Karen Engelmann and Harrison Candelaria Fletcher lead off the featured articles with a pair of writings concerned with collecting cultural artifacts. Engelmann’s “The Collection in Search of a Collector” speaks about continuing a family legacy of purchasing folding hand fans, about the way she never meant to become her mother and is not sure if continuing this tradition makes Englemann her mother or not. A quote that epitomizes this viewpoint is, "But there was never an intention to collect folding fans; that was something my mother did. . . ." It is a very brief but introspective bit of writing that speaks to the power of beauty.
Fletcher’s “Prayer for Rain” is an outstanding story from the American Southwest. Native cultures have left behind several ancient villages that can still be accessed by foot, or by adventure vehicle as proven in the story, and have been maintained through generations by those with connections to the past. Readers are taken on a family journey to recover sensitive artifacts to share with their future family members, and are asked to consider the moral ramifications of leaving history to rest or rescuing it from others who might exploit it. I especially enjoyed the recognition of a changing landscape by the building of fences and the way it was presented alongside the more immortal themes of faith that things might be salvageable.
Patricia Smith takes the magazine to Senegal in the late ‘80s during the essay “Holy War.” Genocide is the topic at hand, and especially the way it is seen by an American who is there to teach high school. This particular section is powerful:
"But it's Ramadan." I'm standing in the middle of the classroom. Sweat runs down my back beneath my batik shirt. I wipe my forehead. "What about the holy season?"
Boubacar takes three step towards me, finger pointed, accusing. "The Nars, too, are Muslims. It is their killing that has marred the holy seasons."
My voice when I speak is quiet. "But it's still wrong to hurt the Mauritanians here. They are innocent." I turn to the open door that leads from our classroom out to the courtyard.
Muslim traditions surrounding the holiday of Ramadan are discussed through the screen of someone experiencing that culture firsthand for the first time. It is a difficult, necessary article to deal with, containing no easy answers.
Walruses have been in the news for entertainment purposes (Kevin Smith's movie Tusk) and for scientific purposes (35,000 migrating onto land), so it is interesting to note that “Barrow, Alaska,” a photo essay by Dawn Whitmore, is included in this issue. Especially keep an eye out for the ivory carvings; they are interesting things to digest!
Thomas E. Kennedy's “Prix Fixe” is a wonderful, slightly sad, look at Christmas Eve for a lonely American overseas. There is comfortably drunken fantasizing in the presence of beautiful women and cross-cultural learning that takes place as well. Age-ism is a self-directed issue of concern throughout the essay, especially surrounding the idea of love. The following passage is my favorite bit of writing from within this issue: "Even the mother is too young for you. But this is not about romance, you decide. It is only a romantic moment. Enjoy it." It makes me want to experience a similar innocence.
There are several other worthy images and pieces of writing in these pages. I think that Broad Street will eventually make proper adjustments between its themes and content, and I think that I will adjust my expectations less in the future, enabling me to fully appreciate what I am encountering the first time around. Enjoy this issue when you get the chance.[broadstreetonline.org]