We're back for round 2 of #Midwessay coverage starting back up this week, in which we re/visit essays and essayists from Midwestern states and those of us still in Midwestern states even if we live elsewhere. In our first round we published one week in each state, and now we're swinging back through to continue. Up this week is Michigan, coordinated by Ander Monson. Are you a Michigander? A Michiganian? Do you have thoughts or feelings about our fair water-bordered state and its literature? If an essay captures the workings of the mind, what is the mind of Michigan? Be in touch and send us something.
This past summer, I put out a call for submissions for essays by new, diverse writers on father-daughter relationships, to be collected and published in an anthology. I thought I could amplify the stories of women writers of color in Michigan who hadn’t yet or weren’t likely to publish on their own, so they could find an audience and a path to publication. This topic was important to me because I was twenty when my father died 27 years ago, and at that time, I did not see anyone like myself in books to help me understand the loss, help me grieve, and help me move on. Daughters’ relationships with—or without—our fathers affect us for better and for worse. Often, these relationships are too private to discuss. Until they are written and shared.
I think, reflecting back, what I was asking for by way of this anthology was to see how complex the father-daughter relationship can be, and how varied are the ways in which people make sense of themselves and the world through writing and sharing their stories. I didn’t realize I was asking for myself.
Essays came from everywhere. Not just from Detroit or Michigan. Not just from women. Not just from people of color. Not just from those writing with the intent to publish for perhaps the first time. Not just about father loss or father lack, but about connection and love.
The essays weren’t culturally or socially based in one place, like Michigan, or one time, as in this thing happened a long time ago, but from many places and times. Essays moved from India to the United States, or start in the aftermath of World War II, or extend between California and Taiwan, or begin upon a Japanese generation’s immigration, or reflect on ancient Chinese inheritance and heritage, or travel between where we grew up and where we choose to live as adults, or reflect events as recent as just a few years ago. The essays were thoughtful, deeply personal stories. They taught me that grief and identity shift and change. They reflected the learnings the writers acquired over time. They had a clear message for readers who need to see and hear from people like themselves, who had complicated relationships with their fathers, present or not.
The request for essays may have originated from the Midwest, but the diversity of authors and experiences showed me that even if we are not alike demographically or geographically, we still have commonalities and connections. How different they all were, yet how similar. I was not alone, and neither were any of these writers.
What is the #Midwessay? What is the Midwest? What are the characteristics, if any, of the #Midwessay (the Midwest essay)? What gathers us together? What pulls us apart? Springing from a twitter conversation, we started asking writers and readers what they imagine (or would like to reimagine) as the Midwest and the Midwessay. The #Midwessay is a series of reports from the Midwest (whatever that is) by and/or about Midwestern essay and essayists (whatever those are). Essay Daily will be publishing these, sorted (loosely) by state, in February 2021 and beyond. These #Midwessays will be collected here and on a separate site at a later date. If you'd like to submit a report / essay, send it our way. Details and coordinators for each state are listed here. You can also ping Ander (link at the upper right) if we don't list a coordinator yet for your state. —The Editors