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LETTER FROM THE EDITORIAL DIRECTOR When you’re in a family, you share a language. At 24, I still ask my mom on visits home if we have any “square rolls,” not King’s Hawaiian. Throughout years of my dad and sister needing regular allergy vaccines, we’d say they were visiting “the shot factory.” And more than a decade after the nicknames were coined, we still casually refer to our neighbors a few houses down as “Mowing Maniac” and “Dog Lady.” (My parents are nice people, I swear!) Tolstoy’s catchy “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” line gets bandied about a lot, but happy families are unique, too, each compiling its own lexicon of shorthand and memories over the years. Whether they’re your family by birth or by choice, peaceful or dysfunctional or even the kind you have to cut and run from, there are those people with whom you never have to explain certain references: As soon as you’ve said, “Remember the time--,” they’re already finishing the story for you. Being part of a family, too, means taking it in stride when the people you thought you’d always understand start to learn new languages. After she graduated from college, my sister traveled to volunteer in Tanzania and fell in love with the place; when she returned the next year, my mom went with her. Now they invoke the names of places and people I may never see and trade phrases in Swahili. My sister is tattooed with words I understand--“one love, one blood”--but that refer to a Rasta subculture I don’t know much about. After years of us expanding our vocabularies in sync--we worked at the same movie theater, went to the same college, and fell in love with hip-hop jointly, spending a summer memorizing T.I. lyrics together--I’ve watched my sister embrace new parts of her life that involve languages I don’t speak. Being in a family, I think, means not only being okay with that, but taking it on as part of why I love my sister and my family as a whole. Sometimes when friends start waving around their newfound dictionaries, you accept that you’ve stopped understanding them and let the connection fade, but with family--again, whether that’s defined by genetics or by law or just the people you’ve chosen to stick with--you make an effort to learn. You piece together at least a beginner’s, Rosetta Stone version of their new language so you can continue to communicate. But really, that’s just one way to talk about family, and it’s a working definition. Minneapolis has as many definitions of family as there are people here, and most of them are unknown to me. But I want to know more. Tell us about your family--the urban legends and inside jokes and memories you share with people you’ve been saddled with all your life or those you’ve more recently claimed as yours. Or just share whatever you’ve been working on with us: Help us learn at least a little bit of your language. Sincerely, Colleen

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CONTRIBUTORS Awal Al-Arsii is an American citizen and resident of Minneapolis. He hopes to complete a degree in Electrical Engineering and return to his native Oromia to improve the lives of his family and friends. He is halfway there. Joe Aschebrock is a Minneapolis-based artist creating imaginative figurative works that lean towards the abstract and surreal. See more of his work at Andrew Casey is a photographer residing in Minneapolis. He migrates towards shooting stationary objects and street scenes. He has had a long-held passion and appreciation for street art and graffiti, which led to a history of documenting the artwork under the alias Urban Camper. Kyle Coughlin is a designer and illustrator living in Minneapolis. He enjoys drawing, screen printing, and being awesome. See his work at Lauren Fechner is an aspiring artist living and working in Minneapolis. She earned a degree in studio arts from UW-River Falls and has a love for comics and cartoons. Follow her on Tumblr: Shaun Feltz doesn’t have a degree in anything and he doesn’t tend to do anything, but he’s written this short bio, so he must have contributed something to something. Great job, Shaun! Allison Fingerett is a writer from Minneapolis who believes in the power of airing hideous personal truths. She spends her days at work or in traffic, pondering whether or not she should stop at the liquor store. Clarissa Hamilton is a graduate from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She is a designer living and working in Minneapolis and has an obsession with making zines. Visit her website: Noah Harmon is a visual artist living in Minneapolis. He received a B.F.A. from St. Cloud State University. Themes explored in his work include, but are not limited to: relaxing, enjoyment, creeps, hotties, famous animals, and common phrases. The work is informed by pop culture, television, and the supernatural. Contact him at and check out more work at Brian Hart is a Minneapolis-based artist. His eyes are always hungry. He hopes yours are, too. Google: brianmatthewhart. Matthew Jacobs is a PhD Candidate in the social sciences at the University of Minnesota. During the day he studies Chinese and religion under authoritarianism. At night he runs dance parties at the Uptown VFW. Say hello sometime at Tuesday Night Music Club.

Eric Anton Johnson is a Minneapolis-based graphic designer and member of Black Collar. See more of his work at and Steven Lang received his B.F.A. from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. In 2012, he was a resident artist at Elsewhere, a living museum set in a former thrift store in downtown Greensboro, NC, and was a participant in the 4th season of CSA — Community Supported Art, sponsored and He has recently exhibited at Rosalux Gallery, Soo Visual Arts Center, and the Walker Art Center’s Walker Shop. His short story, “Tandem,” was included in the recent Milkweed Editions anthology Fiction on a Stick. His short-short story, “The Scarecrow,” was published in 2011 as finalist in the mnLIT series on Colleen Powers is from Rockford, Illinois and lives in Northeast Minneapolis. You can usually find her at dance parties, libraries, or rap shows. Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” is her one weakness. Luke Rusch is a contemporary historian. He is also the creative director of OVRABNDNC, a Minneapolis-based visual resources company and micro-publisher of zines and artist books. Copies of his latest zine, “Too Hood To Be Good,” a Twin Cities history of gangsta rap, are available now at Follow him on Twitter: @OVRABNDNC. Eric Schuster is a comic artist and illustrator based in Minneapolis. He is the co-creator of the low resolution monster fable PRIZON FOOD, which was published by 2d Cloud (, a local indie comics publishing house. Visit his site at and follow him on both Twitter (@ejschuster) and Tumblr ( Diane Teske has travelled to NYC to intern at a leading movie company, traveled to the desert to teach first graders and take Patron shots with gangsters, and raised money for women coming out of trafficking through the music project Hosea’s Romance. With plenty of stories of the grittiest of humanity, she’s a full-time writer and performance artist with the intentions of advocating for the vulnerable, grieving, and those suffering through sexual assault. As an artist, a designer, a musician, an advocate, and most recently a writer, there’s nothing creative that she doesn’t want to take on! Lauren Van Schepen is on a mission to find the balance between work and life, glasses and contacts, and whiskey and wine. She has a fascinatingly abstract liberal arts degree from one of those schools out East, lives on Hennepin, works on University, and can be found anywhere and everywhere in between. MPLSzine is powered by MPLS Collective



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Mystery Issue - December 4, 2012


SISTERS: A comic by Lauren Fechner




WHY CAN’T MY FAMILY BE DYSFUNCTIONAL? Shaun Feltz could write the great American novel if his family weren’t so (siiigh) normal.


SON OF GODZILLA: A comic by Eric Schuster


MY MOTHER, THE REAL COUPON QUEEN Matthew Jacobs recalls his mother’s legendary triumph at Winn-Dixie.


BRANDY SLUSH: A recipe from Rebecca Collins


HOMODOMESTIC Chad Houle shares his photos of and reflections on gay men in their homes.


OPENING ADOPTION Lauren Van Schepen interviews a friend about the scary, exciting, and joyful process of adoption.


DYSTOPIA VS. UTOPIA Diane Teske offers alternative remembrances of the conservative community she grew up in.


OUTLINE FOR A FAMILY MEMOIR Allison Fingerett shares a litany of loss.


AWAL’S JOURNEY Luke Rusch tells the story of university student Awal Al-Arsii, who shares photos from a return to his native Oromia. FRONT AND BACK COVER BY 11TH WUNDR LAYOUT AND PATTERN BY CLARISSA HAMILTON




BETHANY, 25, OLDEST Best advice given by a family member? You'd never buy a car without test driving it, so don't you buy into any of this "save yourself for marriage" bullshit, honey. -- my great grandmother. What does family mean to you? Family means acceptance. That no matter what happens with everything else, if my entire life goes to shit, I have a home and people who will always love me for me.

NICOLE, 26, OLDEST Best advice given by a family member? "Leave the ugly ones to their ugliness," said by my grandma.

KATE, 22, OLDEST What does family mean to you? A supportive group of people who foster a sense of unconditional love and caring for one another, even when they don't see eye to eye. Of all the things you learned from your family, which do you feel was the most valuable? Unconditional love and honesty. As an adult, I see a lot of other people interact with their family and censor their true beliefs and values in order to avoid conflict. My family is always honest and we love each other no matter what, man! 10 MPLSzine // FAMILY

Are there any special heirlooms, photos, bibles or other memorabilia that have been passed down in your family? There was a sweet-ass canopy bed that had been passed down a few generations but I broke that when I was like 5. There are others, I'm sure, but they don't let me near them :)

BRIANNA, 26, YOUNGEST Who was your most influential family member and why? My older brother. I only have one sibling. Maybe that's the reason why. I've just always looked up to him. He's lived his life knowing he's got a little sister who thinks the world of him. How perfect. He's always been the independent, pragmatic one, but he's always been patient and helpful. Any interesting family vacations that occurred? Well, my parents raised my brother and me on the road. My dad had to follow the market to stay employed in his trade. So we moved more times than years I've been alive. Every time we moved, my parents called it "going on another adventure." We could never really afford vacations, but what we got was better. We got to travel really frequently all over the country, stay some place for a few months, sometimes a few years, and then go someplace else we'd never been to. Favorite family meal? My dad's a bit of a whiz in the

kitchen (he missed his calling), so anything he cooks is badass. He makes this ridiculous chipotle-honey pulled pork dish, then he braises red cabbage, onions, and bacon in apple cider. Also there's a side of garlic-sauteed collard greens, and some jalapenocheddar cornbread.

EMILY, 27, YOUNGEST Who was your most influential family member and why? My mother--she was my world, she was the only family member who didn't leave me, she worked her ass off to support me, she taught me that through all the horrible things we experienced that we had it good and we are lucky. She passed away when I was 18 in my arms and I have since been eternally heartbroken. She was literally the only person in my family at the time, she paid the bills, she made me dinner and then one day I had to do it all on my own. There was so much more I needed to learn from her, I needed her support, I needed her guidance and to this day I still do. Not a day goes by where I think "I could really use my mom for this" and it never gets easier. EVERYONE GO HUG THEIR MOM!

MAGGIE, 24, ONLY Who was your most influential family member and why? My Uncle Peter, who died in 2008, was a huge influence on me. He was my godfather and he used to babysit for me. He never forgot what it was like to be a kid. He had this childlike sense of wonder that I hope I can hold on to that too. He was an artist and such an interesting person, a collector--some might even say hoarder... He was a funny, talented, complicated person and the best godfather I ever could have asked for. Of all the things you learned from your family, which do you feel was the most valuable? My parents have a wonderful relationship that I hope to learn from when I find my forever-partner. They support and challenge each other. They are different in all the right ways and the same in the important ones. Are there any special heirlooms, photos, bibles or other memorabilia that have been passed down in your family? I have my mom's graduation charm bracelet. My parents also gave me this beautiful

necklace with a pearl that was the first real present my dad gave my mom. They gave it to me on my 21st birthday. I hope to give it to my daughter on her 21st birthday. MARTY, 30, YOUNGEST Best advice given by a family member? Never give up. Favorite Family Meal? “Bunsies.� Don't ask. My grandfather named them and is no longer here to explain. We still eat them every year on Christmas Eve and they are delicious. Bunsies Recipe: Fresh-baked Buns (duh) Scrambled Hamburger Mashed Potatoes Green Beans Peas First, you bite the oven-fresh bunsie. Next carefully scoop out the warm insides. Then proceed to stuff the bunsie with each of the above ingredients. Enjoy! (and listen to the sounds of satisfaction) Are there any special heirlooms, photos, bibles or other memorabilia that have been passed down in your family? I have this dresser that was passed down to me on my mom's side, which is over a hundred years old. The craftsmanship of the woodwork is impressive. My favorite part is it has this secret writing desk that folds down if you open it with an ancient key. I keep super secret things in journal entries from high school.

BECKY, 22, OLDEST Any interesting family vacations that occurred? One time we went to Jamaica and my dad went on a walk and met a Rastafarian, Goshford, who lives under a waterfall. They have remained pen pals ever since, and two years ago my parents and my brother went a cruise that stopped in the same town. They met up again, did Rastafarian things (if you catch my drift), and climbed a waterfall. My dad took a bunch of pictures and my mom posted them all on her Facebook. What does family mean to you? Everything. FAMILY// MPLSzine



In an abstract sense, these are family photos. I made them on a recent trip to Elsewere in Greensboro, North Carolina. The visual pairings in the photos, the duality, and the relation between the objects (and me, and the viewer) are familial: the tree leaning into the house, the double parking meter, the two dogs, the trimmed bushes, even the two portable toilets. Those things all relate to each other in the individual photos, and because of that all the photos work together as a group. To extend the metaphor, Elsewhere itself is very much a family...of artists, thinkers, makers, vagabonds, visitors, ghosts, and objects. The work is from my series A is for Elsewhere, which is also a book. Photos By Steven Lang





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I come from a functional family. I’ve never been institutionalized. This is not how interesting stories begin. I am not complaining about my fairly happy childhood, and cohesive family unit, because I don’t want to come off as the most obnoxious bastard imaginable. But I will point out one slight disadvantage that comes of this well-adjustment: If a lot of misfortune befalls you in your lifetime, you will have much to write about; if you skate by without much in the way of extraordinary emotional trauma, you will be tasked with having to make up some really interesting shit to make it as an author.



Memoirs of misery have set many an author’s career in motion. It’s not to say that these people aren’t talented; that they don’t tell their tales in well-crafted prose, with wit and brave candor. I’m just saying, “fuck them.” Fuck their abusive families, their battles with addiction, the odds that were stacked against them, the diseases and disasters that have taken so much they held dear away from them. And then I take it back, I couldn’t possibly mean that, that’s so petty, I’m not even capable of that magnitude of spite. I wasn’t raised by eccentric intellectuals in New York City. I wasn’t even raised by semi-eccentric semi-intellectuals in the Cities. I didn’t have the pleasure of being raised in a dull, conservative suburb where I could pull off an inspiring rise above the conformity of my surroundings and then reflect back on them with seriocomic criticism. No, I grew up in a rural setting, central Minnesota, ponds and dirt roads. A wild imagination came to my rescue often to combat the boredom of my relative isolation, but it would have almost been better if an actual madman had chased me through the woods and destroyed my innocence. Without a dismal past to draw upon for inspiration, one can still create quality fiction. My problem is, as I stare at the void that is my most unstarted of Great American Novels, that the audience for new literary fiction, the kind that I would like to create, seems to be disappearing. People that still read for the aesthetic value of a novel are not the ones buying all the books these days. Genre fiction, targeted at specific audiences, is the hot ticket to a literary career. Sexy vampire stuff for the teens, sexy elf stuff for the older crowd. I could just add the initials “R.R.” to my name and tell the 5,000-page tale of how the evil wizard Saurgus wove on the Loom of Doom so a brave band of heroes journeyed to the evil land of Morpor to do battle with an army of Churgs and vanquish a lot of evil, but I don’t want to write that pap. I want to write a weighty tome of hysterical realist fiction that gets published by some cool imprint of some storied publishing house that develops a strong cult following and I get an advance on the next one, dammit. Despite all this grumbling about the unfavorable condition brought on by a stable upbringing, the greater point can be made that you can be a deeply unhappy person in spite of everything. Failure, disappointment, thoughts on the human condition: these can turn even the most tenderly lovingly cared-for so-and-so into a dejected, anxious crank. It gets even worse when you look at the odds of getting a novel published and making a living as a writer, which are abysmally miniscule. And then look at those disreputable turds who have made it big with falsified autobiographies chronicling their drug addiction, or using real national tragedies in their novels as a backdrop to cheaply manipulate readers’ emotions. How many novels written by real, honorable people were rejected to make room for those disgraced bestsellers? The field is pretty level. Stop writing that book you’re working on and throw it away. Make room for the one I’m about to start. Written By Shaun Feltz.

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My mother was an expert couponer decades before it was cool. She used electric scissors to slice up stacks of Sunday morning ads long before the term “Extreme Couponing” was coined. She hoarded discounted Hamburger Helper years before folks in reality shows were couponing. My mother was a coupon queen well before Mama June from “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” was 16 and pregnant. My mother was a coupon enthusiast as far back as I can remember, but she became a coupon fanatic when we moved to the South. For nearly six years of my childhood, my family and I lived in rural Georgia, not too far from Mama June and Honey Boo Boo Child’s humble home. In that small town, my mother discovered her couponing super powers. The coupon collection started in a denim pouch the size of a Hostess Fruit Pie (R.I.P.). Soon the coupons moved to a large shoebox, which then expanded to two tomato boxes. The most sought-after coupons still went into the Fruit Pie pouch. Free coupons were rare and never around long. The true aces of the couponing game were $.50 off coupons. Why? 24 MPLSzine // FAMILY

Double Coupons. Grocery stores doubled the discount of any coupon up to 50 cents. In the early 1990s, all of the major players in the southern grocery business--your Winn-Dixies, your Ingleses, and your Krogers--they all played by the same bargain shopping rules. Sure, they all had Double Coupons, but they also had another rule that only the pros knew how to exploit: Price Matching. All the big grocery stores matched prices in each others’ ads. If a $2.99 10-pack of Capri Sun was on sale for $1.99 at Kroger, then you could get them for $1.99 at Winn-Dixie as long as you had the store ad to prove it. Not only did the shopping experts have coupons, but they also carried the ads of all competing stores for optimal savings. On the rarest of occasions, usually nearing the dawn of a new solstice, one of these purveyors of perishables would change the rules of the game. And on this oh-so-sacred day, a perfect storm of savings was birthed into this realm: Dollar Double Coupon Saturday.



Twice a year, Winn-Dixie would double coupons up to $1.00. That’s right, folks: If you had a $1.00 coupon for Rice-A-Roni, you would get $2.00 off. Mixed with price matching, one could do some bargain shopping voodoo. My mother figured out a way to break the system. THE SETUP One does not simply walk into Dollar Double Coupon Saturday and expect to save. The job requires at least a month of preparation. Most coupons have an expiration date. They were only valid for several weeks until they were dumped into the papier-mâché art supply box that none of us ever used. The key is amassing as many unexpired $1.00 off coupons as possible. In the weeks leading up to the operation, my mom shook down the region for coupons. Each week when the new round of coupons was distributed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she would hit up neighbors, church members, and even the unsuspecting folks at the Golden Corral buffet who were enjoying the Lifestyles section while eating a plate of collard greens and Salisbury steak. Sometimes when an especially good set of coupons made it to the presses, she would resort to buying multiple papers at the gas station up the road. The kitchen became coupon command central. While we were at school throughout the week, my mother would be clipping and sorting coupons, cutting out the Cottonelle and Cookie Crisp coupons while passing on the Purina and Pampers. Sometimes a coupon of incredible savings would overlap another marvelous coupon on the back of the page. My mother was forced to make a Sophie’s choice between Little Debbie and the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Many good coupons were sacrificed on our dining room table. RECONNAISSANCE The night before Dollar Double Coupon Saturday was Competing Grocery Store Ads Friday. At some point, my mother discovered that the Kroger stores in different cities had different ads with different sales. She couldn’t simply get the ads from the supermarkets in our town if she wanted the deepest discounts. So on the Friday night before the big day, we would drive to every grocery store in a fifty-mile radius to 26 MPLSzine // FAMILY

collect ads. Two copies, always two copies. I was oldest, so of course it was my duty to run into the stores and get the ads. I didn’t mind because I got to sit in the front seat as we traveled around rural Georgia. The final stop was the site of the operation: the Winn-Dixie in our town. My mother did some last-minute price checks. She compared the deals in the competing ads with the prices on the shelves. More importantly, she looked for the deeply discounted discontinued products that didn’t show up in the ads, like the not-so-popular Chicken Flavored Cheetos. THE PLAN When we got home, my mother laid out the ads on counters, chairs, and any open space in a one-room radius of the kitchen. She would match up stacks of duplicate coupons with their corresponding sale price in the ads. Sometimes she would cut out the clearance item in the ad like a coupon and paper clip it to the stack, but only if she had two copies (always two copies). THE JOB We arrived at Winn-Dixie when the store opened and spent the whole day shopping. While my mother combed the shelves for the best price-to-coupon ratios, my brothers and I caused havoc. After we got tired of the toys in the toy aisle, we moved on to grocery store games. We played hide-and-go-seek with the service desk as home base. We played supermarket bowling with a frozen Butterball turkey and ten cans of Pringles. We made s’mores by filling a grocery cart with Hershey’s Chocolate Bars, Honeymaid Graham Crackers and Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows and leaving it near the firewood. We were kids and it was our Saturday. My mother ran this operation multiple times, but there is one day I will never forget. After a full day of shopping, my mother finally made it to the checkout lane. It was a two-cart day. We had probably been at the store for four or five hours. My brothers and I were restless and hungry and begging to leave, but that did not disrupt my mother’s steely resolve.

Cashier selection could make or break this job. Many of the cashiers knew my mother and learned how to handle the complicated transaction. Sometimes the new employees would dispute a price match because the picture didn’t match the product, but my mother

with a baffled look on her face, flipped the switch on her checkout light to again summon the manager. “Sumpen’ ain’t right,” she told my mother. Bernice was even too distracted to tell me not to look past my reflection into the red lasers below. The manager

“She would match up stacks of duplicate coupons with their corresponding sale price in the ads.“ knew how to argue the legal meaning of “All Varieties.” For this operation, my mom went straight for a cash register veteran, the always lovely bouffanted Bernice. The first part of the transaction went relatively smoothly with only a few small snags. Bernice was a trooper. My mother kept a keen eye on the price display as I watched each item scanned. Bernice was kind to remind me yet again not to stare at the mystical red laser inside of the checkout counter because “it’ll blin’ yah.” The final phase was the coupon calculation. Every entry was scrutinized. My mother was vigilant. No coupon went unused or undoubled. Bernice was starting to show signs of nicotine withdrawal and her patience was waning. The manager was summoned to adjudicate a dispute over a poorly cut coupon with a partially missing expiration date. While my mother dug through her envelopes to find a duplicate she likely knew did not exist, the frustrated manager with s’mores carts to deal with simply said, “S’ok, let ’er have it.” Bernice, with little resistance left in her, did not question the rest of the stack. THE GETAWAY We were done! The final total was an amazing $11.28. My mother pulled out the money from her overstuffed wallet, but there was a problem. Bernice,

arrived, already agitated. After some debate, she took the receipt to the service desk to make a call. Bernice tottled over to a fellow checkout colleague to report on the unbelievable situation. Soon other employees joined. Nearby customers stared at us, whispering with raised eyebrows. I thought they had found our s’more cart and we were in trouble. When the manager returned, we got the news. My mother did not owe anything. Winn-Dixie owed us $11.28. Her clever combination of double coupons and price matching netted her a profit. We walked out of the store with well over one hundred dollars’ worth of groceries, and they paid my mother to take them. I am not sure whether Bernice was happy to be part of the legendary transaction or happy because she could finally fill her lungs with Virginia Slims Menthol 120s, but she was awkwardly giddy when she handed my mother the money. I couldn’t believe what my mother had accomplished. She had figured out a way to generate income. It wasn’t enough to live on, but it was enough to get McDonalds on the way home. I like to imagine that Mama June and other reality show super savers were kids in the Winn-Dixie that day, watching my mother, the real Coupon Queen of Kennesaw, Georgia, pave the way for future generations of extreme couponers. Written By Matthew Jacobs.



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When I first came out, my father’s first reaction was fear for my health—as if unprotected sex and AIDS was inevitable. Thirty years after the outbreak of AIDS and its unfair characterization of it as a gay disease, you would think the facts would be cleared up. I came to realize that my anxiety surrounding domestic life, family, and settling down were purely linked to a lack of examples of gay men defying the “supposed odds.” I am determined to infuse the world and fill the void with what I never saw at a critical point in my life, because what I needed to see is what much of the world still needs to see. This is what led to my body of work and senior thesis, Homodomestic, photographs of gay male couples in their homes. FAMILY// MPLSzine



ome men simply wanted a nice portrait for their wall, while others felt the emblazoned desire to make a change for the gay world, and saw this project as their chance. Those are the men that I felt the biggest connection to and enjoyed photographing the most. … I always photograph couples in moments of comfort, whether that is relaxing on the couch, having a glass of wine, or just simply reflecting. This literal comfort becomes a symbol for the comfort in their relationship. When considering their poses, I try to sum up their relationship roles and how to express that to the viewer. … With my work, I certainly glorify the couples I meet, but I try to be realistic in that no relationship is perfect. They all require tending and attention, but sometimes they don’t prosper the way you had hoped. 30 MPLSzine // FAMILY



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n the example of Miss Kitty Litter/Stephen, Brian, and Courtney, they present the dichotomy of following yet rebelling against the norm. They share a child from Brian’s previous marriage, live in a beautiful home filled with masculine furniture, and specifically choreographed their wardrobe, yet Stephen relaxes under a painting of his night-time persona, the famous Miss Kitty Litter. Drag is the ultimate symbol of rebellion. It breaks the cardinal rule of masculinity: abandoning one’s manliness, for the sake of performance. While only those who are familiar with Kitty will understand the dichotomy, the tender hetero-centric family moment is more easily digestible to those who cannot relate to the gay world. The first time my mother saw this image it was clear that it was something she had neither seen before nor had thought about. She simply kept talking about how touching it was. It was clear that she finally got it: There isn’t anything separating her relationship from my own. FAMILY// MPLSzine



often find it fascinating when the topic of gay marriage comes up during a shoot. Some see my work as propaganda, while others see it as a general statement for love. Many of the couples that I have photographed have either gotten married, or have considered it. I have found two couples who have openly written off the need for gay marriage. … So much of the hatred towards queer people stems from ignorance and lack of exposure. How do you put these issues into their faces without causing them to close up? I am a big believer that if I can seduce the most homophobic of viewers with beauty, then they just may give my message a chance. Color, composition, lighting, and styling all become key players in my “propaganda for love.”

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here has been a lot of work about queer life in the past 30 years, but I feel that most of it has not been successful because the artists haven’t gotten the work to the people who need to see it. Who are you teaching if you only present this to the people who are already immersed in it?‌ I want to see my work in high schools and middle schools to tackle the problem at the start. While I would like to see my work in a traditional setting at some point, the fight that needs to be won is out in the world, not in the white cube. On top of exposing middle school and high school students to my message, I want to work directly with them. I would love to photograph young LGBT students in their homes. These kids are the ones that need to be reached, and I feel that it would be extremely empowering to them to know that they too could have an impact on others. The one thing that helped me stay strong when I was younger was the knowledge that I was probably not alone. I felt that if I could show my strength despite the harassment, then maybe others could have hope.

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s part of getting the work out into the world, I feel it is important that my current images represent a broad range of gay men... I felt it was important to reach out to the entire community, including all cultures, races, ages and income levels through my choices in marketing. I don’t want to ignore and alienate a viewer that I could potentially have an impact on. There is a connecting fiber, of the issues of dealing with one’s sexuality that connect us all. That being said, I do have to acknowledge the overwhelming abundance of upper middle class white couples in the series. Despite my careful marketing it seemed that the same type of couple responded each time. Emails sent to “Soul Force”, an organization for gay black men, the Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance and the Gay Asian Pacific Support Network were met with no response. What does it mean that so few non-white couples were interested? FAMILY// MPLSzine



ne of the most moving emails I have received was from a young boy from Rhode Island: “Hi lol i dnt have a boyfriend n there is no way im attractive enough to b photographed but your whole idea is amazing i love it! i live in southern RI with my family who has been treating me horribly due to my sexual orientation, but when i saw your pictures i smiled because thats what i want..i want a life like that. Its amazing that u r capturing all this....its really really jus thought id tell u that” When I read this email, I was instantly brought back to why I started this project. I remembered what it felt like to be in middle school, to feel alone, and to be looking for some form of guidance... This email put my desire to make a difference back into the context of my past. I feel so strongly that the message that I am putting out into the world is needed— it’s needed by kids who feel victimized, people who don’t understand “why” someone could be gay, and anyone who feels marginalized by the world. ... My greatest goal for this work is to reach out and to help the world. It was inspired by own struggle, coming to terms, and discovery of what it really means to be a gay man in the world. Now in place of reflection, I ask: What does it mean as a gay man to follow the pattern of the hetero-norm, years after the rebellion against what once held us down? Photos and Writing by Chad Houle.

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Adoption has always been an intriguing mystery to me. While I knew what it meant in vague terms from classmates who were adopted, I had never considered what it entailed for parents until a sudden influx of friends started the adoption process in the past year. The world of background checks, home visits, and name changes was completely unknown to me, and overwhelming for someone who is years from considering such a decision. Recently I sought to clear a few things up with my friend Leah, who is in the process of domestic adoption with her husband, Chris. Luckily she answered my questions with characteristic grace and honesty. LAUREN: Let’s jump right in. Have you and Chris always planned on having children? LEAH: We definitely talked about it before we got married. We both love kids, and have always looked forward to parenthood; in that sense it was an easy decision. The more we’ve seen of the day-to-day aspects of parenthood from close friends and family, the more we’ve concluded that this is what we want out of our lives now. LAUREN: Do you feel ready? What does being ready even mean? LEAH: (laughing) Well, for example, I’m really excited to see Chris as a father. He’s a great husband– very patient and loving–and I know he’ll be a great dad for those same reasons. I think getting ready to be a mom is something everyone is nervous about. 42 MPLSzine // FAMILY

What I can say is I’m thankful to have a lot of good role models–my mother, sisters in law, and friends– to help me learn how to be a good mom. We feel ready. Well, as ready as you can be. Lauren: That’s interesting to think about because if you’re pregnant you know you have nine months to prepare, but with adoption you’re not sure what your timeline may be, right? LEAH: That’s true. Just last night Chris was reading to friends’ two-year-old, and I noticed he was using a lot of things we’d learned in a child development class we took for adoption training. Things like that make you feel ready, but it’s one thing to learn something in class, and another to have a child in our lives and live it every day. I feel very prepared, but at the same time have no idea how to fully prepare. LAUREN: Obviously the idea of having children is exciting (and scary), but adoption is also a very particular way of doing that. What about adoption is uniquely exciting for you? LEAH: Chris and I have always appreciated adoption as a beautiful way to grow a family. Much of that comes from having diverse extended families that have grown through adoption. It’s definitely been a journey, but the way I see it now is we’re ready, we’re putting ourselves out there, and I trust that the universe is going to bring us together with someone who is looking for the loving home we know we’re

able to provide–much in the same way it brought Chris and I together. It’s a leap of faith for everyone, but we feel grounded in that faith, and that’s exciting. LAUREN: Let’s talk about the process a bit. I just imagine years of forms… LEAH: It’s definitely a lot of paperwork: background checks, interviews, checking with family and friends for references. It’s probably best that we haven’t been keeping close track of the time it’s taken us so far, but we’ve been on a path to adoption for about a year, and now have an approved home study through our adoption agency. The process exists as it is so our agency has as much information as possible to share with a family that’s making an adoption plan. Someone should know as much about us as they want and need in order to make what is obviously a really important decision. We are also putting ourselves out there beyond the agency. Someone may be looking for a family like us, so we need to make sure we’re easy to find. It’s not about showing we’re perfect, but providing a genuine representation of who we are so someone can connect–someone who wants the kind of extended family we have, for example, or likes that we explore the outdoors and wants their child to have that experience. LAUREN: I imagined you just sent in paperwork and waited for a matchmaking process to take place. It sounds like it requires more active self-promotion on your part. Is that accurate? LEAH: We can choose how active we want to be in letting people know we’re adopting. More traditional approaches are still used, and still work, but a lot of adoptions also happen through outreach. I really believe in the power of our network, and finding a family they’re connected to may be a much more comfortable process for some expectant parents than going to an agency for pregnancy counseling. LAUREN: Are there other aspects of the process that people may not know about?

LEAH: Many people ask if we’re doing an open adoption, but it was never really much of a question for us. There have been many studies showing that open adoptions are good for children, and as a result many agencies–including our own–primarily conduct open adoptions. While what open adoption looks like can vary quite a bit, it will mean our child will grow up knowing their adoption story, and having access to their identity including their family origin and health history. LAUREN: Have you been surprised by any particular parts of the process so far? LEAH: There’s a lot about it that–for lack of a better word–tests your support system. It’s not that I’m surprised at how loved and supported I’ve felt, I’m just very grateful. A lot of that comes from Chris. There are many decisions we have yet to make, but this process is not something every couple agrees on, and so far it’s been great to see that we are the kind of couple that has grown stronger from doing this together. All kinds of people in our lives have shown support. I’ve always known we have wonderful people in our lives, but what surprises me is how emotional I get– how much it means to me to watch people get excited for us, and be ready to help any way they can. That’s been a wonderful surprise. LAUREN: Describe how you felt a year ago, how you feel now, and how you imagine you’ll feel as this first stage of your life as a parent comes to a close. LEAH: A year ago–eager, excited, and nervous. Today–supported, hopeful, and open. The future is hard to imagine, but I’d guess I’ll feel how any parent feels–I’ll be in disbelief, in awe, amazed, overjoyed, thankful for everything along the way … but most of all grateful for and honored by the trust someone has for us to parent their child. For more information about Leah and Chris check out Written By Lauren Van Schepen. Heading Typography By Eric Johnson. FAMILY// MPLSzine


DYSTOPIAN RE-TELLINGS OF FAMILY FOUND IN CONSERVATIVE COMMUNITY They were family. They were community. Facts: Hired my mom as first woman minister. Pastor reamed out homosexuals, adulterers, and the synod for using tax dollars for abortions from the pulpit and said, “It’s either going to be you or me.” Fired my mom after she confronted gender inequalities. A local magazine outed the pastor for going to support groups for homosexual urges. I sent him a book and a card to ease the blow, since “family is family,” but wholeheartedly disagree with his homophobic position. I suppose you can’t help where you come from, but man, can you help where you’re going. Since then my institutional choices have actually been a choice. I empathize, but see that self-loathing projections do no one any good. My friend died after he drank himself to death around his twenty-first birthday, because he had to sit through that shit as a outed gay child of the children’s pastor. My best friend’s baby sister died in a car accident at 21 on the day I graduated from college. I sang at her funeral. The pastor was not in attendance. The youth pastor and several families attended with food in tow, rather than a gift of money, which was what the family needed. The church said that they would spend it on alcohol. The elder said, “Can’t they just bury her in a pine box?” For obvious reasons, my mom was asked to do the sermon and gave a touching account of baby sis’s life. I inherited soul that day and learned how to sing the blues. I inherited her dream as well. She wanted to be a first grade teacher, so when I had a job drop in my lap to teach first grade, even though it was in the middle of nowhere in Arizona. I took the job. I discovered that I was still terrified of conservative communities, because this was my family growing up. When I addressed any sort of community in Arizona, I had a legitimate skepticism, since they are all conservative. When I returned to Minneapolis, I found out the skeletons in my “family’s” closet. One of the elders was soliciting prostitutes while serving as my mother’s authority. One of the known and respected families, when my parents were growing up, enabled the husband to not only molest children in the community, but also lead Boy Scouts. When confronted by one of the victims, he said, “Well, I wasn’t coddled after I was molested.” 44 MPLSzine // FAMILY

I blew out the Holy Spirit candle when I was a small child there, and thought I was done for. I sang in church dressed up as an angel, but fought over the microphone with my older sister, who was actually the angel. Sang like one, too. I only ever harmonized. I was in love with a boy there for two whole years, in high school, but agonized to even tell him I liked him because I signed a “True Love Waits” Campaign, and was too terrified to make a mistake. The pastor still asks me if I’m going to the true church, jokingly, when I see him out and about wearing a wife-beater and short shorts. He is the reason why I have an education about Renaissance art, as he summered in Europe and preached about the paintings of Michelangelo. I thank him for that. I thank him for the knowledge he instilled about what was true and just, but at this point that’s about it. Family IS family. And they taught me modernist instructions for a postpost modern world. FAMILY// MPLSzine


UTOPIAN RE-TELLINGS OF THE SAME COMMUNITY Gratitude time: INSTITUTION #1 Conservative Church Family From the moment that my parents and grandparents stepped through the doors, they were at home. My entire family history and lineage started when my grandparents first chose to attend. Their children and their children’s children were raised and confirmed there. They attended Sunday potlucks and were stars in the Christmas pageants. The community was strong. A total solid fortress of brick that probably will never collapse. Throughout my childhood, I can remember having multiple families that were constantly interested in what was going on in my life, beyond any involvement I’ve ever known before. At the time, my nickname was, affectionately, “Dianie Bananie,” and that same youth pastor that was the support/bane of my teen existence was also the biggest support during my childhood. She, along with a very dear auntie, led the angel choir, and I was chosen for several solos in the church plays. I would say that my best friend growing up is what I am most grateful for out of the whole deal. She taught me what true loyalty and faithfulness mean, by sticking by me for almost 20 years now. Over the years, she has given me many gifts--including my least favorite, which 46 MPLSzine // FAMILY

I wish I would have been more thankful for. When she handed me a box, I looked inside and immediately turned up my nose: It was an Anne Geddes baby shirt. I couldn’t stand those stupid babies in their cabbage patch costumes. I wish I had just said thank you. My most favorite, however was a pickle card. Lavender Pastor was an avid fan of musicals. When I went into the building, he was always singing some goofy tune. We attended his pottery studio and I marveled at the walls covered from top to bottom in historical art pieces. He spoke eloquently of historically accurate and sound accounts of the founders of all historical theories. During passionate sermons, he would cover the events from the painting of the Sistine Chapel, where Michelangelo raged against the man who painted leaves over the perfectly crafted figures, and he would recount gripping and terrifying accounts of martyrs, who were hung on the rack. That sort of drama was the single most appealing facet of my family. In addition, I literally won every single Bible Baseball match of in my history of confirmation. My head is full of knowledge. My heart is full of family and my foundations of truth and justice, with little letters, were formed since birth. I have a craving for home that will never be met, and a longing for family that perhaps was not even met there. Homes renovate, and homes are visited for the holidays. Relatives debate politics with fervor and disdain, only to come to the agreement that WE are all truly family. I never went hungry there. I just didn’t always like the noodly dishes served. I was a baby. I was a drama teen. And I was loved because I was among family. Paintings And Writing By Diane Teske.



In 2010, my family members started dying. Buttons, a 16-year-old bichon frise, was the first to go–battling cancer alongside my mother. As an only child, I legitimately viewed the dog as a brother figure, and my mother’s devastation over his illness appeared to greatly supersede her own. “We have to watch him die, don’t you think?” she said one night while Buttons wheezed in her arms. I didn’t question it for some reason. The cold steel of the vet’s table was draped in a jungle-print fleece blanket. The lethal injection drained the soul from his eyes and he collapsed onto a sea of smiling lion faces. But that was merely my introduction to soul-crushing loss. My paternal grandfather was the next to go, succumbing to cancer in a Florida hospice two months later. When he died, I was on the phone with my best friend, taking a break from my senior thesis, weeping into the phone about how I thought my mother’s death was imminent. A call 48 MPLSzine // FAMILY

came in on the other line and I instantly knew that it signaled the death of another member of my inner circle. I cried harder, but I didn’t answer. With my biggest fear beginning to come true, I didn’t have the energy to process any additional emotional pain. And though I feel a sense of overwhelming Jewish guilt about that, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that my very rational grandfather would understand. But then more shitty things happened. My 96-year-old maternal grandmother was taken down slowly by a urinary tract infection around the time that my mother’s cancer treatments started putting her in the emergency room. There was a stretch of several days when they both were staying on separate wings of the hospital, my grandmother too delusional to realize. I walked alone through the hospital halls between their rooms, wearing a heavy school backpack and smelling of chain-smoked cigarettes. My grandmother was shaking, moaning and spitting out food when I arrived. She pleaded with me to save her from some sort of kidnapping, but the story changed plotlines several times. Some guy was free or needed to be free or she needed to be free and I’d better save him…or her…or (and this part I understood clearly) it would be on my conscience. But I just couldn’t stay. Frankly, my mother mattered more, and her cancer was spreading rapidly (without her knowing, but me having some idea), masquerading as debilitating stress-related back pain. She wanted so badly to believe that this wasn’t happening to her–or to me–and her doctors seemed to sort of play along, while pulling me aside to suggest an affordable hospice “when the time comes.” And, in the end, this realization that my mother was going to die–fairly soon–was far worse than her actual death six months later. The long, drawn-out dying process that some of us are lucky (?) enough to experience seems to happen for a reason. We had fun in the depths of hell. She sang The Isley Brothers’ “Who’s That Lady?” while I wheeled her through the halls of hospice. And, once, when I read her a guest book entry from her Caring Bridge website, she winked and whispered, “I fucked him.” But by the time we were nearing the horrible end, when every day resembled a heart-wrenching movie scene, we were both so ready to be done. The worst thing happened and I survived. I cry a lot, but who doesn’t? Written By Allison Fingerett. Photos courtesy of Allison Fingerett. FAMILY// MPLSzine



wal is a second-year student at the University of Minnesota, born in Mada Wallabu, in the Bale Zone, a stretch of land inhabited by Oromo people in south eastern part of what is modern day Ethiopia. The Oromo people of Bale have inhabited this land in the south east of the East African nation for over a millennium, making Bale one of the longest continuously inhabited places of residence in all of Africa. The Oromo people, so named for their distinct Cushitic language, are the single largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, accounting for 34 percent of the nation’s more than 30 million inhabitants. The majority of Oromo people live in a region named after them, Oromia, in central and southern Ethiopia, a region with an Oromo population of over 88 percent. This is

the land of Awal's birth, a land where he was surrounded by his people. A land he sorely missed, despite all of the success he'd had since leaving it behind. Awal left Bale when he was just ten years old, relocating to neighboring Kenya, where he was sent to live with his uncles in hopes of one day making it to America. He had gone to school in Oromia for a year and a half, but left before completing second grade. He would never enroll in school in Kenya, instead living in the marginalized neighborhoods of Kenya's minority groups, a stew of immigrants from neighboring African countries whose bleak standards of living made even the slums of Kenya seem a more appealing option than staying put. FAMILY// MPLSzine


It would be three years before he got the call his family had dreamed of: a ticket to America, the fabled land of milk and honey a half a world away. He landed in Minneapolis when it was all said and done. He was now twelve years old and knew not a word of English. He was just one of the 20,000 to 30,000 Oromos who would make the migration from East Africa to Minnesota. They were, and still are, often mistaken for their neighbors, Somalis, who'd become ubiquitous in the Twin Cities, as part of a wave of recent African immigrants, numbering between 60,000 and 90,000 people. This flood still put barely a dent in the demographics of one of the whitest states in the Union, a state with a “black� population of just four percent. Oromia is around 50 percent Muslim. As a Muslim, Awal was accustomed to the culture and dress attendant to a Muslim society. While the Somalis were Muslims as well, creating shared spaces and the Twin Cities first mosques with the Oromos and other Africans, the culture and Minnesota was a far cry from Oromia. Awal set out to adjust for a culture shock beyond anything he'd experienced in Kenya. He had a lot to learn. It proved daunting at first, the task ahead of him, so he grew to resent the long hours at a school he took nothing away from. His family reminded him why he'd made the trip in the first place: He was to secure a foothold for his family as the oldest son, a home in America, a better life for them all. Six months later he was speaking a broken English and learning to read and write it as well. With only a first-grade education under his belt, an entire village on his back, and a shoulder load of expectations, Awal clawed his way through public schools, moving from a crawl to a sprint, ending with two full-ride scholarships to any university in America. He beat out over 20,000 fellow applicants to secure the foothold his family had sent him out into the world to secure as just a child.

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With his success came a return ticket: the chance to see his home for the first time in over ten years. Awal was overwhelmed with emotion the moment his feet touched African soil. Memories rushed back, flooded his mind, unlocking a forgotten history--one he'd worked hard to suppress out of necessity so long ago. He traveled by bus from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, for hours before he reached the end of the line. He was still far from his destination. His home, a remote village, was a four-hour walk into the interior of Bale, in a still a relatively undeveloped portion of Oromia. With no paved or passable roads to leading the way, the only way to get there was by camel. He joined a camel caravan but followed along on foot, allowing the envoy his family had sent, an elder, to ride on the last available spot on a camel’s back; he did so out of reverence. Awal had remained committed to the traditions that had ensured his success. This same man had sent him out into the world--now he'd come again to bring him back. On seeing the Nagelle River again, Awal flashed back to the day he left. When he'd crossed the bridge that day, he turned to look over his shoulder one last time at his native land and wondered to himself if he'd ever cross back over this bridge. Now, more vividly than ever, he recalled that moment, this place, that day, as he stood on the edge of the bridge that would lead him home, his question finally answered.



Four hours later, they'd reached the small village of Mada Wallabu. All of the family came out to greet him, giving him a hero’s welcome. Many of them he didn't know, some he didn't remember, but they'd come from far and wide to meet “the American.” He broke down on seeing his grandmother. She was the matriarch of his childhood, rearing and raising all of her grandchildren as thought they were her own. He had been closer to her than anyone, and now she lay, ten years more fragile, frail, unlike the pillar of strength, support and stability he'd remembered. He wept, uncontrollably, unable to coax even a single word, sobbing endlessly, realizing how much he had missed, gone for a decade. He was most affected by seeing the family he'd never met, some of them his own brothers and sisters. Something in him changed. The world around him had changed, too. There were new farms, and homes made from poured concrete sat where the thatched homes he had grown up in had just a few years ago. Many villagers had migrated to an expanding town nearby, a hub for the neighboring farmlands where people brought their families and children to attend a newly constructed school. The site of the school was on the same land as Mana Baromsa Oddaa Boojjii, the same school he had attended so many years ago. Everywhere he went people asked him about America: Was this or that myth true? He tried to let them down easy, but most would have none of it. America was beautiful. Returning after so long to the home he never knew he'd loved so much was better than his wildest dreams. It was, after all, a dream come true. Written By Luke Rusch. Photos by Awal Al-Arsii and family.

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Of all the things you learned from your family, which do you feel was the most valuable? Even though there are eight kids, I want everyone to take time for ourselves. We do only what we are willing and able to do for each other.

SARAH, 21, YOUNGEST Best advice given by a family member? My mom says this all the time: "If you play a game of cards with somebody, you'll get to know a lot about them without having to talk that much."

BETHANY, 24, THE LOST CHILD (3RD OF 4) Are there any special heirlooms, photos, bibles or other memorabilia that have been passed down in your family? In my family, traditions are heirlooms. One specifically is Grandma's Cranberry Malts. Every Christmas after gift opening, Grandma pulls out the vanilla ice cream, cranberry juice, and malt powder for her special Cranberry Malts. Growing up, this is what everyone looked forward to --after third helpings of ham and before people got too drunk. I decided to bring this recipe to a holiday party last year. It failed miserably. The most common flavor used to describe these malts? Feet. I don't care though, if Grandma makes Feet Malts, you drink them.

BONES, 78, YOUNGEST OF 8 Any interesting family vacations that occurred? 10 of us so no away vacations.

SARAH, 29, ONLY Any interesting family vacations that occurred? I go on these constantly ill-fated sailing adventures with my father and a longtime family friend whom we call The Captain. We live on board a 32-foot sloop for up to two weeks at a time, fishing for our dinners, usually around Florida and the Bahamas and anywhere between. It's not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Nothing ever seems to go right: vomiting bile midsquall, engine fires, gushing wounds in the middle of a windless Gulf Stream, closed customs offices, running aground more times than I can count... But for nearly two decades, I've continued signing up again and again. Who is your closest family member and why? My mother. We know each other through and through to a degree that few people reach in their lifetimes. We'd take turns being the grown-up for much of my childhood and early adult life, which taught me not only the personal consequences of my actions, but those farther-reaching as well. Also, an emphasis was placed on responsibility and empathy, rather than correctness, so that I grew up in a way that I think was more untraditional and creative than most. Her generosity in taking in college students who had nowhere to live--sometimes up to three at a time--had the unforeseen effect of giving me a rotating older sibling figure who enjoyed my company enough to teach me drinking games at age 11. But I digress. Of all the things you learned from your family, which do you feel was the most valuable? Don't die wondering.



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Be part of MPLSzine! We’re looking for interviews, reviews, reported articles, essays, humor pieces, lists, infographics, comics, photos, and illustrations related to Minneapolis. (That relation can be loose--if the only connection is that you live here, that’s cool with us.) For now, we are not accepting fiction or poetry submissions--we know we can’t compete with the awesome literary magazines this town already has. We want to explore overlooked places and subcultures; make new connections and observations; share your heartbreaking, guffaw-worthy, and inspirational personal stories; and champion the people who make Minneapolis what it is. But we can’t do that without creative types sending us their stuff. To get you started, our themes for the next two issues are RESOLUTIONS publishes Tuesday, January 1 submissions due Friday, December 21 WORK publishes Tuesday, January 22 submissions due Sunday, January 6 If you can’t contribute right away but want to learn more, email us anyway. We’d love to have you join us.

MPLSzine - The Family Issue  

MPLSzine, a submissions-based collaborative digital publication, is the latest project powered by the forces of MPLS Collective, a cornersto...

MPLSzine - The Family Issue  

MPLSzine, a submissions-based collaborative digital publication, is the latest project powered by the forces of MPLS Collective, a cornersto...