“Caps Off to You!” A Fathers’ Day feature on FamilyEquality.org

Happy Father’s Day to all parents out there!

So glad for the opportunity to share the experience of watching our first child graduate from high school – a new frontier for gay families – with Family Equality supporters. I can’t praise enough the work this organization does to protect and advance the rights of gay families in every state of this country.

This was my third article for Family Equality. My Fathers’ Day feature last year was about the blessing of parenting daughters, and the one the prior year, written for the International LGBT Family Day, described raising an intersectional gay family

Lit agent search using Publishers Marketplace

My advice piece for fellow writers on how to find and build a list of prospective literary agents landed on the front page of the California Writers Club quarterly newsletter. Click below to read it.

Founded in 1909, California Writers Club is one of the nation’s oldest professional clubs for writers. With 22 branches throughout the state offering workshops, contests, and conferences, CWC “is dedicated to educating writers of all levels and disciplines in the craft of writing and in the marketing of their work.” It’s my second time getting published in it.

At AWP22: Moderating a Panel and Reading

#AWP22 was a swirl of activities as the literary world is emerging from the downtime of the pandemic. What a difference from the last live AWP convention, March 2020 in San Antonio, the so-called #AWPocalypse of 2020 – a conference on the edge of a world shutting down, which I wrote about for the California Writing Club.

This gathering in the beautiful, historic downtown Philadelphia was pretty much back to business as usual. AWP (Association of Writers and Writers Programs) conventions do a great job putting writers together with one another, presses, agents, literary journals. I always have a hard time deciding which panel or talk to attend as so many happen at the same time.

One of my personal highlights at AWP 2022 was reading the essay “Christmas Dreidels,” excerpted from my yet-to-be-published memoir A Family, Maybe and published recently in Citadel, at the AWP Two-Year College Creative Writing Caucus offsite literary reading at Community College of Philadelphia on 3/25/22. So thankful to be part of this warm, supportive group of teaching writers.

Our panel included writers/professors from community colleges that publish literary journals. (L-R): Joe Baumann, [me], Magin LaSov Gregg, and Maria Brandt.

“Where Every Voice Matters: Community College Literary Journal Showcase” was an AWP 2022 panel I organized and moderated the morning after the reading. Together, we explored strategies to engage underrepresented writers and help them grow in the literary world, read samples of student writing from our journals, and discussed new ways to produce and publicize these publications. So many ideas; such great questions from the audience. Stay tuned for a summary of these ideas in my upcoming blog post for AWP Two-Year College Creative Writing Caucus.

And finally, a nice write-up about the conference in Publishers Weekly.

Guide for future foster/adopt parents published on #1 adoption site

Glad to share my firsthand experience and research into foster/adoption policies and history on Adoption.com, the world’s largest adoption website and adoptive parent platform. I hope it will make a useful guide for prospective foster/adoptive parents. Wish I’d known all of this going into the fost/adopt process years ago!

When considering adopting kids from foster care, prospective parents are usually concerned about childproofing their home, and completing the required classes and background checks.. . . What they might not be as well aware of is the complex legal landscape they are about to enter. This article, written by a foster/adoptive parent, presents an overview of public opinions, legal viewpoints, and legislative mandates which have shaped child welfare policies today. . .

https://adoption.com/welfare-policies-foster-to-adopt/

Writing this article provided a deeply gratifying opportunity to share my personal experience as a foster/adoptive parent. And publishing it was a tremendously helpful experience of growth for me as a writer, a culmination of 6 months of intensive collaboration with a professional online content editor. Take a look!

“Raising Them to Be Strong” Featured in Bay Windows

Bay Windows, Boston-based LGBTQ newspaper and news site, appoached me asking to reprint “Raising Them to Be Strong: A Gay Dad’s Reflections on Parenting Daughters,” my Father’s Day article published earlier this year by Family Equality, the nationwide gay family advocacy organization. I gladly said yes and am delighted to see it both on the cover of the Oct. 7 issue of Bay Windows and online. The photo credit goes to Dakota Fine.

“Raising Them to Be Strong” | Father’s Day Post on Family Equality.org

Happy Father’s Day 2021! It’s been a deeply fulfilling, spiritually transformative journey for my husband and me. Our story, featured today on FamilyEquality.org, the nationwide LGBTQ family advocacy organization, recounts the joys and challenges of two men raising daughters since babyhood. So how do we do it?

Reading a New Story Live at AWP21

Read “The Grass Eater,” my new personal essay as part of a live virtual reading organized by the AWP Creative Writing Caucus at the virtual AWP 2021 on March 4. At the center of the story is a devilish 7-year-old who wrecks his mother’s seaside honeymoon. The setting is the Republic of Georgia; the time is the disco era. The story was developed in a workshop led by Marion Winik. As of yet unpublished.

“The iPad Wars” in City Tales 2020, a YouTube storytelling show

This was a new performance format for me to learn – I’d taped myself reading the essay “The iPad Wars” for City Tales, the annual storytelling reading by LACC students and faculty, and sent it to the organizers for post-production. The show went live on YouTube June 4. Previously published in The Citadel, “The iPad Wars” is about 7 minutes long, and comes first in the show. It’s about a parent confronting his budding 11-year-old tech wiz about her flourishing, yet potentially dangerous social life online.

“Christmas Dreidels” in The Citadel 2020

The Citadel, a juried literary journal published at Los Angeles City College since the 1960s, includes my narrative essay “Christmas Dreidels.” In it, I explore my partner Jonathan’s and my experience of building an adoptive family built on the richness of African American and Jewish heritages, one in which widely diverse cultural, racial, and religious backgrounds add up to a new, organic whole.

Personal memories, interviews with my mother-in-law Tommie-Lee Taylor as well as the research into the images of the Elaine Race Riot in Arkansas, the 1920s’ maps of the Southern Pacific Railroad Co., and the 1963 Los Angeles Times editorials helped me write the essay, but more importantly, gave me an opportunity to juxtapose legacies of the Holocaust and WWII with those of racial violence in the US South and more covert racism in California’s Central Valley.

Below are a couple of excerpts. To read the whole essay, please contact me for a copy. You can also get the full The Citadel 2020 issue on Amazon as a paperback. I can’t recommend it enough – it’s full of compelling stories, poetry, and artwork.

The high school was far from the outskirts of Fresno where Tommie-Lee and her sister were waiting at dawn for the school bus. Seeing them for the first time, a new bus driver told the light-skinned Tommie-Lee to get on, but “you,” he pointed at her darker-complexioned sister, “gonna have to walk.” Tommie-Lee refused to get on the bus without her sister. That ended her high school.

The war was on, WWII, which would also become part of the family lore: Jon’s future father Louis fighting in Europe, his soon-to-be wife washing soldiers’ uniforms at the army base in Fresno.

“Hard work in this heat,” Tommie-Lee told me, “but there wasn’t any other for a young girl like me.”

She married Louis, a WWII veteran, in 1946. She kept order and stability in Jon’s childhood home, and yet retained a distinct sense of curiosity about the neighbors and their cultures. Enchiladas con salsa verde¸ which Tommie-Lee learned to cook in El Centro, were as much of a dinner staple as the traditional Southern mac’n’cheese, potato salad, and the unparalleled, in Jon’s memory, upside-down pineapple cake. [ . . . ]

I grew up with my grandparents, so the main point of reference in my childhood home were the years of their youth – the tumultuous 1920-40s, the era of the Bolshevik Revolution, the full emancipation of women and Jews, and WWII the years of great hopes and enormous suffering. [. . .]

Scores of their relatives in Poland and Ukraine perished in the Holocaust. My grandfather’s teenage cousins, the only two members of his family to survive the Nazi occupation of his shtetl, swam across the wide Dniester River fleeing the oncoming German troops. When the soldiers overran them, the two girls continued their perilous journey eastward by night. During the day, the younger one with olive skin and dark hair would hide in the forest, while her fair-complexioned older sister, able to pass for a Slav, would beg for food in the villages. Eventually, they made it to the Soviet side, and this is how I know their story.

My grandfather Yosif, like Jon’s father Louis, fought in that war. Wounded in the Battle of Kursk, he came home with a medal – and with a clock, a palm-size carriage clock he picked up somewhere along the front.

It stands as tranquilly on our dining room buffet as it did in my grandparents’. It still runs.

From “Christmas Dreidels” by Lane Igoudin, The Citadel, 2020.

PS. For more information about the Elaine Race Riot and the Arkansas Delta Massacres of 1910s-1930s, a tragic and overlooked piece of the American history, read The Smithsonian article, or visit the University of Arkansas online exhibit.

Mujerista Theology, or Finding Sacredness amidst Poverty and Oppression

This post is part of Blessing the Sea 4.

Is search for the sacred a class privilege?

Or to put it differently, are the opportunities to touch the divine – beyond the formal religious settings open to the masses, like synagogues, churches, or mosques – luxuries afforded only to those who can afford them, and conversely, inaccessible to those who lack such resources?

These questions came up for me while I was listening to the prominent Chicana novelist, activist, and academic Helena Maria Viramontes deliver a talk at a writing convention this spring. In it, Viramontes turned the spotlight onto the acts of holiness in the communities engulfed in poverty and state-sponsored oppression. Violence and brutality can take us over, she surmised, whip us into a cycle of reactivity, make us forget our own uniqueness and worth. But we can still transcend them by noticing the sacredness of our surroundings, no matter what they are.

I remember how important it is to raise our eyes from instruments of distractions before it’s too late, before our rage ravages, and we dare not find the fortitude to name faces of flowers; once we hear the hoarse voices of the treetops. then describe them, once we see the way the ecosystem allows permission for us to exist, then be grateful, once it asks us to let go our ego, then do it. . . We become divine in the presence of holiness.” [i]

La vida es la lucha” | To struggle is to live

In her speech, Viramontes traced her ideas to the mujerista theology of Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, a Latina theological anthropologist who studied everyday forms of resistance in impoverished communities. [ii]

Before joining the academe, Isasi-Diaz, who had come to the US as a Cuban refugee, was a Catholic missionary in Peru. A missionary ethnographer? Why not?

To Isasi-Diaz, daily lives (lo cotidiano) are the central expression of “the most oppressed women in our communities who struggle to survive and flourish constantly.”

“Lo cotidiano constitutes the immediate space of our lives . . . where we meet and relate to the material world that is made up not only of physical realities but also of how we relate to that reality (culture), and how we understand and evaluate [it]. . . Lo cotidiano is what we face everyday and how we face it. . . It extends to our experience with authority, and our central religious beliefs and celebrations…

“Lo cotidiano refers to a simple world. It is a world where one has to take of what is scattered along the surface minute by minute: . . . how to feed the family today, how to pay for the oil or gas they need to heat their homes today, how to get money to buy the medicine their children need today. . . The urgency of lo cotidiano often makes it necessary for one to leave the causes or reasons for later, a ‘later’ that often does not come because the urgency of the present never diminishes.” [iii]

Mujerista theology also sees this daily life as intertwined with the Divine, in part because it is a space inhabited by popular religion, a mixture of pre-Colombian and Catholic practices: images of saints and of La Virgen, rosaries, blessings, retablos, home altars, and so on. This sacred space empowers poor and oppressed Latinas women to transform their reality, and “they transform it when they manage to survive by somehow providing shelter, food, clothing, medicines for themselves and their families.”

Everyday spaces, sacred spaces

The sacred is found in all of the practices we deem necessary to resist invisibility, degradation, and invalidation,” Viramontes suggests. “Everything we do can be considered acts against erasure, and hence sacred, a sacredness that heightens our state of being and answers to our instinctive urge to transcend. . . Our kitchens, gardens, special oak trees, porches or patios, workshops, and sidewalk views become. . .  sacred space where we recognize our existences, own our ways of being.

Examples of such sacred acts against erasure in the Jewish culture are the writings during, or as I prefer, despite or fighting back the Holocaust – Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank, Primo Levi, the Piaseczno Rebbe.

But it can also come from connecting to the places where you are, not just existing in, or passing through, but noticing them, contemplating their relationship to you and your life, and engaging to transform them.

Similarly, Viramontes proposed several mujerista-based practices to enhance the spirit of synergy and creativity, including: “Commit to finding the sacred in everyday life. Build around those moments of grace. Believe in writing [or any other creative activity] as Scripture in its power to complicate, to create empathy, to direct us towards meaning.”

What I learned from Isasi-Diaz and Viramontes is that the response to moment-to-moment hardships and oppression – cultural, religious, economic, and so on – the response itself is a fulfilling, sacred act.


[i] Viramontes, H. M. (2020). “My Insurgent Heart: AWP 2020 Annual Conference Keynote Address.” The Writer’s Chronicle, 53(1), 21-27. September 2020.


[ii] Isasi-Díaz, A. M. (1996). Mujerista theology: A Theology for the Twenty-First Century. Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis Books.


[iii] Isasi-Díaz, A. M., “Lo Cotidiano: A Key Element of Mujerista Theology,” Journal of Hispanic / Latino Theology, 10:1 (Aug. 2002) 5-17, excerpted from pp. 5, 8-10, 14.