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Stories Change the World

Letter from the Editor

     Stories seem to be everywhere lately. Since the inauguration in January I’ve been overwhelmed and bombarded with stories. In a good way.

     On January 21, I went to the Women’s March on Sacramento. It was my first ever march. I didn’t know what to expect. I made new friends. I asked people if I could take their picture and record them sharing why they were marching. I saw strangers talking freely with each other and sharing their experiences. I saw signs of all kinds with a wide range of messages. I saw the story behind every person and every sign. I keep thinking about all the stories. Every person represented a story. Every sign represented a story. And there were so many stories. The Capitol Mall in Sacramento was flooded with all these stories. And so many other cities across the country were flooded with stories.

     Then, in February, at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference in Washington D.C., where Under the Gum Tree hosted a reading with River Teeth and Fourth Genre, I was again overwhelmed with stories. One such story, read by Alis Sandosharaj, was about her experience growing up in D.C. with an immigrant father, who had apparently worked at every single business in town—at least that’s what he told his inquisitive daughters while driving them around the city. We were gathered together in our nation’s capitol, the heart of so much recent dissonance, to listen to others share their experience—experiences so unlike my own—and I could barely hold back the tears thinking about the significance of that night, where we were and the simple act of listening that we engaged in.

     Then, in March, when talk of a travel ban and repealing the Affordable Care Act began, I saw a tweet from my friend and previous UTGT contributor Kate Washington:

Next time my husband gets cancer I will definitely take personal responsibility and save up $10 million first. THIS IS BULLSHIT.

   And her tweet generated a flurry of responses from people telling their own stories—in 140 characters, no less!—of struggle with health and health care and cost of health care and what they would have had to pay had it not been for the ACA. I responded to Kate’s tweet too:

@washingtonkate I was diagnosed with MS while freelancing/wo insurance. Did not have MRI until married & on husband’s plan.

     My story is not nearly as tragic as others, but that doesn’t matter—it is my story. And my story is the thing that connects me to others even when their circumstances may be more challenging than mine. Let me be clear, I do not mean to say that I know what it’s like to have cancer or to deal with invasive therapy or to care for my husband while he’s experiencing those things. No, what I mean is that my story—the one about how fucking hard it was to be without health care when diagnosed with a chronic disease—allows me to feel a common bond with friends and strangers alike who also know how fucking hard it is to deal with major health issues, and how much harder it is to do that without health care.

     Then, in April, I publish this issue of Under the Gum Tree, a magazine with the mission to tell stories without shame. And all I can think about is, how do I tell more of these stories? The stories about people who now fear for their safety because they feel unwelcome in their own country. The stories of people who may end up without health care. The stories about people who now feel like they don’t belong here.

     How do I tell more of these stories?

     We are working on answering that question by expanding our website into a more robust online publication that will include a place for personal stories related to current events, and I’m excited. I’m excited to see what kind of stories we get, to give these stories a home, and to share them with an audience. If you have a story you’d like to share, we are currently accepting submissions. Please visit underthegumtree.com for more information.

     In the meantime, I hope you find this issue a respite from the news and an inspiration to share your own story, whatever it is. Your story matters more now than ever.

 

     Here’s to telling stories without shame,

 

     Janna Marlies Maron

     Editor & Publisher