A Killer Detail: You Don’t Belong Here

You don’t need to be an immigrant or a minority to know what it feels like to be rejected by a desirable group, or any group for that matter, even a group that didn’t seem to exist until you walked up to it and the circle closed to exclude you. You just need to remember high school, or that sickening feeling you had walking down the street after a breakup and looking at all those couples holding hands as if they were touched by divine grace and you by plague. I do have this feeling of not belonging now and then, but I didn’t think I was going to revisit it when I picked up The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. Continue reading

Prisoners of Geography

These days, I read in the US news about a possible nuclear war with North Korea, a trade war with China, Mexico, and other countries, an invasion of Venezuela, of all places, and of course the reasserted racism of the right. Never before have I felt the urge to understand what the hell is going on in the world around me. I’ve always been an avid reader of history, and the more I read, the harder it is to see simple explanations to anything, but I needed some clarity, and so I picked up a copy of Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall, an experienced war and foreign correspondent for Britain’s Sky News TV. Continue reading

The Vale of Tears

I moved to the United States from Romania in 2001, and it took a family tragedy for me to understand that I cannot straddle the world and have two homes half a planet apart. Now that I’ve learned the limitations of living in the real world, where the laws of physics apply no matter what we dream of or how hard we pray, there’s this feeling of anticlimax to being uprooted. Maybe my roots are now deeper into this American soil than they were out of the Romanian one sixteen years ago. Or not. Continue reading

2017 PNWA Finalist

I recently received a phone call, followed by an email message that begins with:

Dear Roxana Arama,

Congratulations! You are a finalist in the 2017 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest. You should be very proud as PNWA received close to Eight Hundred contest entries from all around the world. An agent or editor will be selecting the first, second and third place winners in each category.

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Journalists Searching for Ioan Timiş, One of the Border People of 1975

At Mişcarea de Rezistență, Marina Constantinoiu and Istvan Deak continue their long investigative series Frontieriştii (The Border People) launched on March 15, 2016 and documenting the atrocities committed against those who tried to cross Romania’s closed borders between 1949 and 1989.

In their September 30, 2016 installment—In 1975, State Security Accused the Border Guards of Covering Up for the Border People—the two journalists write about a Romanian man who succeeded in fleeing the country and who might now live in the United States. His name is Ioan Timiş and he was born on October 30, 1958 in Borșa-Maramureș, Romania. Continue reading

A Faithful Heart

A homegrown elf?

Yes, a homegrown, real-life elf with a tiny hat and a beard, an elf who talked and ate and, I assumed, pooped too.

This story happened a long time ago in my native Romania, when I was no older than fourth grade. It happened soon after a dusty patch in our schoolyard got covered in gravel. Rocks of all shapes, all colors, all textures, all sizes. One morning, a girl in my class had exciting news for the rest of us. (I don’t remember which girl, so I’ll use the name Dana so no one feels singled out.) That morning, Dana revealed to us that our school’s gravel patch was not full of rocks but of elf-eggs. Continue reading

Keepers of the Past

“What’s war like?” I asked my grandfather once, when I was in middle school.

A long time ago, my grandfather, Dumitru Morgovan

A long time ago, my grandfather, Dumitru Morgovan…

He was sitting on the sofa in his living room, rich Persian rug on the floor, dark wood furniture about him—a safe storytelling setting. He had a mellow Transylvanian accent and not a tooth left in his mouth. I don’t remember how he started to tell me about his four years on the battlefields of World War II, but I remember how animated he became when he described how his friend’s head was cut off by shrapnel and how it rolled on the ground with its tongue flicking in an out, collecting dirt. My grandfather mimicked the scene, his tongue flicking in and out of his toothless mouth, and then he stopped and didn’t speak for a long time. He just stared at the red-hued Persian rug at his feet. Continue reading

How to (Not) Kill and Bury Your History

Nobody had died there, an elderly woman from Orşova recently told the journalist. Nobody had died there, it was all legends.

“It’s been more than 26 years since the Revolution, and Romania doesn’t remember them anymore. Or doesn’t want to remember,” writes Marina Constantinoiu, the journalist at Mişcarea de Rezistență who, together with her colleague Istvan Deak, is attempting to salvage a piece of history that everyone seems intent on burying.

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The Madwoman and the Flypaper

First things first: being a fiction writer is, in my opinion, a type of fortunate madness, sanctioned by society, tolerated by family, where a lonely person locked in a room, hallucinating about figments of her imagination, playing god in a world of her own creation can claim to be a functional member of said society, and could even be gainfully employed, to the relief of said family. Continue reading