Each of these pieces stood out to us because of the ways that they each explore the self—specifically, the ability to trust oneself, to know oneself both internally and in contrast to the external around us. There’s difficulty in negotiating that trust, and in their prose we get a glimpse of that messy process. Each piece embodies this navigation of trust and truth in a different form:
In Tennessee Jones’ “Dear Oskar,” it comes in the epistolary form; in Grace Hwang Lynch’s “A Seat at the Table,” it’s a revisiting of a middle school social structure amidst the backdrop of recent integration; in Ann Petroliunas’ “Prayer Cards and Wilted White Carnations,” it’s a dream-like amalgamation of the funerals and objects surrounding the death of loved ones; and in Karl Chwe’s “The Night We Got Charlie,” it’s through the fixation on the dog as a tool to explore the knowable and unknowable of the father and a family history. These notions are embodied in a James Baldwin quote that arrives in Jones’ “Dear Oskar”:
“The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reality, for that touchstone can only be oneself.”
How does one begin to trust one’s self in a world that challenges that trust? Perhaps, as Jones suggests with this quote, it must come in a circling-back to a moment, a history. These pieces are the circling-back.