A Note from Duende's Faculty Advisor

M. A. Vizsolyi


“…if you believe in democracy, are you not thereby obliged to accept, without discrimination, the fallouts that come with a democratic choice, even if this means the termination of the democratic process itself?”
                -Wole Soyinka, from the Reith Lectures

When our previous editors formulated the idea for this Feature or when they poured through the many submissions from immigrants, children of immigrants, emigrants, journeyers—both geographic and personal—and strangers, who remain so due to the comfortable blindnesses inherent in our social, cultural and political life, they did not expect the release of the issue to occur at such a timely moment—a moment when fear of otherness threatens to separate the United States from the global community.  

But maybe that’s wrong. Maybe we did sense the urgency regarding the issue of immigration. Maybe we sensed it in the dehumanizing rhetoric of those in our communities, those in the political sphere, and those whose fear—whether grounded or ungrounded—has gotten the better of their moral judgment.     

We want to celebrate the pieces included in this, our second feature.  Each piece tackles the idea of Exodus from a unique perspective—sometimes private journeys arriving at real understanding, sometimes familial journeys, sometimes geographical, sometimes inspirationally zany, sometimes unbearably sad.  

I am proud of our editors for continuing to work hard on a journal whose mission is to celebrate and champion those who few other journals do, to present writers speaking from diverse perspectives, to be a megaphone for those whose words need the chance to do some work on our cultural, social and political consciousness.  

This issue should be a reminder that the stories of journeyers, from all over the world, have something to teach us—something profound, true, and beautiful—and we should listen!

I asked a number of our editors to contribute some words to this note. I want to thank them for offering their words regarding the release of this issue. 

from Odin HalvorsonDuende Managing Editor:

EXODUS is important because the world is divided. In some sense, everyone is a refugee from someplace else, and no matter who you are; no matter how secure your life is now, someone in your family tree was a refugee. None of us are far removed from the ancestors who relied on someone else for aid. In a world where so-called "conservative values" reflexively attack the validity of other human beings to live free and happy, we need to showcase the voices that do not have the ability to raise themselves above the noise of consumerism, fearmongering, and petty greed. If our own voices can be heard above the crowd, we have a responsibility to use our privilege to help others be heard as well. That's what Duende stands for, and that's what the Exodus issue, in particular, means to me.

from Lacey Pruitt-ThomasDuende Fiction Editor:

When the planning of the Exodus issue began, the editors could not have foreseen the current geopolitical situation, and yet, the theme of Exodus is well-timed in its issue. For most of us the idea of exiting, evacuating, immigrating…leaving is simply too formidable to even contemplate, much less pursue. And yet, according to the UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, 65.3 million people were displaced from their homes due to armed conflict or persecution in 2015; they could not have predicted that they would be one in one hundred and thirteen people worldwide caught up in such devistation (www.unhcr.org, 20 June 2016). The word “exodus” represents upheaval and change, as well as a journey, and every person experiences some struggle or difficult decision that impacts their life. No one can escape the journey, whether physical or psychological, and to witness others’ personal adversity can produce universal empathy. Today, with all the discriminatory dialogue that swirls like a miasma of fear for those who look or behave differently, into every aspect of daily life, the only way to combat that racism and religious intolerance is to change the alien to the familiar. By sharing the art, poetry, or prose that expresses the journeys of others, we illustrate the commonality among us all. Similarities create common ground, laying the groundwork for mutual understanding, dialogue, and just possibly, healing. Duende strives to give voice to the marginalized and disenfranchised of society, and that work has become even more important now. We are proud to contribute to the struggle opposing discrimination in all its forms. 

from Katherine MichalakDuende Senior Editor:

Conflict initiates every exodus: one rarely abandons one’s home (whether that home be literal or figurative) without some negative impetus. Evacuation, flight, and escape—all words used to describe exodus—conjure images of victimization and struggle. Yet the very act of struggling shows optimism, for the truly hopeless fail to mobilize. Thus, “running away” is by nature affirmative. It says, “I have enough conviction left in my heart to protect myself and what I stand for.” Let us celebrate then, the underlying strength in our own and others’ escapes from negativity, no matter how desperate these journeys may appear.

from Christina GerardDuende Managing Editor:

This issue, themed Exodus, is important because it is all inclusive. It is the journey you are taking, the one that is happening inside you while you’re standing still. The one you’re not supposed to talk about. The fight you’re having with yourself. It is the invisible line that says, “You’re not welcome,” the wall between countries that wants to be built. It is the father in an airport being told he cannot go home. He is not American enough. It is the child walking in the rubble he once called home. It is history repeating itself. It often happens under the guise of fear, forcing those beneath it to walk the extra mile. A clever mask. Xenophobia. Homophobia. Islamophobia.  It is what nobody wants to believe is happening, even when the facts are right in front of them. It is the walk we take alone and the one we take together. It applies to all of us in one way or another. That connection is crucial, and I can’t imagine a better time than now to honor those who are most affected in this political climate or are on a personal journey. 

from Anita Olivia Koester, Duende Managing Editor:

To leave one place, one path, one road for another is an act of courage. It might not feel like one, but it takes grit to journey away from home whether that home is calling out for you to stay or pushing you to leave. The leaving is only one part of the journey, the struggle to survive, to be seen within a new place, perhaps in a culture not your own, can be a life-long one. In our Exodus issue, these writers use their voices fearlessly, or rather in order to deny the fear we all experience, the fear of disappearing, of never having been truly heard by a single person. To read their words is to listen, to shed the self if even for a moment and allow the breath of another, of someone you’ve likely never met, to enter into your space-- to break a border.