louis epstein 2
Emily yang 3
Narrativizing the Self PIA MILEAF-PATEL 4
Shrimpy Medicine ISABELLE OLIVE 4
JULIAN CASTRONOVO &
postCover by Pia Mileaf-Patel
VOL 21 —
The End of Temporary Protected Status for One Rhode Islander written By Louis epstein – illustration by tiffany chiu
im had to hide her books.
She kept them on the roof of her home in Monrovia, Liberia, out of her abusive half sister’s sight. At six years old, Kim left the coastal town of Lexington, where she had lived with her parents and 16 siblings, to move in with her half-sister’s family in Liberia’s capital. If her
Letter from the Editor
By running away from her half-sister's abusive household at 23, Kim left behind both her family and a civil war that ultimately resulted in the deaths of 250,000 people, 8 percent of Liberia's population, before peace was restored in 2003. Dear Readers, After an anticlimactic Oscars ceremony (To be
Providence. (I’m really quite jealous of our
fair, what could live up to the previous year’s
A&C staff assignments.)
glorious debacle?) and a week of being buffeted
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by Providence’s weather, I’m ready to curl up
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this week’s Post- in which we descend from
We check it every so often.
the world of movie monsters to the stuff of real issues: namely, to vape or not to vape. In all seriousness, Louis Epstein’s story on the consequences of the end of Temporary
Saanya - editor in chief
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Protected Status on a Liberian refugee in
Providence is a beautiful, painstakingly-
researched piece, while Narrative presents a very meta take on the place and purpose of narrativizing our own lives. We also answer the burning question of where to satisfy your craving for good Cambodian soup in
half-sister found out Kim had been teaching herself to read and write, she would certainly hit her, or worse. Kim knew she needed an education. But that would cost money, and she was on her own. So she improvised, secretly selling wood and candy to pay for her school fees, hiding her earnings in a box under her bed. Life at home grew steadily worse as Kim grew up. Over the 17 years she spent in Monrovia, the verbal abuse from her half-sister and her half-sister's husband turned into regular beatings and sexual abuse. Nevertheless, against the wishes of her half-sister, she kept attending school and managed to keep her part-time job at the Liberian Department of Education, where she helped create curriculums for local students. Then, she found a way out. *** I met Kim on a windy Sunday morning in Smith Hill. She had just finished her night shift, and she told me, with tired eyes, how she had come to the United States. Through the First United Methodist Church, Kim won a scholarship to study music in Spartanburg, South Carolina. With the help of a friend who worked for Pan Am, she bought a discount ticket to New York
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with the money stashed under her bed. She left Liberia without telling her sister. Immediately after Kim landed in February 1987, her suitcase and everything inside it was stolen. She stood in the center of JFK’s arrival terminal and cried. 1991, the year Kim finished her music degree at Spartanburg, was a dark year in Liberian history. A military coup that had started years earlier instigated a decades-long civil war. In response, the Bush Administration granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Liberians who were already in the United States if they had a clean criminal record. Kim was granted TPS and decided to remain in the United States, reapplying each year for the employment authorization. By running away from her half-sister’s abusive household at 23 years old, Kim left behind both her family and a civil war that ultimately resulted in the deaths of 250,000 people—8 percent of Liberia’s population—before peace was restored in 2003. In 2017, the Pew Research Center reported that about 325,000 immigrants from 13 TPSdesignated countries live in the United States. Primarily from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti, these TPS beneficiaries fled earthquakes, civil wars, and other forms of violence. With TPS papers, which cost Kim $655 in annual fees, she is able to work, drive, and live legally in the United States. But this year, the US Citizen and Immigration Services’ website had a different message for her: “The designations of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone terminate effective May 21, 2017.” *** After 29 years of living in Providence, Rhode Island, Kim’s roots here run deep. Kim came to Rhode Island with her ex-husband, and the couple settled down with their son in an apartment along Broad Street. At first, the only work Kim could find was flipping burgers at a local Burger King, but when she was offered a free certified nursing assistant course at Golden Crest Nursing Home in North Providence, she jumped at the chance. That certification got her a job at Golden Crest, where she spent 15 years taking care of elderly Rhode Islanders. The work was tough, with more than a dozen people depending on her for their daily needs. But after her husband left her and moved to Georgia to avoid paying court-ordered child support, she had no other option. Alone with her young son, Kim had to move into subsidized housing in a project to save money on rent. She remembers coming home to their small apartment on a particularly difficult night. Her son was hungry, but they had no food. Their refrigerator was “bare, like brand new.” She had applied for government food vouchers through the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program but was refused by the program because of her immigration status, even though she was here
legally. That night, still hungry, Kim tried to kill herself. But Kim survived that night and many others. She is immensely proud of her son, who recently graduated from college. He’s now looking for his first job and living with Kim, trying to help her as she deals with possible changes to her immigration status. It’s been five years since her son, now 24 and a US citizen, sponsored her for a green card. But after 31 years in the United States, this may be her last.
were told by the Trump administration that their TPS status will expire. These immigrants must either leave or try to remain in the country illegally. The administration has still not decided if it will continue the protections for 50,000 Hondurans. When I asked if US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) has “slowed down the 90 days it takes certain types of employment authorization cards to reach immigrants,” Public Affairs Officer Paula Grenier directed the inquiry to John Martin,
Though she paid almost $500 to apply three years ago, US Citizenship and Immigration Services still hasn’t told her if she will be approved for a green card, only that they are “investigating her.” Her time is running out because the employment authorization papers from the last TPS cycle expire this June. Once that happens, it’ll only be a matter of time before the hospital where she currently works the night shift finds out. *** According to Deborah Gonzalez, Director of the Immigration Law Clinic at Roger Williams University, immigrants like Kim with a clean criminal record, US-born children, and steady work were generally approved for new employment authorizations within 90 days. Gonzalez says she has seen a systematic effort by the Trump Administration to slow down US immigration courts, stalling cases and leaving many potentially qualified citizens and green card holders in legal limbo. With a backlog of more than 600,000 cases for only 334 judges to hear, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has pledged to hire 60 more judges in the next six months. Still, many applicants must wait years to learn if they qualify for citizenship. Though immigration courts have been overwhelmed with cases for more than a decade, under the Obama administration, immigration enforcement could use “prosecutorial discretion” to choose which cases they wanted to prioritize. This meant that some immigrants who were not considered a risk to public safety could have their removal proceedings dropped, speeding up the system for everyone. However, a recent executive order has changed this policy. Immigration enforcement has now been instructed to prioritize all people who they consider “a risk to public safety or national security.” Gonzalez says this purposefully vague order is meant to let immigration enforcement begin deportation proceedings for as many immigrants as possible. For Kim, a lengthier immigration court case might be disastrous. “I spent all my life here working. I don’t have a home in Liberia,” says Kim. Without authorization, she may be deported to Liberia, a country she has not been to since 1987, without ever knowing if she qualified for a green card. Other nations’ TPS programs are also at risk. In the last few months, 200,000 Salvadorans, 60,000 Haitians, and around 2,500 Nicaraguans
the regional public information officer for the Northeast at the US Department of Justice. Martin made clear that it is in fact USCIS, not the department of justice, that grants TPS and employment authorizations. When pressed on
Without authorization, she may be deported to Liberia, a country she has not been to since 1987, without ever knowing if she qualified for a green card. the timing of authorizations again, Paula Grenier recommended looking on the USCIS website, which has information on processing times. However, this data had not been updated in months, and when Grenier was made aware of this, she recommended filing a Freedom of Information Act Request. Attempts to contact Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for comment were ignored by their media relations team as well as by their regional office in Johnston, Rhode Island. *** Kim won’t stop fighting to stay with her son in the country she calls home. Deborah Gonzalez, her pro-bono immigration lawyer, will soon file a lawsuit in the Federal District Court of Rhode Island, ordering US Citizenship & Immigration Services to schedule an interview for Kim, whose case has been pending for over 15 months. She maintains hope, quoting a Liberian proverb that says, “If you look at the mountain, you will never climb it.” Much like the 325,000 other immigrants granted TPS, and their 275,000 US-born children, Kim plans to put her head down and work, as she’s always done. If her green card does eventually get approved, she wants to build off of her music degree and start singing again, this time professionally. (At her request, Kim’s name has been changed to protect her identity.)
"My first thought when I woke up naked after sex: My internship applications!" "I'm closer to my roommate's girlfriend than to my roommate." "I hold a patent on a wind turbine I designed with my identical twin."
march 09, 2018 3
Narrativizing the Self Merits, Pitfalls, and Non-conclusions
By emily yang illustrated by rémy poisson
Just over a year ago, my friend S was diagnosed with - bipolar mood disorder, - post-traumatic stress disorder, - bulimia nervosa, - and anorexia nervosa. S’s eyes glossed over the list once, twice, thrice. She held the letters in her palm, pressed them into her skin to see what would happen. She watched as they sunk into the creases of her flesh. During a manic episode a few months ago, S told me that she thought she might also have narcissistic personality disorder. I fit all the traits when I’m
in the most trivial of ways, from subscribing to random literary journals to signing oddly specific petitions under her name. When I spotted my name and address, printed on a cover sticker, it occurred to me that someone might’ve stolen my identity for the most banal cause possible: a shitty bridal magazine subscription. In my story, the protagonist receives anonymous calls that tip her off to the identity theft, to which she responds with total nonchalance. Of course, all the action transpires in either a snazzy jazz bar or a dim taxi cab, always on a dreary night in Tokyo, the city pulsing to the beat of rain pitter-pattering against glass. For a second, I was enthralled. And then I took a good look around me. Instead of a flickering Tokyo rainstorm, I was drenched in a crowd of students in a mailroom in Providence, Rhode Island. Neither femme fatale nor particularly badass, I was thinking about the readings I had to do instead of the Ponzi schemes I had to bust, and that New England Bride used way too many sans serif fonts in one page. In that hot second, I had felt
Nothing distinguishes us from other animals more than our ability to generate and articulate meaning. In that sense, the narrative is probably the most powerful weapon we possess, sans atomic bombs and nuclear weapons. manic, she insisted. It makes too much sense. The other day, she contemplated whether her manic and depressive sides could constitute a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder. Another time, she confessed to me that she wished she hadn’t been diagnosed in the first place. Ever since, she has been trudging begrudgingly from one self-diagnosis to the next. She no longer sees a version of herself that isn’t rooted in her suffering. *** Last semester, my own fiction came to life in the form of New England Bride, allegedly America’s only monthly bridal magazine. Months before, I had written a piece for some neo-noir-themed assignment in which someone steals a girl’s identity
the poles of reality and fiction swing so close as to almost intersect, only to swing apart once more. When I received a mailed invitation to a bridal shower weeks later, I chucked it straight into the recycling bin. *** In my abnormal psychology class last spring, Professor Hayden repeatedly emphasized the effectiveness of narrative therapies for clients diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the American Psychological Association, narrative psychotherapies facilitate an “engagement in the re-storying of people's lives and relationships.” More importantly, narrative therapists ground the practice in “the re-
consideration, re-appreciation, and re-authoring of clients’ preferred lives and relationships.” The method aims to help clients come to terms with their pasts by building a framework through which they can contemplate their lives constructively. In Milan Kundera’s Identity, one particularly succinct scene encapsulates the essence of narrative therapies. While vacationing along the Normandy coast with her lover, protagonist Chantal muses over her past—namely, the accidental death of her five-year-old child years before. Suddenly, a surge of happiness overtakes her—she realizes that her relationship with her present lover would be far less absolute had her child not passed away. She decides to withhold this thought from her lover, who she fears might think her monstrous; however, had she voiced it, say, in a narrative therapist’s office, she might’ve received a laudatory pat on the back, or a smile that implied a goal had been met. To judge Chantal’s thought as inherently positive would be reductive. Outside of clean-cut narratives, every such feeling sits on one face of a double-sided coin. Feeling happy that something awful happened to you or someone close to you is often followed by waves of regret or guilt. To repeatedly siphon a silver lining out of every tragic pratfall seems too simple of a solution. Which brings us to mindfulness-based therapies. Geared toward depressive patients, these therapies emphasize emptying or decluttering one’s mind. Viewed another way, however, emptying might lead only to repression, allowing patients to never truly “deal with” certain cognitive biases and deeplyrooted issues. Of course, the two techniques target drastically different disorders. Nevertheless, it’s worth considering the implications of both types of therapy: one that forges something anew, and one that empties what already exists. Both effective, both lacking—I can’t make up my mind as to which one would work better for me. *** To some degree, we’re all guilty of narrativizing our own lives, or seeing meaning where there is likely none. Prolonged eye contact at a party means he’s interested. Your commitment issues mean that you’ve got an insecure attachment to your father,
ARTS&CULTURE stemming from something he did when you were three. The list goes on. Most of all, we’re guilty of conveniently construing details in ways that funnel into our oftchimerical, usually-myopic views of the world. We swim in a sea of biases, and the confirmation bias is probably three oceans combined. If you’re prepared to see everything as a greeting from your god of choice, you’ll probably see it. Like most people, I’ve tried to weave quasiliterary themes into my own narrative as well. I’ve arbitrarily spun a Kafka quote into at least five incidents from high school. I’ve romanticized almost every feeling I’ve remotely felt, trying to optimize my feeling of the feeling. I’ve written narratives in my journal and retold them to friends and cast them in six different lights and ended up at the same sensational story and thought, This is it, this is probably me, only to be reminded with New England Bride in my face that no, this isn’t it, and it probably never will be. The urge to read your life like a novel is no novel impulse—in fact, we’ve been writing our lives into books for millennia. Given our predilection for existential traction, this urge often becomes recursive. In AD 397, when Saint Augustine wrote the first de facto autobiography, he did so in the name of Christianity, itself a way in which, for centuries now, people have rendered their lives into something seemingly greater than an accumulation of fortuitous events. Whether it be the children’s biography series Who Was…? or Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle, there’s something alluring about “true stories” and real lives committed to the page, maybe and probably because they feel like substantial contributions to our timeless struggle against oblivion. We drink memoirs and (auto)biographies up like they’re elixir, as if a glass a day might somehow hurtle us toward some semblance of permanence at last. *** Nothing distinguishes us from other animals more than our ability to generate and articulate meaning. In that sense, the narrative is probably the most powerful weapon we possess, sans atomic bombs and nuclear weapons. The way you wield it can harm and shield, destroy and heal. When S and I try to parse through her feelings and experiences, the narrative becomes a cat chasing its own tail. Any coherent thematic stream meets its demise in her newest actions, and plausible motives quickly become archaic. There’s no breakthrough to be found, no moment of catharsis condensed into four minutes of well-lit screen time, as Good Will Hunting might have us believe. I’m just going to take it day by day, S said a little while ago, effectively ending our conversation on future courses of action. With S, my amateur attempts of constructing her narrative feel more like trying to ripen a rock-hard avocado in a toaster oven. *** For a while now, I’ve resigned myself to my own endless production of meaning. I’m trying to take it day by day, as S suggested, and I don’t know whether that’ll take me in the direction of a narrative thrust I can foresee, or if my future is yet another subject to the universe’s whims. “In the end,” Paul Auster wrote bleakly, “each life is no more than the sum of contingent facts, a chronicle of chance intersections, of flukes, of random events that divulge nothing but their own lack of purpose.” He’s really not wrong, but I don’t think we are either.
The Brief Popping of the JUUL Bubble By julian castronovo & Isabelle olive illustrated by Molly young A few weeks ago, I received an anxietyinducing text message regarding a vice that I am not particularly proud of. It is a vice concealed by sleek metal, by powerful marketing. It is a vice that has achieved some degree of cultural omnipresence— always between someone’s fingers, in someone’s pocket, used discreetly in class, on buses and street corners. The vice in question is the JUUL, an e-cigarette that’s recently risen to popularity. The text I received was a screenshot of a conversation of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend. But despite the dizzying degrees of separation between myself and the source of the message, the text, which stated that “one of Chris’s friends” had contracted lung cancer from his frequent JUUL use, shook me up more than I care to admit. Judging from the flux of Reddit threads from the same day (admittedly not the most sophisticated method of statistical analysis), this text appears to have gone viral in the 48-hour window before and after I received it. The internet responded like I did— with alternating skepticism and panic. One Reddit user, determined to get to the bottom of the issue, created a “megathread”: “We’ve all heard these rumors the past couple days. If any of you ACTUALLY have PROOF I think all of us on this sub would want to see it—for our safety.” Many respondents said they threw out their JUULs after receiving the message. What are we to make of this? The story of Chris’ friend, with his “lungs completely black,” seems to have struck a chord with JUUL users. But the curious thing about how people reacted to the message is not that they were simply alarmed by news of any individual JUUL user getting lung cancer. Of course, a young person getting lung cancer is obviously
LIFESTYLE sad; the thought of blackened lungs is viscerally disturbing. But the curious, and unbelievably stupid, thing is that this unverified, impersonal text message seems to have caused JUUL users to seriously consider the potentially lethal consequences of JUULing for the first time. Were JUUL users truly deceived by the JUUL’s iPhone-esque design that severs any connection to cigarettes? Or did this viral screenshot, a message of sudden death, simply cut through a cloud of willful and blissful ignorance? Either way, the JUULing masses were, apparently for the first time, confronted with the face of death. The current moment in the history of nicotine consumption is something like an “e-cigarette bubble.” E-cigarettes have become immensely popular among young people—according to a report published by the U.S. Surgeon General, e-cigarette use increased by 900% among high schoolers between 2011 and 2015. But scientific literature and regulations haven’t had a chance to catch up. The literature that does exist is inconclusive on the long-term effects of e-cigarette use because as yet, virtually no one has experienced such effects. The technology is too young. Several studies simulating long-term e-cigarette use with mice, however, suggest a host of potential problems. A study published by NYU earlier this month suggested a correlation between long-term use and cancer and heart disease. Other studies have linked popcorn lung, a scarring of the bronchioles, with e-cigarette flavor additives. Still others have suggested that merely inhaling heated vapor, regardless of chemical additives, can cause serious lung damage. Still, whereas smoking is indisputably bad for you, there remains a degree of ambiguity regarding the effects of inhaling nicotine attached to vaporized glycerin and additional chemicals for flavor directly to the lungs. If we’re honest with ourselves, though, we know the JUUL is bad for us. The social and consumptive contexts of the JUUL, however, let us believe that the device is a healthy alternative to cigarettes. This is new, at least in terms of widespread social acceptance: a few years back, hookah pens and vapes were certainly around, but they were attached to
march 09, 2018 5
ARTS&CULTURE a certain stigma and humor. Memes and popular culture derided vape-users; the act took on a certain douchiness. Then, the introduction of the JUUL changed the social perception of e-cigarettes, transforming these devices from being the butt of many jokes and a sure sign of millennial stupidity to being fairly acceptable. The e-cigarette reached a whole new demographic: the younger and richer. Sorority girls. Teen boys. The text message about Chris’s friend popped, for but an instant, the JUUL bubble. We were confronted with the fact that this chemical death was already in us, that black stuff sticking to our ribs, lining our lungs. A rare instance of a widespread, instant reckonings with mortality. The case of the JUUL and the sudden-death, though, is a farce of things like DDT or asbestos. We enacted a mass performance of shock, a feigned outrage in hopes of covering our purposeful ignorance, our cucumberflavored shame. And the real kicker? The text message was fake. Our reactions, however, were very real. This was the beauty of it all. We were forced to deal with the fact, even if only for a moment, that we were dying at the hands of a sleek USB drive of a vape. It was a simulated death, a digging of practice graves. And what now? We retreat from this death: return to ritual, hide behind the ether of our ignorances, those clouds of sweet smoke.
Losing Yourself in a Cambodian Secret Recipe By pia mileaf-patel illustrated by ella rosenblatt ***Disclaimer*** According to Yelp, Angkor Restaurant does not accept Bitcoin, as of the date of publication. You are in Providence, Rhode Island. You are at Fox Point. There are a lot of coffee shops over here (see Post- issue no. 1’s “Browntown Beans and Brews”). It’s pretty cold, or maybe not at all. In fact, it’s been 70 degrees all week. But it’s February, so in theory you are cold. You seek soup.
At Angkor, the soup is the type of medicine you hateread about on wellness websites while stress-eating Oreos in the library. You are in Angkor Restaurant. You are here for medicine soup. You might have the flu. (If you have the flu, go home—the rest of us do not want your flu,
but we will send you some soup.) 10 Traverse St The other things Providence, RI 02903 on the menu are also Phone Number good, great even. You 401-383-2227 will enjoy them. Perhaps some spring rolls and an order of green curry with beef and eggplant will set you right. Or a big dish of bee bong, Vietnamese rice noodles with crushed peanuts, herbs, cucumber, bean sprouts, and chicken won’t do you wrong. But remember, you are in here for medicine soup. You might get an order of scallion pancakes for the table, because you should always get an order of scallion pancakes for the table. But at Angkor, those things better be followed by medicine soup. There’s no medicine in the way of a CVS aisle— don’t bother bracing yourself for a shot of creamy grape or drinkable orange Motrin. At Angkor, the soup is the type of medicine you hate-read about on wellness websites while stress-eating Oreos in the library. Words like “restorative” and “healing” come to mind. Whether or not you’re on board with “wellness,” or even understand what that actually means, try this soup. Here, medicine is a deep bowl of hot, spicysweet, almost thick tomato-based broth. Buried within are chewy, crinkly ramen-like noodles— choose the “wheat noodles” from the menu—waiting to be mixed into the verdant handful of fresh herbs floating atop the soup. Some shrimp is mixed into the broth. You dig in with chopsticks to scoop up a large mouthful of noodles and the savory steam spills into the air to clear out your sinuses and your wintertime woes. What is it, exactly? Bay leaf? Cardamom? Galangal? The muted sound of announcers on the TV hanging in the corner near the kitchen commenting on the Olympic ice dancing competition? Here, decor is six formica tables with a wood Angkor Restaurant
pattern slapped on top, and one unidentifiable plant by the door. Climate control is a ceiling fan. Company is yourself because, while take-out orders fly out the door, it’s unlikely that more than one of the six tables is filled. But as you sit tucked into the table nearest the window looking out at the Portuguese Catholic church across the two-block stretch in Fox Point known as Traverse Street, your experience of Angkor entirely an experience of their excellent, un-inimitable, rich, and arguably famous medicinal naam yaa soup. Sure, you will always crave your mother’s chicken soup but then on another level, with a fiery passion, you will crave this. I’m not sure it can even be called a craving. It’s a calling, begging type of fluseason-feeling. Luckily, it’s not too far from campus, and they deliver. Go, as long as you can just forget about the fact that your ex’s ex-dealer used to live in the apartment upstairs.
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