September 23, 2022 by The Citron Review
Again and again reading submissions for The Citron Review proves to me how vital writing and witnessing can be. During this long season of disturbance where our health and sense of peace has been tested, I feel that much more grateful for the words these writers have gifted us with. They remind me why when so much else is pressing on us, we are yet compelled to the page.
The stories in this issue are an affirmation we can find room to see and hold space for one another; both who we are now and who we were when it wasn’t safe to reveal fear, anger, our wish for something different or that which we needed most.
Our creative nonfiction selections for Fall 2022 teem with energy and voice. These bracing stories flicker and gleam; they culminate in both revelation and resignation and insist on being heard.
In “Little Devil” Naihobe Gonzalez tries to make sense of her lifelong feeling of displacement as an immigrant so she can once and for all decide where she belongs. When she searches for clarity about her identity via a taste test of a childhood mainstay, she is discouraged: “I thought there must be a difference I could detect, even if slight, a lot like how I can seem either American or Venezuelan depending on the context, but if you know how to look closely you can tell I am neither—and yet both. A magic trick.”
Knowing without a doubt who you are but living in fear of revealing that to loved ones is the catalyst for the letters Arin Calaway writes to his wrestling idol in “Dear Shannon Moore.” In his confessions to the hero who has inspired him Arin comes to understand he must once and for all shed the person people think he is. “I see the man I want to be someday; fearless and self-assured. That isn’t to say I want to be you. You are your own man, as am I. The man I am has simply lived in fear since revealing himself and will continue until I make my eventual escape.” When there’s nothing left to lose, breaking totally and completely free might be the only way to fully become who you know you are meant to be.
Escape isn’t always possible or necessary. In his otherworldly lyric essay “P is for Paradise Garden”, William Kelley Woolfitt writes of Howard Finster who makes the best of the wreckage around him. He toils to transform damage wrought by people into something mythic: “This spoiled land is all that he can afford: four swampy acres choked with garbage that his neighbors have been throwing out for years. The muck and silt slurp his boots from his feet; the sunken concrete slabs keep the sour water from soaking into earth, trap it in brackish pools.”
But when you’re being ripped away from your home because of who you are like the boys and girls of the Blue Ridge mountains Woolfitt writes of in “Bad Blood”, you might do anything to try and stay. These youth know they must avoid at all costs being rounded up and committed to the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. “We were running from the welfare agents and the school supervisors, the district nurses and the sheriff’s deputies who swept through the mountains, looking for us. In the police cars, we were towheaded boys frozen with fear, we were spitfire girls thrashing about like trapped animals.”
A moment of reckoning also propels Camille Adams’ “In Before Carnival Cancel and The Borders Close”. With immediacy she unfurls a tale of three fiercely protective sisters who discover their father betraying their ill mother with Smiley, a woman they despise but who is intent on having him. “And, yet, he in their rented bed, drained of that on which Smiley fed, bruised, stooped, rising in the visage of the long-ago dead, head bowed before his revolted daughters he’d uncaringly fled, was not the bones Smiley came to collect. Not him. Not the trophy hollowed-out skull in which Smiley would build her nest.”
Expletives and passion riddle “Porca Miseria with Knife”, Maura Alia Badji’s visceral ode to her Papa who “wove anger into sound, a vessel meant to deliver wound or prod”. With economy she renders a portrait of the man who has left an indelible impression on her, “He squints, snips apart small plastic bags of peanuts, sickle-shape knife gripped by battered thumb. When he cuts, the half-moon blade winks in the sun. La faccia bedda…Beautiful face, he calls me.”
“It Explodes” is Christy Tending’s enigmatic invitation to a shadow life of activism, instructions for surviving off grid. She understands that she must complete her assignments but also manage to stay wondrous. “We spend all day breaking the law. At night, we build fires, watch things burn, so tired of being serious little outlaws.”
In “Benediction,” Nancy Huggett writes of a bruise still tender so many years later. Both she and her younger brother survived their childhoods but, in an interlude after a family loss, regret punctuates their interactions, as does their shared pain. “His mind wrapped the adoption around his self like a cloak to sustain and define him. And in the end, protect him. Which I had failed to do. Tied by everything but blood, and that is more than enough.”
It is a privilege to be able to present this collection of creative nonfiction and for me a reminder that writing is an affirmation. When we create, we announce that yes, we are still here—changed maybe irrevocably—but here. Stories are how we can show we survived; that we made it.
Best wishes to you and yours as Fall gathers around us. I hope you enjoy this issue of The Citron Review as much as we enjoyed assembling it.
Creative Nonfiction Editor
The Citron Review