Summer 2019 - Main

The very idea of origins, writ large, seems fraught these days. The men marching in white polos in Charlottesville two summers ago were defending one concept of origins, a supremacist one. Meanwhile, the literary community, among other communities, is trying—failing often, but trying—to welcome stories that are rooted in unseen or ignored origins. Worldwide, migrants from the global south are told to turn around, or risk the Adriatic Sea, or waste in cages along the southern border, or flee ethnic conflict to live in camps like Mae La. A concept of origins lives in all of these problems. We don’t want this edition of Ninth Letter to look at origins strictly through the lens of conflict, yet I can’t help but think the writers included here feel very conflicted. From birth and tiny, bloody heads to work-worn palms in hometowns, to the stations of sexuality, to the masks of superheroes but also the unseen heroes behind them who are, but shouldn’t be, disembodied voices. Family stories, here, are imbued both with lies but also with necessary fictions, houses are haunted by ephemera and unfulfilled plans. One character, when welcomed home, finds the war they left behind has made of home of them. We worried that an origins-themed issue could risk nostalgia, or entitlement to the past, but I don’t think you’ll find these authors making genesis into paradise. You will find, instead,the fallibility of memory, and the subjective nature of history and storytelling.


  © Ninth Letter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.