In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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Thank you for Zun Lee’s “Father Figure” photo essay in your September 2018 issue. Dads are often minimized in our society, and our humanity is overlooked. Motion pictures and TV programs portray us as bumbling and incompetent, or as cold and aloof: all painted with the same brush as unfeeling dullards.
In some small way, this photo essay speaks the truth about us.
Let’s be real: the narrator of Jessica Anya Blau’s short story “Waiting for My Rape” [August 2018] laid herself out on a platter for a creepy man in the Appalachian woods. The world where a woman can get naked and drunk with a strange man and not run a huge risk of getting raped does not exist.
She did get raped, but that is not the most important question the story raises. Many of us have suffered violations in situations that are less obviously self-destructive. Blau’s narrator should ask herself: Why did I put myself out there like that, and how can I better love and protect myself in the future?
Jessica Anya Blau’s short story “Waiting for My Rape” was a downright straight-shot gut punch — not because it was so well written that it slyly crept up on you, but because it frankly addressed the insanity of alcoholism. Her description of the twisted mental hell of uncontrolled drinking took me back to a time in my life when no one liked me, not even myself. It also gave me a new way to look at my nearly twenty years of sobriety.
I’m an Italian native but have lived in the U.S. for many years. I noticed a mistake in the introduction to the wonderful photo essay by Raffaele Montepaone in your August 2018 issue [“A Long Life”]. The old saying is “mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto” — not anna. In the age of Google Translate such a mistake is almost unforgivable.
We did check Google Translate, which told us “anna” was right. It was yet another reminder not to believe everything we read on the Internet.
Lawrence Shainberg says, “The only durable freedom from pain lies in its absolute acceptance” [“Two Mirrors Facing Each Other,” Dog-Eared Page, August 2018]. This quotation is now written in my journal, on a sticky note on my bathroom mirror, and on a card next to a photograph of my mother, whose death last year I have definitely not accepted. I’m grateful to Shainberg for this important piece of wisdom.
Perhaps the worst part of pain is our fight against it: “I don’t want to have these aches and pains! I don’t want to deal with my past mistakes! I don’t want to live the rest of my life without my mother!”
Maybe instead we need to look at pain as a condition of our existence.
I was surprised to read that George W. Bush, who did so much harm during his presidency, was responsible for dedicating a national monument protecting the seas surrounding Hawaii — seemingly all because of Sylvia Earle, who “sat [him] down and gave [him] a pretty good lecture about life” [“Sunken Treasures,” interview by Michael Shapiro, July 2018].
Can someone please persuade Earle to use her superpowers on the current occupant of the White House?
Not only is Sylvia Earle a profoundly important oceanographer and role model for girls and young women, she embodies the principles of respect, compassion, and sustainability in her personal choices. Though it should be the norm for people intent on protecting wildlife not to harm those they seek to protect, it is uncommon to find such people choosing not to eat fish and other animals. I’m glad Earle practices what she preaches.
Poe Ballantine’s essay “Invisible Symphony” [July 2018] could have been an excerpt from my diary. I lost my mother and my mother-in-law last summer in a span of nine days. Like Ballantine, I went through it all: vigils around hospital beds, hoping for the best with family, then sorting through the items they left behind.
He writes, “Ironic that death is the only sure thing in our future, yet even when we are prepared for it, we are blasted right out of the sky.” He couldn’t be more right. A couple of days after my mother’s funeral, when I finally realized I’ll never hear her voice again, that sky came crashing down.
As one who has ridden the thin rail between incompetency and competency for most of my life, I have learned to accept that, regardless of the endeavor, the results of my efforts will be neither exceptional nor dismal. I have become comfortable with just plain average. And that’s why Lauren Slater’s candid essay “In Praise of Incompetence” [July 2018] hit me so hard. As she embraced competence in the art of writing and wrestled with incompetence in the medium of watercolor, the end result was a stellar piece of writing.
I appreciated all the writers of color in the June 2018 issue and would love to see more issues dedicated to minorities. As a white woman, I need this perspective in my life. I think we all do.
Stephen A. Waite’s essay “The Stray” [February 2018] stayed with me long after I read it. Like Waite I began to care about the stray cat as the story progressed. His contributor’s note says this is his first published work. I hope he will keep writing.
It was a lazy summer day today, and I wondered whether I could find an author whose work I’d read in The Sun. All I could remember was her first name: Linda. Through the magic of your online archives I was reconnected with Linda McCullough Moore. What a gift to spend an hour on the couch reading her short story “World Enough and Time” [March 2011].
When readers write in to say they’re dropping their subscriptions because of The Sun’s negativity toward Donald Trump, I wonder: How can anyone, Left or Right, expect The Sun to ignore who he is?
The fact that there are people who believe in The Sun and in Trump just shows how complicated and contradictory humans can be.
I never liked magazines. I’d prefer a book any day. Whenever I’d subscribe to magazines, I’d inevitably get a new issue without having read the previous one, and I’d feel guilty for not finishing what I’d started.
When I got a mailer from The Sun with all the gushing blurbs and stunning black-and-white photos, I thought, What the hell. I’ll give it a shot.
It’s now been a year. I’ve enjoyed the magazine so much that I read each issue from beginning to end. I’ve even bought gift subscriptions for family.
Thank you for curing me of my prejudice.
The first issue of The Sun I read was given to me by a volunteer at the Los Angeles County Jail. I did not have much hope for it, but after I read it, I would never be the same. It left me with a lot of feelings I did not know what to do with. To put it bluntly, it fucked me up in a good way.
Afterward I thought, Thank God that’s over and I don’t have to go through whatever it was again. But the next time someone offered me an issue, I yelled out, “Yes!” before I even knew what I was saying.
When I couldn’t find more copies in prison, I wrote to you and asked if I could get it for free. This was hard because I’d never asked for anything for free before. You sent it to me without question. I share issues with anyone who wants to read them. Now there are three guys who wait for my mail as eagerly as I do.
In the September 2018 issue, photographer Jenny S. Brant’s name should have appeared as Jenny Schulder Brant.