The GOAT PoL (5/11)

Staff Picks From the GOAT PoL #5

Over at The GOAT PoL, our eight Reader/Advisor/Editors (RAEs) are working 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, like a bookstore or a library to which a couple dozen new volumes are added every week. These stories don’t get old.

To give readers an easy road in, every two 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:

Audrey Simango’s pick: “A scary teenage life”

By Nadiya the elf

“Men choose women, women obey”—a powerful statement from Nadiya the elf. The tragic story of Mona Heydari’s death at the hands of the man she refused to marry makes one wonder about all of the untold stories, and the risks writers all over the world take so they can tell the truth of the lives around them. “A scary teenage life” forces us to revisit our own moral obligations—the question of what is right and what is permissible—as we witness Mona’s father’s reaction to her untimely and inhuman death. Was losing his daughter “worth” it?

Alison Turner’s pick: “Rainbow Doesn’t Feed Us”

By Jeanne Muhumundu

I grew up believing rainbows meant something good: pots of gold, a new beginning, luck. But author Jeanne Muhumundu reminds us that childhood myths are never so simple. In “Rainbow Doesn’t Feed Us,” Muhumundu shares that where she lives a rainbow “signals a lack of rain to germinate the crops. It’s a sign of failure, a sign that the dust can easily billow up into the sky at the slightest breeze, forming suffocating clouds that force us to stay inside.” So much for pots of gold.

Yet in Muhumundu’s story, rainbows are one part of a complex world where nothing is only what it seems. Even as rainbows are a sign of impending drought, the author’s little sister, Chuchu, calls rainbows “beads of the sky” and likes to call out each and every colour. These beads arching through the sky join other rich and immersive ironies in Muhumundu’s world: here, a buffalo has “deceitfully appeared to be a cow”; the young Chuchu’s hair is “thickly set like a baked brick”; and a young man who has “lost his mind to drugs” nevertheless shapes the community, his racing mind becoming “the community’s morning bell.” Muhumundu’s metaphors are not for the sake of comparison alone but are a reminder that every piece of the world around us comes in layers. Follow these illusions, Muhumundu tells us. See if you can count all their colours.

Kate Vieira’s pick: “Woman, Life, Freedom”

By Nina Aminzadeh

Iranian writer, Nina Aminzadeh, offers a carefully rendered snapshot of a common moment in the narrator’s life—a visit to a gynecology office in Tehran. Through dialogue, minor-seeming details, the sum of which is greater than the parts, and a striking flashback to the narrator’s wedding (at which her new husband grants her “all seven rights” under the eyes of a scornful notary), readers begin to see the at-once ordinary and repressive ways in which a woman’s right to her own body and her own life are restricted, as well as the ways she finds to fight. It’s an urgent and necessary read.

Parwana Amiri’s pick: “The Guns are Silent but Trauma Prevails”

By Ronald Mwaka

In this detailed recollection of the trauma suffered by a twelve-year old Ugandan boy who is kidnapped and turned into a child soldier, the author himself is the hero of the story. The very fact that Ronald Mwaka survived and found the strength and courage to write his story makes this a tale of heroism and success, a triumph over violence and trauma. “The Guns are Silent but Trauma Prevails” makes compelling reading, and should be read by human right defenders and children’s rights advocates. Mwaka puts us face to face with a strong story that should be analyzed by many people. 

Filed Under: Articles & Essays


Audrey Simango is a freelance Zimbabwean writer, science student, and human rights activist. Her work appears in Newsweek, New Internationalist, Rest of World, Remedy Health Media, The Africa Report, and numerous other publications.


Alison’s work explores community writing, particularly among writers experiencing homelessness and writers who are incarcerated. She is an ACLS Leading Edge Fellow working on an oral history project in Jackson, Mississippi.


Kate Vieira, PhD, is a professor and the Susan J. Cellmer Distinguished Chair in Literacy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is the author of American by Paper (2016), Writing for Love and Money (2019), and numerous essays and articles.


Parwana Amiri is a young author and poet from Afghanistan. She, along with her family, arrived in Greece in 2019 and began taking her writing seriously while in the Moria refugee camp. Her book “The Olive Tree and the Old Woman” is available now through Publication Studio.

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