Over at The GOAT PoL, our eight Reader/Advisor/Editors (RAEs) continue to work with scores of stateless, refugee, and disenfranchised writers, publishing one or two dozen of their new stories every week. With hundreds of stories already published, The GOAT PoL map is crowded with remarkable writing to explore, like a bookstore or a library with a constant flow of new titles.
To give readers an easy road in, every three weeks we’ll publish four new “Staff Picks from The GOAT PoL.” Individual RAEs each select a story that they especially love and write a brief “staff pick,” directing your attention to an interesting author’s work. If you like what you find, click the writer’s name on the story byline, to see what you can do next. Thanks! Here are four new Staff Picks from The GOAT PoL:
Alison Turner’s Pick: “Drunkenness Became My Routine”
by Gerrard Hakizimana
Why do so many of us find joy in what is bitter? What is the shape of the emptiness we try to fill with alcohol, and what is the shape of the new emptiness we create when we drink?
In only half a dozen paragraphs, Gerrard Hakizimana follows these questions down to their roots. With vulnerability and humility, he brings readers through the arc of his experience with alcohol, starting with his childhood nickname, “swazi,” a word in his community for people who “cannot tolerate or use any kind of drug.” The narrator feels the pressure to conform to those around him, and with his first sip of alcohol, his peers celebrate how he has “become a real man now.” His confidence soars, and before long, alcohol is with him at every step: “Without it, life felt empty.”
But this emptiness begins to shift, and Hakizimana’s relationships deteriorate, one by one. Slowing down to reflect on a topic that so many of us prefer not to consider, Hakizimana shares how he stopped his entire life from spilling away.
Niels Bekkema’s Pick: “In Search of My Father“
by Samuel Mutendo
In “In Search of My Father,” Samuel Mutendo tells the story of Akeem Limo, a young man set apart even within his own family—he bears a surname different from his siblings. His silent exclusion is precursor to a deeper emotional divide, when his mother tells him that he’s the son of a man he never met. Between two powerful realizations—nobody gets out of their own story, and I am now my own father’s son—the narrator explores his longing for connection as against the reality of abandonment and the complexity of love. I’m sure “In Search of My Father” will resonate with anyone who wants to understand their place in the world, reminding us again that the journey is as transformative as the destination is uncertain.
Louis Lüthi’s Pick: “Betrayed“
by Razack Buwaso
“Betrayed” is a poem of revolution. Razack Buwaso was arrested and tortured in Uganda because of his political activism. He has since fled the country. Uganda’s former revolutionaries, once ensconced in power, betrayed their ideals: “In the name of revolutions, / Human rights were violated / To protect / The so-called gods in power, / Who have abandoned / Any pretence of reform.” Buwaso’s poem is a coruscating denunciation of president Yoweri Museveni’s autocratic regime. The language itself is a site of violence, freedom, solidarity. In another poem, also published on the GOAT PoL, Buwaso writes that his “innumerable dermatological ulcerations are not just marks / But the cost of my freedom, my right to speak, / The cost of me fuming, exuding a stench, spreading poison, / The things a dictator never wants to hear.” The struggle continues. Aluta continua.
Parwana Amiri’s Pick: “Tough Times Never End“
by Talent Courage
Talent Courage lays out the landscape of his tale in these opening lines: “In the vast and arid landscapes of Zimbabwe, the year 2008 marked a period of profound hardship and despair. The country found itself beleaguered by a crippling drought that left its people struggling to eke out a meager existence, while political turmoil further exacerbated their suffering. Among the countless individuals profoundly affected by these dire circumstances were two steadfast friends, Tendai and Simba, who embarked on a perilous journey in search of hope and sustenance.” The story comes from the writer’s own experience, depicting a real adventure. Courage often uses a local language in a way that allows non-speakers to understand it: “‘Une mari ipapo?’ Tendai inquired, questioning Simba about his financial resources.” There is little conversation in this story, but the voices of each character emerge clearly and distinctly. To save their families from starvation, Tendai and Simba embark on a perilous journey to Mozambique, where they get involved in illegal diamond mining. Their dreams are shattered when they were arrested. But there’s always hope in a changing political landscape. After being released, they return to their village to discover a renewed sense of unity, despite the ongoing drought.