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: “Why Not?”
Bachi? Bachi? Bachi? The question “why not?” chases a young Iranian girl everywhere she goes. Returning home from boarding school, ravenous for her mother’s macaroni and a nap, she finds respite from this question only in her fort, “the safe corner in the back of the room under the black and white chador.” But she can’t stay in her childhood fort forever. It seems that, no matter where she goes, the question is there: Bachi? Bachi? Why doesn’t she want to get married? The story-world that Zhara creates is thick with irony, from the eponymous protagonist’s desperate attempt to hold on to her childhood in a world of adults who see her as only a bride, to her memory of playing with her imaginary doll while two women promise their infant daughters to husbands. In the end, this irony puddles and, for a moment, parts: the young Zhara has some small chance to dream in the quiet.
Niels Bekkema’s Pick: “The bad news”
by Molayi Selanga
In “The bad news,” Molayi Selanga captures the powerlessness, frustrations, and uncertainty experienced by refugees facing arbitrary decisions. The story opens with the televised announcement of the closure of Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, which, in the words of the government officials is “a haven for terrorists.” Selanga shows us the impact such statements have on the narrator and her neighbours. Here is the perpetual vulnerability of the world’s displaced millions, living in the grip of arbitrary forces. “’I must go now, Mama Aku,’ I said quietly, wrestling with my own emotions. ‘We will meet tomorrow.’” The next morning, the camp bursts into celebration when the closure is mysteriously cancelled. But the message is clear: to live here is to live at the mercy of intractable fate.
Parwana Amiri’s Pick: “Lost in the chaos”
by James Taban
When the South Sudanese village of Napoleka is attacked by a militia, teenager James sees his sister shot and is separated from his beloved younger brother Joshua, “always smiling and full of joy in the family. We used to play football together. We were always on the same team and had a great chemistry between us. All the people around loved watching us play on the same team. We were shepherds…” This gripping story of flight and separation, brotherhood struggles, resilience, and heroism, leads to an unlikely reunion in the poverty of a distant, foreign land and the shared fate of millions of other refugees. I believe that this story could be a great novel, a classic that will live for years.
Louis Lüthi’s Pick: “A Cursed Family”
by Matendo Samuel
This is the story of the Matondo family, living in a place called Moabi, “the city of the damned.” One night the family’s only grandson, Matondo Saidi, is visited by an evil spirit. His parents, Misala and Kwibe, suspect witchcraft but they’re helpless to prevent his soul being taken. In desperation, they carry his lifeless body to a marabout, who does everything he can to counter the evil. Meanwhile, other relatives fall victim to the family curse. As Matendo Samuel writes, “we do not choose to be born, and if we did each of us would choose to be born into a beautiful, rich family or a happy, peaceful one.” “A Cursed Family” tells the horror story of those who have no choice except inheritance, fate, and supernatural acts of malevolence. Why does misfortune befall one family and not another? Matendo Samuel urges us to build positive relationships to prevent the rivalries that divide communities.