,
bought property in the Japantown
for a nihonjinbarbershop, fish market, pool hall, and gas station.
Where did your faith go in 1934
when your husband drove into a telephone pole?
A silly little accident—until his stomach filled up with blood.
The hospital would not x-ray. Pneumonia, they said.
No double indemnity for accidental death.
You said he might not have died if he’d been white.
You said it only once—out loud. For months you walked the cliff’s edge looking over the
churning sea toward home.
Gaman and ganbatte. Suck it up. Never give up.
A widow with four children,
you hired a foreman to help manage the farm.
Tried to collect rents in Japantown, but all through the Depression,
tenants wept in their doorways,
“Maybe next month… business is so slow.”
Onegai shimasu, forever in your debt.”
Then a white man bought half the farm out from under you,
plotting to turn a profit by doubling the lease.
But you told him “No!” Moved off his land and up the hill.
Built another house. Put your faith in your community.
“Let’s all tell him no!” For a full year, no nihonjin leased your place,
until the landlord knuckled under
and let you come back at the old price.
That kind of Jap conspiracy does not go unpunished.
In 1942, Pearl Harbor blew up your world
Cast you into the searing desert, east of the Colorado River
Imprisoned with 18,000 others in three square miles of sand
trapped amid tar-paper shimmering
like a mirage that would not dissolve.
Tucked inside your shoe was all that remained of your previous life.
A clipping: “Jap house burns to ground.”
And cash from the realtor who bought your Japantown.
“You’ll never be able to keep up the taxes.
Let me do you a favor and take it off your hands:
your $50,000 property for two thousand cash.”
When they let you out in 1945, friends warned.
“Don’t go come back here.They’re shooting out our windows at night.
They won’t sell us gas or fertilizer.”
So you came north to start again—at 57
sharecropping strawberries on your knees—
in another tar-paper compound.
culling rotten berries for a few good ones to eat.
mentally plotting precise ways to live without waste.
Kichinto shinasai! Do it right.
How much suffering is enough to get to Nirvana?