Feminist Fridays

Feminist Fridays: On Maggots, Motherhood, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Peter LaBerge



Last August, on Eclipse Day, my son was sitting at the kitchen table, holding the pinhole camera we’d made, when he asked, “Mom, what are those?” His voice was tinged with something I could not put my finger on. Something curious but also disgusted. I looked at him, my eyes following his finger downward,where he was pointing at a trail of fat maggots inching across our kitchen floor.

There’s something that feels illicit about an eclipse—the way the moon crosses over the sun so that for a few moments, night conquers day and all is dark when it shouldn’t be. It feels briefly apocalyptic, a glimpse at the end of the world. Perhaps the appearance of maggots in my kitchen, so close to the life I made, were a result of this celestial phenomenon.

I lied to him. “They’re caterpillars, bud. And they’re confused because of the eclipse. I bet the moon is disrupting their natural navigation.”

But why are caterpillars acceptable and maggots cringeworthy? Julia Kristeva defines abjection as our repulsion to reminders of our delicate materiality. My disgust of wriggling maggots is based in my fear of death; they are a reminder of rot. (The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.)

I needed to get them out of my space, so I sent my son upstairs to brush his teeth, bent down with some tissues and started to squish. Halfway through my mission, my thinking changed.

These maggots, these larvae, are more than just embodiments of death. They are babies. And maybe it was the eclipse, or maybe it was the fumes from the bleach, but then I thought, maybe I am thinking about them all wrong. Maybe these helpless invaders are not only reminders of death, but also life. Something in between.  

In the early pages of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, she describes Victor’s exploration into the liminal space between the living and the dead: “…I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain. I paused, examining and analyzing all the minutiae of causation, as exemplified in the change from life to death, and death to life…” From life, death and from death, life. How monstrous.

I went from angrily crushing them between my fingers to being tinged with tenderness. Something about the newly realized juxtaposition—death worms as fly babies—combined with the still unshakeable feeling that I had been invaded suddenly felt a whole lot like motherhood.

Pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing can seem like an invasion. And for many second-wave feminists, motherhood was seen as a scourge on our fight for equality. Yet for others, like the brilliant Adrienne Rich, motherhood was more complicated; necessary, sometimes joyous, but not what was portrayed in literature and culture. With the birth of children there are moments of breathtaking beauty, but also moments of terror, dissatisfaction, and confusion.

In the first essay of her collection Of Woman Born, “Anger and Tenderness,” Rich includes glimpses of her journal entries: “Sometimes I seem to myself, in my feelings toward these tiny guiltless beings, a monster of selfishness and intolerance…And yet at other times I am melted with the sense of their helpless, charming and quite irresistible beauty…” Rich encapsulates the flux of motherhood, of feeling monstrous in her anger and awestruck at their tiny magnificence. Because she leaves these missives in journal format, her words feel like secrets, whispered confessions.

Rich is revealing this secret: motherhood sometimes feels like a constant shifting of power, and there is no homeostasis. Like Rich, I have felt these feelings in my own mothering. Though on Eclipse Day, it wasn’t my child causing me to vacillate between feeling lovestruck and worn out. Crushing the maggots on my floor felt like a monstrous flex of power. And yet, they stirred in me a twinge of something softer. Many have described the birth and death of the woman upon motherhood, about the joy and pain of raising a child. These maggots were a representation of both. New life, old death. Suddenly those worms morphed into something new, something apart from the narrative I’d had of their existence.

The maggots-as-death trope is as old as literature itself. They are used to evoke disgust and fear in the Bible. They can be found in Chaucer (“The Monk’s Tale”) and Shakespeare (Hamlet). In the anonymously authored “diary” Go Ask Alice, maggots appear in the narrator’s horrific dream about her newly dead grandfather. And Toni Morrison writes maggots into scenes that encompass death and children in both Sula and God Save the Child. But my own thoughts about maggots-as-babies don’t align with these stories. A small thing, I know. But for a moment it knocked me a little off-kilter.

In “Anger and Tenderness,” Rich also questions whether her inability to cohere to literary images of motherhood made her “then abnormal, monstrous.” If maggots no longer cohere to the literary trope, who is the monster? The squisher or the squished?

Much has been written about Mary Shelley’s relationship to motherhood, how it was so fraught with death, how those experiences may have influenced her writing. Shelley’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, died from complications shortly after giving birth to her, and Shelley had three children, two who died in infancy. It is plausible to read these biographical details alongside Frankenstein and gain a deeper understanding of how birth and death combine in her story. Victor’s mother dies when he is a young man, and, like Shelley’s mother, it is arguably motherhood that kills her. In addition, Victor himself is a mother-figure, a creator of life. Shelley even uses language unmistakably reproductive and maternal to describe the moment he discovers his monster is living: “The astonishment which I had at first experienced on this discovery soon gave place to delight and rapture. After so much time spent in painful labour, to arrive at once at the summit of my desires was the most gratifying consummation of my toils.” This mix of maternal language, tinged with both awe and pain, feels quite a bit like Rich’s essay.

Rich describes feeling like a monster in her selfishness. Maternal Victor is also a monster, not only because of his own feelings or because of his selfishness, but also because the life he creates is made from death. Frankenstein’s monster is a creature manifested from the corporeal evidence that death is permanent. But understanding Victor as a mother-figure means that his monster is his child. And he is a monster too, lurking in forests murdering his creator’s loved ones. And yet, his murder spree stems from loneliness. His maker has rejected him, abandoned him. Who is the monster here, the creator or the created?

Samantha Hunt, in an interview with The New Yorker, said “When I became a mom, no one ever said, ‘Hey, you made a death. You made your children’s deaths.’ Meanwhile, I could think of little else. It’s scary to think of mothers as makers of death, but it sure gives them more power and complexity than one usually finds.”

Zadie Smith, in her essay “Joy,” writes, “Occasionally the child, too, is a pleasure, though mostly she is a joy, which means in fact she gives us not much pleasure at all, but rather that strange admixture of terror, pain, and delight that I have come to recognize as joy, and now must find some way to live with daily.”

In Frankenstein, Shelley writes about a dream Victor has about his love, the woman he hopes to be the mother of his children: “I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her; but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I swathe grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel.”

What a mix of pain and pleasure, fear and elation. And though these three women writers are coming from different places, from different times, different experiences, so much is the same. Motherhood and loss, abjection and empathy. Life and death simultaneous.

My maggots, I think, can be understood as occupying the liminal space between life and death. I’ve thought about them often in the year that has passed, perhaps more than one should think about kitchen pests. But there they are, even in their deaths, still living in my thoughts. What can be made of the larvae who often feed themselves from something dead, who are considered only in relation to their connections to decay, and yet, are newly alive? Born from a mother, vilified for surviving. They, too, are Frankenstein’s monster.

Shelley’s novel, perhaps born from her own connections to loss and motherhood, complicates our understandings of life and death. Victor creates new life from dead parts, and the life he creates brings death to others. But why? Because his creator abandoned him. Do we blame Victor for his monster’s violence? (Don’t we always blame the mother? Am I my son? Is he me?) Victor is both a mother and motherless. His creation is both child and monster. Shelley’s book is a story about loneliness, and isn’t that so much of what motherhood is about? When Rich writes about feeling monstrous, I think she is writing about isolation. Secrets whispered about the parts that don’t fit, like the maggots in my kitchen.

When something doesn’t quite fit the narrative we know, we bristle against it, squash it. In feminism, motherhood doesn’t quite fit. So many second-wave feminists felt motherhood was a saboteur to the movement, a setback, a succumbing to patriarchal norms. Now, third-wave feminists (re)try to pin down a motherhood narrative, a bug splayed out under glass. And yet, so often it slips from beneath the pin.

Heather Hewett responds to Rich in the book Mothering in the Third Wave. In it she asks, “Why are we still talking about feminism and motherhood in the same terms, and often in ways that are more personal and less political?” Her question is two-fold.

To answer the second part of her question, we must look backwards: Our second-wave mothers taught us that the personal is political. And so giving voice to the experience of motherhood will always be personal, because each one is different. And these stories are political because women’s bodies are still monitored and dissected by the outside world. Simply telling stories is an act of political bravery. A public confession.

To answer Hewett’s first question, we must consider faults. The language of motherhood fails us because the narrative set up is too rigid, inflexible and exclusive. It is binary, there is little space for the liminal spaces of reality. For every stance there is someone to take it down. For every step forward, someone else falls back. What words could possibly help us come to terms with an experience that leaves a woman both vilified and deified, depending on what room she enters?

The spaces in between, where we explore the grey mess of child-bearing (or choosing not to bear children, or being unable to bear children) are where the stories are. But for too long these stories were focused on the white and middle-class. Hewett’s essay also explains the importance of intersectionality in third-wave feminism and its continued examination of motherhood. She is telling us that what is missing from this conversation is the space for voices that, for too often, have been ignored. We need to change the narrative.

Perhaps we need to remove the binaries. We need to see anger, tenderness, life, death, joy, pleasure, monsters, mothers, children, and loneliness as parts of a whole. Instead of looking through a pinhole camera to catch a glimpse of what is both beautiful and terrifying, we need to look wider.


Amie Souza Reilly holds an M.A. in English Literature from Fordham University. She teaches at Norwalk Community College and Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and ten-year-old son. She has published essays in The New Engagement and Entropy, and has flash fiction forthcoming in Toasted Cheese and Pigeonholes. Her blog can be found here: https://theshapeofme.blog.

Feminist Fridays: She made the empty rooms roar by Peter LaBerge


 Image by Blythe King from  Issue Seventeen .

Image by Blythe King from Issue Seventeen.

She made the empty rooms roar with accusation and shake down a fine dust of guilt that was sucked in their nostrils as they plunged about.

from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

The mayor of the city where I live recently decided that a sidewalk needed to be installed on our street. He sent a foreman here on Saturday morning to tell us what was happening. At sunrise Monday morning, before we could protest, a truck full of men sliced through the yard, a pine tree, and our walkway. A concrete moat surrounds me.

Rapunzel was locked away in a tower because, before she was even born, her father promised her to a witch.

The witch caught Rapunzel’s father stealing rampion out of her garden. He was stealing it, of course, because his wife was craving it and told him she would die if she didn’t have it. So in the way the story gets told, it is her fault the baby gets taken away. Except that really, he agreed to let the witch take the baby in order to avoid his own death. And this means somewhere in a stone house Rapunzel’s mother was left grieving for the loss of her child. She was punished for wanting.

Beautiful Rapunzel, locked in a tower, her hair growing in ropes strong enough to hold an adult, is then courted by the king’s son and she falls in love (at age fourteen). When the old witch finds out, she banishes the pregnant Rapunzel to the desert. She was punished for loving. (Somewhere someone is thinking, But don’t forget the poor prince—he fell into the brambles and was blinded!)

As the story continues, we learn that the blinded prince wandered the forest until he found his lost love in the desert, her newborn twins in tow. Childbirth and early motherhood are not mentioned, though her swooning collapse into his loving arms is. In the end, Rapunzel’s tears renew the prince’s sight and they live happily ever after.

This is a fairy tale about three women: a mother, a crone, and a virgin who becomes a whore but is redeemed by motherhood. Though the story is centuries old, we know that women are still flattened into these roles. Rules are built like walls around women’s words and bodies in an effort to keep them under control. There’s no place for stairs or nuance in these towers.

Once upon a time, I got trapped in an elevator that was going up to the top floor of a hotel. That night, I had used a fake ID to get into a concert with my roommate and afterwards one of the band members invited us back to his room. My roommate and I had had a lot to drink. I don’t remember how we got separated. But somehow I ended up in an elevator with the (older, married) singer, and somehow the elevator buttons were out of reach. The man had a thick brogue, a thick wool sweater, and thick curls framing his face. He grabbed the back of my head with thick fingers and stuck his thick tongue down my throat in an act that felt not like a kiss, but like a gag.

When women find themselves trapped, whether in sealed towers, elevators, or the confines of laws and mores, they often become disembodied. To be trapped like this is to be simultaneously watching and watched, spectacles and spectators of their own bodies. Yet for most men, these rules are different. Elevator buttons are seldom out of reach. Towers aren’t traps, they are platforms to rule from. When men are placed on high, it is more often to stand in judgement. To look down upon the subjects and cast rulings, shout power, be heard.

I listened to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony on the radio last Thursday. Though I was not watching, I knew what she looked like because the commentator told me she appeared “stricken.” When her voice trembled, my stomach turned. She sounded like me for a moment, and I knew that waver could impact her credibility, that her words and her looks would be judged and written about for years. I imagine they’ll be studied in university courses the way I studied Anita Hill’s in the ‘90s.

Dr. Ford’s voice filled my car as I sat in a parking lot. That morning, I taught a roomful of college freshmen Amy Tan’s essay “Mother Tongue.” In class, we spoke about language and power, considered the impact of cognitive bias and what happens when those with power don’t (won’t?) listen when words become difficult to understand. At first I thought about how often language fails people. Now I wonder how often people fail language.

As I heard Dr. Ford’s voice grow stronger in the face of frivolous questions about finances, I imagined her on a witness stand, though I know this isn’t a trial. The commentary of the reporters seemed invasive; the recapping felt like a sports replay. I only wanted to hear her, to thank her.

When Serena Williams lost the U.S. Open in early September, the media was divided. Some tried to defend the umpire, blaming Williams for being “out of line.” But she wasn’t. Williams, whose every move and wardrobe choice is criticized in ways that are unquestionably tied to her gender and race, was chastised from on high by a man with power. The umpire, a man sitting physically above her, judged her body and language and it cost her. She did not lose control, she has been under control. She lost because she was emotive.

Women get trapped in towers, powerful men get to shout from them. These stories are not new.

Brett Kavanaugh opened his speech with an assertion that his statement was his and his alone. As if he could stake a claim on language. He pleaded for the people to consider the power of the word “evil.” (I used to think there was power in the word “no.” I don’t think that anymore.) Then his voice cracked, and although I was not watching, I knew that he was crying. My stomach turned. I knew this would be perceived by some as sensitivity. When he steadied himself, I understood that he would be seen as a strong and capable man. I have heard men’s voices do this before.  

A text came through my cellphone, and as I looked at it I realized I was I tired. The text was from a friend: “The world is a dumpster fire.” I told her I was having a rage flare in the seat of my station wagon, and she sent me a gif of the earth in flames. I thought about these images and the metaphor of fire as anger. Flames are tongues and rage comes out in words, but want I really want is quiet. A reprieve. But there is no sleep and there is no fire, not yet.

When it comes, how will we describe it?

In 1977, a woman named Francine Hughes was divorced from, but still living with, an abusive man—a man who beat and berated her in drunken rages. He moved back into her house after they divorced because he’d had an accident and she had empathy. Hughes’ ex-husband raped her and humiliated her. Do you know what else he did? He burned her books.

One night, after he drunkenly raged and raped her, she lit his bed on fire. Mickey Hughes died and the house was destroyed. With her children in tow, she drove to the police station and turned herself in. Francine Hughes is the reason domestic violence is a viable defense. In court, up on the witness stand, Hughes told the truth, and a jury of her peers deemed her innocent by reason of insanity.

A little like Bertha in Jane Eyre, Hughes was a madwoman in the attic. Unlike Bertha, however, Hughes’ fire destroyed her monstrous husband. Also unlike Bertha, Hughes lived to tell her side of the story. Her voice changed American Justice.

And yet, after her death last year, Hughes’ granddaughter told USA Today, “She didn’t feel like it was something to be proud of. She never felt justified. She never felt free. I think that’s kind of why she kept it low key because I think she was ashamed and haunted by it.”

Burning everything down helped Hughes get rid of her abuser, but his abuse never left her. That she died without ever talking about her abuse, that it was a source of shame for her, reminds us that even when justice happens, trauma haunts like a ghost. What words can there be?

My description of what happened to me in that elevator years ago is not well-written. I did not—could not—adequately portray the spinning, trapped feeling of my fear or the in-between temperature of my body. My language is repetitive. In repeating the word “thick,” I hope you will understand the scene—not only the way he looked, but the feeling that followed.

When people began to question (threaten) Dr. Ford, they came for her memories. They said her narrative was wrong. They said if it really happened, she would remember more, be able to tell us more. Like Dr. Ford, like so many women, I do not know what I was wearing that night in the elevator. I do not know what the hotel lobby looked like. I do remember the name of the band, but I can’t recall how I got to the hotel. It is a story that is both mine and not mine because it is lost. The story is flawed as I am flawed, and there are no words for that.

Kavanaugh’s words did fail him. He ranted, shot fiery language at those who asked him the pressing questions that must be answered. The words he was so sure of at the beginning of his speech became evasive, insulting, unstable. It seemed as though the platform he thought he was standing on disintegrated beneath him. This might be enough to make him fall. As I write this, I hear that the GOP has agreed to postpone the nomination for a week.

He will, I hope, be barred from further power. He will be chastised for his actions. He will be judged for his performance. Of course, Dr. Ford will be judged for hers, too. Her trauma won’t go away, but she has impacted Justice. Memory is fallible, and so is language. Trauma stays. It is to be believed. Perhaps things are changing. As I write this, though, I hear the President say of Dr. Ford, “She looks like a very fine woman.”


Amie Souza Reilly holds an M.A. in English Literature from Fordham University. She teaches at Norwalk Community College and Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and ten-year-old son. She has published essays in The New Engagement and Entropy, and has flash fiction forthcoming in Toasted Cheese and Pigeonholes. Her blog can be found here: https://theshapeofme.blog.

Feminist Fridays: Don DeLillo’s White Noise is Relevant Again... by Peter LaBerge

...But Not Just Because His Protagonist is a Hitler Scholar; Or, A Feminist’s [Re]Reading of Don DeLillo’s White Noise


  “ Self-Portrait as a Housewife ,” by Anita Olivia Koester, from  Issue Twenty-One .

Self-Portrait as a Housewife,” by Anita Olivia Koester, from Issue Twenty-One.

When Don DeLillo’s White Noise was published in 1985, Jayne Anne Phillips wrote this in her New York Times review: “In light of the recent Union Carbide disaster in India that killed over 2,000 and injured thousands more, White Noise seems all the more timely and frightening– precisely because of its totally American concerns, its rendering of a particularly American numbness.” She was referring to the Bhopal gas leak, the worst industrial catastrophe in history, a disaster so calamitous that its repercussions are still felt in the community. (In fact, while I was writing this, The Atlantic published an article revisiting its victims.) There is no denying how the second segment of DeLillo’s book, titled “The Airborne Toxic Event,” seems like a microcosm of that tragedy. In this section, a train has either derailed or gotten rammed or something has punched a hole in its side, and as the chemicals spewing from the wreckage change from a feathery plume to a black billowing cloud, the town is forced to evacuate, all while the media, the government, and the healthcare system report a litany of changing symptoms and prognoses to the town’s people.

Certainly the ideas of shifty media and environmental disasters are still relevant thirty-three years later, but what’s notable about White Noise is that as relatable as it was in 1985, it is timely, frightening, and pertinent to American concerns for a new (but perhaps not as praiseworthy) reason: Babette. The first-person protagonist’s wife is often overlooked, both within the novel and in the praise surrounding it. But not only is Babette overlooked, she is also overly looked at, which makes her a pretty perfect representation of American women. But even beyond the male gaze and flattening of Babette’s character, I believe her experience with the fear-of-death blocking, black market drug Dylar is emblematic of our current administration’s war on reproductive rights.

That seems like a lot to pull out of a character who is primarily described as “Jack’s wife who has an affair with Willie Mink,” but bear with me.


In the third and final section of the novel, while the two are lying in bed, Jack confronts his wife about the Dylar pills he and Babette’s daughter have found. (The title of this section, “Dylarama,” sounds like “diorama” and reading it feels like peering into a box of Babette’s drama—it’s microcosmic, almost like a John Donne metaphysical poem, a tiny world unraveling in their bed.) He tells her, “It’s time for a major dialogue;” adding that he and her daughter Denise have her “backed against a wall.” His approach is confrontational, assertive, and accusatory. Jack compares the technology of the pill, which he’s had analyzed by a neurobiologist at the college where he works, to the microorganisms released to devour the toxic cloud. In this analogy, Babette and the airborne toxic event are the same, and a connection between mother-Babette and Mother Earth seems almost too easy. What warrants closer consideration is how this connection erases the individual-ness of Babette’s dilemma, yet also enlarges it. Before she speaks to Jack, he seems to see her use of Dylar as being equivalent to the town’s disaster: a huge, life-altering mystery that overcomes his thoughts. However, once she tells him the whole story, her whole story, the weight of the problem evaporates (at least for Jack) and he diminishes its importance.

After Jack’s opening monologue, Babette is silent for several minutes before she begins to tell her story. She starts by trying to identify the source of her unease, to set up the why before the what. But she doesn’t get very far. Jack won’t stop interrupting. First he corrects her, stopping her midway through her sentence to point out that she meant to say she was going through either a “landmark” or “watershed” period, not a “watermark period” as she has mistakenly said. And then, once she moves past his grammar lecture and begins explaining her crippling, unwavering fear of death, he interjects: “You’ve been depressed lately. I’ve never seen you like this. This is the whole point of Babette. She’s a joyous person. She doesn’t succumb to gloom or self pity.”

Jack is not only dismissing Babette’s understanding of her own mind and body, but he is delineating her person down to a compressed, “joyous” version of her that he has created. To him, her fear cannot be real, for it does not fit how he understands her. And as she continues to talk, he gaslights her into exhaustion. He tries to dissuade her fear of death by blaming her weight. When that doesn’t work, he belittles its seriousness: “If you’re able to conceal such a thing from a husband and children, maybe it’s not so severe;” and then he tries to take her horror away from her: “I’m the one who fears death.” All of this deflects from Babette and undermines her autonomy and her authority. Reading Babette in 2018 reminds me of every man who has spoken over me in a classroom or a boardroom, of every doctor who has ignored a woman’s pain complaint, of all of the men who have told women to smile.

Nevertheless, Babette persists with her story. Yet it seems that Jack, for all of his determination to get her to explain herself, still cannot pay attention. Perhaps this is the whole point of Jack—to be obtuse, self-involved, and childish. But his dismissiveness and insistence on talking over her feels too familiar.

Even when the conversation ends, the misogyny continues. The two get up, use the bathroom, and head back to bed. But Jack waits while Babette fixes the sheets, and when they both tumble in, as she tells him how tired she is and curls up for sleep, he peppers her with more questions. She acquiesces, but when she asks to stop after answering a few, he continues. It seems as though Jack still cannot conceive of a Babette who does not fit his meaning. He is dumbfounded: “I have watched you bathe Wilder, iron my shirts…” Through his confused musings it becomes clear that he only wants her to be his happy wife, the teacher of simple tasks, mother to children, reader to the blind.

But wait. Despite all Jack’s interruptions, we do get to hear from Babette regarding what Dylar is, where she got it, and what has happened to her since. After she finishes telling Jack about the mounting fear of death that has swelled within her, she tells him she found out about Dylar in a magazine. Her blind client requests that she read him tabloids, and it was while Babette was reading from the National Examiner that she saw an ad. She is vague in her description of what it said, telling Jack, “Volunteers wanted for secret research. This is all you have to know.” In a world full of fear where things stop making sense, even rag magazines hold truth. (How often does reality feel like an article in The Onion? How often does one read an article that feels real without realizing its satire?)

Babette tells Jack she followed through on the ad, passed a battery of tests, and became part of the study, ingesting the capsules that slowly released Dylar into her body, in theory, blocking the receptors that allowed her to fear death. However, just as the experiment seemed to be in full swing, three of the four scientists changed their minds, concerned the drug was too risky and its side effects too unknown. They worried she could die, or that parts of her brain could die, and even though Babette’s whole reason for seeking out the drug was because she fears death, she wanted to move forward. The mental gymnastics there are difficult, but the desperation is easy to understand. Babette, removed from the study but determined to alleviate her fear, must do anything to get the Dylar, and so, like Eve in the Garden of Eden, she followed the snake to the forbidden fruit. Babette confesses to Jack that she slept with the fourth scientist, Willie Minks. “It was a capitalist transaction,” she says.


Of course, the novel is bursting with commentary on American consumerism; it’s full of car brands and commercials, food lists and fashion choices, so Babette’s assertion that sex with Willie Minks was “a capitalist transaction” fits well within the scope of the story. But how raw it feels to read this now, when women’s rights to their bodies are increasingly controlled by the wealthy white men running our country, when women who cross the border seeking asylum have their children taken, are themselves sent back. Women’s bodies as commerce, traded, exchanged, and transacted, is a tale as old time and as new as tomorrow. Considering Babette while Title X funding is under siege, science-based healthcare for women is being overridden by moralistic ideals, and Brett Kavanaugh steps closer to being on our Supreme Court shifts my understanding of this diorama-esque section into something more macrocosmic. It seems like all women are Babettes, existing in a country full of Jacks certain that they know where women should be: “I have watched you bathe Wilder, iron my shirts.”  

And it’s not just Babette, it’s the Dylar she’s taking, that begs us to consider how relevant, maybe even prophetic, White Noise has turned out to be. I can’t help but think about how similar Dylar is to another slow-release drug that staves off fear: birth control. IUDs and implants seem to me to be just as miraculous as the capsule Babette takes. And it doesn’t seem difficult to jump from fear of death to fear of pregnancy, especially as maternal mortality rates in this country are on the rise, and threats to contraceptive freedom (which not only prevents unwanted pregnancies, but also relieves symptoms of endometriosis, ovarian cysts, even acne) are hovering over our heads like their own toxic cloud. Is it too hard to imagine a world where men use their power to elicit sex in exchange for birth control? The Handmaid’s Tale is not the only dystopian feminist novel we need to hand out.

It seems easy to swap out some of the words from Jayne Anne Phillips’ NYT review to make White Noise just as pertinent today. This book is, at its heart, an examination into how we function while the outside world is uncertain, how we come to normalize change, how the minutiae of life marches forward, how grocery shopping and newspaper deliveries coexist with disasters. That is, I believe, what Phillips was describing as “a particular American numbness.” Babette’s character is certainly emblematic of this phenomenon; she functions quite well despite her inside and outside world’s chaos. However, a close look at her experience with Dylar and with her obtuse husband with twenty-first century mindset is illustrative of our current (and long-held) male-dominated power structures. Babette’s story, like so many women’s stories, is one about resilience.


Amie Souza Reilly holds an M.A. in English Literature from Fordham University. She teaches at Norwalk Community College and Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and ten-year-old son. She has published essays in The New Engagement and Entropy, and has flash fiction forthcoming in Toasted Cheese and Pigeonholes. Her blog can be found here: https://theshapeofme.blog.

We're With Her: An Election Statement by Brynne Rebele Henry by Aidan Forster

  " Hang On " by Blythe King (The Adroit Journal, Issue Seventeen)

"Hang On" by Blythe King (The Adroit Journal, Issue Seventeen)

Donald Trump’s criminal, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, and frankly despicable behavior has been the cause of countless media scandals during this election season. But still, somehow, he has supporters, however unsuitable he is, despite that he is, as Hillary Clinton said, a literal plethora of deplorable beliefs, actions, and principles. Naturally, there are going to be people who stand for everything that is and has always been wrong with this country.

However, a Trump election would result in the kind of disaster that futuristic horror films are based on, leaving behind a terribly frightening future (or, given Trump’s remarks on nuclear war, potentially leaving nothing behind).  Possibly the only silver lining of this election is that it’s opened a discussion about sexual assault, harassment, and the things women deal with on a daily basis on a national level in response to Trump’s horrific comments and treatment of women and girls. This discussion is vital, and while it’s unfortunate that it’s because Trump is running for president, the discussion should not stop after the election, (hopefully after Clinton wins). We’re with Her. And we really, really hope you are too.

Feminist Fridays: "Girls & Other Animals" by Brynne Rebele-Henry by Aidan Forster

  " Horse"  by Adam Amram (Adroit   Journal, Issue 9)

"Horse" by Adam Amram (Adroit Journal, Issue 9)

In popular literature and songs, women’s bodies or sexualities are often compared to animals. Take, for example, “I want to fuck you like an animal/Iwant to feel you from the inside” in Closer by Nine Inch Nails. Or the incessant comparison of pretty girls to Bambi, or women’s bodies to racehorses. Women’s fear is often compared to that of a deer in the headlights. This form of zoomorphism in our culture is extremely common, and, while often women being compared to animals is a typical literary tactic, it’s interesting to think of the underlying dehumanization: a woman is not a woman with big eyes, she’s a virginal baby deer; a woman afraid is not a woman who is afraid, she is soon to be road kill. The simultaneous romanticizing and dehumanization of female beauty is common: when you are beautiful, you are an ideal, viewed as someone almost holy or above others, and simultaneously seen as something not human, as in you’re not a person, you’re a body part, a commodity.


In almost every YA novel, girls are compared to burning fires, birds of paradise, deer, horses, roses, lions, tigresses, parrots, and so on, and in this way, beauty and womanhood are turned feral. I’m sure if you Googled me, you could find multiple poems and stories and novel excerpts where I compare bodies to oceans or fires or sick animals or burning buildings, so I’m not necessarily saying that there’s anything wrong with doing so, or using Zoomorphism as a literary device. However, the concept of beauty or womanhood or desire for girls, or a girl’s desire or fear as something animalistic, un-human, is a disturbing topic. In our culture, girls and women’s bodies are used as commodities or warfare or advertisements, and in this way, it’s like beauty and womanhood negate your personhood, turns you into something usable, something animal, that can be consumed.


The music video for Animals by Maroon 5 consists of a man breaking into a woman’s apartment repeatedly, photographing her half naked and sleeping, and then, in a meat bunker, smearing himself in animal’s blood, like he’s preparing himself for the hunt. He then follows her to a club and presumably takes her home, as they can next be seen entwined and dripping in dark red blood. Their desire has turned them into the hunter and the hunted, and, apparently, the prey has been caught.


Older women who date younger men are referred to as “cougars” (I have yet to find the lesbian equivalent for this, but I assume it would involve some kind of large cat as well).  Virgins are compared to pure flowers, petals that have not yet crumpled or withered or dried out which is apparently what happens when a girl loses her virginity: she withers, her petals fall off. In this context a woman’s desire both punishes her and gives her power (a dying flower, a threatening hunting cat). In most of the literature I’ve read, men are never flowers or road kill deer, they’re usually portrayed as either primitive hunters or predatory creatures, and, on the brief occasion that women in literature are referred to as predatory animals, it’s derogatory (“she’s a cougar, watch out,” “she’s a shark” etc).


The question in this article, is why are girls dying fires or withering roses or Bambi-eyed ingénues or helpless but decorative birds? Why are we always the prey?


Feminist Fridays: "The Dead Lesbian Trope" by Brynne Rebele-Henry by Aidan Forster

 "  A Shrill Majesty"  by W. Jack Savage (Adroit Journal, Issue 14)

"A Shrill Majesty" by W. Jack Savage (Adroit Journal, Issue 14)

Lesbian representation in television could at best be compared to one of the reality shows (Naked and Afraid, Out of the Wild, and so on) in which normal civilian people face near death experiences for the gratification of the viewers, only, in this analogy, the lesbians don’t survive, however the civilians in such shows do.

A count recently released by Autostraddle lists the number of all 155 LGBT women on various television programs (dating back to 1976) who have been killed, and their various causes of death (car accident, toxic envelope glue, self inflicted stabbing, beheading, electrocuted in a bathtub, breast cancer, mall bombing, various supernaturally sustained injuries, angry men, mentally unbalanced exes, and so on). The often seemingly random or punish-killing of LGBT women on popular programs has become a trope, or a plot device, that is used by TV writers to the point that it seems that gay women are either strangely susceptible to ridiculously bad luck, or that their writers view them as less important than their deaths.

Such tropes raise the following questions: Why, in television as well as the real world, is it so hard for gay women to stay alive, or at least remain not grievously injured by either angry men, cruel chance, as if in some sort of biblical punishment? Why are queer women’s lives valued less in both spheres? Is this representation (the constant murdering of LGBT women or prominent LGBT women’s partners in popular TV programs) supposed to be a glimpse into the lives of many queer women through out various time periods and areas, or is it merely a homophobic plot device?

I’ve watched almost every title in lesbian Netflix, and the only two pieces that have relatively happy endings are Jenny’s Wedding (a nauseatingly confectionary story of a closeted woman with extremely homophobic family members who may or may not come to her wedding after finding out that—surprise she’s not marrying a man). And The L Word, (an offensive soapy mess of a television show that is difficult to look away from, though even this piece ends with a murder, albeit of a character so supremely unlikable it is difficult to feel anything but relief at her demise). It often seems as if Hollywood is stating that if you are a queer women, specifically, if you are a queer woman who does not fit into the steadily supplied tropes of what a lesbian or bisexual woman should be like, you will be punished, often by some formerly improbable deadly fluke.

Lesbians in film have barely evolved since the fifties pulp novel and, later, movie mandated representation: either you’re a woman so beautiful that a man could never be near her, a woman who has been hurt by a man so beautifully that she can never be near them, a villainous, hyper masculine, often predatory woman, or, a woman so undesirable that the only person who could conceivably desire her would be a similarly unfit for the male gaze woman.

Since this time, lesbian sexuality seems to take three forms: either, an asexual, almost sisterly relationship, in which most of their time is spent knitting, adopting rescue cats, fulfilling various stereotypes, and so on. Or, alternately, their sex is violent, flashy, usually femme/butch, or, alternately, two extremely beautiful women who are so beautiful they are relegated to lesbianism as men cannot handle them, their beauty makes them grotesque, or, maybe they’re just being punished (a maddeningly and unfortunately realistically disproportionate amount of women in the Autostraddle count were killed by angry men).

Alternately, a large number of lesbians portrayed in the media or in literature identify as gay because of trauma, which in itself is perfectly valid, but which is contorted by the media to make the woman in question a martyr, beautiful in her blood and suffering, the general homophobia in regards to her queerness is washed away by her martyrdom, how delicately and almost holy her suffering seems. As standards for conventionally attractive actresses have evolved, it seems almost like the queer woman who are being killed are being punished for their beauty, for being inaccessible to men. Every beautiful woman in the world can recount being compared to Helen of Troy at least once or twice within her life (beauty as suffering, war, casualties, deception, punishment).

The question I keep coming back to, is, why are queer women’s lives and characters seemingly so disposable, both in the real world and in television, and what would it take to change both?


Brynne Rebele-Henry's poetry, fiction, and visual art have appeared in such journals as The Volta, Revolver, Souvenir, Pine Hills Review, Open House, Powder Keg, So to Speak, Ping Pong, The Offending Adam and other magazines, and her work is forthcoming in Adroit, Denver Quarterly, Fiction International, Dusie, Poetry Crush, and Prairie Schooner among other publications. Her book Fleshgraphs is forthcoming from Nightboat Books. She was born in 1999 and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia. 


Feminist Fridays: "The Language We Use For Love" by Brynne Rebele-Henry by Aidan Forster

  "Busts"  by Katiuscia Gregoire ( Adroit Journal , Issue 9)

"Busts" by Katiuscia Gregoire (Adroit Journal, Issue 9)

Think of the limits of language, of all the words that have yet to be invented, the emotions not classified or felt clearly enough to have a place in a dictionary, or, emotions that have not yet been translated from one language to another (take, for example, the Japanese word, Koi No Yokan, which describes the sensation upon meeting another person who you realize you will inevitably fall in love with. Or, the Norwegian word, Forelsket, which describes the sensation before falling in love, or the sensation directly at the time that you first fall in love). 


We do not know what the first love poem ever written was or what the first recognized sensation of love was, or, if in the time before language, love existed without the words used to describe or define it, or if instead emotions were only developed after the invention of the words used to describe them. Or, if emotions existed and were communicated via touch or some other form of non-verbal gesture.


Now, the language we use for love has become Hallmark, commercial, a series of nouns used on rhyming Valentine’s Day cards and widely purchased and distributed by millions.  While the words have more or less stayed the same, the way love is viewed by most parts of society has finally albeit slowly begun to evolve from a heterosexual expectation, to a multi-faceted (and now legally recognized) acceptance (however the majority of commercialized Hallmark card sections have stayed excessively suburban and heterosexual and will probably remain that way eternally).


Culturally, however, love, or the loopholes you apparently must go through to be loved if you are a woman-girl (or at least the loopholes according to most women’s magazines and the media) require a thigh gap, conventional Eurocentric beauty, and various virgin/whore complex inspired maneuvers.


Love sells, almost more than sex, and the average consumer wants a perfect glossy love story, hence the various multi-billion grossing love flicks, Grammy winning pop songs, bestselling books, and fairytale come to life media sensations turned minor celebrities.


Interestingly, love seems to now be considered creatively passé, as if the language used for it has expired from over-usage, and, often, seems to have been replaced by other forms of expression as with heart emojis, text acronyms, some repurposed forms of slang (i.e.: from “baby” to “bae” ). However, despite the rapidly evolving words we have for love, the sexist expectations and alterations that women are told to undergo have stayed the same save for being updated to fit cultural shifts and modern technology.


 It is possible that eventually love will become extinct, or, as we enter the age of the machine, become too un-evolved, and will instead be replaced by a new emotion, gesture, language, or phrase that has not yet been conceived. 


Brynne Rebele-Henry's poetry, fiction, and visual art have appeared in such journals as The Volta, Revolver, Souvenir, Pine Hills Review, Open House, Powder Keg, So to Speak, Ping Pong, The Offending Adam and other magazines, and her work is forthcoming in Adroit, Denver Quarterly, Fiction International, Dusie, Poetry Crush, and Prairie Schooner among other publications. Her book Fleshgraphs is forthcoming from Nightboat Books. She was born in 1999 and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia. 

Feminist Fridays: "The Supernatural Powers of Young Women: Lesbian Vampirism and Queer Teenage Sexuality" by Brynne Rebele-Henry by Aidan Forster

The lesbian vampire has become a trope, the sullen counterpart to the portrayal of heterosexual desire in horror, a genre that is rife with queer subtext/text. Historically, queer vampires are used as either anti-gay, anti-feminist propaganda, such as Regiment of Women,  a popular novel published in 1917 around the peak of the Suffragette movement, which involves a sadistic lesbian headmistress of an all girls boarding school who corrupts the girls under her charge with both feminism and undead powers until a good man rescues the other headmistress (whom the former has seduced).  It’s not clear what happens to the girls. Or, alternately, as a form of titillation that is safe in its heterosexuality/disapproval. The myths and rites surrounding the portrayal of lesbian vampires are startlingly similar to the myths and rituals surrounding menstruation and the expected behavior of teenage girls, and the general reception towards their sexual desires (especially queer desire). The portrayal of the lesbian vampire is almost parallel to the portrayal of the lesbian teenage girl in both the ever-present tropes and expected punishment/repercussions.


Lesbian vampires are almost always portrayed one of three ways:


1. The Mature Woman: she’s usually a countess/somehow rich and dresses in a way that, if not masculine, is certainly not feminine. She’s the lesbian version of a patriarch (money is a substitute for male-ness when it comes to power), and she usually seduces newlywed brides, wait staff, or generally impressionable young girls, who quickly take to the blood-sucking lifestyle, therefore abandoning their veneer of innocence/virginity/heterosexuality.


2. The Promiscuous Teenage Lesbian: she is either voluptuous and/or blonde, or she is titillating and rebellious looking in a way that remains consumable for the male gaze. The  trope is that The Promiscuous Teenage Lesbian is seduced by a vampiristic power figure, and is now living a life of homosexual-sexual perversion, converting other girls to both lesbianism and vampirism.


3. The Dominatrix/Butch: she’s not a man, but she plays the role of one, while simultaneously fitting into the safe, heterosexual-approved stereotype of a manly lesbian, whose masculinity makes up for her sexual identity.


The feminine woman-girls are always beautiful, in a safely conventional way, while the masculine woman-girls are portrayed as all hard edges or their beauty is unconventional in a way that looks dangerous, not like the all-American pin-up of their femme counterparts. The lines between beautiful but dangerous queerness, and beautiful and comforting heterosexuality are always especially apparent in vampire films/literature. On the other hand, excessive beauty is often portrayed as a form of depravity or the supernatural.


Much like the vampire, queer women are expected to be either paranormally beautiful to the point that their beauty overtakes the rest of them, or un-beautiful, not fit for a man’s gaze. In parallel to this trope, gay men, who are rarely portrayed in such films, when they are they portrayed, are always extremely beautiful in a way that doesn’t overshadow the rest of their character. However, they are often to some degree closeted.  Their beauty is an object, erotic in its excess.


Queer horror is safe for the heterosexual, cisgender viewers, it allows them to bask in otherwise taboo sexual fantasies or desires that are presented in a way that, while not pornographic or overtly explicit, cut it pretty close. The queer vampire is also palatable in another way: before their vampiric conversion, the women-girls are always safely heterosexual and innocent, and who can blame such a girl for being seduced and then converted by a power figure? Their lesbian desires are explained as caused by their metamorphoses into vampires, creatures who sustain themselves by homoerotically sucking blood out of their victims, which draws symbiotic parallels to the consistently taboo practice of period sex. Newly bloody teenage girls are simultaneously revered and feared, much like the vampire, who is newly drunk on blood-lust. Teenage girls are considered filthy from their desires, pumped full of blood-hormones, dangerous from their excretions and sudden mood swings and sexual activity or desire.


Menstruation is often portrayed as another form of vampirism, a taboo secretion or desire that manifests after a sudden metamorphoses (in this case, puberty). In keeping with traditional vampire oriented superstitions (garlic, mirrors, permission to enter houses, Holy Water), similar practices are used with menstruating women and girls. Take for example, one old fashioned but still occasionally practiced myth from India where it is advised that a menstruating female not eat spicy food because it will give her “firepower.”


In some villages in Nepal  and Ethiopia girls are isolated in huts for the duration of their periods. In the vast majority of cultures, menstruating women are considered unholy or unclean (this belief is practiced with various degrees of extremity, from the general American taboo towards the discussion of menstruation to extreme ostracization or excommunication if women-girls do not exile themselves while menstruating).


Other cultures consider first menstruation a cause for celebration and throw miniature weddings in which they announce their daughters’ fertility and newfound availability for marriage.  They believe that menstruation is pollution, and women-girls are not allowed in kitchens, houses, or near others food while menstruating. Orthodox Christianity advises women not to receive their communion while on their periods.


In an interesting conundrum, however, hymeneal bleeding is considered something pure, clean, in relation to the just-taken virginity. Traditionally, marital bed sheets would be proudly displayed after the post-wedding de-virginization took place. The blood in this case is considered clean because it is mainly heterosexual blood that has been drawn via the penetration of a previously chaste woman-girl. Given that the de-virginization is, in legends, painful, the woman is like the innocent women in horror films who fall prey to the demonic whims of vampires. They are not supposed to enjoy it, but rather are supposed to be passive but inevitable victims.  Heterosexual sexual penetration could be said to be symbiotically mirrored by vampire staking in terms of the physical act of penetration by a phallic object and the subsequent dissipation or expected loss of autonomy.


In various folklore and sexually explicit books/films, menstrual sex is an act akin to the changeling becoming a vampire. The sucking of blood through the neck is also enacted via hickeys, a stereotypical symbol of teenage sexuality that is traditionally viewed as a claim of possession/marking another person’s body with your presence.


The trope of the lesbian/queer vampire or the newly menstruating person as beautifully out of control teenage girls is further emphasized by these popular beliefs and practices. These beliefs and practices still hold on to the comforting excuse of demonic or supernatural possession (something that homosexuality was once/occasionally still is diagnosed as) as an explanation for lesbian sexual desire, or un-innocent girls, and their new-found queer desires, these responses are designed to circumvent the supposed havoc they wreak on heterosexual institutions and systematic societal sexual repression.


Brynne Rebele-Henry’s poetry, fiction, and visual art have appeared in such journals as The Volta, Revolver, Souvenir, Pine Hills Review, Open House, Powder Keg, So to Speak, Ping Pong, The Offending Adam and other magazines, and her work is forthcoming in Adroit, Denver Quarterly, Fiction International, Dusie, Poetry Crush, and Prairie Schooner among other publications. Her book Fleshgraphs is forthcoming from Nightboat Books. She was born in 1999 and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia.

Feminist Fridays: "The Representation of Female Writers in Modern Literature and Media" by Brynne Rebele-Henry by Aidan Forster

  "Release" by Emma Faith Hill (The Adroit Journal, Issue 8)

"Release" by Emma Faith Hill (The Adroit Journal, Issue 8)


Being a woman/non male identifying writer makes it incredibly hard to get work accepted, taken seriously, considered by literary agents, or recognized by awards. The ever present tokenizing and suppressing environment on the part of the majority of the heterosexual or unaware or otherwise biased members of the literary world is also a large factor in the stifling of LGBTQPIA+ and female voices, voices that are already stifled by the publishing industry and the world in general. The work of such individuals often faces the complete eclipsing of female protagonists or voices, much less female or queer sexuality.


Take for example Catherine Nichols, who submitted her novel (which had a female main protagonist) to fifty agents each under a male name and under her real name. The queries that she submitted under a male name received seventeen requests, while the queries she submitted under her actual name were only requested twice. She also noticed a varying degree of interest in the responses (when her male alias received rejections they were far more warmer and detailed).


Navigating the literary world is difficult enough, but add being a woman (not to mention if you identify as on the LGBTQPIA+ spectrum or are a person of color) and it’s difficult just to receive responses about your work due to either conscious or unconscious biases, much less win the same awards or publish the same amount as the straight white cis men (like Jonathan Franzen, to name only one) who are more often than not dominating the media coverage of literary awards. And, often, when you do win the same awards as straight white cis men your work is written off by the same privileged writers as only picked for tokenizing political reasons and not for its actual merit, because in terms of literary success or endeavors their identity erases everything else about their work.


Brynne Rebele-Henry’s poetry, fiction, and visual art have appeared in such journals as The VoltaRevolverSouvenirOpen HousePowder KegSo to SpeakPing PongThe Offending Adam and other magazines, and her work is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Pine Hills Review and Denver Quarterly, among other publications. She was born in 1999 and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia.












Feminist Fridays: "Men Try To Make Me Disappear" by Brynne Rebele-Henry by Aidan Forster

 "Looking for Warm Places in Cold People" by Antonio Estevez ( The Adroit Journal,  Issue 12)

"Looking for Warm Places in Cold People" by Antonio Estevez (The Adroit Journal, Issue 12)


The patriarchy engages in a systematic erasure of women’s work and identities.

Men often change, censor, or erase the words, experiences, opinions, orientations, rights, personalities, bodies, and work of women, in a pattern that has become ingrained in our society. Sometimes these erasures are relatively benign and sometimes they aren’t.


On December 8, 2014, I ceased to exist. I submitted my manuscript, Fleshgraphs (a hybrid book in fragments that rotate around the unifier of the body), to Tarpaulin Sky Press. Upon reading it, the “man behind the curtain” at the press decided that I was not real. The book references sex, drugs, rape culture, self-harm, violence, bigotry, depression, and PTSD among other things. He initially sent an email in which he pretended to be interested in my manuscript:


Well, Brynne, this text looks amazing. … I would love to know more about this project. It’s definitely in the top ten things I’ve read in the last few days, and I’m not supposed to be reading any of it, just cataloging it. But that’s the problem with the good stuff. Throws everything off. Displaces time. That said, if you are actually fourteen I may either 1) just kill myself now or 2) make a pilgrimage to study, if not worship, at your feet.


Thinking he was genuinely interested in my book, I replied enthusiastically, confirming that I had recently turned fifteen and I had my parents’ permission to publish my work. I also explained the intent behind Fleshgraphs:


As for the project, it is supposed to be a multi-voiced manifesto of the body, as well as a sort of unifier since every person has a body. The voices are supposed to meld the trivial with the suicidal, the amazing with the horrifying, kind of like the internet does. I’ve always found it really intriguing that you can watch a video of baby pandas and then see footage of people being stabbed a few seconds later.



I closed my email “Again, thank you for the response! I’m so glad that you like the piece!” This was my first time sending a manuscript for consideration and my first book contest entry. I chose Tarpaulin Sky because I had read some of the genre-bending books that the press had published and because the press seemed to support female writers. I assumed his interest was sincere, and I was excited.


But then, I received the following email:


I tried to play along and be funny like a normal person—or perhaps I should say “like a typical middle-class artist/author who knows trauma only from stuff they read and appropriate in an effort to appear edgy or provocative or as if they have something of weight to discuss, in contrast to their boring, privileged lives”—but neither chatting with teens nor pretending to chat with teens is a welcome activity for me, let alone when the alleged teen’s MS involves rape and torture.


I want to believe that you’re merely oblivious to what I’ve been through, rather than *trying* to trigger my issues.


If either Brian or Tara [my parents] wants to contact me, I’d welcome some clarity, because I feel sick. Otherwise I’m done.



And then I received another email twenty minutes later:


Also: if you were at all familiar with our catalog, you’d know that some of our titles deal head-on with sexual assault, even child sexual assault. And I publish these books not only because the texts are great but I publish them also because they help ME work through this shit.


But for you to think that an author-publisher relationship can itself be a performance piece? I mean, what the fuck are you smoking? Like I’m even going to pretend to publish a 15-yr-old even if you weren’t fucking with my issues left, right, and center.


I replied, trying to clarify my intentions:


I apologize if my manuscript triggered you. Until you sent me your first email, I didn’t know anything about you personally, so I wouldn’t know what issues you have or how to trigger them. If you publish things to help you work through your issues, you should mention that on your web site, or perhaps include a note about the type of content you do not wish to receive. My work and interaction with your press has been by no means a performance. In my work, I try to portray the human body, and the things people with bodies (especially women) experience, which sometimes include rape and other horrific things, regardless of age. I am a young woman who lives in a world that is rampant with psychos and rape culture. I am not sure why, if you did not feel comfortable talking with a teenager, you would have sent me an enthusiastic email about my manuscript when you were aware of my age. I have published in other places that have always treated me and my work very professionally. I do not want to be contacted by you/Tarpaulin Sky again.



But he continued to email me:


You’re seriously going to keep up this charade?


At least Brian should know enough about TS to know that there is no “content we don’t wish to receive.” Our books peel the paint off the walls. We make a point of it. Which is why I took notice of your manuscript.


Don’t confuse the issue: which is that you’re playing “pretend” with your own teen daughter, and apparently won’t cop to it for anything.


It was funny the first time. But when you wrote back and *continued* to play pretend, it wasn’t funny.


And now it’s plain creepy.


Why don’t you two just tell me what's going on—its not beyond explaining, for crying out loud—Instead of making me have to ask thousands of readers what the fuck your problem is?


Rather than confront his own biases about the abilities of young women and what, in his eyes, would have constituted appropriate or believable subject matter and concerns for young women who write, the editor just decided that I didn’t exist, or if I did exist in real life, in this situation it was in name only.  He decided my work must have been a ploy or piece of poorly thought-out performance art on the part of my parents (who are both writers), and he threatened to expose them to his “thousands of readers.” He implied that I (or, my parents, since he had erased me as the author and real, live, woman on the receiving end of his emails), had submitted my book to “fuck” with his “issues.” Even if my manuscript included rape and torture, or was more explicit, would it be so unbelievable that a young woman might choose to write about horrific things that happen to women every day in the world she inhabits? But, in our society, the expected role for a teenaged girl is that of the ingénue (unless or until she is a victim of male violence, and the assumptions and narrative shift dramatically—so the girl, now “mature” and “older than her chronological age,” was assumed to have been in total control of the situation, including her own sexuality and that of her male rapist).


The “man behind the curtain” from Tarpaulin Sky Press did apologize to me, after receiving verification from my parents that I am real, that the manuscript I submitted was really my work, and that it had really been me receiving his emails.  However, the assumptions he made about me and my work speak to a much larger issue in our culture—and in most cases there is no acknowledgement that the assumptions were wrong, there is no apology after the fact. In most cases, the erasure or rewriting of women to suit an androcentric narrative is culturally prescribed and upheld—the practice vigorously defended.


If a relatively enlightened man, who publishes numerous books by feminist writers, was so quick to erase or rewrite a young woman’s identity to suit his narrative rather than considering hers, then our society, including the literary world, still has a long way to go. 



Brynne Rebele-Henry’s poetry, fiction, and visual art have appeared in such journals as The VoltaRevolverSouvenirOpen HousePowder KegSo to SpeakPing PongThe Offending Adam and other magazines, and her work is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Pine Hills Review and Denver Quarterly, among other publications. She was born in 1999 and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia.


Feminist Fridays: James Joyce, Perfume, and How I Wrote My Senior Thesis by Amanda Silberling

By Talin Tahajian, Poetry Editor

I went to a public high school. The building is forty-five years old, most of the bathroom stalls don’t lock, and the art department has experienced more budget cuts than it knows how to handle. The cafeteria has a strict social hierarchy. The librarians are something else. And if you want to print from your laptop, figure out another plan.

We did, however, have a mandatory senior thesis. Each senior chooses an author or topic and proceeds to spend the greater part of the year slaving over notecards, sticky notes, novels, and countless critical essays. Countless late nights, cups of coffee. Skype calls at two in the morning to keep one another awake the night before a big deadline.

I had a relatively narrow focus from the start. Going into the process, I knew that if I really wanted to write a paper on James Joyce, I would need to have a general idea of where I was going with my thesis early on—otherwise, there would just be too much material to handle. I had read Dubliners and half of the Portrait when, in early July, I was talking to two friends about my work. Guthrie commended my choice of author before launching into a discussion about our mutual love of Harold Bloom; Leah, on the other hand, immediately expressed her disappointment.

“Honestly, Talin, the last thing we need is more dead white European male canon. You could choose any author you want, and you chose him? Why would you ever do that?”

Leah got me thinking, and from then on, I approached my primary sources from a feminist perspective—or, at least, something like a feminist perspective. It was a loose fit, but concentrating upon Joyce’s treatment of female characters in his novels helped me streamline my attention, which became essential once I began to pretend to be able to tackle Ulysses.

I wasn’t sure about my thesis topic any more specifically than that, though, until I was about fifty pages into Ulysses. In a letter to Bloom, one of the protagonists of the novel, Martha, a woman with whom he’s having an affair, writes, “P. S. Do tell me what kind of perfume does your wife use. I want to know” (Joyce 64). I’m honestly not exactly sure why, but something about that line really stood out to me. I highlighted it in my text, drew a huge star next to it, and kept reading, this time with a newfound focus on perfume—and floral and aqueous imagery in general—as a subset of my nebulous “feminist” lens. I ultimately ended up going back through all four primary sources (Dubliners, Exiles, Ulysses, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) to find mentions of perfume, analyzing their thematic context and looking for patterns.

To say the least, this required a lot of highlighters. Upon receiving a request to provide an outline of Ulysses, Joyce responded, “I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality” (qtd. in Ellmann 573). Fortunately, while his literary “immortality” remains indisputable, I did find that Joyce’s Dubliners, Exiles, and Portrait buttress Ulysses in the same manner by which a compass rose complements a topographical map. By providing a narrative schema for the events of the latter novel, they laid the groundwork for what would become one of the most controversial pieces of literature produced during the Modernist era. Critical scholar Robert S. Ryf, a student of William York Tindall, notes that Joyce’s plays and novels “are so closely interconnected as to render impossible a complete catalogue or correspondences within a limited space. The meaning of one involves and reinforces the meaning of the other” (77). I found that this proves especially true of the imagistic patterns that drive each plot, as aqueous imagery permeates much of Joyce’s work and branches into two primary symbols: perfume, manifesting in soap and flowers, and water, manifesting in the sea.

P. S. Do tell me what kind of perfume does your wife use. I want to know.
— James Joyce, Ulysses (p. 64)

Ulysses exists as an inherently masculine narrative due to its focus on the colloquial perceptions of Joyce’s two primary voices, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, heteronormative male characters whose perspectives Joyce chronicles in order to produce what he considers an accurate, unedited depiction of the nonlinear behavior of the psyche. Few pieces of feminist criticism focus heavily upon Joyce, and none address the prevalence of perfume imagery in his work. Ulysses, however, lends itself to such a reading due to its innately misogynistic framework, which revolves around the phallogocentrism associated with the “father narrative.” Filling the gap in Joycean analysis thereby stipulates criticism that explores this through Joyce’s use of aqueous imagery. Evaluating the symbolic significance of the water-perfume dichotomy that pervades Joyce’s work proves the most streamlined means of exploring Joyce’s treatment of women, as he consistently associates female characters with distilled liquids.

The narratives of Exiles and Dubliners ultimately deem uxorial figures subordinate to their male counterparts by employing water and perfume as symbols of female sexuality. In pairing floral and aquatic imagery in Ulysses, Joyce evokes the physical properties of perfume, thus expanding upon the emblematic implications of his Portrait by developing the imagistic elements of Dedalus’s epiphany scenes through pleonastic repetition. By using aqueous imagery to contrast the clarity attributed to water with the sexual connotations of perfume, Joyce delineates the implications of projecting romanticized conceptions of purity onto women.

In contrast, Joyce establishes the sea as a motif indicative of vital risk and peril, drawing parallels between the ocean and death—which critics so often associate with inevitability—before using this association to extend the implications of nautical imagery to denote dominance. By deviating from the archetypal norm, where vast oceans signify rebirth and purity, Joyce illuminates the intersection at which the engulfing power of the sea aligns with male sexuality. By associating men with the ocean and women with perfume, Joyce acknowledges the discrepancy between masculine autonomy and feminine constraint.

Joyce’s work demonstrates a consistent linguistic topography that proves representative of Modernist literature. Joyce juxtaposes floral imagery with the ocean, which he uses as a motif for the authoritative nature of male sexuality. He unites these distinct realms of imagery to evoke perfume, which he employs as a mechanism to denote and ultimately incriminate female sexuality—though Molly attempts to reclaim her individuality in the Penelope episode of Ulysses. While his dexterity in creating this symbolic duality appears incredibly adroit and even unique, the prose of several of Joyce’s American and Bloomsbury contemporaries mirrors his own sinuous style and tendency toward imagistic continuity.

Readers may feel unsurprised, then, to find similar streams of imagery in works such as William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End and A Room with a View, Samuel Beckett’s Malone Dies, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Flappers and Philosophers, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, and D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love, all of which contrast aqueous and floral imagery to evoke the power of death and the varying shades and conventions of male and female sexuality. Consequently, however, as with Joyce’s body of work, there follows the question of whether the sexual and inherently misogynistic biases of these patterns result from authorial sentiment, temporal cultural influences, or universal tropes—and, if the latter proves true, how past literature may inform contemporary literature in the face of society’s shifting views on gender, sexuality, and individual expression. And what’s the role of a writer, after all, besides learning from what’s already been written?

Talin Tahajian grew up near Boston. Her poetry has appeared (or will soon appear) in PANK, Word Riot, DIAGRAM, Best New Poets 2014, Washington Square Review, and on Verse Daily. Recently, she was a finalist for the 2014 Indiana Review Poetry Prize, judged by Eileen Myles. She will attend the University of Cambridge in the fall, where she will study English literature and attempt to assimilate. 

Feminist Fridays: Why Ophelia (Yes, That Ophelia) Is My All-Time Favorite Character by Amanda Silberling

By Alexa Derman, Managing Editor

The first conversation I ever had about Ophelia, the doomed and lovely girlfriend of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, was about Taylor Swift and went something like this:

“I’m just saying, her stuff is like – I don’t know, candy music. For, you know, Ophelias. It’s shallow.”

And then I came in, nodding like I knew anything about Hamlet, because I considered myself much too sophisticated for Taylor Swift. “Yeah, totally.”

When I finally did read Hamlet, it was in drama class, and the girl selected to read Ophelia’s lines aloud adopted a Minnie Mouse voice that made everyone snicker. “I do not know, my lord, what I should think!” she exclaimed, batting her eyelashes and tilting her head from side to side. After class, we made up a Hamlet drinking game, which included “take a shot every time Ophelia weeps.” We decided we would die of alcohol poisoning.

“All I’m saying,” my friend Josh said, “is that you know you’re a pathetic character when you’re so passive that they can’t figure out if you drowned yourself or if you fell into a river.” 

Elsewhere, Ophelia is shorthand for the same image we created in Drama class: moody, naïve, vain, melodramatic. Parenting books invoke her name when instructing on dealing with troubled teenage daughters. Online, she’s described as “the most static and one-dimensional” character in the play. While a Google Images search yields hundreds of beautiful paintings of her drowning, it is surprisingly difficult to find a discussion of Ophelia outside of how Hamlet perceives her. To quote one critic, “we can imagine Hamlet’s story without Ophelia, but Ophelia literally has no story without Hamlet.”

In the halls, I could’ve sworn I saw Ophelia everywhere: girls wearing lipgloss and clinging to their boyfriends’ arms, girls clutching notebooks of bad poetry and doodles, girls examining their fingernails and proclaiming to be misunderstood.

It was frustration with the “petty” girls around me that made me decide to spend some quality time with Ophelia. I expected this research to become a criticism of contemporary teenage girls, who I considered privileged and conceited. (With a pixie cut and Doc Martens, I was obviously outside of this category.) So when a friend replied to my explanation of the project with simply, “do her justice,” I was taken aback.

Do her justice? Do who justice? There was hardly a “her” to speak of, little more than a lovely waif whose death is gorgeous but whose “words, words, words” are pretty dull. Give me Lady Macbeth any day, I thought; at least she has some character development. Ophelia, I decided, just needed to “lean in.” She should’ve taken some control in her relationships. Really, Ophelia? I thought. Get it together. Read a book. Care about something – you’re dating the greatest figure in Western literature, for chrissakes!

Except the closer I looked, the less the greatest figure in Western literature seemed great. It’s no secret that Hamlet is a misogynist, but rereading the “play scene,” at the beginning of which Hamlet taunts Ophelia sexually, I began to feel sick. The quips that had once seemed funny now felt like harassment. Her father Polonius’s initial conversation with her, where he instructs her on the importance of keeping her chastity, was unsettling, especially when paired with Polonius’s instructions to his son on the importance of being himself. Every “pretty Ophelia” or “fair Ophelia” that had once seemed like an affirmation of her vanity now seemed a refusal to recognize Ophelia’s autonomy, her importance beyond her appearance.

How can someone lean in, I wondered, if she doesn’t even realize her back can arch?

Ophelia’s suicide is generally accepted as the culmination of a very brief and very beautiful madness. When Ophelia is mad, she is still lovely; when she kills herself, the scene is described prettily; when she is buried, Gertrude bemoans that now Ophelia cannot marry Hamlet. What in reality is the jarring end to a period of mental illness is portrayed as little more than a naïve girl’s melodrama.

Today, too many teenage girls who self-harm are derided as attention-seeking; their stories are written into novels that portray sadness as beautiful. When we express our sexuality, we’re sluts; when we’re celibate, we’re symbols of purity instead of people. Girls who are passive or unsure of themselves are anti-feminist, perpetrators of patriarchy instead of victims. Ophelia “contributes to her own demise” because she is “untrue to herself” – never mind she isn’t allowed to be anything beyond a pretty virgin. How dare she eventually accept the identity forced onto her!

It’s impossible to describe the quintessential teenage girl, because we come in every variety: shy, outgoing, athletic, witty, outspoken. But if there is one woman who captures it all, it’s Ophelia. Not because she’s vapid or dramatic, but because she struggles with a society that insists that she’s unimportant, that her emotions aren’t real, that wearing pink and listening to Taylor Swift makes her inferior—a society that then blames her for finally accepting the messages that surround her.

I’m an English major, and I know eventually I’ll be asked the popular question, “Who’s your favorite character?” Without hesitation, I’ll reply, “Ophelia.” More than Hamlet’s tragic girlfriend, she’s a reminder of how easy it is to fall into the tropes of self-consciousness, of the pervasive stereotypes about teen girls still left to combat, of the pressures that turn young women into dolls. I secretly like Taylor Swift too much to have it any other way.

 Alexa Derman is a freshman at Yale University, where she plans to study English and Gender Studies. A 2013 YoungArts Finalist and Merit Award winner, she has also received recognition from the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, Bennington College, Princeton University, Sierra Nevada College, Johns Hopkins University, and Rider University for her fiction, nonfiction, and plays. Alexa's work is currently featured or forthcoming in Word Riot, The Sierra Nevada Review, Dramatics, Hanging Loose, Winter Tangerine Review, and elsewhere, and will soon appear in an anthology by Samuel French. Her plays have been produced or are slated to be produced by the Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Festival, Stephen Sondheim's Young Playwrights Inc., Semicolon Theatre Company, The Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, International Thespian Society, and youth company Contagious Drama, taking her to locations as varied as Hollywood, New York City, and Nebraska.  She loves to collect soap and ugly floral shorts, and is an award-winning hair and makeup artist.

Feminist Fridays: What's the Deal with Jane Eyre? by Amanda Silberling

Student writers should check out our free, annual online Summer Mentorship Program, which opens to applications every year in mid-February, as well as our Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose, which recognize spectacular high school and college writers each year. You may also like to check out some additional helpful content we have for high school students, such as Vol. I of our Dear Writer: Tips for Young Writers Series and Thirteen Colleges Every High School Writer Should Consider.

By Amanda Silberling, Blog Editor

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This week, I’m reading Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (go pick it up—it’s awesome), so I’ve been thinking a lot about how feminism manifests itself in literature. I think it’s hard for any modern female writer not to wonder how literature has historically represented her gender. So that’s why at the Adroit blog, we’re launching the Feminist Fridays series. We want to talk about what makes a character, writer, or piece of writing feminist, and how the evolution of society impacts the way that we write about women in literature.

 The real question, though, is if that silhouette's messy hairdo is feminist.

The real question, though, is if that silhouette's messy hairdo is feminist.

To start, I would like to point out that the feminist criticism of literature isn’t about playing the “Feminist or Not Feminist?” game. Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether or not we can bang a gavel and definitively call a piece of literature feminist. But it’s important to be able to determine the feminist merits of literature because of the implications and social influence that literature can have. After all, do we want a teen girl in her high school English class to learn from her reading material that her purpose in life is to serve her husband? I sure hope not. But sometimes, I find it hard to look at the women of classic literature and think, “Yes! This is the kind of woman that I want to be.”

When literary scholarship is so ingrained in older works, how do we evaluate literature through a modern feminist lens?

Before examining the feminist merit of a novel, we need to define what feminism means. I think that feminism is about having complete and total agency over our lifestyle and choices, regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and any other facet of our being.  

Let’s talk Charlotte Brontë. If you’ve never read Jane Eyre, this is the part where you go read the SparkNotes summary.

Jane Eyre is widely considered to be one of the first feminist novels, but I’ve never been sold on the idea. I do believe, though, that within the context of Victorian England, Jane Eyre could be considered feminist, but only to an extent. This is the crux of the problem, though—society has (thankfully) grown enough in the past couple hundred of years that what may have seemed incredibly feminist in the nineteenth century is antithetical to twenty-first century feminism. Jane’s actions are deeply rooted in her moral beliefs, and the ability to make conscious lifestyle choices for herself is inarguably feminist. But when I look at Jane’s choices through a contemporary lens, I can’t help but feel that, despite her moral character, she fails to fully liberate herself from an oppressive, marriage-obsessed culture.

Jane Eyre focuses largely on the gothic, mysterious relationship between Jane and Rochester, the man who owns the estate where Jane is a governess. As I flip through my copy of Jane Eyre, I notice an uncomfortable trend: from chapters thirteen through eighteen, each chapter’s opening sentence centers on Mr. Rochester. It's okay to be boy-crazy (and still feminist!), but come on, Jane, seriously? Get it together.

On her wedding day, Jane finds out that Rochester is already married to a manic woman trapped in the attic of the estate (Okay, Rochester. Totally not creepy.). After the wedding is called off, Brontë writes that Jane “was a cold, solitary girl again: her life was pale; her prospects were desolate.” I don’t know about you, but I’m not too keen on the message that life is “desolate” without a man to marry.

Shortly after the reveal, Rochester implores Jane to begin their life together far away in a romantic French villa. Although Jane is in love with Rochester and admits that she would enjoy life with him in France, she chooses not to go with him because she is afraid of being considered his mistress, since they aren’t married. Instead, Jane tries to support herself by working various jobs around the countryside until she faints on a doorstep.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether or not we can bang a gavel and definitively call a piece of literature feminist. But it’s important to be able to determine the feminist merits of literature because of the implications and social influence that literature can have.

Jane’s decision not to go to France is often considered to be The Pinnacle of Feminism—she refuses to be anything less than Rochester’s wife. While the choice to put her self-esteem above a man is admirable, I can’t help but feel frustrated that Jane would throw away the prospect of a happy, romantic life in a French villa just because she prizes the institution of marriage enough to believe that only a legal document can validate her relationship.

Marriage has its place in modern society, but it’s hard to deny that its origins were inherently patriarchal. Still, I would find it more appealing if Jane decided that she cared more about her personal happiness than whether she would potentially be considered a mistress… But of course, what’s a good book without some heart-breaking conflict?

Fast-forward a bit in the plot. A man named St. John asks Jane to marry him and work as a missionary in India. Jane declines because she does not love him. This time, I’ll go ahead and cheer Jane on. She knows that she won’t truly be happy if she marries a man for the sake of convenience, and the fact that she has the right to make this decision is a step in the right direction. Good for you, Jane.

Later, Jane returns to Rochester’s estate, only to find out that a fire killed his wife—in other words, Rochester is no longer married. He is, however, physically handicapped and blind. Only after Rochester’s physical state deteriorates can Jane feel like his equal. Jane says, “perhaps it was that circumstance that drew us so very near--that knit us so very close: for I was then his vision, as I am still his right hand.” Jane derives happiness from her ability to service Rochester; the relationship brings her joy because she feels useful, and only from her utility can she feel loved and respected.

 And they all lived happily ever after... right?

And they all lived happily ever after... right?

Brontë portrays this as a happy ending, but from a feminist perspective, I’m not happy.

Let’s start with the flawed concept that a man and a woman aren’t equal until the man is maimed by a giant fire. From Brontë’s perspective, Jane and Rochester can’t have a functional marriage until their relationship is mutually beneficial. Love and respect are not enough—Rochester must benefit when Jane takes care of him in his weakened physical state, and Jane must benefit when she elevates her social status by marrying a rich man.

I reject the idea that Jane was inferior to Rochester to begin with. Sure, he is of a much higher social class (Jane was a governess in his estate, remember?), but if they are in a truly healthy relationship, this shouldn’t matter.

I think this is what makes me feel so uncomfortable when Jane Eyre is referred to as a major feminist novel. Let’s stop insisting that the ideal woman is a morally-guided Christ figure and start giving women the power to make life choices that don’t depend on marriage and child-rearing. Let’s separate our self-worth from our relationship status, and when we do find a suitable partner, let’s consider them our equals on the simple basis that we are human beings who respect each other, and not on the basis of codependency.

Although Jane Eyre bordered on radical at the time of its publication—so radical that Brontë published it under a male name—I don’t think that we can consider Jane a feminist role model in the twenty-first century. Instead, literature should function as an education in how society has evolved since the 1840s, and how Jane Eyre and Charlotte Brontë lacked the social mobility to fit my mold—my twenty-first century American mold—of what a modern feminist role model should be. Jane’s journey towards understanding herself and finding peace is lodged in her relationships with men, and I don’t think that the novel can send a holistically feminist message when Jane’s self-worth and happiness are so strongly affected by the men in her life. 

But in Victorian England, a woman’s social mobility was closely related with her romantic relationships. As Roxane Gay writes in Bad Feminist, “feminism is flawed because it is a movement powered by people and people are inherently flawed.” So maybe Jane is a “bad feminist.” Maybe in a modern Jane Eyre, Jane would have had an option to better herself and her life in ways that didn’t involve marriage.

I don’t blame Charlotte Brontë for living when she lived, but I still wish that Jane Eyre wasn’t so widely considered to be the quintessential feminist novel. Morality is great and all, Jane, but I think that there are other protagonists out there who can more effectively prove to women that they are people who matter outside of their reproductive and marital abilities.

Amanda Silberling is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, originally from South Florida. Recently, her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK Blog, SOFTBLOW, The Fat City ReviewThe Louisville Review, and The Los Angeles Times. She is the Blog Editor and Director of Social Media Relations for The Adroit Journal, and also works for BOAAT Press and Dzanc Books.

Again, high school writers should check out our free, annual online Summer Mentorship Program, which opens to applications every year in mid-February, as well as our Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose, which recognize spectacular high school and college writers each year. You may also like to check out some additional helpful content we have for high school students, such as the Vol. I of our Dear Writer: Tips for Young Writers Series.