“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 just a couple of excerpts. To read the whole essay, please contact me for a copy. You can also get the full volume of The Citadel 2020 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.

Speaking Out on Gay Parenting and Writing at Lambda LitFest

Loved being on the panel “Our Families, Our Stories: Writing and Parenting in the Trenches” at 2019 Lambda LitFest and reading there the opening of my book Dispositions. From a lesbian Mom with a child from a short-lived straight marriage, to a pioneering, single HIV-positive Dad, to two gay Moms raising their kids, each with her own, unique path, to our story, we presented a wide range of moving parenting experiences.

To me, the last 15 years have also been an experience of being both in and outside the traditional parenting narrative. What sets gay male parenting apart is that it is a 100% intentional endeavor. We have fought an uphill fight, and have come a long way. In 2019, our right to parent is a reality, but any way you look at it, parenting remains of little interest to many within our community. And it’s fine because it’s how it should be: intentional, not a slip-up, a by-product, or a means to end. LambdaLitFest1 9-27-19 (Final)

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The Citadel 2019 Call for Submissions

The Citadel, a Los Angeles City College literary magazine, has been published for over 50 years. This year, the editors are looking for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry that reflects the following theme: Stories from Los Angeles. The open call is extended to members of the community at large, so and non-LACC writers are encouraged to submit. The $10 reading fee is tax-deductible and all of the revenue goes to ensuring a consistent publishing future for The Citadel. You can view the open call flyer here. The submission deadline is May 30. For more information, check out The Citadel Facebook pageAny questions or submissions should be directed to TheCitadelLACC@gmail.com.    

Reading “Saviors or Vultures?” at AWP 2019 in Portland

On the closing night of the conference, I read my new short story “Saviors or Vultures?” based on a chapter from my memoir Dispositions, at a reading organized by the AWP College Writing Caucus at Café Marino Adriatico in the Division district.

Such a warm, receptive crowd, and a joy to hear other writers read the work, including Maria Brandt, Beth Mayer, and Marianne Taylor.

A perfect way to cap off a writing conference.

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AWP19 Book Fair: Enormous and Exhilarating

It took me almost 2 days to get through the AWP 2019 bookfair. It is enormous, but then everything about this conference is enormous: 15,000 attendees ant-crawling through the convention center, 30 concurrent talk tracks, the enormous lines, and the ensuing networking and camaraderie.

Among my bookfair finds is a collection of Tel Aviv noir; gemlike essays on obscure figures from the Age of Enlightenment written by a shy Midwestern poet I heard earlier that day; a volume of Californian eco-poetry, which includes my friend Caryn Davidson; latest issues of the famed Virginia Quarterly Review (#VQR), all but given away to lighten the publisher’s suitcase. (And now weighing down mine.)

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Poets & Writers’ Los Angeles Literary Fall Roundtable

Glad to have participated in the November 2018 Poets & Writers’ Los Angeles Literary Roundtable, organized by the Poets & Writers magazine. What a great gathering! I enjoyed the Poetry.LA presentation and their noir poetry series with Suzanne Lummis, and talked about The Citadel unveiling. Two roundtable participants, it turns out, have published in The Citadel years ago. A special shoutout to my friend Carla Sameth (also in the photo), whose LGBT parenting memoir One Day on the Gold Line is coming out in July with the Black Rose Press.