Midwestern Gothic #19: Editor’s Commentary

Midwestern Gothic: Fall 2015 Issue 19And now, for something completely different! Our latest issue of Midwestern Gothic is all nonfiction. That’s right, essays and creative nonfiction inspired by the Midwest. We’ve only done this type of issue one other time, but this angle is a critical part of what makes up the fabric of the region.

While fiction and poetry can certainly expose and explore truths, hearing about someone’s direct experience or perspective is just as, if not more, powerful. A lot of our contributors filter their own experiences and culture into their stories, as most writers do. In some cases, the filter is dialed way up, obscuring the parallels you can draw between their own experiences and fictional experiences. But with essays and creative nonfiction, that filter is all but removed. That raw look at life in the Midwest is always a pleasure to read and edit.

Our hopes are that we can do this more regularly than every two years. Nonfiction writers sometimes don’t overlap with authors and poets, and it’s important to us to give this subset of the population a voice as well. One of my favorites from this issue is “Detroit, 2015” by Lori Tucker-Sullivan, a piece about her experiences with the city at different stages of her life, and of the city’s life.

Here’s an excerpt:

In 2010, after twenty-six years of marriage, my husband Kevin died following a two-year fight with cancer. As a widow suddenly faced with planning an unexpected second phase of my life, I decided to sell my home near Ann Arbor and move to Detroit. I am returning to the city of my birth. For me, this is an attempt to create a new story for myself. The narrative of my life, not unlike that of my birthplace, has jumped the tracks. I’m coming to terms with the fact that my life will neither be what I had anticipated, nor what it once was. I never planned to be a caregiver to a dying partner. As my children grow, I no longer have the same parental responsibilities. I may never again be a wife. I’ve learned how futile it is to believe you’ve written your story when fate wields such a capricious eraser.

Likewise, Detroit once had a bright future. In fact, it was often called “the city of tomorrow.” But as we look back now we see how tenuous a narrative that was as well. In reality it was based on unexamined assumptions: that a population segregated by redlining, discrimination, and fear would remain peaceful. Or that the city could thrive forever on the largesse of one industry that had no competition. Or that the vibrant middle class created by the manufacture of automobiles wouldn’t use the earnings, cars and newly paved freeways to flee the city.

Yet there is presently a feeling of slow and laborious rebirth. Officials are coming to terms with years of dysfunction and are taking difficult steps toward permanent change. In July of 2013, the city’s governor-appointed emergency manager filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, declaring the city unable to pay its nearly 20 million dollar debt. As the contentious process wound its way through the courts, residents and officials worked to find ways to save artwork and pensions, infrastructure and basic services. Now out of bankruptcy, the city is continuing on a mostly positive path forward.

Buy a copy of Midwestern Gothic: Fall 2015 – Issue 19 for the rest of the story, and many others inspired by the Midwest.

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