On the day of the inquiry, my grandmother stayed home in her apartment, drank red wine on her couch, and watched back-to-back episodes of The Passionate Eye on CBC and growled, ‘All those goddamn people are crooked anyhow,’ and then she ordered in Chinese food and fell asleep for centuries. At the inquiry the man running the show walked to the front of the room and said that he had lost our book of names. My grandmother kept the list of names in the guest room, bottom-left corner of the bookcase. She opened the book and said, ‘This is my last birthday,’ and fell asleep again, while her apartment building rotated on the bird spine of a sundial. I went to the inquiry but never told her. She wouldn’t have liked it. The man at the front said without memories there is no past and furthermore everything you need to know is on The Passionate Eye on CBC. I went back home, hands empty. There was no inquiry in the place where her mother was from because they burned the Jewish men on the beaches and the Jewish women were the smoke. ‘Do you know how to name children?’ my grandmother said to me. ‘You take the initials of their dead relative and use them again and again so that the letters are never lost.’ This is written in a secret language. I often slept in her guest room except when I slept on the couch in the living room. I realized that the upholstery was patterned with her initials when I woke up to find her initials tattooed into my cheek. Alphabet welts, they faded but stayed.
‘When I think of menopause I don’t think of hot flashes; I am not here to talk about hot flashes.’ Mary Ruefle on menopause.
Urvashi Butalia on the life of transgender Mona Ahmed and her search for a feminine identity.
The Weak Spot
‘Murder class was the new thing, but of course they didn’t call it that. They called it Specialised Life Skills for Girls.’ – Sophie Mackintosh
woman is a construct
‘woman is basically meant / to be a residential complex’ – A poem by Angélica Freitas, translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan.
Rachel Cusk on motherhood, marriage and separation.
A new story from Terese Svoboda about love, money and power in the hands of an aging parent.
Murasaki’s Paper Trail
Martin Puchner on how Murasaki Shikibu, a lady-in-waiting at the Japanese court, manage to write the first great novel of world literature.
Telling My Story
‘I wonder if they could all smell the queer on me, the queer in me, the burgeoning sexuality that I had no words for at the time.’