Photo by Nicki Varkevisser


There is a class of seniors in my library. Their teacher is stuck in a meeting with the superintendent and his classroom is locked. I have gathered them in from the hall, where they were being absurdly noisy. They are still being absurdly noisy, but at least in here I can contain it, close the doors, shut the lights, and collect their hubbub in. I could raise my voice at ... [Continue Reading]



The night I move in, I sit in my darkened kitchen and sip wine next to the open window. I watch as the cops pull up beside a black teenager who is walking on the sidewalk across the street. They say something to him, get out of their squad car, and pat him down. One of the cops glances up, sees me peering out. After a few minutes, they pull away and the lanky teenager is ... [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

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s "Towards a Fight" in The Rumpus It’s difficult to summarize Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s “Towards a Fight” not only because it is so wide-spanning, but also because it is infinitely quotable. Marzano-Lesnevich writes about gay rights in the North and the South; she writes about New Orleans, a place fraught with challenges ... [Continue Reading]


“Lenin Was Half-Jewish and So Can You”

My grandfather, Israel, always claimed it was my doing. I was nineteen and I was getting restless. My studies at the Moscow Oil and Gas Institute were entering their third year. Thermodynamics was replacing Math, and Pipeline Design was replacing the History of the Communist Party. If it didn’t dawn on me before that I was on my way to becoming an engineer, it was ... [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]

Neither MFA nor NYC

Neither MFA Nor NYC

My favorite story from my college years wasn’t one I heard in a Creative Writing workshop. I didn’t hear it in any lit seminar or poetry reading. I heard it on a Wednesday night in West Oakland, sitting in a metal folding chair at the twelve-step meeting where I clung to my tenuous new sobriety. The story was told by Milton, a teeny-tiny wrinkled old man, ... [Continue Reading]


Women We Read This Week

Nikole Hannah-Jones’ "Resegregation in the American South" in The Atlantic Focusing on the experiences of three generations of Tuscaloosa, Alabama residents, Nikole Hannah-Jones paints a depressing and accurate picture of resegregation in the American South. She addresses the very real fact that, despite Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, segregation is still very ... [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]


On the Far End of Reality: Jennifer Percy’s Demon Camp

Everywhere he went, he saw them, their burned bodies, watching him. These were the days after the war. Demon Camp is not really about soldiers. Well, okay, it is. Jennifer Percy's debut book revolves around the lives of soldiers who’ve returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD, focusing chiefly on the story of Sgt. Caleb Daniels. But Daniels doesn’t believe his ... [Continue Reading]