Photo by Mark Chapman

Stranger Things has returned (!), so we asked our editors what other TV shows they consider binge-worthy.

Charlie Edwards
Intern
Engadine, Michigan

Besides Stranger Things, shows that I find binge-worthy are Charmed, Will & Grace, X-Files and Once Upon a Time!

Sara Ryan
Associate Poetry Editor
Ann Arbor, Michigan

The Office and House. Finished both very long series in a few weeks.

Deziree Brown
Associate Poetry Editor
Northern Michigan University

Scandal. Anything with Kerry Washington in it is golden.

Jennifer Howard
Editor-in-Chief
Escanaba, Michigan

For me right now it’s The Americans, though I’d watch any spy show with Mary Kay ladies and cowl-neck sweaters.

Ethan Brightbill
Associate Fiction Editor
Allentown, Pennsylvania

Planet Earth, Adventure Time, Narcos, lots of stuff. If I want to relax, I’ll put something on and then do something else while it plays.

Robert Ball
Intern
Dearborn, Michigan

It is nearly impossible to not binge Bojack Horseman.

Skyler Sars
Intern
Miami, Florida

Rocko’s Modern Life and Cowboy Bebop.

Emily Doseck
Intern
Northern Michigan University

Parks & Recreation. I watched the whole series in a week.

Krys Malcolm Belc
Associate Fiction Editor, Fiction
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I’ve recently watched entire seasons of Insecure and One Mississippi in one day.

Hanna Shemke
Intern
Livonia, Michigan

Pretty Little Liars hands down.

Randi Clemens
Northern Michigan University

For those who love a good chick show with fEeLinGs, Gilmore Girls is a classic. But I also love dark stuff like Dexter and American Horror Story. And while I’m at it, also, New Girl!

Kelli Rajala
Intern
Michigan

Anything Marvel for me. Agents of Shield, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders.

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Store Chair, 02.10.09 [41]

Photo by timlewisnm

Shaking Hands With Idi Amin

My mother stands in the Entebbe Airport, a daughter on each side. It is January 1978 and Idi Amin has been up to his usual brutality. He has murdered four college professors, scores of Christians in the southeast, and 15 high-ranking officials, and these are just the killings reported in the New York Times. Since he has taken power, Idi Amin has killed 100,000 Ugandans or 300,000. Human rights observers aren’t sure.

My mother gently squeezes our hands and tells my sister Sonja and me to “stop staring, for goodness sakes” and then she whispers, “You’ve seen people before, haven’t you?” There are more soldiers in the airport than civilians, and in truth, she has never seen anything like this. What are the chances that he is here, too?

We’re in this airport because my Finnish grandmother is dying. My mother received the telegram in Kenya: Come immediately. She and my father considered their options. We had fled Uganda several months earlier, leaving our possessions in storage, but once in Kenya, we didn’t have money for one ticket, let alone three. Somehow, the plan developed: Our family would return to Uganda, sell enough of our belongings to buy tickets to Finland, three of us would fly out, and my father would take a bus back to Nairobi.

When my father’s boss forbade him from entering Uganda, my mother laughed. “So now it’s too dangerous.” She laughed and laughed, and then she cried. “Never mind,” she said. “I’ll go alone.” What she meant is that she would go without her husband. Of course, she would take us. We were her limbs. Our father, ever pragmatic, nodded.

On the black market in Kampala, my mother sold her wedding gifts. “Never mind,” she said. She moved like a fury and didn’t allow herself to cry for her dying mother. Aiti-aiti-aiti, she thought. Mama-mama-mama. She took the shillings, good only in Uganda, to the Sabina Airline office and booked the earliest flight out.

At the Entebbe airport, we sit at our gate. My mother opens her purse for us, and Sonja and I pin brooches to our t-shirts and smear strawberry chapstick across our lips.

A soldier approaches. “Excuse me, madam. How are you, madam?”

My mother takes out her Finnish passport, her eyes wild. She assumes Americans are in trouble again and her daughters will be detained. Maybe her citizenship can protect us.

The soldier looks embarrassed. He tells her to put her passport away. “Idi Amin would like to welcome you to Uganda,” he says. We are in the departure lounge. “Would you like to meet him?”

“We’d be honored,” my mother says. There is no other possible answer. She takes a fast brush to our hair and holds out her hands. As we walk through the airport, people turn away, actively minding their own affairs.

Idi Amin is a large man dressed in khaki and exuding so much charm that he seems to fill the VIP lounge. A few other mzungu are already here, all of them women and children. One of the bodyguards gestures for us to stand in a row and Amin stops chatting and walks down the line. A man takes photographs. We are political theater. The pictures will show that Uganda is safe. Look at these foreign women bringing their babies here. See how happy they are to meet the president.

When Idi Amin reaches us, he shakes my mother’s hand and says, “You are welcome.” It’s the most Ugandan of greetings. My mother smiles and says thank you.

When Idi Amin reaches for Sonja’s hand, she holds out her left arm. My mother has heard something about a cameraman killed over a left-handed shake. She hisses, “your other hand.” Sonja drops her arm and snorts back tears.

Idi Amin laughs. He’s like a jolly uncle. He bends at the waist and takes Sonja’s left hand in his. “Look at this one,” he says. “You are welcome, little sister.”

When we meet Idi Amin, he is kind and our mother is mean. This is one story.

Here’s another: After we shake hands with Idi Amin, we board a plane to Finland and our mother says goodbye to her mother. At the graveside, she stands between us, holding our hands. The sky is grey with unfallen snow. We have not yet become acclimatized to winter or to our mother’s grief. She smiles down at us. “Move your fingers if they’re cold.”

Years later, our mother will die too young and will reside solely in the land of our memories. Some days, unexpected days, I will wake to the image of her sweeping through the Entebbe airport, holding our hands. Across the span of time, she will call to her daughters and she will tell us that we must always do what we have to do. Never mind the rest.

Sari Fordham’s work has appeared in Brevity, Isthmus Review, and Best of the Net. She teaches creative writing at La Sierra University and is completing a memoir about growing up in Uganda.

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Photo by Hiroki Fujitani

Since the changing of the seasons is fully upon us in Michigan, we asked our editors what music they enjoy listening to in certain types of weather.

Alexander Clark
Associate Nonfiction Editor
Michigan

The Smiths all fall long because I’m still 15 and sad.

Jacob Hall
Associate Fiction Editor
Decatur, Illinois

I like to listen to depressing music when I’m depressed in winter. I always feel a little better after hearing about how awful someone else’s life is.

Ethan Brightbill
Associate Fiction Editor
Allentown, Pennsylvania

After seeing The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology in Intro to Critical Theory, I always listen to Rammstein whenever I have a major paper due. December will be loud and German.

Bill Nyfeler
Associate Nonfiction Editor
Northern Michigan University

Like Ethan, I’m a Rammstein fan and listen to it or other excellent metal when a project is due, like Killswitch Engage and classic metal like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, early Van Halen, Metallica, etc. Cold days always draw me to early (late 70s-early 80s) U2 albums, especially the song New Year’s Day. Melancholy is System of a Down or Sarah McLachlan. Happy time is for fun music from Sia or Rihanna. Chill time is classic R&B like Brothers Johnson, Jaco, Dazz Band, and Isley Brothers.

Sara Ryan
Associate Poetry Editor
Ann Arbor, Michigan

I like to listen to weird, drone-y ambient music in the wintertime. Unless I’m in the shower– If i’m in the shower: 90s R&B.

Jennifer Howard
Editor-in-Chief
Escanaba, Michigan

The 4 Seasons’ Christmas Album takes me back. Took me a long long time to understand Mommy wasn’t actually having an affair with Santa Claus.

Robert Ball
Intern
Dearborn, Michigan

I genuinely love me some contemporary Christmas tunes. Nothing puts me in the jolly spirit like (Sir) George Michael’s “Last Christmas.”

Krys Malcolm Belc
Associate Fiction Editor, Fiction
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ace of Base’s “Cruel Summer,” in the summer. Close second LFO’s Summer Girls because I am a sucker for super crappy but amazing pop tunes.

Charlie Edwards
Intern
Engadine, Michigan

I listen to all types of music year round. I don’t really listen to anything specific at one point during the season, unless it’s Christmas, then obvi covers of popular Christmas songs! However, some of my favorite summer-flavored songs include “California Gurls” by Katy Perry, “Party in the USA” b Miley Cyrus, “Rock the Boat” by Aaliyah, “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake, and “Lush Life” by Zara Larsson!

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Esoteric symmetry

Photo by fdecomite

Mixed White/Filipino poet Anthony Sutton Accepts that He Is Often Read As “Latina” And Then Interrogates the Basic Notion of “Passing”

PN volunteer Mariel Murray on today’s bonus poem: In this poem, Anthony Sutton’s internal monologue scrutinizes Americans’ collective cluelessness on how to start a dialogue on the subjects of identity, gender, and race. The poem feels almost deceptively accessible at first glance. Read it again. And again. A new facet will manifest every time.

There’s how the words “Ma’am” and “Man” are indistinguishable.
If ma’am: Did that parking guard not notice my facial hair?
If man: Was he just really informal?
Am I really this dumb? If so,
let me state the obvious: that a marginalized subject
can be mistaken for a majority subject
means identity is, to varying degrees,
fictional. But here’s what we don’t say:
an antonym of passing is failing.
In this, failure can be broken down two ways:
              1) The marginalized subject is seen as themselves.
              2) The marginalized subject is seen as a differently marginalized subject.
On my last day in Houston, I walked through downtown
when a homeless man crossed the street,
and asked Are you a male or a female?
I said Um. Male?
He turned around disappointed and walked in the opposite direction.
I’m trying to come up with joke about how I should return to Houston
for the homeless man who wanted to be my boyfriend,
but I can’t get it right, so
I’m putting this incident in the pile with the others.
I order them like a tarot deck.
In my major arcana, I was (rightfully) pulled over
for speeding in a school zone.
I remember the line on the ticket for ethnicity.
It read latino.
I wondered if it was possible
to correct this, and how
bad Americans are at confirming that we understand
each other. And how English doesn’t
provide many opportunities to talk
about race and gender simultaneously.
Then I stuffed the ticket in my wallet and drove to work.

Anthony Sutton’s recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Midwestern Gothic, Third Coast, Grist, and elsewhere.

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halloween

Photo by Greg Gunn

This week, our editors and interns were asked what literary characters they would like to dress up as for Halloween!

Jennifer Howard
Editor-in-Chief
Escanaba, Michigan

None of you better say Harriet the Spy because she’s mine.

Ethan Brightbill
Associate Fiction Editor, Fiction
Allentown, Pennsylvania

Kylo Ren counts as a literary character, right? Right.

Krys Malcolm Belc
Associate Fiction Editor, Fiction
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I would love to do a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory group costume with my family but they are way too cool for that.

Willow Grosz
Managing Editor
Talkeetna, Alaska

I think I dressed up as Bunnicula three different times as a kid. Vampire fangs and bunny ears forever.

Jacob Hall
Associate Fiction Editor
Decatur, Illinois

When I was young, I got a hooded mask with a dark face cover, so you couldn’t see what was inside. I picked up a stick from the yard and draped what might have been a purple tablecloth over my shoulders. I was the coolest Voldemort around. I think I’d do that again.

Sara Ryan
Associate Poetry Editor
Ann Arbor, Michigan

It would be cool to go as Sylvia Plath or Virginia Woolf or like Mary Shelley because they’re all creepy/badass lady writers. But most Sylvia costumes I’ve seen are kinda… oven-y and slightly tasteless. I’m going as a triceratops instead. Jurassic Park reference?

Skyler Sars
Editorial Intern
Miami, Florida

The March Hare.

Melissa Orzechowski
Volunteer Reader
Michigan

For years I’ve wanted to dress up as a hambone (more specifically as Scout dressed as a hambone). Maybe this year I’ll actually get around to making the costume.

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Atwood Machine - Up

Photo by Paul Anderson

PN’s editor-in-chief Jennifer A. Howard on today’s bonus story: Kelsey Englert’s flash feels important and timely: for teachers, readers, writers, people living in this too-often ugly world. Who among us hasn’t let what’s coming next distract us from what we’ve already done wrong.

Textbook Endings

“Students, do you understand? The confirmation of gravitational waves is extraordinary!” Mr. Hazaki announced from the front of the classroom. He squeezed the rolled-up pile of papers in his hand, waving it as he spoke. “Einstein called it. Then it took the rest of the brains a century to prove it.”

Someone in the back row yawned. Notebooks rustled on desks as we started packing up early.

Sometimes I felt guilty that we wouldn’t match his enthusiasm. Hazaki ran pink and yellow highlighters all over articles on technological advancements every morning and shared them with our tenth grade history class at the end of each class period. He wanted us in awe. He proclaimed that a tech company had developed a new, superior cell phone battery with the same energy a person would announce, “Holy shit, aliens just touched down in the cornfield outside!” He wanted us to jump up and paste ourselves to the window of his announcements. To Hazaki, every advancement needed to be celebrated as a ground-breaking, an earth-shattering, a utopia-has-arrived achievement.

He stood in front of us with the same wrinkled khakis he wore every day and one of five sweaters he kept on weekly rotation. “Innovation is everything,” he’d say, eyes glimmering. “Evolve or die.”

We suspected his loafers were weighed down with steel. Otherwise, he would have bounced off the walls with enthusiasm.

We hated it.

We also sort of liked it. We couldn’t say that, but there was something about his energy that made us laugh on the inside, even if our bored exteriors never cracked. The tiny, balding, middle-aged man loved his job. We knew he wanted us to love what he loved. He wanted it so badly. He’d tell us about the newest advancement in sole inserts for footwear arch support and say, “Isn’t this wonderful?” like he might cry right there in front of twenty indifferent, average, going-nowhere students. We didn’t even understand arch support. We walked through the halls with five-dollar foam sandals thonged to our feet. We had different color flip flops for every day of the week.

But we’d half-heartedly nod at him, and he’d ask us with more pep in his voice, as though he could springboard us out of the teenage coma with his enthusiasm. We couldn’t find pep. But when Marky asked if we were ever going to get to the Vietnam War part of the textbook, Hazaki said, “Yes, of course, maybe, if we have time.” We knew we wouldn’t. And it had to be assigned. We weren’t going to turn to the end and read it on our own. Somehow, no matter the history course, we never made it past World War II. The Holocaust. That got us by the throats. It squeezed us and wouldn’t let go, wouldn’t let us find out what happened to our grandfathers in Korea or our dads in Vietnam. Hazaki knew exactly what happened to his grandfather; we got that far.

We probably can’t blame the Holocaust though. If Hazaki would have just cut out all the technology talk at the end of each class, we could have made it to the Gulf War our older cousins never came home from.

Maybe it was a conspiracy. Maybe our soldier grandpas paid Hazaki not to tell us.

Either way, we didn’t know the war stories of our living.

But we knew that there was a laser procedure that burned the brown melanin out of the anterior layers of the iris to reveal the blue underneath. All the brown eyes are really blue below the surface. Just shovel the shit to the side.

Kelsey Englert’s writing has appeared in The Citron ReviewBartleby Snopes, and The Broken Plate, among other literary magazines. She is a Pennsylvania native and earned her MA in creative writing from Ball State University and MFA in creative writing from West Virginia University. She currently teaches at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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shadows

Photo by Jill Allyn Stafford

Grief in Fragments

Much of my nonfiction work is about grief. I used to try and disentangle myself from it by writing about dating or science. But how can I write about dating a medical student without nodding to my own experience lingering the halls of the oncology ward? How can I write about visiting a boyfriend biochemistry major in his lab, without relating my own interest in how the glial cells in the brain are able to both coalesce and corrupt? How can I write about myself without writing about the loss of my father?

Neuroscience research tells us that memory is pliable and plastic. When I introduce memoir to my high school students, it’s inevitable one will ask, with arms-crossed defiance, “But how could she actually remember all this?” Some students think the truth of experience is more important than fact, but I have some students, especially those would rather be looking through a microscope, who resist memoir. I’ve seen the fickleness of my father’s brain as the tumor grew. I’ve seen the fickleness of my own brain, as it pieces together fragments after a long night of drinking. Truth in nonfiction is not an argument I want to rehash here. I follow the course of my memory’s truth and seek to write it dutifully, but, in writing about someone who has died, I find myself stalled by recollection more than when writing about those who are alive.

Since I defended my MFA thesis, I’ve been turning over a committee member’s comment. She gestured to the series of essays and said, “Your father feels like a shadow here.” In life, my father wasn’t a shadow. He was a robust, healthy man with a big laugh. He rode his motorcycle across the country, ran marathons, and taught me how to use a hammer, identify trees, and swim in the ocean. On the page, he appears fragmented. One of my biggest challenges is dialogue. My writing group this year noted that I never use direct quotes for my father. He rarely speaks in my pieces. Is this because he died a quiet, unlikely death? Or because memory fails me? I don’t remember the last thing he said to me. I had been away for the weekend and when I returned, he was in a sleep he’d never wake from. I can’t even precisely remember what I said when I had my turn alone with him, though it was just me speaking. When writing conversations of the past, I load with phrases like, “I think I remember,” but this phrase can’t be tacked onto every sentence.

On the page, my father serves a nebulous catalyst for my own grief. Greif, to me, feels more truthful. I can write about how it felt, how it feels, and how it’s changed over nine years because it’s a living fact. It’s undeniable. I can write scenes where people ask me about my dad and I have to fumble to tell them I don’t have one. I can write about the time I cried so hard and so drunk that I threw up a dinner of lobster and white wine and spent the night on my bathroom floor. I can write about the heaviness of the weight, how it feels like I’m carrying organs encased in lead. It seems to me, attending to a corporeal reality is more truthful than reanimating the dead. It worries me though, my memory is already pitted (I’m always losing my keys), so if I don’t try work to shape my father on the page, what else will I lose?

Verity Sayles is an essayist from New England. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Normal School, Proximity, Crab Creek Review, Under the Gum Tree, and others. She earned an MFA in nonfiction from Oregon State University in 2016, served on the board of 45th Parallel, and fell in love with pine trees. She now lives in Seattle, where she teaches English and creative writing at an independent high school. She can be reached at veritysayles.com or @saylesteam.

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https://www.twin-loc.fr  Essaouira - Chèvres dans les arganiers - Maroc / Goats in Argan - Morocco - Photo Image Photography - Huile d'Argan Argan oil www.supercar-roadtrip.fr

Photo by www.twin-loc.fr

Passages North is pleased to announce our nominations for Best of the Net! Take a look at some of our favorite bonus content from the past year, and congrats to the authors below.

POETRY

NONFICTION

FICTION

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Associate poetry editor deziree a. brown chats with Danez Smith about music, weirdness, and self-care.

PN: The cover of Don’t Call Us Dead is beautiful, as is your other book and the chapbooks you’ve released. I’ve been told more than once that authors have little say in the design of their book. What’s your secret? How do you avoid a lackluster cover?

DS: I am a book cover geek and i also have been blessed to work with presses that also think about covers and the book as not just a vehicle for text, but as an artifact. I love visual art. I think loving a piece enough to let it be the gate into your book is a big deal. I think having as keen and loving an eye for the still image as I do the written word has helped me stay with a good cover. There is no secret. You just care and try or you don’t.

PN: In an interview with The Rumpus, you say there was a “weirdness” that came with publishing your poems in your first book, [Insert] Boy. With this book releasing three years later, how has that weirdness changed—or not changed? Has the written page started to feel less foreign?

DS: I don’t believe when I spoke about that weirdness that I was speaking to a discomfort or unfamiliarity with the written/page based word. What I was trying to get at was the finality of the book as an object, the drafts that are now cemented and final, and the vulnerability with releasing work so based in the self. And yes, that has changed. There is only 1 first book for everyone, and that experience was wonderfully weird and affirming. But I am coming to this book more familiar with myself, my world, the publishing world, and the world into which I am releasing these poems.

PN: How does Don’t Call Us Dead expand upon or move away from the themes in your first collection, [Insert] Boy?

DS: It does both at one time. We don’t get to choose what we gravitate towards and are called to call up as artist, so a lot of similar themes pop up, but I’m a better poet than I was when I wrote [insert] boy and, thankfully, I already wrote that book once so this book what comes next. Idk, I’m still black, still queer, still ready to fuck some shit up, still riddled with desire, still seeing the surreal possibilities in the world around us, but how I express that feels more mature, more exact.

PN: I noticed that you’re really feeling SZA’s new album (as anyone with ears should be). What else are you into right now? How does music influence your writing process?

DS: I listen to music from the time I wake up until I go to bed. I like to reach for music that creates a soundscape when I’m writing. The more layered or complex the sound, the  more texture there is to the groove, the more encouraged I feel to experiment in image and sound. Poetry is a music to me, but i can’t write poems while listening to poems. Music helps me access my most jazzy poetic spaces. Lately, my jams have been H.E.R., Syd, The Internet, Nick Hakim, and an embarrassing amount of disco.

PN: In the days after Charlottesville, I found myself reaching out for your poem “Dear White America.” Poetry heals, soothes…rejuvenates. How do you see your newest collection (and poetry as a whole) continuing to work against these seemingly never-ending systems of oppression?

DS: I can’t speak on poetry as a whole cause no one should ever speak for poetry as a whole. Not all poetry is invested in dismantling the same things. We don’t all consider the same things worthy or just. I don’t like making statements about what I see my work doing cause that’s not the artist’s place. My job is to create and others will decide if and what work my poems do. I just hope to be useful to those who need to heal, to charge, to settle, or to uproar.

PN: When you’re burned out/filled up/tired of the world, how do you rebuild yourself? How does Danez Smith do self-care?

DS: A lady has to have her secrets and private rituals.

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Photo by Janaina C. Falkiewicz

This week, Associate Fiction Editor Ethan Brightbill asked our editors who their dream judges would be for the upcoming Passages North fiction and flash contests.

Jacqueline Boucher
Managing Editor Emeritus
Juneau, Alaska

Ryan Bradford and Kathleen Jones!

Ethan Brightbill
Associate Editor, Fiction
Allentown, Pennsylvania

Charles Yu would be fantastic. I love how each story he writes seems determined to do something new, absurd, and always wonderful.

Krys Malcolm Belc
Associate Editor, Fiction
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Nicole Walker!

Brenna Womer
Associate Editor, Fiction

Michael Czyzniejewski; Allegra Hyde, who is amazing and just came out with a book of short fiction; Michael Nye, who also has a novel coming out.

Tianli Kilpatrick
Associate Editor, Nonfiction
Massachusetts

Kate McIntyre!

Willow Grosz
Managing Editor
Talkeetna, Alaska

Amelia Gray! Jenny Offil! Nicole Walker! T. Fleishmann! OMG, Zachary Schomburg! Maggie Nelson!

Guys, could we get James Franco?

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