The GOAT PoL (12/12)

Staff Picks From the GOAT PoL #12

Over at The GOAT PoL, our nine Reader/Advisor/Editors (RAEs) are working with scores of stateless, refugee, and disenfranchised writers, publishing a dozen or more of their original 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 several score new volumes are added every month. These stories don’t get old.

To give readers an easy road in, every few weeks we publish a group of “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. Click on the story title to read the full text, or click the writer’s name to read more about, and from, them. Thanks! Here are the latest Staff Picks from The GOAT PoL:


Negar Masroori’s Pick: “Thank you, Mom!

by Nasrin Afzali

May brings us Mother’s Day, a celebration dedicated to mothers, motherhood, and mother’s influence on their children and society. No matter where we live, we often find ourselves among thousands of cards and “Thank you” notes glorifying the sacrifices mothers make. In “Thank you, Mom!” Nasrin Afzali takes a different route to thank her mother from whom she has been separated for years, due to her refugee status. Afzali writes about her mother’s complaints, frustrations, and hardships in an effort to see her mother as “a human, a woman, full of love, dreams, desires, flaws, and strengths.” By acknowledging her mother’s struggles and burdens, she pledges to fight for her mother’s—and all women’s—rights which is what she has been doing for years as a feminist activist. “Thank you, Mom!” is not only a letter from one daughter to her mother, but a reminder for us all to see the unseen struggles of women around us, especially our mothers. 


Matthew Stadler’s Pick: “One Day

by Faezeh Jafari

Faezeh Jafari has written a portrait of the artist as a young woman in the space of fewer than two-thousand words. She uses the structure of a day, from dawn to midnight, to organize this wistful autobiography into a moment’s passing, a breath in time: “Dawn breaks. I was born, a chubby and jolly baby.” A woman, Aziz (not the girl’s mother), provides comfort and hope, but it is fleeting. “The morning hasn’t passed yet when Aziz leaves us and a deep heart-wrenching pain lives in me from then on. Perhaps I will see her again in my dreams, where I can smell her chador again, which carries the scent of life, or I can hug her again and smell heaven in her arms. Perhaps I can talk to her again in my dreams and taste her endless kindness.” School is a crucible. It “wanted to make something out of me that wasn’t in me and this was the beginning of all the dualities in me.” The girl studies art “in an abandoned art school devoid of life let alone art; you can’t find anything except artless teachers.” But in the afternoon of life, one great teacher, Ms. Mahlagha, inspires her. Soon, “dusk falls and my father leaves us. He was a kind old poet, a tired one.” And then “Midnight is here. My daughter was born in the black heart of the night.” I’ve rarely seen such grace and concision in any writer, let alone one who is coming into English as her third or fourth language. Faezeh Jafari’s haunting self-portrait will stay with you. 


Niels Bekkema’s Pick: “Earthquake

by Zuhal Nama Hasin

I highly recommend reading “Earthquake,” the latest story by a talented writer, Zuhal Nama Hasin. It tells the story of a young student at medical school during the 2023 earthquakes in Herat. In the wake of the earthquake, she flees with her family to find safety outside the city, but returns a week-and-a-half later, when the earthquakes have quieted again. What struck me particularly was how, throughout the story, the earth is presented as a living creature, an organism with a will and a voice, capable of feeling pain and taking revenge. What’s new and refreshing is the roaring voice by which the earth patiently lays out for the protagonist that he must tremble: “I gave these people the right to live, but how can they take the rights from innocent girls?”


Filed Under: Articles & Essays

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Negar is a women’s rights activist and a feminist writer who regards writing as a powerful act of resistance that connects and empowers marginalized groups through their mutual experiences and shared stories.

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Matthew Stadler is a novelist (Landscape: Memory, Allan Stein, Chloe Jarren’s La Cucaracha, and others) and essayist. He was the literary editor of Nest magazine and a co-founder of Publication Studio, where he now edits the Fellow Travelers Series.

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Niels Bekkema is an artist and writer, and the assistant editor for the Polity of Literature series on ArtsEverywhere.

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