Duende Announcements and Updates

We begin reading for our fifth issue of Duende today, and I am very excited that our journal has reached this milestone.  In fact, Duende now reaches over 10,000 people monthly, which is great news for us and even better news for our wonderful contributors. Our mission of publishing a majority of writers who are underrepresented means ensuring that their work reaches a national audience and offering quality exposure for them.  I’m hopeful that we will continue to grow our audience by constantly publishing challenging work from a diverse group of writers.

I cannot stress enough the generous commitment that our editors make to the journal each semester.  They continue to challenge me and keep me excited about our important work. Without our student editors, the journal would not exist. I’d like to thank all of the past editors for the work they’ve done, including reading for our upcoming feature issue: EXODUS.  Look for that issue this spring. I would like to particularly thank Catherine Chambers for her dedication to Duende during her time at Goddard College.

I want to welcome back our returning editors. Katherine Michalak is now our senior editor, and has already proven herself to be invaluable in this position. Odin Halvorson, web designer extraordinaire, and Christina Gerard, who came up with the idea for our next feature issue, are now Duende’s managing editors. Lacey Pruitt-Thomas returns to her position as fiction editor.  We have two new members of our editorial team, as well. Anita Olivia Koester, an accomplished poet in her own right, steps in as our poetry editor. Brittany Long, who understands more about social media than I could hope to, is Duende’s nonfiction/hybrid and social media editor.

We have some new developments that I’d like to announce. Starting in November, we will replace our typical monthly blog series with a book review series. We hope to highlight a diverse range of books that our editors admire. Anita Olivia Koester will be editing this series for Duende. Be sure to check back with us monthly for those book reviews.

In addition to releasing our EXODUS feature, this spring we will be begin reading for our third feature issue. The next feature issue that we will read for will feature writers who have struggled with mental illness, either presently or in the past. We will have more details on this in the future.

Lastly, look for team Duende at this year’s AWP conference in Washington, D.C.  I will be attending, as usual.  This year, however, I hope to have other members of the editorial staff with me!  If you are a past contributor, recent contributor, or just like us, stop by and say hello.  We’ll have goodies for our past contributors.

And, yes, do submit your work for our fifth issue! We look forward to reading it.


A Review of "Latino Young Men and Boys in Search of Justice: Testimonies"

by Tyler Woodsmall

Frank De Jesus Acosta and Henry A. J. Ramos curated and edited a book of testimonies which includes poetry, essays, letters, and art from incarcerated young Latino men. “Incarcerated people of color” is an abstract concept, far enough from reality you can safely watch a television show about prison life and only be marginally disturbed. Not disturbed enough to stop watching the show—consider the rise of television documentaries and reality prison TV shows in the last ten years. The idea that prison is a system that molds men and women into hyper-dominant, aggressive, dangerous subhumans is an appealing narrative to the viewer sitting on the couch. The fantasy of a tough animal-like caricature of a prisoner has fueled an entire mainstream entertainment subcategory of reality television.

The book Latino Young Men and Boys in Search of Justice: Testimonies might serve as a direct response to the gritty myopia of prison life as entertainment. I wanted to put it down and never look at it again. I mean that in the best way possible way. The book isn’t jarring for gritty violent TV-like stories, but because you’re reading the thoughts and feelings of young people who won’t get their lives back. The poetry and art solidify empathy and you can’t help thinking that these boys are capable of much more than writing from a prison cell.

The common theme of these testimonies is young men constantly feeling like outsiders, until they eventually became the outsiders they were already seen as. George Galvis writes about the beginning of his school career as an academically gifted, lower-income Latino student in a white middle-class school system.

“I began to rebel in school and seek my validation by the rules of the street among people who looked like me. Over time, after some hard knocks, I ascertained the falsehood of the laws of the street and gang culture. For awhile, though, this was my path and vehicle of rebellion, my warped place of belonging.”

Prison literature is an ongoing political revolution that insists on being read. Just the act of writing and publishing while in prison is a form of protest. The noise of reality television can’t silence an entire class of people with thoughts and ideas who have no other outlet. The concept of “doing time” is supposed to be a time of reflection for the crimes the prisoners have committed. Why is entertainment so disinterested in those reflections? Is it because it doesn’t sell as much? Or is it because the reflections might reveal a system that has made a commodity from their crimes?  Every piece that is written from a cell begs those questions, even if they aren’t directly stated. The system in which these people are writing is just as important as the writing itself, which is why this book deserves to be read.




Latino Young Men and Boys in Search of Justice: Testimonies, by Frank De Jesus Acosta (Author, Editor) and Henry A. J. Ramos (Editor)
Arte Publico Press 2016
ISBN: 1558858210


The Rose Within: A Personal Reflection on "The Little Prince"

by Odin Hartshorn Halvorson

“Trying to be witty leads to lying, more or less.” —Antoine De Saint-Exupery

 Love, and compassion—which is really just a particularly important form of love—are concepts explored within The Little Prince—easily the most famous novel by the French philosopher and writer Antoine De Saint-Exupery. The Little Prince probes the deepest meanings of love and life, sometimes obviously, sometimes subtly—but always, at the core of the work they remain like lit lamps in the darkness. It is these brilliant pinpricks of light that exist as counterpoints to the fall from imagination most adults eventually suffer.

 Most of us know the story of the Little Prince who came to Earth and finds, in a stranded aviator, an odd friend. Within The Little Prince, the reader is exposed to philosophical concepts that remain as painfully important in these troubled times as they were during the time of Saint-Exupery’s writing. In the middle of the Second World War, the global consciousness was fraught with division, exploitation, and ever-present fears regarding the future of civilization as it had been known. This is, unfortunately, a cycle of fear which has repeated, and continues to operate in the absence of any sense of unified optimism and society-wide practice of compassion. We live in a world of numbers, and the economics of modern life preclude the exploration of imagination; of laughter and friendship and love; of a future in which a growth into common brotherhood—common love—is possible. I read this tale, wondering where the human species keeps going wrong. Where is our sense of greater responsibility toward one another, and our planet? What might the fox in The Little Prince say to us?

 “That’s right,” the fox said. “For me you’re only a little boy just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either. For you I’m only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, we’ll need each other. You’ll be the only boy in the world for me. I’ll be the only fox in the world for you . . .”

 Like the narrator in The Little Prince, who tells us of his first drawing as a child of an elephant inside a boa constrictor, there is a human longing for a type of understanding that transcends the practical adult world. We long for our internal worlds to be visible to others, and theirs to us—and this is one of the reasons we press against the frontiers of existence with such passion. Partly, too, this may be due to our inherent fear of death—which is really just a fear of the ending of things before we’ve had the chance to experience what the fox calls taming; before we’ve had the chance to really explore what it means to be alive.

 The adult world is replete with cynical and clinical numeration. Adults detach themselves from the world in an effort to quantify the essence of existence, and in so doing grip existence so tightly that they often choke the life right out of it. Worse, so many adults would answer the question “are you happy” in the affirmative, simply because they have never learned what it means to be truly at peace with the nature of life. They become distracted—force distractions upon themselves—in an effort to provide meaning to life, forgetting that the true essence of life does not require a nine-to-five in order to be meaningful. Like the businessman who the little prince encounters, adults reach out into the universe and claim ownership of what they find, and thereby lose sight of the beauty of what they find. Like the adults the little prince encounters on trains late in the novel, adults of our real world cherish lives which are often just dull projections of an unarrived-at destination.

“Good Morning,” said the railway switchman.
“What is it you do here?” asked the little prince.
“I sort the travelers into bundles of a thousand,” the switchman said. “I dispatch the trains that carry them, sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left.”
“What a hurry they’re in,” said the little prince. “What are they looking for?”
“Not even the engineer on the locomotive knows,” the switchman said.

 The children (and those who have remembered or relearned this way of seeing the world) gaze gleefully out of the windows of the moving train, appreciating the scenery of life as it flows inevitably past. The supposedly practical adults are concerned only with the destination—forgetting that the ultimate destination is embodied by the little yellow serpent whom the little prince meets when he first arrives in the desert; the serpent which eventually becomes the vehicle for his return to the stars. That is to say: the destination of life is the end of life, so therefore it is the process of lifenot the destination of lifewhich should most concern the living while they are alive.

 For an adult to read The Little Prince, if they do so with an open mind, there is a sweet sense of sadness and longing to be found in the story. A parable for life, but also a parable for death—of how to face the prospect of death well, by living a life that is full and filled with love. Adults are also reminded of the beauty and importance of ritual, as when the little fox says:

 “...if you come at four in the afternoon, I’ll begin to be happy by three. The closer it gets to four, the happier I’ll feel. By four I’ll be all excited and worried; I’ll discover what it costs to be happy! But if you come at any old time, I’ll never know when to prepare my heart . . .”

 For adults (especially the heart-sick and the weary) it offers a reprieve, solidarity, and a renewed appreciation for not-knowing—for not feeling bad about not knowing.

We are also shown a template for the foolishness of those who trumpet agendas of division and discord—witness the foolishness of the astronomers who refused to listen to their Turkish fellow because of his traditional dress, but who applauded him when he returned in Western garb. Within The Little Prince we adults find deeper meanings that draw us back toward the simplicity of the existence we enjoyed as children. 

 Children who read (or are read) this tale, will find something wonderful in the way adults are proven to be foolish in the face of those elements of reality that dominate a child’s life. If they are lucky, and the stars are bright overhead, and the moment is just right, the mysteries of life that The Little Prince explores may carry over from childhood into adulthood. Thus, the child may grow up with some of their wonder and imagination intact.

 The Little Prince explores the deeper secrets of reality without suggesting answers—or even that answers are possible—beyond those which stem from the act of living a loving life. It opens the way to the well, without bowing to any particular dogma; it suggests that in the shared experience of life—in the sharing of life—we can learn again to be free. 

An Interview with Reginald Edwards: Social Work and Mental Health

by Christina Gerard

My job is a rare one. Even after two years, I’m not sure I understand what it is I really do. Every day is different than the last. Every day leaves me with something to be in awe of. Every moment is of significance. I am a case-manager in a nursing facility that specializes in the treatment of mental illness, and, still, this says nothing. It is a bunch of words strung together to form a sentence that says very little about what I really do.

When people ask me, I find myself listing off my daily duties: paperwork, counseling, reorienting residents to reality, cueing residents on coping skills and adequate sleep, assisting residents with just about anything they need, and the list could go on and on and on. Still, this says nothing. It doesn’t portray the remarkable relationship I have with the residents, the impact I have on them or them on me, and it doesn’t come close to telling the story of social work.

When I think of social work, I think of my friend Reginald. Reginald trained me in my current position, and has constantly been a source of inspiration in the realm of social work. He taught me how to be patient, how to fill out paperwork, and how to be effective with each resident.

It is my hope that the following interview with Reginald Edwards will demystify some of the misinterpretations of social work, stigmas of mental health, and the roles of social work, because even I hard time summing them up.

Me: Thank you for taking the time to meet with us today.

Reginald: No Problem. I’m happy to be here.

Me: First off, why did you choose social work and what was the biggest motivator in your decision?

Reginald: I believe the biggest motivator is coming from a “family full of helpers.” I come from a family of educators. I grew up watching my family. They were always lending a helping hand in the community. It was just very motivating. I definitely thought, “Man. This is what I want to do. This is awesome.” It was just very motivating to always see my family reaching out and helping those in need, and to see them be rewarded spiritually from it, really motivated me.

Me: What prompted your decision to specialize in mental health versus the areas of social work?

Reginald: Honestly, my first job was in the mental health field in central Illinois. It was the first job to give me the opportunity to work in this field, and I thought it was interesting. I grew to actually like it. So, I really want to go further with it now from that first experience. Mental health is not my first choice, at all. I thought I would be working with kids or with DCFS, but everything really changed for the better.

Me: Why was mental health not your first choice?

Reginald: I didn't know much about it. I never even thought about mental health as being a profession I would go into. When I thought of mental health I just thought of depression, and that’s all I knew about mental health. I wasn’t really educated about other mental health diagnoses. It just wasn’t brought to my attention until then.

Me: What do you do on the average work day? What are some of the roles you take on and how do you fill them?


In my profession, especially where I work now, I do it all. I am not only a social worker. I am also a counselor. I am also maintenance. I am security. I do it all. You really have to be able to reach out to other departments, because you’re going to be needed. Especially as a male social worker, you’re going to be called on. You’re going to be called on to do all the dirty work.

Since there aren’t a lot of male social workers, you get called on to break up the fights, to cue people on their meds. You get called on to do a lot of counseling with the male clients. 

You definitely have residents you have to be the authority figure with. A lot of the clients I work with have dual diagnoses, like schizophrenia and a drug abuse diagnosis. I really wasn’t very educated on illegal drug use. So, I really had to educate myself about different drugs and different coping mechanisms to help them stop using. I have to continue to educate myself, even after graduating school.

You are also a friend. A lot of these residents don’t have friends or families to contact, and they just want somebody they can have a general conversation with. You also have to be that person and let go of your clinical side, and just talk to them like they are one of your friends. It changes every day.

Me: What are some biggest hurdles you face as a social worker?

Reginald: I think one of the biggest hurdles that I face right now is the lack of awareness that social services has in the community. Right now, everyone needs to know that Illinois does not have a state budget for these services. So, that cuts off a lot of programming. That cuts off a lot of our clients from moving on, because we have services that help these people move out into the community, and once those services are lost they aren’t able to move on and live productive lives.

It becomes frustrating when you’re counseling and motivating and educating them on the importance of becoming more independent, but then we don’t have anything to back it up with. All our services are being ended, because Congress can’t come up with a set budget for them. I just think the lack of awareness, over all, in mental health can be hard to deal with. Unfortunately, it seems like it’s only going to get worse.

Me: What are, in your opinion, the most prominent stigmas in terms of the mental health field?

Reginald: A lot of people think when you have a mental illness, it’s not real. I have friends who suffer from depression, and people just tell them “snap out of it,” but a person can’t just snap out of it. They can’t just get up and go to work, it interrupts their daily routine. People have schizophrenia and hear voices, and people say, “Well, just ignore them.” It’s not that easy to just ignore voices. How would you feel if you heard voices in your head twenty-four seven, knowing they aren’t even real. It’s still affecting you every day. They tell you to kill yourself. They tell you things like “don’t work.”

I have a client who wants to work, and every time he goes to work the voices are telling him to walk off the job. He was so sick of the voices telling him that, he just walked off the job. He was tired of listening to the voices. Some people think that people with mental illness are just lazy, but they have a mental illness. There’s a reason.

Me: In your time as a social worker have you noticed any differences, stigmas, or marginalization related to mental health in the black community?

Reginald: There is a lot of stigma in the black community in regards to mental health. We have a lack of awareness. Personally, I also feel like in the black community families are really close-knit, and sometimes it can be a problem, because they don’t want people to know. So, they’re afraid for their loved ones to seek help, because they will be viewed as crazy. Unfortunately, that’s how people view them in the community, is as being crazy. I think a lot of people in the black community don’t want to be looked at in such a negative way when we have so many other negative stigmas against us.

It’s definitely seen as a weakness. I have a few friends who have a diagnosis and it goes back to the other question about stigma. It’s “You can still do this. You can do that.” It’s “Just take this medicine. You’ll be alright, and get over it.” It’s a Band-Aid. You can’t just put a Band-Aid on mental illness.

Me: What effect do you think these stigmas have on the community as whole, as well as those in need of help?

Reginald: If you watch the news, a lot of people who have mental illness are found committing crimes, shooting up schools, murdering people. Usually the doctors know this beforehand, and they don’t really address it or take it seriously. Then they end up doing something detrimental and tragic in the community, and it becomes like a revolving door.

Then it goes back to the lack of services in the community. If we continue to cut off services to mental health, then people are going to lack mental health services which will stop them from taking their medications and being educated on their diagnosis, like when to go to the doctor, or what to do when they are experiencing certain symptoms. They think it wastes tax dollars, and that’s why services are being cut.

Me: Have you witnessed any situations in which a person(s) was marginalized due to their mental health?

Reginald: I see it all the time in regards to new admits that we receive at the facility. When we receive a new admit, we read about them from a piece of paper that just puts them in a box. Then we have to be cautious when we first meet them, because we really don’t know. We’re going off their diagnoses and two or three sentences that tell us why they are coming to the facility.

I once had a new admit, and, when I read his paperwork it said he was really violent and complaining about hearing voices at that time. He had even, without going into too much detail, thrown a chair out the window. So, when I did his paperwork, I had to be very cautious. I was wondering, “Is he going to become violent. Is he was hearing voices?” So, already, I had put him in a box due to his diagnosis. When I asked him about the instance, he said he couldn’t control himself and he wasn’t that type of person. Then I talked to his family and they said they had never seen him act that way. It was not normal behavior for him, at all. They never saw him act like that. First off, I went off that diagnosis and was judging him on those first three lines I read, and because he had mental illness. I think we all do that. We just have to be more cautious about doing it in the mental health field.

Me: How do you think socioeconomic factors play a role in further marginalizing mental health patients?

Reginald: Basically, if you have money, you receive the treatment and the necessary education in order to treat your mental illness. If you don’t have money, your mental illness is just going to get worse, because you don’t have that treatment. You don’t have the services to provide you with the education about your mental illness and the importance of being med-compliant. You need money in order to receive the services for your mental illness and to be treated.

I am finding it hard for people to get social security now. I have clients on my caseload who truly have severe mental diagnoses, but they are twenty-two or twenty-three years old. I think they judge them off that age, as a factor. Like, “You’re twenty-three you can go work.” They have a mental illness. They should be able to receive Social Security. We should be able to work with them in order to get the necessary work done.

Me: How do you utilize your position as a social worker to be a positive influence in the workplace and/or the community?


I definitely try to lead by example. I tell my co-workers all the time that it’s really important to treat these clients as if they were your own loved one. It should bring out a really good working relationship with the client.

Me: Do you find that you are generally one of the few, if not the only, male social workers in your department? How does this impact your daily routine?

Reginald: I am the only male social worker at my job right now. I definitely get called on for all the hustle and bustle in the facility. I get called on to break up the fights. I get called on to counsel more residents because they are male, or I get called to counsel a resident just because they’re black. Like, “You can talk to this guy, because you have something in common.” I get called on a lot. Especially where I work now, which is a predominantly black neighborhood and we have a lot of black clients. I get called on just for being male, and for being a black male. As I’m able to help in a positive way, it really doesn’t bother me. It just that I get burnt out, because I’m called on more than anyone else.

Me: Not only are you one of few male social workers, but also one of the few Black/African American social workers. Does this impact your position in or out of the work place?

Reginald: Usually when I tell people I am a social worker I get like, “Oh my gosh! Wow!”, because there just aren’t a lot of black male social workers. I usually get, “Can I take your number down just in case I need any help?” Usually, I try to say no, but I end up saying yes. First, I’m young, I’m black, and I’m a male. So, there aren’t a lot of us out there. I think I am looked at as a positive role model, and I get told that all the time.

Me: Have you experienced acts of racism or gender role issues in the workplace?

Reginald: I’ve been called every name in the book. So, even when I get called the n-word by a, maybe like a white resident, it doesn’t affect me. I consider it a part of their mental illness. They are there for a reason. They are mentally ill. It just does not affect me. I don’t really pay attention to racist remarks in the workplace, especially by the residents. Ninety-nine percent of the time it doesn’t affect me. When it does, it’s because I’ve worked all day. I do it for them, and I make one mistake and then they will start name-calling.

Me: Have you ever feared for your safety in the work place?

Reginald: Starting off in the mental health field, I definitely did. I got chased around, because of accusations of me, thinking I stole money. People would just have delusions of me doing things I didn’t do. First I got scared, but, after a while, you become really close with the residents. You build some sort of working relationship, and usually they can separate their delusional thoughts about you from the real thoughts about you. I don’t really fear for my life. I don’t think I am in a dangerous situation. The only situation I don’t like to encounter is breaking up fights. I have broken up fights between six women, and it’s just me.

Me: What is your favorite memory or experience in the work place? Why?

Reginald: It was actually with a resident at my last job. He wanted to go to his home, and he was at that facility for about nine months. He became really discouraged, but I really wanted to get services for him. I wanted him to go back to his community, because it’s what he knows. I had to go through almost every loop-hole to get him there, and, when the time came for him to leave, he broke down outside and started crying. He said he thought I would’ve given up on him, but I stayed by my word. He said, “You are really meant for this profession,” and he told me, “I love you, Man.” I even still keep in touch with him every once in a while, he tells me he’s doing well. Just knowing I got to make some kind of positive difference in his life really makes me happy.

Me: How do you separate your work life and home life, and do you find it difficult to do so?

Reginald: I don’t find it difficult at all because once I’m home I have a hundred-and-one things to do anyway and can’t focus on work. Once I’m at work I have a hundred-and-one things to do, and can’t focus on stuff at home. I definitely believe in going out and having a good time with my friends, and being around friends and family definitely helps me with that. And traveling. I love traveling. I try to do that at least every three months. I try to go somewhere. I try to take it day by day, and just have fun. That’s all it is, just having fun outside of work. When I’m at work I have too much paperwork to worry about. It doesn’t affect my life whatsoever, they don’t cross boundaries.

Me: What can we do as a community to deviate from the stigmas and misperceptions surrounding mental health?

Reginald: I kind of joke around with my coworkers now. We joke, but mental illness is real. A lot of people think mental illness is just something you take medicine for and it goes away, but it’s not. People with a mental diagnosis with always have that diagnosis. They have to take medicine to maintain that diagnosis and lessen the symptoms. Basically, educating people on mental illness and the medicine and side effects. Just taking medicine every day isn’t not going to solve mental illness, either. That’s why we have psychosocial programming, or groups, to help with that.

Me: Do you have any plans to deviate from social work? If so, why?

Reginald: I will always be in the helping field. This is my passion, but I don’t think I will always be called a social worker. I have looked at other job opportunities, such as being a nurse or police officer. I look at those as “helping professions.” I will still be able to advocate for people, while making a difference in their lives.

Me: Define social work in your own words.

Reginald: I get asked this every day. I like to classify social workers as counselors. We are supposed to be providing resources, counseling, basically helping people get through their day-to-day. We do it all. We are helpers.



Reginald Edwards received his MA in Social Work, with a concentration in Family & Child Services, from Illinois State University. He has interned with DCFS, volunteered with Big Brother Big Sister, and currently works in the south suburbs of Chicago, IL as a social worker.


Rochester, New York: A Conundrum

by Lacey Pruitt-Thomas

My hometown, Rochester, New York is a conundrum. It is a small city; strategically placed at the mouth of the north-flowing Genesee River into Lake Ontario, complete with waterfalls. The power of the water created a city that, in the early 19th century, was one of the young nation’s largest flour producers. By the middle of the 20th century it had become a manufacturing stronghold, with companies like Eastman Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, Gleason Works, Taylor Instruments, and Xerox creating good-paying manufacturing jobs that lasted, in some cases, over one hundred years. Abolitionists, Frederick Douglass and Susan B Anthony both lived and worked here. Rochester had always been a city of hard-working, industrious people rooted in the traditional values of family, culture and religion, and education.

Over the past thirty years, as globalization has seduced so many of America’s industries to other countries with cheap labor and materials, the same has happened in Rochester. Multitudes of jobs have flowed away to different states and countries. In their wake, businesses like Wegmans, Paychex, and University of Rochester have streamed in to fill some of the gaps with new jobs in different industries. Rochesterians have learned to adapt, and even if there are no guaranteed jobs through your father or uncle like in the old days, there are still jobs available.

New industries are slowly being drawn here. Photonics—the branch of technology that deals with the transmission of photons, for example in fiber optics—and the growing and processing of medical marijuana as two of the latest businesses that have been touted by the city and state governments in the press, as possible saviors to our lovely city.

The greatest struggle that I see in this place where I have lived for thirty-six years is rooted in education and the disparity between the haves and have nots. Rochester is the home to University of Rochester (ranked #33 in US News and World Reports as a national university) and Rochester Institute of Technology (ranked #7 as a north regional university). In the suburbs, high school graduation rates average upwards of 90%; however in the Rochester City School District, less than 50% of students entering high school will receive their diplomas. Stories of violence and drug abuse fill our local news reports. In the Northeast quarter where I have made my home for the past sixteen years, 40% of residents live below the poverty line even though at least two people in the home work.

This spring, as I went about my business throughout the city and thought about the issues that seem to plague us, I noticed something that gave me hope: life. As the scent of lilacs filled the city, and tulips and daffodils bravely poked their heads above the earth, city residents emerged from winter hibernation to rejoice in the promise of sunshine and warm weather. I saw adults coaching kids in baseball and soccer; their little children, as colorful as rainbows, running and playing everywhere. Families, loaded with strollers and pets, strolling along the busy streets. Even in the poorest neighborhoods, I have seen yards mowed, gardens made ready, and houses being painted and improved.

All the activity that I have seen in this city that has risen and fallen with the fortunes of entrepreneurs—often the movers and shakers of our country—has filled me with hope for the future. Hope that despite all the negativity, the violence, and tragedies, there breathes the determination to pick ourselves up and work to give future generations better lives. And, this makes me think that maybe, just maybe, the tide is swinging again on Rochester.


Cyncism, Hatred, and Vengeance in a Land of Eternal Spring

by Katherine Michalak

In June of 1994, I was nine years old. I didn’t know the Rwandan genocide was happening across the globe from my family’s rural Colorado home. While Rwanda’s Tutsi minority population was chopped to pieces by their machete-swinging Hutu neighbors and one-time friends, I tried not to step on prickly pear cactus. My family had just moved to the San Luis Valley in South-Central Colorado. A rugged, high desert valley punctuated by pinon trees and yucca, my new back yard felt more hostile than homey.

But I had no concept of true hostility. Though my parents may have mentioned the 800,000 Tutsis who were slaughtered before the end of the civil war, when Rwandan President Paul Kagame took control, they certainly didn’t usher my little girl self into the pain of details, the guilt of our national failure to stop this holocaust. I was only nine years old, too young to contemplate the horrible depths to which humanity sinks.

At thirty, I am reading Immaculee Ilibagiza’s memoir, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, and I am no longer ignorant. Ilibagiza shows every detail of her gruesome experience as a hunted Tutsi, from the deaths of many of her family members to the ninety-one days she spent hiding in a three-foot by four-foot bathroom with seven other women. Through Ilibagiza’s straightforward, patient narration, the genocide makes its way irrevocably into my consciousness: once having witnessed, through the written word, the appalling reality of this ethnic cleansing, I can never forget.

Ilibagiza was ten years old before she learned she was a Tutsi. Her parents, inclusive, altruistic individuals, attempted to erase prejudice in the village of Mataba by indiscriminately befriending Hutu and Tutsi alike—and they never spoke of ethnic differences to their four children. Thanks to extensive intermarrying, Hutus and Tutsis resembled one another enough for Ilibagiza and her siblings to perceive the two groups as a single race. Although she and her brothers were among the best-educated children in the region, their parents did not teach them Rwandan history; it wasn’t until a humiliating experience during ethnic roll call at school that she learned of her scarlet letter Tutsi identity.

Over thirty years later in New York City, mother to an adolescent daughter and pre-teen son, Ilibagiza continues her parents’ legacy of sheltering the younger generation from political and cultural negativity. Limiting her children’s video and TV exposure, she allows them to see only programming which is “non-violent, horror-free and spiritually uplifting” (220). This censorship provokes warring internal reactions on my part, eliciting questions about my own politically-ignorant childhood, as well as uncertainties regarding adult media consumption. Why is it we value exposing ourselves to the details of such transgressions as genocide? Why do we voluntarily witness, albeit secondhand through recorded coverage, humanity’s most chilling missteps? How often is it better not to know?

Perhaps the answers to these questions depend on contextualization—that is, on how we frame the violence we witness.

Ilibagiza’s parents raised her with an uncommon dose of love and religious faith. These attributes, rather than history lessons, were what imprinted her youthful consciousness—and these were the means for coping with life. She relied on these skills when trapped in a bathroom with killers calling her name. Hemmed in by savagery, she prayed incessantly, until she found “a refuge in a [spiritual] world that became more welcoming and wonderful with each visit” (95). It was this inner, faith-based sanctuary that ultimately allowed her to forgive the Hutu murderers—and to say the words, in person, “I forgive you,” to Felicien, the man who dismembered her mother and one of her brothers (204).

She has since gone on to lecture around the world, sharing her story as a means of promoting forgiveness under even the most trying circumstances. She divulges painful details to her audiences, but she does so in the context of a positive message. She recognizes, as did her parents, the responsibility that comes with knowledge. The human heart naturally reacts to tragedy, and if not otherwise nudged, it often reacts with cynicism, hatred, vengeance. All those sentiments, lest we forget, which caused Rwanda—that country some call a land of eternal spring—to reek of corpses only twenty-two years ago.

During the first five years after the Rwandan holocaust, I exited my politically ignorant childhood, only to enter a teenage apathy. At fourteen I reasoned, “Why listen to depressing news if there’s nothing I’m going to do about it?”

Why, indeed, if it will make the flowers in your heart shrivel and your own weapons come down hard in defense? Why not, however, if it will speed the germination of compassion, forgiveness, and hate’s antidote, love?



Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza
Hay House 2014
ISBN: 1401944329

A Review of "Death of Art" by Chris Campanioni

by Catherine Chambers

From the cover: “Death of Art dissects post-capitalist, post-Internet, post-death culture; our ability and affinity to be both disembodied and tethered to technology, allowing us to be in several places at once and nowhere at all.”

Cuban-American writer Chris Campanioni’s forthcoming book, Death of Art, is billed as non-fiction, but serves as much more. A dancey mashup of poetry and hybrid prose reminiscent of Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, Death of Art is a genre-bending glimpse into what feels like Campanioni’s private diary. We open on Campanioni cutting his face out of every fashion editorial bearing his likeness with the help of a stranger, and “stranger” is also the word I would use for the way the book progresses.

“The greatest characters I’ve invented are the ones I know by heart.”

Identity, Tinder, family, celebrity, Brooklyn: nothing is off-limits in Campanioni’s essays as he talks about growing up with hurricanes (“Storm Season”), being told not to get too tan lest he look too Latino to get cast in something (“Self-Interested Glimpses”), and looking at modern life through the lens of someone who identifies as an “artist.” As Campanioni continually questions his own journey, so the reader questions their own.

Campanioni is a meandering, unreliable narrator who facilitates the reader’s journey down the rabbit hole of his prose at breakneck, forgetting-to-breathe speed: you can’t wait to feel the ground under your feet again. He lets go of your hand before an unlit set of steps and lets you stumble as you feel inexplicably guilty about the Instagram notification that draws your attention away from the page. As Campanioni questions himself, it’s everything you don’t really want to hear. He takes the cliché of “Who am I?” and massages it into “Who am I pretending to be? Who am I as an artist in a world that seems to be waging a war on art? What even is art anymore? What is identity anymore?”

“Who hasn’t ever asked themselves: Am I a monster?
Who hasn’t ever asked themselves: Or is this what it feels like for everyone?”

The collection is marked by Campanioni’s signature mastery of the line, shameless sensuality, and abiding love of 90210. By the end of Death of Art, you feel like you have read something terribly important. You can’t seem to pin down why it’s sitting so heavy in your belly, or even the specific words that so moved you, but you know you can’t continue to move through the world the way you have been; you know something has to change.

Death of Art by Chris Campanioni
C&R Press 2016
$19.00 Paperback, 218 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-936196-60-9

Check out Chris’ piece in Duende Issue 3, "Love Stories From The Twentieth Century Caught On Film."  

Pre-order Death of Art.


by Catherine Chambers

There has been a lot going on at Duende lately. I was so humbled to be a part of the first-ever WriteFest conference in Houston, Texas, along with some of our friends old and new; go check out NANOfiction, Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Art, Nat. Brut, Crab Fat Magazine, and Clarkesworld Magazine, to name a few. My fabulous senior editor Amy Sterne and I ate too many tacos. We also got to give a reading at Alabama Song alongside our faculty advisor M.A. Vizsolyi and the effervescent Houston poet Ronnie Yates. I gave a sneak peek of our upcoming Prison Writing Feature, which you can read in its entirety right here on the site April 2nd, 2016.

Miss us at WriteFest? If you will be at the AWP Conference in Los Angeles next weekend (March 30th – Aprl 2nd), you can come see managing editor Tyler Woodsmall, faculty advisor M.A. Vizsolyi, and Goddard BFA student Sergio Bettencourt-Urbina at table 818. They will have Duende swag as well as information on Goddard College’s low-residency model, and the postcards officially announcing our next feature, EXODUS:

Duende seeks poetry, prose, hybrid work, and visual art from the hearts and minds of those who are displaced; those without a home or those who have lost one; those who are crossing borders both tangible and not; those who are immigrant, refugee, first generation, or emigrant; those who are homesick; those who haven’t looked back. Submit work starting May 2016.

As the spring BFA residency approaches, I find myself already homesick for this little journal that could. I am on the brink of my final semester at Goddard, when it seems like just yesterday we were reading for issue two and I became poetry editor because I said, “Give me the job no one else wants to do.” By the time I graduate, I will have seen Duende through three issues and most of two features. I have pulled all-nighters and shed tears and put mimosas into coffee cups on conference calls so that no one would be able to tell. I am so proud of all the work this publication has done and will do, and thank you to every person who has submitted work, to our contributors, to all the current and former staff, to our support system among the Goddard faculty and administrators, to the Gunst foundation. We couldn't do it without you.