As a gay man, I have gotten tremendous pleasure and insight from The Sun over the past thirty years. When I read Benjamin Grossberg’s poem “I Was Carrying a Velvet Wingback through the Streets of Houston” [February 2024], I identified with the joy, desire, and fear the author felt as a young gay man in the city. And then it hit me: this is what “representation” means, and it is crucial, especially now, when LGBTQ+ communities are beset by people in power who believe we do not deserve equal rights. I look forward to more poems, stories, and essays in The Sun about LGBTQ+ people. Our lives fit into the mosaic of the magazine as well.

Chuck Jones Washington, DC

I was raised in a household where my mother and older sister embraced second-wave feminism in the late sixties, and I read Simone de Beauvoir’s feminist manifesto, The Second Sex, and essays by straight and gay men about “unbecoming” men, breaking free from the social conditioning of traditional masculinity—all as I went through puberty.

Nicole Graev Lipson’s essay on gender stereotypes and parenting [“Macho Baby,” January 2024] made me reflect on the instances when I have deliberately or subconsciously encouraged conventional gender roles while raising my two boys. I remember hating it when other parents of toddlers would say that it was “natural” for boys to like guns and girls to like clothes, ignoring all the subtle and persuasive gender cues thrown at children before they are even three years old. But at the same time, I reveled in signs that my sons could handle intimidation, threats, or actual violence with strong words, attitude, and, if need be, violence of their own. It’s complicated, no?

Matthew Burd New Paltz, New York

Nicole Graev Lipson’s “Macho Baby” touched on one of the deeper themes of my boyhood. A physical handicap ensured that I was never going to beat anyone in a fight. Even before puberty I searched for a concept of masculinity that I could embody, and I found it in the nonviolent virtues of courage and protecting the vulnerable. As a teenager I stood between a gay boy and a bully, using words to defuse potential violence. I learned that there are plenty of girls who see this kind of nonviolent strength as manly and desirable. Humor and hygiene don’t hurt either.

Nathaniel Borenstein Greenbush, Michigan

“Macho Baby” is full of complicated and nuanced reflections on masculinity. As the dad of a toddler, I find these uncertainties occupying my mind too. I especially loved this line: “I worry Jacob will take up the work the world started on him, slicing away his softest parts in order to belong. And I worry that, by belonging, he will find himself, in the ways that matter most, alone.”

Matt Homrich-Knieling Detroit, Michigan

It’s been a long time since an essay found me the way Nicole Graev Lipson’s “Macho Baby” did. I always imagined I’d have a young feminist daughter with untamed pigtails. Instead I find myself raising two boys and grappling with how to help them be tender, whole, and wild.

When I finished reading, I went into the room where my eighteen-month-old son was sleeping, picked him up, and rocked him. It’s hard to imagine him growing up and facing the experiences so many boys do as they age. I held him tighter, wanting to slow time for just a little while.

Jolene Brink Two Harbors, Minnesota

My first (and likely only) child was ten weeks old when I read “Macho Baby,” about the struggle parents can feel when they raise children in such a gendered society, even when those children are teeny tiny.

My partner and I named our baby Wendell after my partner’s late father. When we are out in the world, strangers’ constant question is “Is it a boy or a girl?” A friend has coached me to say, “She has a vagina!”

Deborah Oslik Tucson, Arizona

The humorous correspondence from Doug Sylver [January 2024], describing the low acceptance rate of his Readers Write submissions, resonated with me. His recent acceptance was for Readers Write on “Television” [October 2023], which coincidentally was my first Readers Write publication—after seven attempts. Sylver urged all contributors to keep trying; you never know when a piece will be selected. I agree, but even if your work never gets published, it’s still worth doing. It provides insight into who you are and is a gift for your loved ones. I wish my father had left such writing behind for me. He was in my life for thirty-six years, but I hardly knew him.

Robert Gunn San Diego, California

When I finish an issue of The Sun, I share my copy with a friend. It’s usually missing an article or two that I pulled out to save. I just finished the December 2023 issue and ripped out so much of the magazine that by the time I got to the last and best scrap—the Sunbeams section featuring selections from Sy Safransky’s Notebook—there wasn’t enough left to pass along. I guess it’s time for a gift subscription!

David Cavagnaro Decorah, Iowa

Peter Markus’s poem “I Did What I Could to Keep This” [December 2023] triggered so much emotion that I was sobbing into my bowl of potato soup. I finally released the tears I’ve needed to shed in the seven months since my husband’s passing.

Nancy Clark McClure Bridgeport, West Virginia

I grew up poor and hungry in the South Bronx and felt alone in my experience until I read Daniel Donaghy’s essay “Fire” [November 2023]. I can hardly believe anyone else had as crazy of a childhood as I did, with an alcoholic father and living in a neighborhood with pimps and hustlers in the street. I found a way to escape the violence and fear, but I agree with Donaghy—it gets in your skin and never fully goes away.

Irene Sardanis Oakland, California

I just finished Daniel Donaghy’s “Fire,” which was so riveting that my sense of time fled and the mug of coffee I’d been sipping went cold. What a poetic powerhouse of an essay. Bravo to Donaghy for sharing this recollection of his childhood and for stopping the cycle of brutal behavior that claims so many families and lives.

Karen Dearborn Montgomery, New York

When we were together, my brilliant and creative former husband managed his depression extraordinarily well with talk therapy and medications. His many attempts to describe to me, an emotional flatliner, what depression felt like never hit home, but Dan Leach’s essay “The Ice Age” [October 2023] did. Even “managing” depression comes with huge compromises.

L.P. Boise, Idaho

Since reading “The Portal,” by Debbie Urbanski, when The Sun first published it in March 2016, I have often thought back on the story, longing for a chance to drop into the author’s speculative world again. With the September 2023 Dog-Eared Page, I was given that opportunity. I’m perpetually astonished by the synchronicity The Sun offers and how each month it provides a window into some of my greatest undiscovered hungers.

Mandana Boushee Phoenicia, New York

I am ashamed to admit that for the first time I tossed out an issue of The Sun without reading it from cover to cover. I read the letters and some of Readers Write, then put the June 2023 issue aside, telling myself I’d get back to it when I had the emotional stamina to read about climate change. But on trash day I slipped it into the recycling bin.

When I use my chronic illness as an excuse to avoid facing the pain of the climate crisis, I’m just as bad as the politicians who are frantically paying attention to anything else while hoping this “inconvenient truth” goes away—or at least waits until they’re out of office. My nagging guilt—that I won’t even read about the trouble we’re in, much less make any meaningful changes to my own lifestyle—doesn’t go away either.

Wendy Sieja Appleton, Wisconsin

During a six-hour emergency-room visit recently, I asked for something to read. The nurse brought me the November 2010 issue of The Sun. Without looking at the date on the cover, I started reading David Barsamian’s interview with Chip Berlet about right-wing populism and the threat of protofascist politics [“Brewing Up Trouble”]. When Sarah Palin’s name came up, I glanced at the issue date and realized how prescient the thirteen-year-old article was. I read a couple of engaging essays and the short story and the Readers Write section, and before I knew it, the ER ordeal was over. Your magazine was a real treasure in an unexpected place.

Bruce Magnusson Portland, Oregon