Introduction to “Temporary and Ongoing”
By Angie Cruz, Guest Fiction Editor
The stories I selected for this issue are all told from the point of view of someone who has been displaced, silenced, or made to feel invisible. They are all also characters who, despite the challenges and circumstances they face, resist, fight, and dream. In “When They Came for Us,” Ahmed tells the story of Aafreen, who finds her world turned upside down in Assam and ends up in a detention center where the “nights weave into each other.” In Ferreras’s story, “You Must Be This Tall,” hot dogs mysteriously appear outside one’s door and fresh fish are being gutted to satiate the missing of home—Dominican Republic. In “Paradise Garden,” Mar’s character Tala is on the hunt for a cheap place to live and finds one among fortune-tellers and women who answer the door when the other knocks. In the story “By the River Cibuco” (featured on KROnline), Di Iorio tells the story of Tani, who must decide if she should heed her mother’s warning about the storm or run off with her lover. In Natera’s “Curandera,” we are swept into a world where community healers are preferred over hospitals and doctors. And in “Help Me Help You,” Poddar’s story takes us to Mumbai’s call centers, where customers call in to modify their flight reservations, reminding us that on the other end of those calls, those who “serve” us are working hard to keep their jobs and also have their own aspirations.
When I selected these stories, it was pre-corona. I selected them because they offered a way of seeing or being in the world that I had never quite read before. I was taken by the voices of the characters, the intimate look into worlds of characters who, before reading the stories, were lumped into an inconceivable number in some news article: numbers like 1.9 million people becoming stateless in Assam, India, and an estimated 2,975 people dying in Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria. Great storytellers remind us that each number is a person.
While in cuarentena, I’ve become obsessed by the numbers cited in the news. As of late May there have been over two hundred thousand confirmed COVID-19 cases in NYC, and over sixteen thousand people have died. One of those numbers is my sister-in-law’s father, who died alone in the hospital a few days ago. He was sixty-four years old. She had meant to visit him right before the cuarantena. Because she is a nurse, she couldn’t even take time off from work to grieve.
I try not to despair about this moment even when I get overwhelmed by it. I keep thinking about what a friend said to me: “This is the way life has always been. What hundred-year period or time has there been where there hasn’t been some kind of plague or pandemic? It just hasn’t reached us in the way it has now. This moment is both temporary and it’s ongoing.”
When I reread the stories featured in this issue, I find solace in them. They serve as evidence or reminders that as a collective, as members of the global community, everything we are feeling and experiencing now is both temporary and ongoing. Every day, around the world people experience, and have experienced, displacement, uncertainty, a lack of agency or control of their future, economic devastation, and more. Simultaneously, like many of these characters in these stories, we hope, we dream, that at the other side of whatever challenges we face now, as a community, we may not just survive but thrive.
Angie Cruz is a novelist and editor. Her novel Dominicana is the inaugural book pick for GMA Book Club and chosen as the 2019–20 Word Up Uptown Reads. It was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction, the Aspen Words Literary Prize, a RUSA Notable Book, and winner of the ALA/YALSA Alex Award in Fiction. The New York Times Book Review called it “lovely and compelling.” NBC News said, “Dominicana is a triumphant return for Cruz. . . . The journey of Ana Canción is one of the most evocative and empowering immigrant stories of our time.” It was named Most Anticipated/Best Book in 2019 by Time, Newsweek, People, Oprah Magazine, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Esquire. Cruz is the author of two other novels, Soledad and Let It Rain Coffee, and the recipient of numerous fellowships and residencies, including the Lighthouse Fellowship, Siena Art Institute, and the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute Fellowship. She has published shorter works in the Paris Review, VQR, Callaloo, Gulf Coast, and other journals. She is the founder and editor in chief of the award-winning literary journal Aster(ix). She is an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh where she teaches in the MFA program and splits her time between Pittsburgh, New York, and Turin.
On the Cover
Untitled, 1971. Ink, marker pens, ballpoint pen, crayon, gouache, watercolor, and collage on paper, 22 3/4 x 14 in. The Art Institute of Chicago; gift of the Saul Steinberg Foundation. Original drawing for the cover of the New Yorker, July 31, 1971.
© The Saul Steinberg Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Famed worldwide for giving graphic definition to the postwar age, Saul Steinberg had one of the most remarkable careers in American art. While renowned for the covers and drawings that appeared in New Yorker for nearly six decades, he was equally acclaimed for the drawings, paintings, prints, collages, and sculptures he exhibited internationally in galleries and museums.
Steinberg crafted a rich and ever-evolving idiom that found full expression through these parallel yet integrated careers. Such many-leveled art, however, resists conventional critical categories. “I don’t quite belong to the art, cartoon or magazine world, so the art world doesn’t quite know where to place me,” he said. He was a modernist without portfolio, constantly crossing boundaries into uncharted visual territory. In subject matter and styles, he made no distinction between high and low art, which he freely conflated in an oeuvre that is stylistically diverse yet consistent in depth and visual imagination.