If I have to narrow down my editorial preferences, there are two things that make an artwork especially attractive: story and process. As I’ve written in my editor’s note for Issue 28, you can perceive an art piece’s story in a single glance. Sometimes, the story changes or grows the longer you look at it. Oftentimes, the story you see is different from what someone else sees.
I chose the artworks for Issue 28 in hopes that readers will have a fun time exploring the stories each piece tells, and maybe even learn something new from the message each piece conveys. Take our cover artist, Jeff Rivers, for example. The subjects of his art have featureless faces, yet their clothing contains meaningful patterns and the positioning of their bodies exude emotions. Even without knowing Rivers’s inspiration for this collection – Tony Morrison’s Beloved – you can feel the poignant account of Southern life in each piece. Or take Kateryna Bortsova’s acrylic paintings, spread across maps of Spain, Germany, and Jordan. Might the powerful expressions of the male subjects reflect each location’s history? Or a facet of each location’s personality?
Having been acquainted with artists my entire life, and having created art myself, I know the direction of an artwork is formed not just in the first idea but also during the process of creating. When artists pick up their tools, touch their canvas, and play with their composition, they discover new relationships between colors, shapes, textures and other art elements. What gets shared with the world is this personal and oftentimes vulnerable process. I feel this in pieces like Teresa Sites’s colorful collages. There is time-consuming sincerity in the arrangement of each cut of paper, a sincerity that better communicates her theme of movement and music.
My time as an art editor was very fun personally, but I always thought about how readers of Superstition Review might experience the art I select. Whether it is a new story or the process of creating art, or just a relaxing moment, I hope our audience will experience something worthwhile in the work of the artists I have shared with them.
In this semester of acting as SR’s poetry editor, I have learned three very important things about working in an editorial role. It’s okay to trust your gut, it’s okay to ask for a second opinion, and having conversations about what you do and don’t like about writing is the best way to discover your own biases around art and poetry in particular. I think it’s very important to be knowledgeable of your biases before reading pieces critically, and will help to generate the most diverse group of submissions for publication. Getting into the editing was the hardest part for me, especially at the very beginning. There are times when insecurity wants to take over and you worry you can’t tell the difference between a great poem and a simply okay poem. But that insecurity really leaves quickly once you’re actually in the thick of it, and get to rise to the occasion by showcasing some excellent submissions for our readers. That has definitely been my favorite part of the editing process, finding the ones that really stand out.
To me, poetry is an excellent window into other people, and is a great demonstration of what the humanities can be. Through poetry, we learn to demonstrate a lot of complex thoughts and feelings, and how we interpret them is indicative of our own perspectives and experiences we bring to the table. The coolest part to me, is how much variation poetry can utilize, and the fact that each poem is fully dependent on the voice of its author. I feel like poetry is one of the most intimate forms of expression, and one of the most creative and expansive outlets that humans have.
For Issue 28, I started by reading each submission and giving my instinctual vote on it, usually in the form of a Yes, No, or Maybe. I am a little more forgiving in this step of the process. Once I’ve selected my Yes’s and Maybe’s, I then re-read them more critically, analyzing the content, composition, and craft to try and narrow down the best top ten submissions for the magazine. The act of collaborating with the Poetry team on the final selections is the most exciting part of the whole semester, outside of the actual publication itself! The role of Poetry Editor has taught me so much about curating selections for readers and how to trust your own opinion in the way that your peers and readers trust you to show them great pieces of work.
Join Superstition Review in reading our favorite books. Below is a list of recommendations from Superstition Review’s trainees and interns.
I recommend On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. Written in letter format, Vuong’s story of his life as an immigrant is told with vulnerability and grace. He remembers his childhood in the US along with the stories that his mother and grandmother told him from their lives in Vietnam. Throughout the novel, Vuong realizes truths about himself and his family. I was immersed by the lyrical style and was impressed by how Vuong’s imagery stood out- this truly is a unique novel.
Madeline Lewis, Content Coordinator
I’d like to recommend Jay Heinrichs’ Thank You for Arguing because I have found it to be a very useful guide in learning the art of persuasion and the power of compromise through agreement. It’s a fun read with the author’s humor and difficult concepts are simplified for the average reader. I would highly encourage people to give it a read since it’s an entertaining and informative book.
Kayla Morales, Advertising Coordinator
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah. This book is an autobiography about Noah’s childhood in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. Being mixed-race, Noah was literally a crime, and couldn’t be seen in public with neither of his parents. It’s a hilarious and mind-opening story about race, identity, and family.
Khanh Nguyen, Trainee
My book recommendation is Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo. It is a memoir and it is absolutely heart wrenching, captivating, and beautiful. Although it is a memoir, its form becomes poetry and then prose and then narrative and it is so intelligent! It is also great to learn about immigration issues in the United States and it is so relatable for Latinx immigrants in the United States. I found a home in this book.
Carolina Quintero, Poetry Editor
Welcome to Night Vale by Joesph Fink and Jefferey Cranor. I chose this book because I absolutely love the podcast that led to this book. The characters are compelling, as is the world that the two authors have created. But, most of all, I love the writing style of the Welcome to Night Vale series. The unorthodox descriptions and the ways that the authors play with tropes are so interesting to me, and I love to read interesting stories about interesting people.
Charlie Saifi, Social Media Manager
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Middlesex explores gender identity and the problem space of societal norms and expectations of gender roles. The novel follows a Greek family, particularly an intersex individual named Cal, as they hide, ignore, understand and accept that their gender identities don’t match those shown in and perpetuated by popular culture. A beautifully-written, page-turning story, it’s no surprise it won a Pulitzer Prize. I love this book because it challenges gender stereotypes and investigates the complexities of defining people.
Sara Walker, Trainee
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker. This book is about a small college town that is plagued by a sleeping sickness. The difficulties faced by Walker’s characters mirror some of the current challenges we are all facing during the global pandemic. Reading this novel inspired me to consider how important it is to take care of one’s community in trying and uncertain times. Compassion and empathy can get us through any hardship.
This interview was conducted via email by Summer Blog Editor Kelsey Kerley. It regards Davon Loeb’s memoir, The In-Betweens (published in 2018) as well as his process and experiences as a writer and educator.
Davon Loeb is the author of the lyrical memoir The In-Betweens (Everytime Press, 2018). He earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers-Camden, and he is an assistant poetry editor at Bending Genres and a guest prose editor at Apiary Magazine. Davon writes creative nonfiction and poetry. His work has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and one Best of the Net, and is forthcoming and featured in Ploughshares Blog, PANK Magazine, Pithead Chapel, Mauldin House, JMWW, Barren Magazine, Split Lip Magazine, Tahoma Literary Review, and elsewhere. Besides writing, Davon is a high school English teacher, husband, and father living in New Jersey. Currently, he is writing a YA novel. His work can be found here: davonloeb.com and on Twitter @LoebDavon.
The In-Betweens is a coming of age journey about a biracial boy who is trying to navigate the nuances, struggles, and joys of growing up in two different cultures, a Black family and a white-Jewish family, while living in non-diverse communities. This memoir, written as poetic flash and lyrical nonfiction, explores how racial and cultural identity is shaped through family, friends, and community, as well as how each of these factors are deeply complex and tumultuous, especially in the very divided America we have today. And as noted by Paul Lisicky, author of The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship and Later, “…The In-Betweens is awake to the awe of being in a boy, and the beauty and danger of negotiating a culture that wants to drive space between us, inside us.”
Superstition Review: Could you describe the inspiration for your memoir The In-Betweens?
Davon Loeb: My inspiration for my memoir The In-Betweens was really about trust—trusting myself, in my stories, in my craft. Ever since I was young, I was imaginative. Writing this collection was just about going back to being that little kid again, back to a world of make-believe, to when I was encouraged to dream, to tell stories. Sure, the MFA helped develop some skill, but this was about the persistence that followed. I was inspired to do the work, to write, to commit to this collection.
SR: Some of the chapters that stuck with me most as I read your memoir were the one-page chapters, the small snippets of a moment in time that were packed with emotion. Could you please discuss your process for writing the sections?
DL: I wrote those chapters to tell a story, and sometimes that story only grew into a paragraph or a page simply because the memory itself was small; it was a fragment, but the emotion was still like a hot wire. So I tried to lean into single images as support for the frame of those smaller chapters. In the chapter “5-Series BMW”, my stepfather is working on his car in the garage. The BMW is an image in itself but also a symbol for masculinity. Instead of explaining masculinity, the image and the symbol do the work for me. Once there, in the minute of the moment, I need to trust in the storytelling—really believe in the brevity. After finishing the memoir, I realized these flash chapters balanced the book well.
SR: You’ve managed to capture so many unique moments of your own childhood while still making them relatable to the reader, creating a sense of nostalgia and memory of things they have never known. Which memoirs and memoir authors inspired you?
DL: I intentionally wanted to capture memories that readers could identify with. I’m a real believer that it’s sometimes our duty, as writers, to create universality through individual stories. I wanted my readers to experience the same dirt of childhood, to be hand over hand with me, through the joys, the laughter, the tears. I’m so glad it worked, and readers felt a connection to this little boy. In regard to reading memoir, the genre was actually new to me. I started my MFA as a poet and left writing memoir. A reasonably short list of some of my favorite memoir authors are the following: Paul Lisicky, Roxane Gay, Porochista Khakpour, Tyrese Coleman, Chloe Caldwell, Tracy K. Smith, and more names I know I’m missing. I actually read more poetry than memoir, and that list would be too long.
SR: As well as being a writer, you are also a teacher. How has your experience as an educator influenced your writing?
DL: So much of writing is being vulnerable, which is like teaching. I believe the best teachers are the ones who are not afraid to be themselves, not afraid of getting “eye-level” with their students. When writing this memoir, I took the same approach. I said, “This is who I am. I am not scared to show you,” because readers can see through a façade as quickly as students can. But the relationship between the two is also evident in my craft as a writer and educator. I teach Literature and Composition; I read and write all day. This is my life, a muscle always at use. Consider this: as writers, we are constantly changing, a course of lifelong revisions; in the same way, teachers are forever adapting, sometimes in the moment in a classroom or as society shifts, like now, during a health pandemic. Nonetheless, these roles are inseparable; they are equally part of my identity, and I could not do one without the other. Though it can get messy. My students love to Google me, and read my book, which is cool, but sometimes makes for an interesting conversation. The point I try to impress is that I am forever in it, forever learning, forever a student.
SR: One of the main factors of an identity that you discuss in The In-Betweens is race. How did you go about addressing this topic and what did you find most challenging about it?
DL: Discussing race is definitely the crux of a lot of my writing. I try to focus on race as something fluid, rather than stone. I want readers to value my experiences, as well as understand that my experiences are not the tell-all stories of racism or the entire black experience. I felt especially confronted with my race or my blackness in the last couple months, during the protests and public murder of George Floyd. I’m biracial. I grew up in a predominantly white community. While some aspects of my upbringing were discriminatory, I still had a great childhood and adolescence. There’s a duality that exists here, in the danger of being a minority, but also this safety in racial ambiguity. That is challenging to write about, to straddle two cultures. So instead of steering away from that, I drive forward, push to the uncertainty, the in-between of my race, of where I fit in this American narrative.
SR: As an educator, what impact do you think or hope books like your own will have on younger generations?
DL: I hope books like mine will help students who have never read an author that looks like me to realize different authors do exist beyond what they’ve read since starting education. Different stories exist, ones that are similar or dissimilar from their own. I want my students to know that the writing community is incredibly diverse. I believe that if our Nation wants to rewrite its identity, it starts here, with books in schools. As an educator, I really hope, if anything, something I’ve said will inspire younger generations to tell their stories, and know, really know, their stories matter.
SR: One of the most notorious issues in English education is a lack of diversity in the voices and stories children experience in the classroom. Have you seen any indication of a change in this pattern? What steps do you think need to be taken to increase literary diversity in the classroom?
DL: Yes! Education is changing. We need to take some steps away from the Canon. Sure, continue to read and teach Shakespeare, of course, but syllabi and curriculums need to change and adjust the perimeters to what is literature. When I was a kid, my mother required me to read books by black authors, but in school, that rarely happened. So what do we say to the kid who has never read a book with a character similar to them? Do we tell them their stories don’t matter to us? To give an example, there’s a children’s book, Farah Rocks Fifth Grade by Susan Muaddi Darraj, who is a wonderful author, and Farah is the first Arab-American character I have ever seen in a children’s book. I think about that, and it makes me so sad and disappointed. I think about that kid who is Arab-American and has never, ever, read a book about them. I think about the kid who knows nothing about Arab-Americans besides the single narrative often depicted in the media, and that kid maybe needs a book like Susan’s more than the other. For our society to grow, the required-reading list needs to reflect our country. But to get there, for these stories to arrive on our students’ desk, we need education to change as much as publishing needs to change. We need diverse leadership like Lisa Lucas, the Vice President & Publisher of Pantheon and Schocken Books, who is reshaping the publishing industry.
SR: In “Thoughts On Hair,” you portray the plight of racially ambiguous and mixed race children attempting to fit in. You emphasize in particular how you have experienced the perception of your race changing based upon how you style your hair. What do you think experiences like that among others say about the way racially ambiguous people are perceived in our society? Do you think this perception has changed since you were a child, and if so, how?
DL: As a child, I struggled growing up in a black family where I was biracial while living in a white community where I was non-white. I was regularly in-between cultures. But I do believe the perception of racially ambiguous people has changed since I was a child. We have always been here; but I think through entertainment: television, movies, sports, books and other media, the focus has shifted toward people of mixed race rather than away from them. While this should not denounce people who are not racially ambiguous, I can barely think of any professional athletes who were biracial when I was a kid. Today, one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL is biracial; he is the face of the NFL. Though that has other implications, it also says something about our society, good or bad. On a personal note, I am interracially married and have a biracial daughter. My wife and I will raise her in a way where we celebrate all of her multitudes, rather than just focusing on her differences.
SR:The In-Betweens was first published in 2018. Now, in late 2020, we have seen a shift in the sociopolitical climate as more and more people are becoming aware of social justice issues and movements. Have you found that reactions to your work have changed now that the present context is so different than it was when you originally published?
DL: Thank you for asking this question. In 2018, my book was important to me, to the friends and family who supported my work, and the small group of writers and editors who valued this collection, some of whom even wrote reviews of The In-Betweens. For them, I am forever grateful. People like Chris Campanioni, Steve Burns, Yi Shun Lai, Roy G Guzmán, and Paul Lisicky, thank you. Now, in late 2020, the shift in the sociopolitical climate has given my memoir a new life, a resurgence. I have always believed these stories of race, identity, and culture were important, but it feels like a greater interest is stirring. I’m not sure what that means—more sales or more reviews or whatever; but I do know that it means my story can reach you and maybe before it could not. That is important and invaluable. I’m fortunate that literary journals and magazines have repurposed and republished chapters of my memoir. These literary spaces have offered a second home to my work. I am grateful for the reviews and interviews that are still happening in 2020, almost two years after publication. Yes, the context has absolutely changed, and my gratitude for the love and support of The In-Betweens is so immense.
SR: This book has much to do with several varieties of learning, from learning about yourself and your family to learning about your greater identity as part of a whole. What is the main take away you want your readers to gain after having experienced all this learning with you?
DL: The main take away I want readers to gain after experiencing this with me is to learn that we are more similar than we are different. I might be of another race, culture, or what have you, but the stories that make me who I am are just like the stories that shape you. My identity is rich, and I’ve learned to love who I am and all that I am through storytelling, through writing this memoir. In a way, we write our own memoirs every day—through photos, videos, posts, calls, and texts, we are forming our memories of life into an order of things. Writing The In-Betweens was my attempt to order my life, to order it with purpose, with an attention to cadence, image, and sentiment. I want you to experience that; I want you to read my book, but I’m okay if you don’t. I would rather you partake in your own memoir, in whatever form it will be, but do it, believe in it, and share it. You’ll realize just like I did that what connects us is stronger than what divides us.
Check out our latest YouTube video! Our Social Media Manager Roxanne Bingham took the time to sit down with Superstition ReviewFounding Editor Patricia Murphy and Hayden’s Ferry Review Supervising Editor Katherine Berta to give you some insider advice as the submission season begins.
Don’t miss the tips and tricks they discussed in this video, and don’t forget to submit your work to Superstition Review by August 31st for the chance to be featured in our 26th Issue!
We are proud to announce that the theme of Issue 26, our inaugural themed issue, is Social Justice. On behalf of Arizona State University and the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, we have chosen to dedicate this issue to work that promotes inclusion and explores new ways to dismantle racial and social inequality. We believe in the importance of magnifying voices that have been traditionally undermined by our histories, institutions, policies, laws, and habits of daily life.
We hear you and are here for you on your journey to inspire change through art.
What Is Social Justice?
Social Justice is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.” It is a movement for change to improve the lives of individuals who are not treated fairly or justly in our society. It is a choice to stand as a community in support of what we believe in.
We believe that everyone deserves an equal chance, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, religion and any other part of who they are.
More than anything, it has been
Superstition Review’s mission to bring gorgeous literature into the world,
spectacular art from all over the planet, poetry that sings to you, and essays
that speak their personal truth. We’ve been doing this since 2008 and will
continue to do so well into the future.
We are, much like a lot of literary
magazines, in a position to publish, but we’re also given the opportunity to be
a lot of ASU students’ introduction to the world of literature. We’ve been
thinking lately about what it means to cultivate this community with our
interns and trainees. How do we set them on a path to go out into the world
with vigor and ferocious kindness? The answer has always been there, lurking in
the very heart of what we do: connection. It is through connection with the
people writing and the people behind the scenes working tirelessly, often for
little or no pay, to produce magazines because they love what they do.
Then, we must ask how to we lead our interns to connect with other people. Social media has its problems, but it’s also an unprecedented means to interact with a global community, with people who share interests and passions, the people who breathe the very life into the the thriving literary organism it is today. And in the spirit of this connection, we want to dedicate a week to showing our interns and trainees the beauty of kindness and connection.
Starting on Sept. 30thand ending on Oct. 7thwe’ll be introducing the hashtag #LitMagPartyline. This is in celebration of the way technology has continually advanced with the very goal of connecting us to one another. We want to make a party line on Twitter, which our interns and trainees will use to amplify work that speaks to them and share a line, a phrase, an image from a poem or essay or story or a work of art. We’ll ask that they tag the magazine and share what it means to them. We want our interns and trainees to relish in the joy of telling these hard-working writers, poets, essayists, editors, readers, and artists that their work is valuable, that what they do reaches far and wide.
But there’s more! We want everyone to join in. Please, please, please join in! When you see the @SuperstitionRev thread, share with us and our students a piece of something special to you. And remember to use #LitMagPartyline. Let’s all take this week to and come together to bring unfettered joy into the world. Let’s show everyone that positivity wins.
One of the most important realizations of my life was that people are not one way, that they often do and say conflicting things not out of malice or to deceit, but because it a necessary part of the ever-changing human condition. There is a sort of dialectic behavioral therapy that must take place within all of our minds when we consider that good people can do very bad things and bad people can do very good things. This is the dynamic nature of humanity. It is unavoidable. It might be the only unchanging and shared characteristic of humanity.
And it is for this reason that I am drawn to literary fiction. There often isn’t a clear line between good and bad. The characters in literary fiction make terrible choices and deal with the repercussions. As a reader and editor, I want to read stories that sink deep into these chasms between right and wrong, stories that teach us something about what it means to be fallible and imperfect. I want to read stories that challenge me, that make me so angry I hold my breath until the final sentence, so sad that I think of the characters long after I finish the stories. I want to see myself and my flaws laid out before me. I want to read narratives that do not pass judgement but present a situation and ask me to consider a point of view I may never have arrived at myself.
Literary fiction is a conversation between all of the writers in the world, constantly arriving at theses only to have them blown up and reordered by the next. Show me a side of humanity only you can construct, the things that make your perception unique.
But above everything, I want to feel something. I want to finish a story, let take root in my brain and change my long-held beliefs. Whether it is characters, setting, plot, language, form, it doesn’t matter. The stories that stick with me are the ones that make me think about life in a way I couldn’t or wouldn’t. This is the goal of fiction, and this is the fiction I want to see adding to the literary conversation.
Spencer Litman is the fiction editor for Issue 23. He is a fiction writer and essayist living in Phoenix with his wife, Kristine, and his two children, Jayden and Aubrey. He is finishing his undergraduate degree in English with a creative writing concentration and hopes to attend an MFA program somewhere cold, with pine needles and snow.
There are two qualities that every good nonfiction story – every story that stands out to me, every story that I can’t stop thinking about, that I enjoy rereading again and again – shares, and those qualities are intentionality and subjectivity.
Intentionality is about construction. I want to read stories that are expressed with clarity and ease, stories in which each scene serves a purpose in the narrative and each word perfectly captures the scene the author wants to convey. Intentional writing is simple and unforced. An intentional story has everything it needs to feel complete, nothing excessive, unresolved or unnecessary.
I come from a background in journalism, and the newsroom is where I’ve gotten some of the best writing advice for news articles and for creative nonfiction alike. An editor recently told me: I don’t want obvious details, I want poignant details. Tell me what moved you, what caught your attention: those are the details I want to read. Another editor’s advice: don’t be afraid to declutter a story. Cut scenes or details that don’t serve a purpose or that don’t ‘spark joy’, in the parlance of Marie Kondo.
The second quality, subjectivity, is about content. I don’t just want to know what happened, but how it affected the author. No two people see the same event or person or place the same way, and I want to feel a writer’s unique perspective. I want to know: how was she affected by the events in the story? What relationship does she have with the people and places in the story? Where do they fit in her personal narrative?
Our relationships make us human. We change and define ourselves in relation to them, and we seek connection with and acceptance from them. Our subjectivity makes us human, too. We can never experience what it’s like to be anyone other than ourselves, but stories allow us to imagine and to empathize. That’s what I want out of a good story: not just to know that something happened, but to feel how it affected the person who experienced it.
Ellen O’Brien is the nonfiction editor for Issue 23. She’s a senior at Arizona State University pursuing a double major in journalism and philosophy with a minor in Arabic. She’s passionate about photography, literature, foreign policy and epistemology. After graduation, she plans to pursue a job in photojournalism or news editing and to attend law school.
Through the process of curating art, I would say that I have gained new eyes for looking at different pieces of work. I can admit that I was never one to look at art in the manner of color, context, and composition before. I mainly base what I like on no other context other than just liking the way things look.
I think art as a medium can be something over saturated with the sheer number of artists, but I believe that I have learned so much. Through this journey I was also able to differentiate an artist from a hobbyist.
Looking at art now, I am finding myself drawn to artists that have a lot of work and specifically work that contains the three C’s. The first aspect I like to look for is composition. I really like to take composition into consideration and make sure that it matches the Superstition Review and what the audience would engage with. Secondly, I like to look into the context of the piece. Not simply understanding what the piece looks like, but taking the time to understand what the underlying theme is or what the piece is trying to say. And of course, taking color into consideration with each piece. All of these elements have helped me understand on a different level of viewing and appreciating art.
With that being said, I don’t particularly have a specific type of art I enjoy, I can look at any piece of work from any medium and still be able to apply what I have learned.
Overall, I am very grateful and pleased that I am able to see art differently. And I will continue to utilize what I have learned as I flourish throughout the art community.
Shalanndra Benally is the art editor for issue 23. She is currently in her first semester of her Senior year at Arizona State University studying Digital Culture with a concentration in Design. Currently she is working on the design team for TEDx at ASU, as well as being the sole designer for the 40th annual Ms. and Mr. Indian ASU. She is always looking for new opportunities to show off her artistic abilities and demonstrate her extensive design experience. After graduation she hopes to work in digital media or another creative field.