In my early twenties I rented a room from a woman twice my age who was recently divorced and starting over. Her cozy, disheveled house felt comfortable to me the moment I stepped inside. “One more thing,” she said, just before I handed her a deposit check. “I have a home business. Will that be a problem?” She gestured toward the dining-room table, which was covered in cosmetic, health, and cleaning products. I shook my head. How could her enterprise cause me problems?
I found out shortly after I moved in, when I invited some friends over. My housemate joined us in the living room and quickly found ways to steer our conversation toward her product line. She suggested lotion for one friend’s dry skin and supplements for another’s exhaustion. Almost every disclosure one of us made could be linked to an item in her catalog. It got so bad that I started bracing myself for a sales pitch whenever someone stopped by. Needless to say, I became less inclined to have visitors. My housemate had to earn a living, and she might even have been offering us a great bargain, but as soon as she tried to make a sale, the mood in the room changed.
These days it’s hard to avoid interruptions and offer each other our undivided attention. This is one reason The Sun challenges the conventional wisdom that a magazine, in order to survive, needs to devote nearly half its pages to advertising. Instead The Sun creates an intimate space where writers can share their most personal thoughts and feelings without the distraction of ads that flatter us, ads that shame us, ads that all too often try to make us dissatisfied with who we are and what we have.
Because The Sun is not beholden to corporations or big foundations, we have uncommon freedom in what we choose to publish. We can risk printing the work of courageous writers whose stories might otherwise remain untold. We can run interviews with activists and scholars and artists who challenge us to think and act differently. We can publish photographs that make us pause and rediscover the haunting beauty in the seemingly mundane. We can allow room for an uninterrupted conversation between writers and readers — issue after issue, year after year.
Without ad revenue, however, we operate on a tight budget and depend on our readers’ support. And for more than forty years people like you have kept the magazine alive. If you have read anything in The Sun recently that has broken the trance of your daily routine, lingered in your mind, or caused you to feel less alone, then please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to keep us going. Your donation will enable us to focus on making each issue as emotionally rich and intellectually provocative as it can be, and to continue to pay writers and photographers decently for their work. It will also help us give away subscriptions to libraries, schools, and prisons, and to readers who have fallen on hard times.
I’m now approaching the age my former housemate was when we met. The other morning, home alone after my husband had gone to work and my kids to school, I received a text message from a neighbor: Are you home? Can I come over? Yes, I replied — and before I could change out of my pajamas or clear the dishes, I heard a knock on the door. She stood on my doorstep looking as if something was weighing on her. She did not want a cup of coffee or tea, but she had a story to tell, so we sat on the back porch to talk. Someone she loved was struggling, and she felt helpless and alone. I told her I’d recently grappled with those feelings, too. As we shared our stories, the only other sound was the crisp autumn air rustling through the trees. Neither of us was trying to sell anything.
P.S. You can donate online at thesunmagazine.org/donate or send your check to The Sun, 107 North Roberson Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516. Your donation is tax-deductible, and we’ll send a receipt for your records.