Now I’m a Snowflake

July 6, 2016

Today I’m happy to share a link to the site Snowflakes in a Blizzard where journalist and author Darrell Laurant surprised me by choosing to feature my 2007 short story collection, California Transit. His site is dedicated to bringing renewed attention to books that came out some years ago and can be lost from view in the blizzard of millions upon millions of published pages.

Darrell is the author of a novel, The Kudzu Kid, and another work I’ve just finished reading: Inspiration Street, a nonfiction work of local (Lynchburg, Virginia) history. We’ve never met but since he contacted me I’ve gotten to know him a bit via email and through Inspiration Street.

Till now, I thought Lynchburg was notable only as the home of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. Unlike me, Darrell has (in his capacity as a journalist) actually met Falwell, and he told me that while he disagreed with much of what the man had to say, he also recognized what was good in him. From that and other email exchanges, what comes through to me is that Darrell is the kind of person who believes in mutual support and cooperation rather than competition or antagonism. So I can see why the history of two blocks – the 1300 and 1400 blocks of Pierce Street – appealed to him. The African American residents of those city streets didn’t accept messages that said people like you don’t, people like you can’t. Without much fuss, they just went ahead and they did and they could. Anne Spencer and her son Chauncey, Dr. Walter Johnson, and Clarence W. Seay (to name just four) may not be widely known in the US, but the impact of their lives, work and influence resonated far beyond Lynchburg. The people living on two short blocks in an often overlooked city brought change that affected us all.

Maybe that’s something for writers – for everyone – to remember: fame is not, after all, the measure of our lives.

PS: This is the cover image I wanted to use!



Betting on Peace

June 10, 2016

After billions spent on destruction through Plan Colombia, will the US now support Peace Colombia? And will Colombians take the wager on peace? My article today

Where Will My Hope Come From? – Chheng’s Story

December 22, 2015

The images of Syrian refugees in the news made Chheng break her silence and remember what she prefers not to think about: surviving the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the atrocity carried out against refugees by the Thai Army, and the challenges of resettlement in the US. I am grateful to her for speaking and being willing to share this. I learned from her and was inspired. Read her story here.

chheng 2

From Russia, with self and alter ego

December 16, 2015

Sonya found that taking on a male alter ego let her write freely. Leaving Russia for the US lets her live freely. Her story, the latest at Second Chances LA.

Sonya image

Interview at Awst Press – Beautiful ideas cross borders

December 11, 2015

Liz Blood was in the process of leaving Austin, TX for Tulsa, OK but still caught up with me and edited our interview for Awst Press. If you check it out, I also highly recommend the essay by Donald Quist.

and for something lighter and happier, the latest cat photo.

Millie and plant

Escape into a novel

December 5, 2015

With so much heartbreaking and terrible news around the country and the world, I was happy to escape into Damnificados, JJ Amaworo Wilson’s new novel.


Read the review here.

Her parents escaped North Korea; she grew up with her father’s PTSD

December 4, 2015
Korean Dance of Peace

Korean Dance of Peace

In addition to collecting survivor stories, I’m very interested in the 1.5 generation – that is, immigrants who were born overseas but came to the US at a young age. Maryann’s story is so illuminating about what is passed down through generations, what it’s like to grow up with secrets, traumatized parents, and cultural confusion. And to me, it’s such an important reminder of how much care and concern can mean to a child, even when we don’t understand.

Maryann is the latest eloquent storyteller at the Second Chances LA website. You can read her words here.

She can’t go back.

October 23, 2015

Nancy said, “I have to forget about Uganda. There are some sweet memories but that’s a place I can never go back to. What happened was they arrested a few people at an illegal meeting and somebody during interrogation named me….”

She impresses me so much with her intelligence and ambition and grace.

Her story also illustrates how the ordinary assumptions Americans make so easily can confound a person seeking asylum. I just posted her story here.


Transgender in Africa, Rebirth in LA

October 16, 2015

Coming to Los Angeles saved his life.

And for anyone who doesn’t quite understand what it’s like to be transgender, his story is a must.

I just posted it at the SecondChancesLA website where you can read it in his original French along with my English translation here.


He survived war and torture; she married him — and his trauma.

October 13, 2015

Here’s Miguel’s story of survival from the civil war in El Salvador. I always think it’s important to consider how trauma affects others in a family as well so I am grateful that Sandra was willing to talk with me about their marriage, and here is her story, too. Click here, please, to read.