Leslie Salas: When You Need to Break Bread with Voters from the Other Side


Originally published on The Gloria Sirens.

We’re in that weird space between last week’s election and next week’s day of Thanks. And in that middle space, we’ve all had to face some uncomfortable feelings about our nation, our communities, and even our friends and family–especially as we gear up for some potential awkwardness, discomfort, or downright hostility and fear around the turkey and stuffing. Many open letters have been written in the aftermath of this election as a way of dealing with these feelings, and many of them seem to be written toward daughters about their uncertain futures. One of the letters that stands out to me the most is Mira Jacob’s letter to her son.

In her letter, Jacob relates how being brown impacted her life in post-9/11 America and speculates as to how it will continue to impact her life–and the life of her half-brown little boy–in the wake of Trump’s win. In particular, she discusses a conversation she had with her 8-year-old prior to the election:

Your father’s parents are Republicans living in Florida. For years, this had led to the kind of dinner discussions we’ve all tried to avoid, with your father devolving into righteous incoherence as your grandmother cites Fox News references. But even though he falls far from the tree, your grandparents love your father dearly, and he loves them back. With you, they are gentle, funny, loving, and wise, which I think is maybe why you’ve been so confused as national events have played out. In the last few months, your questions have become particularly acute.

“Grandma and Grandpa are really voting for Trump?”

“Last I heard, yes.”

“But aren’t they scared that Trump is racist?”

“I don’t think they think of him that way.”

“So he’s not racist?”

“No, he is, but…I think they don’t really look at that part. They are voting for him for other reasons that make sense to them.”

“But won’t they be scared for us if he wins?”

“Your grandparents love you a lot.”

“But what if—”

“A lot.”

And then in bed that night, just when I thought you’d conked out, “But can’t you just ask Grandma and Grandpa not to vote for Trump? Can’t you say, please, you live in Florida, do it for us?”

I said no quickly and firmly and we had to read a whole other book just to get you to go to sleep. But that night, when you were sleeping, I typed up an email. Dear Mom and Dad, I wrote. I made the best case I could. Please, I wrote, for us. I cried as I wrote it. I read it three times to make sure it was the absolute best letter I was capable of writing. Then I deleted it because the only thing worse than having to beg them to imagine our lives would be hearing them say no.

As a Floridian person of color and new mom to a biracial little boy, I faced the same dilemma as Jacob over and over again.


Read the rest of Leslie’s post here:

When You Need to Break Bread with Voters from the Other Side



Best 50th Birthday Ever – Literary Death Match, Orlando Ep. 4

When Adrian Todd Zuniga invited me to read at the world-renowned Literary Death Match on November 15, how could I say no?  I mean, what better way to spend your 50th birthday than at a FREE birthday party where you have an audience and get to read with some stellar writers? I was in, baby!  And perhaps the best reason of all to be involved is that our local Burrow Press, founded by publisher Ryan Rivas, benefitted from ticket sales.  LDM was held at the Lowndes Shakespeare Theater in Orlando.


Pre-Literary Death Match Frivolity –   Glendaliz, Adrian, Chrysanthe Mum, Moi, Ama, Cody, and Kay

Literary Death Match has been called “the most entertaining reading series ever” by the LA Times, and this event has been touted as being “like a reading meets American Idol meets Double Dare.”  I’ve seen two Literary Death Matches and now participated in one, and I can tell you that’s true.  So if you ever get a chance to go to Literary Death Match, do it!

The other readers blew me away.  Glendaliz Camacho, the current Writer in Residence at the Kerouac House (where Kerouac wrote Dharma Bums), memoirist Ama McKinley, whose birthday is also November 15, and Trevor Frasier, who managed to keep his job at The Orlando Sentinel despite its parent company’s (the Tribune) tendency to fire fine people, and who is a creative writer with a land planning graduate degree, all read pieces that informed and entertained.  Bravo!  (See my bio below.) One of the things I most love about reading competitions (I’ve also read in Jesse Bradley‘s “There Will Be Words” slams three times) is the camaraderie that develops among the writers.  We’re in competition in name only.  The goodwill and admiration we share makes me feel like the world isn’t so bad, no matter what.  And you know what the what is.

Thank you to the audience who sang “Happy Birthday” to Ama and me, substituting the line “Happy Birthday ending in zero” for the line “Happy Birthday, dear ____,” which suited us both.


Thou shalt love thy judges and host, and Glendaliz and Ama as they wait for their verdict

Our fine judges represented the diversity that is Orlando.  Kay Rawlins, Co-Founder, Vice President of Community Relations, and Foundation President of Orlando City Soccer Club, judged the category of Literary Merit.  Chrysanthe Mum, drag queen, hairstylist, and host of SHEnanigan Saturdays at Stonewall Bar, judged the category of Performance.  Cody Bush, who works in finance and is a dedicated improviser at SAK Comedy Lab, judged the category of Intangibles.  They were funny, and they were kind to us all.


Trevor and me, doing the beauty pageant “The tension is too much to face alone” pose as Adrian entertains the audience with literary tales

Ironically, a couple of hours before LDM, I had hives down one leg, which I thought was an intangible that could work to my benefit– because I was reading my piece, “I’m Allergic to Being Allergic.”  But they went away, which bummed me out.   (In their place came a sinus headache that threatened to become a migraine.  Thankfully, it didn’t.)


The one, the only Ryan Rivas, founder and publisher of Burrow Press

I respect Ryan Rivas so much for his vision and determination in starting up Burrow Press, who has published some fine writers, including Vanessa Blakeslee and Philip F. Deaver.

And wow, what luck a reading competition is.  At the end, it was apparent that “This competition is tremendous, folks.  Yuge.  But it’s rigged.  It’s rigged, folks.  Believe me.  That’s what people are saying.  I have tremendous respect for the people who say it’s rigged.  Nobody knows Literary Death Match like I do.  I know it better than Adrian Todd Zuniga.”  Well, I have to agree.  It must have been rigged.  On my birthday, in a red dress that matched the medal, I won when we all deserved the medal because we’re all winners.  But I’ll take it.  And take it I did– running out the door in case someone thought there was a mistake.


The most lightweight piece of the night, “I’m Allergic to Being Allergic”

Actually, it is luck.  I’m not sure I’m supposed to reveal exactly how the show ends, but I can tell you that there is a zany competition involving two teams.  My team was losing, losing, losing, but like the Chicago Cubs in the World Series, we pulled it off at the last second.  Thrilling!





Hail, hail, the gang’s all here: Kay Rawlins, Adrian Todd Zuniga, Cody Bush, me, Chrystanthe Mum, Glendaliz Camacho, Trevor Frasier, and Ama McKinley– founder and host, judges, and readers of Literary Death Match, Orlando Episode 4.  (Except where was Ryan Rivas?)

About Suzannah Gilman: I am the author of a poetry chapbook, I Will Meet You at the River, the mother of four adults, frequent traveler, and a licensed attorney who represented victims of domestic violence under a grant from the U.S. Dept. of Justice Office on Violence Against Women. My poetry, essays, fiction, and nonfiction have in such in such publications as The Florida Review, Pearl Magazine, Calyx Journal, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Pearl Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, Slow Trains, The Cafe Review, and The Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry.  I compete in flash fiction slams, winning every one I’ve entered– so far. I won Literary Death Match, Orlando Episode for on my 50th birthday.  Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize for my poetry, I now concentrate on blogging for The Gloria Sirens and writing fiction.