Estimados Solstice Readers,
At the time of this writing I am recovering from COVID. In a household of four, three of us tested positive, suffering through the virus’s effects physically and emotionally. Ironically, just days before, on a lovely summer afternoon, my husband and I had been discussing with a friend how it felt that COVID was now behind us. We didn’t understand how we got the virus; everyone in our household has been vaccinated and boosted, but as we saw in the news, according to the CDC, another summer COVID wave may have started in the U.S.
In such an environment, when we see and/or experience these kinds of hardships, it is easy to make anyone feel discouraged. But I want to also tell you that I am grateful for the scientists who created vaccines that kept my child from developing serious symptoms, who invented a medicine that helped me get through COVID faster. Gratitude is the engine that keeps me moving ahead, despite the obstacles that throw me off balance; it is what keeps me optimistic. And it’s no surprise. Studies show that gratitude benefits us in many ways, such as improving our physical and mental health, creating stronger social bonds with others, and building resilience.
It is gratitude, then, that brings me to our Summer Contest Issue. Without the dedicated support of our phenomenal readers and editors, the talented writers who submitted their stellar work to our contest, and the remarkable judges who supported us, we would not have this beautiful Summer Issue we’re bringing to you today. And, of course, I am grateful to you, our readers, for encouraging us to continue delivering stories from diverse perspectives. Art and gratitude, in my opinion, are key to a better world.
When I first joined Solstice I made it my goal to increase our diversity in our collaborations. And so, it is absolutely thrilling for me to have had the opportunity to count on the magnificent authors who judged our contest this year. I’m so grateful to Patricia Engel, Grace Talusan, A. Van Jordan, and Jess Ruliffson. Their work is inspiring and thought-provoking, and I’m so glad that they could share their thoughts on the winning pieces with our readers.
As a Colombian native, I find Patricia Engel’s work inspiring for the ways in which she weaves in cultural aspects that are so relevant to me personally, but are also so universally understood. Read the stories in “The Faraway World” and be immersed in the worlds of complex Colombian characters living in the States, or the intricate lives of the residents of old Havana, for instance.
Similarly, I have admired Grace Talusan’s captivatingly honest writing and storytelling for a long time, and although we have been running in the same circles for years, I finally had the pleasure of meeting her in person last January as she talked with Patricia Engel during a reading at Brookline Booksmith. I encourage you to read her memoir “The Body Papers” and see how Grace writes about the immigrant experience in such a beautiful and candid way.
I was first introduced to A. Van Jordan’s work through our own resident poet and Managing Editor, Annaka Saari. Since learning about his work, I have been captivated by his lyrical richness––the way the words are carefully chained together––generating a deeply emotional reaction. His poem, “Grandfather,” which is a poignant reflection of the injustices suffered throughout history on Black and Indigenous people, left a lingering ache in my chest and a longing to read more of his work. Perhaps this is a good time to dive into his latest collection “When I Waked, I Cried to Dream Again.”
And finally, having worked with designers and illustrators for almost two decades in the advertising and marketing industries, and having been incredibly lucky to collaborate with an Oscar nominated animator and filmmaker on a personal project, I like to think I have a keen eye for visual arts, and Jess Ruliffson’s work doesn’t disappoint. It has been so rewarding getting acquainted with her fine work, thanks to our Digital Editor, Andrai Whitted. Not only is Jess an extremely talented cartoonist, but her writing opened a door for me to another form of powerful storytelling. This is evident in Invisible Wounds, Jess’ latest work, where the consequences of war and the aftershocks of trauma are revealing in a way we haven’t seen before.
To all our contest judges, I’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you on behalf of everyone at Solstice. You shine a light into unique experiences that help us understand and navigate our world a little better. We are eternally grateful to you, the writers who submitted your finest pieces to our contest for consideration, for trusting us with your work. Your ability to make art despite or because of adversity, is perhaps the most effective way of connecting with others different from ourselves, of fostering understanding, and building community.
Congratulations to the winners of our Summer Contest! Matthew E. Henry winner of our Stephen Dunn Poetry Prize, Allen M. Price winner of our Michael Steinberg Nonfiction Prize, Wandeka Gayle winner of our Fiction Prize, and Dennis Lapid Madamba winner of our Graphic Lit Prize. Your stories are powerful and moving. I’m so glad that you shared them with our community and hope you find gratitude for yourselves and for the beautiful work you’ve created.
Lorena Hernández Leonard