Photo: Rodrigo Jardon

Waiting for Heads

If you enjoy this story, please consider supporting Vela on Kickstarter! We thank you infinitely for your support. I read eyes and gestures, scars and tattoos. I read gathering films of sweat, fleeting looks, the shift of weight and the movement of eyelashes. I live for that moment before the photo is taken, the one when I am on the street in Mexico City, surrounded ... [Continue Reading]

Photo Jorge Santiago

Love in los tiempos del Spanglish

  If you enjoy this story, please consider supporting Vela on Kickstarter! We thank you infinitely for your support. When I first met el Gordo – antes de que lo llamara el Gordo, cuando todavía era Jorge – we spoke puro español. He had a mop of pelo negro, casi chino, a lion’s mane embracing a sweet, round cara de inocencia. Pero en sus ojos había ... [Continue Reading]

Women We Read This Week

Women We Read This Week

Sara Bernard's "Rape Culture in the Alaskan Wilderness" in The Atlantic Sara Bernard's piece in The Atlantic this week is a feat of reporting about the high prevalence of rape in Alaska, "the rape capital of the U.S." On top of her haunting details about the rural landscape, a place where victims of sexual assault are often forced to conduct their own ... [Continue Reading]


The Limits of Compassion

In August of 2000, I found myself in a remote rural village in Lesotho. I was working as an AIDS journalist and had traveled to Durban for a conference on the continent’s pandemic. There, a stout Basotho woman invited me to come and see what was happening in her country. It was my first trip to Africa. My first greeting by ululating women. My first experience as an ... [Continue Reading]


Bookmarked: Angie Chuang’s Five Female Journalists

The term “female journalist” implies that the gendered modifier is necessary because we assume that a plain old “journalist” is male. As with “male nurse,” “female journalist” is a retronym that reminds us of prevailing gender stereotypes in the field. I grew up watching “girl journalists” like Hildy Johnson on His Girl Friday or Mary Tyler Moore. ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Jeff Archer


If you enjoy this story, please consider supporting Vela on Kickstarter! We thank you infinitely for your support. Because of the fog, no one can enter San Quentin. Inmates must remain in their cells to be counted. We must remain on the outside. Nearly 100 people stand around, chatting, waiting to enter in order to watch prisoners perform a series of drama sketches, ... [Continue Reading]


Of Bikes and Men

I’ve just completed my first year as a full-time lecturer teaching writing at a state university, and this is, undoubtedly, the most anticipated summer vacation of my life. After nine months of being tied to my desk, of prepping, teaching, reading, and evaluating, of being saturated with fluorescent light and numbed by the institutional gray of my cement surroundings, ... [Continue Reading]

Photo by Jorge Santiago

The Ism and the Alcohol

A year and a half ago, I published my first essay on addiction. You’d think having gotten sober at age seventeen would have been fodder for plenty of personal essays, but it took me twelve years to start writing about alcoholism and sobriety. Even then, that first piece did not show me drinking or using, or even considering drinking or using. Instead, the piece ... [Continue Reading]


The Non-Bravery of Bearing Witness

If you enjoy this story, please consider supporting Vela on Kickstarter! We thank you infinitely for your support. It’s happening again: I’ve published a highly personal essay and well-intentioned readers are calling me brave. It’s meant as a compliment, I know, but I can’t help feeling what I always feel when I hear this comment: confused and a little ... [Continue Reading]


Fire Ants

  *Selected by Paul Theroux as a notable essay in The Best American Travel Writing 2014 In those first months living in El Salvador, had I walked down a village street and seen young men leaning against gaping doorframes, their eyes steady upon me, I would have read the wrong story. Then, I could barely speak, let alone interpret what signs I might have seen: a ... [Continue Reading]

man-o-war photo

An Unwanted Guest

I didn’t see the jellyfish, but I felt it—a searing pain at my ankle that shot up through my leg, bringing me, in a matter of seconds, to my knees in the sand. I looked down and saw its limp, blue body floating away from me down the rivulet I’d stumbled into when the sand along its border collapsed under my step. The creature had gripped me with its tentacles for ... [Continue Reading]

Illustration: Jenny Williams

Women We Read This Week

If you enjoy this story, please consider supporting Vela's quest to pay writers on Kickstarter! We thank you infinitely for your support. Carolyn Kormann’s "The Swimmer: Manhattan Edition" in The New Yorker I’ve always loved John Cheever’s classic short story, “The Swimmer,” from which this gentle and weirdly affecting piece takes its chief inspiration. ... [Continue Reading]


Women We Read This Week

Jenny Nordberg's “The Afghan Girls Who Live as Boys” in The Atlantic At school, Mahnoush is known as Mehran; at work, Niima is called Abdul Mateen. These girls do not know each other, but they do know what it is to have an open gateway into the world around them—as boys. They are bacha posh, girls dressed as boys, an uncommon but not unusual practice in ... [Continue Reading]

Illustration: Jenny Williams

Bookmarked: Hannah Stephenson’s Five Female Poets

Poetess: for me, the word conjures up a lady in a white ruffled gown, flung across velvet chaise, sighing and scribbling with a pen that resembles a feather duster. What is most objectionable about the word is how it implies that a female poet isn’t a poet--she is something different. Something a little less--a poet(l)ess. Thankfully, the word doesn’t get thrown ... [Continue Reading]


Women We Read This Week

Lucinda Williams' "Where the Spirit Meets the Bone: A Memoir" on the Longreads Blog Nothing satisfies like a Lucinda Williams song. Her words, emanating from her achy soul and propelled—with great will, it sometimes seems—up through her gravelly throat always launch me on a sad, nostalgic bender, sending me adrift into a land of heartache and pain that seems to have ... [Continue Reading]

Women We Read This Week

Women We Read This Week

Camille T. Dungy's "A Brief History of Near and Actual Losses" in Virginia Quarterly Review At the Cape Coast Castle on the Ghanaian coast, visitors can tour the dungeons of a 350-year-old castle where, during the Atlantic slave trade, 1500 men, women, and children at a time were shackled and packed into dank rooms on the eve of their journeys out of Africa. In 2013 ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Jorge Santiago

Leave to Remain

When I was younger I used to fantasize about having a button I could press that would pause the world around me while I caught my breath, had a nap, figured out a solution, came up with something witty to say. My current situation is the opposite of that fantasy - someone has pressed the pause button on my life, and I am suspended, watching the rest of the world go ... [Continue Reading]


Bookmarked: Rufi Thorpe’s Five Debut Novelists

As a debut novelist, I tend to read other debut novelists. I didn’t always. I used to read mostly books that were recommended to me by my mother or by friends. I usually only found an author after they had published two or three books. I thought of this as waiting for the cream to rise, so that I wouldn’t have to suffer through that disappointing moment of setting a ... [Continue Reading]