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2011 Essay Contest Winners

2011 Essay Contest Winners
This year’s winning essays and poems are works of imagination and thoughtfulness.

Please join us in celebrating the twelve CUNY undergraduate student authors, and in thanking the dozens more who submitted work to this contest.

Labor history includes an enormous range of subjects—economic and social problems; cultural and artistic visions; issues of immigration; environmental concerns; conflicts based on race, class and ethnic identity, crime and corruption, anti-labor campaigns; ideals and ideology, and much more

Within these broad contest parameters, the 2011 student works display a remarkably consistent focus on experiences of immigration. We hope our readers are moved, as we have been, and that these young authors continue to express themselves eloquently and often.

Photographs by Gary Schoichet

Alexia Arthurs

First Prize, Fiction:
Alexia Arthurs  Media Studies, Hunter College

The Fishmonger’s Daughter

We call her “Teacher,” but whisper “Mrs. White” when she says that someone’s tomatoes are too small and not the ruby red she was hoping for. That the meat vendor’s chicken feet to make soup don’t look fresh, and that someone else’s mangoes good for squeezing into juice with passion fruit, are priced too high. Because she is light with naturally straight hair, twisted and curled up and over like a conch shell, like a white woman’s hair, she is pretty.

She comes every friday afternoon when classes let out at the private high school she teaches at. It’s two streets over from the market. Past the man selling jerk chicken, the smoke soaking into my clothes when I stop to buy a piece or get too close. Past the schoolboys playing cricket in the yard where the church used to be, until it burnt down years earlier and no one thought to build it back.

I asked what she taught once.

“Culinary Arts,” she said.

And because I looked confused, she added, “It’s what they call cooking.”

I never understand women like her, who even at the end of the day smell like sweetness, like vanilla, lavender, and what else I don’t know. I asked her about it once, and she said the name of some perfume I can’t remember now, except that it didn’t sound the same way leaving my lips as it did hers.

But it's her dresses that impress me most. They remind me of a hummingbird I once dreamed I saw at the front of our house, it’s beak sucking nectar out of a red hibiscus flower. Green feathers the color of nothing I’d ever seen, not dull, not tainted grey, until I got too close and it flew away.

Once she wore a dress made out of a sunflower print. She wore a sunflower pinned in her hair too, and I overheard her telling the woman selling the day’s sweetest guineps that one of her students picked the flower and presented it as a gift.

Another time she wore a blue dress with little daisies made out of a gauzy material. While she examined the goatfish, asking my father about the freshness and when he caught them and other questions I didn’t hear, I touched her dress to see if the flowers felt as soft as they looked. I meant to be careful so that she wouldn’t notice, but she looked at me then, her face in a curious smile, and my hand moved quickly from her.

My father hadn’t noticed because at that very same moment he turned to spit. Later, when the sun came down and we were packed and ready to leave, I walked around to my side of the truck and stepped in it—a big green glob because he had a cold, always had a cold—that was hidden between the spades of grass, a little patch in the market mud. I cursed him in my mind, but for once I was grateful that he is disgusting, shameless; always coughing up his insides so that the rest of us could hear it, or worse, see it.

But earlier that day after he spat my father called to her, so that she looked from me to him and smiled.

“You have a child for a twin,” she said.

And my father smiled because everyone was always telling him this.

Then she bought four goatfish to fry for her husband and she explained to my father what she explained every Friday, that she didn’t eat fish, couldn’t, it tasted too “fishy.”

“But is fish,” he said, laughing, all teeth. “Whe you espect it fi taste like?

One Friday I don’t expect her because the rain is falling so hard that my father and I take turns sitting inside the truck and standing outside, one umbrella in hand, to wait for customers who won’t or can’t come.

It’s my turn to wait outside, so I stand there sliding the ring on my left thumb, the one Aunt Nicey sent me from the states, up and down, up and down.

I look up and the teacher is walking towards me, and I think that somehow she wears even today well. She comes toward me in a raincoat, a huge raven umbrella with a wooden handle, and boots, but not tough like mine for the mud and for hauling crates of fish, but dainty, little pink polka dots on blue peaking under a long dress that almost touches the floor.

She buys the regular: four goatfish for her husband. She will fry two for his dinner on Saturday, and two for his dinner on Sunday. She reminds me of this and that she doesn’t eat fish.

But I can’t imagine a woman like her scaling fish, getting her pretty hands to smell that raw smell.

“You wan mi fi scale de fish dem fi you?” I ask.

“Thank you, but no,” she says. “I like to scale them.”

“You know what’s even funnier?” she continues, smiling.

I don’t know what’s funnier, so I don’t say anything, just shake my head and listen.

“I even like the smell,” she says, laughing, all teeth.

“My husband thinks I’m crazy, but even though I won’t eat it, I like how the fish smells, how the scales glisten—it’s so pretty.”

She leaves then, and I think about that if she were me, if she had a fisherman father, who smells like fish, who looks like a fish, all slimy and scaly, she wouldn’t like the smell so. And how I have to go to the market with him every day after my classes. And how it feels to stand next to him, to look like him, so that everyone knows I’m his, when what I really want is to look like a hummingbird.

Father’s face is all these bumps, heavy and dark, and that would have been okay, except that they are raised out of his face, like something is calling them from him, so that they sag heavily.

And what’s worse is that he has no shame, going everywhere and anywhere, like he isn’t painful to look at. And he jokes and creates a spectacle whenever anyone asks him how come. An elaborate story about an Obia Man and I leave the room. I’m holding enough shame for him and me since he doesn’t have the sense to have any.

I wonder about my mother and if she had shame or not and decided that she didn’t, couldn’t, not to have had a child with my father. But then when I was two, maybe she caught on and woke up next to a man who disgusted her. Maybe that’s why she left for the states promising and then we’d never hear from her, only to hear that she’d married for a green card and had two boys or two girls, the person who told us—who father called Nosy Nancy—wasn’t sure which.

Teacher misses one friday. She never comes, not that friday nor the next nor the next. I wonder what she’s serving her husband instead, or if she found someone who sells fresher fish than my father could provide. On the third Friday evening when we’re packing up to go home, I finally ask father about her.

“Wha oman?” he asks.

“Di one weh teach Culinary a di expensive school,” I say.



“Culinary, a suh it name? But up to now mi still can’t guess a who ya chat bout.” “Memba di lady weh love fi buy di goat fish every Friday?”

“Oh a she ya chat bout, whitey, poor thing, dem need fi tek her go a bellvue cause she na too right inna her head part. You neva hear a whapen to she?”

I didn’t hear anything, so I shake my head no.

“Lawd mek mi tell you a wha gwan, mad gal tek a boat down a bay and go far outinna di water like seh she a fish and wen di rest a di fisher man dem look ana she dat bout she a jump inna di water and want cum commit suicide. Mi hear seh a di man dem round a bay have fi swim in and tek her up before di fool drown.”

I remember hearing chatter about someone almost drowning in the sea last week. But I shake my head no. It can’t be the same person.

“Boy mi can’t believe weh some people a do. Dis woman usually come and buy di fish every friday. Mi should a know seh something neva did right with she cause she dress like old slave inna dis hot weather she have on long dress weh catch di woman to di ground. But mi wonder y she do it. Mi tink a true her husband did a gi her bun mek she go mad now. And true dat mi hear seh di school have fi fire her cause she just a fret ova dis man. Ow you coulda miss all dat?”

Last night I dreamed again of the hummingbird, its feathers that deep deep green. This time I got even closer before it flew away.

The morning after and I’m home sick, but only pretending because earlier this week two of my classmates came into the market and saw me with my father.

“Dat was yuh fadah?” one asked, the day after in school. And it was the way that she asked that made me put my head on my desk and quietly cry so that Mrs. Thomas sent me home early because I said I wasn’t feeling well.

Later this evening when my father comes home, I smell him first. That fish smell that smells like nothing else, I could be anywhere in the world and know that smell. And it embarrasses me, but on nights like tonight when it’s late and I don’t like being home alone when it’s dark, it’s not too bad. Father boils me a piece of ginger and adds lots of sugar like how he knows I like my tea. He brings it to me in one hand and in the other hand he carries something wrapped in newspaper.

“Look,” he says, giving me the tea as I sit up, then sitting on my bed beside me and unwrapping the newspaper.

And it’s a hummingbird, all crumpled, and even smaller than I thought they were. My first time seeing one up close and it’s not even alive. I touch those green feathers. And father tells me that he found it under the hibiscus tree this morning and thought of me.


Second Prize, Fiction:

Casa de Serenidad

I bristle, I cringe at Amelia’s Arkansas whine, the dredging of her vowels, a drawl she resurrects when she wants her way and isn’t getting it. But she is not a frivolous cry. Suffering keeps her up at night, injustice. Toss, turn. I worry she’s not callous enough for California. Because to prosper in Faron Jct., you must keep your guard up and never let it fall.

The town is situated well below sea level. On its outskirts, a spread of vineyards, date trees. Acres of alfalfa. The closed-down migrant camp. Furious white windmills. For a few miles the aqueduct, rising with snowmelt, runs parallel to the Interstate. Downtown is a postcard of industry and well-groomed medians, a floristry and two cafes to speak of, the Verb and the Read. The girls behind the counters talk endlessly, in exclamations. The coffee is weak, lukewarm. My mind is miles away.

What I put down in ballpoint, I put down in silence. Words I cannot say but should. A cowhide daybook in which I keep a record of our quarrels, the hours we share, the coupons and pictures I would otherwise place on our refrigerator door.

They asked me to write this, the city founders, to lure you here, or people like you, luckless, forlorn by the forty-a-week. It is, they tell me, an amiable vacation spot, choice for retirement and rest. Polo grounds. Mineral baths. The Napa of the southwest. Myself, I’m only here until the money runs out, hosing down the patio, her cigarettes hanging from my lips. There’s all of July, August to get through, time to examine the course of my life intently—yet I suspect I’ll never discern the haze from the gloaming, the opacity that obscures my valley’s floor and the purpose of this prodding-on.

I’m at the behest of a beautiful dame, a girl whose heart I warm my hands by. Amelia’s a medical student, consoling, literate in films. Hers is a gritty, tenacious brilliance. Six months ago, on holiday in New York, the airfare and lodging her parents’ gift… gossiping in taxi-cabs, talking in whispers, in asides. Laps around Columbus Circle. On Crosby Street I go to my knees and propose. The cobblestones are uneven. In my palm is a band of white gold, my grandmother’s. I gesture, I phrase it perfectly. Nearly pleading. And she just laughs it off.

“Get up Leslie,” she says. “You’re embarrassing me.”

Winter. I want to throw up my hands. It’s midnight, and except for the Esperanto most of the city is closed.

“I look across at you,” I say. “I look up to you, even. But you look down on me, don’t you. Tell me I’m wrong.”

“You’re not wrong. But you put yourself out there. You’re the supplicant, the desirer.” She tears a saccharine packet. “Sweetener in yours? This coffee tastes like chalk.”

I can’t hold it against her. I wouldn’t marry me either, vague lineage, no wealth to speak of. I rent a small bungalow with chipped adobe walls. Casa de Serenidad. In the kitchen is a Wedgewood stove, a dishwasher I never use. I scramble for my rent, odd maintenance jobs, freelancing. The plates are piling up, the contents of my life.

On starry nights we go on long, aimless drives, past the grid of avenidas and markers of civilization, on roads that until recently were just corduroyed dirt paths. She brings along a jacket to stick her arms through. The passenger seat reclines. We talk of work and the world, what it holds for us. What it seems to hold against us.

It’s a Tuesday, the first of summer. The solstice is upon us. I’m shaving, for once. It’s no longer manageable. I turn to her, lathering my neck. She’s studying the futures page.

“You’re doing it wrong,” she says, without lifting her head. “Go with the grain.”

The vertical blinds are clattering, the spigot still hot from our long shower. I can barely make myself out in the mirror. She looks pale and weary, overworked at the hospital. In her heels she is taller than me. We dine on a felt-topped, collapsible poker table, close to where the television trays are stacked. Carefully she halves a melon. I watch her eat, ravenously. She likes raisins in her cereal, strawberries. Already there’s a streak of white in her hair, which she wears in a bob.

“What are the plans tonight,” I ask.

She flips to the local section. ” ' The Entertainer ' is opening at the Footlighters.”

We go, of course, to make a cameo. The canvas backdrop is offset and poorly lit. Even the handbills look hastily made. By intermission we can’t stand it anymore. It’s like dragging one’s self through the snow.

Across from the playhouse is the birreria. Large bowls of goat stew—it’s their specialty. She deliberates over the menu. The waiter is a little brusque. I can hear an accordion in the street, laborers who are drunk and singing. Swell time. The stuffing is coming out of our chairs. I look at her, across the cilantro and spilled beer.

“What is it,” I ask.

“I have to tell you what happened today. I was on the way to work. You know how it opens up near the migrant camp. It’s all straightaway there for a while. There’s no reception, either. Not for the phones or radio.

“I’m going along at a good clip and I see this guy waving me down, a hobo I figure. A hitcher. I don’t know why I stopped, I never do. A woman alone in a car, you know. It’s senseless. But I could tell he was distressed, I mean sincerely in trouble, and he kept jabbering, pointing to the camp. I know so little Spanish, all I could make out was, ‘Sick. She’s sick.' The hospital’s miles away. There’s no clinic out there, nothing. Just a stretch of old buildings. Some tarpaulins for shade. Shanties.

“He walked me to the camp, through a hole in the fence. You’ve seen it, all those one-room bungalows. What, ninety of them, a hundred? The water’s shut off, the power. The door was off its hinges and—it was filthy inside, it was—dusty, flies everywhere.

“I’m guessing it was his wife, she was on a blanket on the floor. She had gone into labor during the night. It was a girl. They had wrapped it in, sort of swaddled it in—a cloth or whatever was around. The guy was bleary eyed. The hood of his car was still open, parts strewn everywhere. On the side of the highway the whole night and no one stopped. He was waving, he was frantic. No one stopped.”

She fixes her gaze on me.

“We didn’t stop for him,” she says.

“How were we to know,” I say. “We couldn’t have known. It was night, it was dark. There’s no moon out, no lights. No pay phones,” I add. “Could you have saved the child anyway?”

“What I want to know is,” her voice straining, “what would you have done if that was us, if we had to bathe in irrigation canals, if that was our kid and I was bleeding onto patchwork. Would you at least of held my hand, or made sure the fucking car was working?”

I say nothing. Outside, the theatre is letting out, a parade of brakelights crowding the intersection.

“The play’s done with,” she says.

By then she had decided. She sat me down some weeks later with the news. Of course I implored her to reconsider me. Think of the plays we sat and suffered through, I said, the nights on the patio, her Christmas cologne, the bland meals and mornings—not to mention, I was still on her insurance.

She’s finishing school at Vanderbilt now, among her own. She has a flat close to the college. She midwifes.

What the city founders—what Mayor Ballard wants me to say is, we’ll look after you, your kin, your hours in Bajas and hot-air balloons, and please snap away at the scenery, take rolls and rolls of it, but keep to the boulevards, so you don’t see how we treat our own. Like lepers.

Rosemarie Rivera

Third Prize, Fiction:
Rosemarie Rivera  English/Creative Writing, Hunter College

Bullet Through the Brain

“Those leaves sure look bright today” I thought to myself as I finished collecting my garden tools. The way the image reflected on the metal handle of the rake seemed dream like. I couldn’t remember the last time I paid attention to something like that, but I did. Soon after my shift ended I went up to the owner of the house and asked for my daily payment. It was off books, always, since I didn’t have a green card. “There you go Paco, ten dollars.” the brown haired, 6 foot 2 inch bastard with a bald spot in the middle of his forehead said as he paid me 10 dollars for 5 hours. (That means 2 dollars per 1 hour. Yeah I know my math.) And to make things worse, “My name is not Paco, it’s Roberto Ponce Gonzalez.” I said under my breath. To make things even more worse, if that’s even correct English, I kept coming back for those 10 dollars for 5 hours for about 60 days. Why? Because I had to.

Every day at 3am I woke up, drank my 4 Coronas and went to the bodega around the corner to buy some more. I knew it wasn’t good for me, but that’s how I was able to get through the day without putting a bullet through my brain. Ha, it was only yesterday I went with my wife and kid through the desert to cross the border. To think I thought America was a way to get out of the hell I went through in Mexico. I lost my job in Cancun as a bartender in one of the American owned resorts. My family was barely getting by with the money I earned there. But at least I was in an environment that was familiar to me, even if the rich, white people kept getting drunk, passing out in front of me. I can’t count how many times I had to wipe the floor clean after some dumb college student threw up. The one mess I’ll never forget is the 18 year old Harvard university student who lost her top and threw up some sort of neon paste that resembled cereal and glow stick juice. Didn’t want to know what she ate to get that going. After a couple of years of that, and a child from my wife, who I only married a year before my job, I got fired from that resort. Turns out there were a lot of bartenders that could replace me, and all I had to do was spill a drink on a customer’s lap to get fired. I didn’t get any benefits, any unemployment, all I got was a goodbye and that’s what led me to here.

And I can remember, I can remember the night we decided to travel to the border. My wife was struggling to keep our daughter quiet while the border patrol drove around with their flashlights trying to pin down any of us scared mice. It was horrible. After a week of being thirsty, so thirsty we could drink seawater from a dirty glass, we made it to the guide who took us straight through the path that led to America and my 2 dollar an hour job. Boy was he fast, that guide. But he wasn’t fast enough when they spotted him in the darkness and shot him point blank in the head. The spilled brain goo made my daughter soil herself when it landed close to her right leg. We couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t scream, we couldn’t breathe. We just lay there in that bush and waited until they left. And when they did go, we ran. I picked up my child and we ran. Until that night I didn’t really think much of life, still don’t, but it kept me going. It kept me going to the spot behind Home Depot where the other day laborers stood to wait for jobs. It kept me going to somehow scrounge up enough money to pay for my little girl’s graduation dress for 5th grade, a pretty Robin’s egg blue color. “And now it’ll help me with the long day I have ahead, along with my Coronas of course.” I said taking a sip of my first beer of the day.

I used to not always be a drinker. When we first got to American soil, the first thing we did was get in contact with one of the guides from the other side. He gave us some starting money and we bought ourselves some hamburgers and sodas in one of the fast food chains nearby. It was funny because even though I hate fast food, that burger tasted like heaven, knowing earlier I had survived on crackers that had dirt encrusted on top.

“Roberto we have to get out of Texas. We can’t raise our child here. They’ll deport us if they catch us.” said my wife when we had been in Austin for 2 months. “I know, but we need enough money to move.” I don’t really know how we managed to save, but we made enough, both my wife and I; me by working 120 hrs a week and her by cooking and cleaning for the blancos nearby. It took us a year to save up $4,000, but we did it. I know it wasn’t much, but it was enough to buy a bus ticket to NYC and pay for a couple of months rent. “Why move?” my daughter asked me before we left. She was only seven at the time. I told her because mommy and daddy are always scared we’ll be sent back. “But why can’t we go back?” she would ask. “Because daddy has nothing there. I want you to have a chance at a better life, even if that means moving.”

It was scary. It was scary all the time. Anytime we saw a cop car we turned off the lights to the rented, run down house we lived in. If we were outside and we saw a police officer, we would walk the other way. “But that was then, and this is now. It’s better right?” I thought to myself. I picked up my six pack and heading to the door. As I heard the bells above move and jingle, a robber came in and tried to hold the store up. He had on a black ski mask but I could tell he was white. He pushed me to the ground and told me “Get the fuck down you fucking beaner, get the fuck down now.” I said softly, “I don’t want any trouble, please I have a family.” and laid down on the floor. The man hurried the store clerk to empty the cash into his plastic bag. His glasses and straight black hair had beads of sweat dripping down. I tilted my head up to see if the robber was going to leave when the store clerk took out a rifle to shoot the robber. “Bang!” was all I heard as the robber shot the clerk in the head and ran away with the money. All I could think was: “Thank God that wasn’t me.” The funny thing was that when the robbery was shown in the news, they described the assailant as black. Were they just describing his ski mask?

After that day things seemed to go down hill from there. Jobs kept getting scarcer and the few jobs I did have were demeaning. A 10 year old, not much younger than my daughter, paid me 5 dollars to pick up some dog poop in the backyard of her parent’s brownstone in Brooklyn. I did it. What did I do it for? I did it for my little girl, the one thing in my life that I loved the most. She was the reason I took those god awful jobs. She was the one I lived for.

When my little girl, Gabrielle turned 11, she asked me to take her ice skating in Manhattan. I knew we couldn’t afford it, but I just couldn’t bare to make her sad. So I took her and when we got there she was the happiest little girl. She skated for hours, sometimes falling, sometimes flying. I was so happy I didn’t think anything of it when she started coughing and sniffling. “It’s just a simple cold.” I said to myself. “She’ll be fine. But it ended with her getting pneumonia. We don’t have any health care so I tried to work extra jobs to pay for her medicine. “Just 2 more hours, just 2 more days, just 2 more jobs, just 2 hundred more dollars” is what I thought each time some faceless man handed me a 10 dollar bill or 20 if I got lucky. But just 2 weeks later my girl didn’t make it. And 2 minutes later I realized what all my hard work had amounted to.

I stood in front of the bathroom mirror. My wife’s cries deafened my own in the bedroom. I grabbed a gun I managed to get off some kid behind a liquor store near my block for 30 dollars and emptied it into my head, 1 shot. And for 1 second I saw my daughter, the beach, my family, even the dog I had when I was little. For the briefest moment, I was happy, and then the bullet went through my brain.

Caitlin Logan

Honorable Mention, Fiction:
Caitlin Logan  English/Creative Writing, Hunter College

10 and 2

This is only the third time I’m driving with her. Sometimes it’s the little facts like that, the seemingly unimportant shit that dawns on you once in awhile that puts things in perspective. I barely know her at all. She barely knows me, though I’m not sure if there’s any amount of time that connotes knowing. But here she is, stiff backed, hands gripped firmly at 10 and 2, eyes set dutifully on the road, to meet our half chosen, half default destiny. Not that destiny can be chosen I guess. I try not to speak for her. Mine certainly wasn’t chosen. Mine’s the default part.

It’s such a passive thing, sitting in a passenger’s seat. There’s nothing for you to do except sit, maybe pray you arrive where you’re going safety, if you’re self- indulgent. Whether it’s for five minutes or sixteen hours, you hand over your life to the person behind the wheel. Only the driver shoulders the half assed purpose to ensure the safety of the passengers. Only the driver has an obligation to the others on the road. As a passenger, these pressures are non-existent. You just sit. I’m relatively used to it at this point anyway, sitting in the passenger’s seat I mean. It’s where I’ve been my whole life, literally and figuratively, despite my best efforts. A college degree later and I’m still entre dos culturas. This day’s ride is equally passive and empowering. I guess letting others help can make you feel like that sometimes.

“Don’t say it, ” she says.

“¿Besito? ” I reply.

I point to my cheek and wait. ¿Besito? I say that every time she’s about to say something all too true that I don’t really want to hear. It seems she’s always about to say something true and I usually don’t want to hear it. I let what she says flow over me. I just act, speak, look, never think. I throw in ‘besito,’ avoidance in an attempted guise of humor, a reminder that we are entirely fucking different and that maybe just maybe no middle ground exists. Even after our two years of naïve hope we remain decidedly separate from each other, our hand tied blindfold of cultural denial still noticeably intact.

Sometimes I like to think I say ‘besito’ because it’s something she understands. Paints a better picture of me. We mutually understand that little phrase, as we do English. But I know that’s not the reason. It’s a never forget where you came from thing that I’ve engrained into myself despite my accent-less speech. Never let her forget where I came from. Even if I haven’t been back since I was three months old. She leans in kisses my cheek. She doesn’t take her eyes off the road.

“Stop. We decided. We’re not turning back, ” she states.

I’ve been staring at her this whole time. Giving her the once over as I so often do now. My eyes move with such ease up and down her body that I don’t even notice anymore. How American is that? Freely looking at my white, blonde girlfriend. I used to look away hurriedly, subjecting myself to the societal pressures that I let dictate my life incessantly. I’m not supposed to look too long, my eyes can’t linger, someone might get the wrong idea. She might get the wrong idea. But I guess one day I looked too long and I guess on that day she didn’t get the wrong idea because we’re together. Or maybe she did. Maybe our relationship is some sort of phony progressive step to satisfy her New York liberal sensibility. Maybe she’s proving some sort of mute, off the mark point by being in a relationship with me. But either way I’m grateful to her for it. Dating her at least forces people to question. Maybe he’s worth my time. Maybe he knows something. I have her to thank for that.

She removes her 10 o’clock hand from the steering wheel leaving a slight trace of sweat that disappears almost immediately. Her knuckles turn from white to pink. I know I don’t look angry. I never do when I look at her. But I must have looked awful thoughtful, or regretful or something to make her speak. We’ve gone the whole ride in silence. She fiddles with the small diamond ring on her finger. She turns it back and forth with her thumb. She’s done this a lot since that ring was put there. Nervous habit. I don’t turn away.

We look like we’re going to a fucking funeral. On purpose. If that doesn’t say something about us then I don’t know what does. Life’s little contradictions. We thought it would be funny. Our small attempt to add humor backfired. Now it’s just morbid. I regret wearing black, though god black looks good on her. It’s a slimming color, but that’s not why. She’s the only girl I’ve ever known that could be covered toes to the top of her neck in fabric and look just as alluring as a girl in half the clothing. She’s wearing a black turtleneck and pencil skirt. Both are just tight enough to know she’s just as beautiful underneath all her clothing. I’ve gotten so used to her conservative dress that it’s actually more appealing now. I can’t remember the last time I saw a Hispanic girl wear a turtleneck. I can’t remember a time I found a turtleneck attractive before her. Now that’s changing for someone. It’s an accomplishment to look at her in this way, to have earned the privilege.

I place my hand on top of hers, to stop her from fiddling. Her hand releases some of its tension with my touch. There’s no one to stare at us now. Maybe it’s the actually physical contact of our skin colors that makes me uncomfortable when we’re in public. I’m fucking with the collective American conscience. White womanhood still needs to remain untainted.

“I just wish it wasn’t you.”

She removed her hand from my grasp at the exact time that sentence finished dripping involuntarily off my tongue. Hand back to 10 o’clock. Back to perfect posture. The brief physicality between us forgotten. Fría. She says nothing. The dull roar of a car engine should never be the only sound, especially on a drive like this. A drive to my default destiny.

“I just didn’t want to drag you into this. It’s hard to let someone save you, ” I say. I have to say something.

She shakes her head, then lightly touches the moist skin just below both of her eyes. Her eyes stand out twice as much against her pale skin when she’s about to cry. I think it’s the slight redness in them that contrasts dramatically with their bright green. I can’t turn away. Never can, even if she’s crying. Not that she cries often. She’s normally pretty good at pretending everything is fine. In a year or two we could take this drive with smiles on our faces, our blindness toward each other dissipating, free of my looming fate, family on the way. I think maybe it’s the thought of that. Our future now diminished beyond even slight possibility that gets to her sometimes. It gets to me too.

“I’m saving you? ” she asks.

Rather than answer, I put my hand on her leg. I run it up and down her thigh, lightening my touch with each stroke. I slide it underneath her pencil skirt. My hand crawls up her leg. She relaxes slightly and closes her eyes for a second. Sex is my poor excuse for comfort. Abruptly she tenses.

“Fuck this country, ” she says.

Fuck this country, fuck our situation, fuck me even. She’s angry on every level of her being, but devoted beyond all else. She has the right. She is in charge of two destinies. Back to fría. Defenses up. I pull my hand back in a jerky motion, a direct result of trying to move while appearing not to. She continues driving, apparently unaffected by what she just said. The tears are gone from her eyes, jaw clenched.


I feel her break before I realize we’ve entered the small town. It’s her favorite town upstate, two hours out of the city. Her family summered here when she was a child. It’s familiar to her. I’ve never been here before. There’s barely anything here, antique stores, a quaint café, a few small volume restaurants, a few houses. It’s different from the crowded streets we walk everyday, but not really. Same looks, they’re probably just a little more defined here. I’m sure people will do less to hide them. But here is where she wanted. I can see why. It’s calming to look at the gentle sloping of the mountains in the very beginning of what I’m sure is soon to be their fall glory. Maybe she needed the drive.

She pulls into a parking lot beside the largest building on the street. It’s old and brick, out of date. She unbuckles her seat belt and reaches into the back seat to retrieve a manila envelope that contains the papers. Sheets of paper that will finally serve as a rightful substitute for the ones I’ve been lacking my whole life. The door clicks open. She steps out without hesitation. That woman is always so sure.

I follow her, adjusting my tie along the way, staring at my shoes as they step out in front of me to make sure they don’t look too dirty or too worn. This day is important. I should look nice. I reach for her hand as we ascend the steps of the old brick courthouse. I feel a need to touch her, even if it’s just the tips of her fingers. She doesn’t fight it, but doesn’t slow her pace, doesn’t look back at me. She knows I’m there. She knows I want to be.

Our skins’ contrasting colors, the feel of the ring on her finger, all perfect in their utter contradiction. The way she leads me, always a footstep ahead. I feel the burning stares at our intertwined fingers. I look at her. She knows. She doesn’t care.

Heloisa Pinto

First Prize, Non-Fiction:
Heloisa Pinto  Queens College

The Undocumented

Twelve million people live in The United States unauthorized by the government. That amounts to 4% of the population that lives in this country. They are people. They are illegal aliens, aliens not in the meaning of the word as if they had come from another planet. They come from another land, another country, were registered at birth in another territory and, now they reside in the United States. These citizens of elsewhere have built their lives here. They have not left this country in many instances in over ten years, since if they did they would not be allowed to come back. Through hard work, outstanding determination, willingness to serve people of this country, and above all driven by the dreams and principles on which this country was first built: “all men are created equal… with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”, illegals chose to stay. The internationally heard of “American Dream”, has brought here so many in search of a brighter future.

These 12 million citizens of elsewhere are here without a chance to change their immigration status. Today their hearts and dreams are here and they will, as all other immigrants have in history, do their best to build a stronger country for themselves, their children, and everyone else around them.

Undocumented immigrants seek to be given a chance to get out of this hole, not to only be a class of people set aside by government and society, but to fully live the freedoms and obligations that are results of residing. Comprehensive Immigration Reform would generate a safer country, strengthen the labor force and create an economic incentive for growth in the United States of America.

There is much talk about what Comprehensive Immigration Reform would actually consist of, the Republicans want to focus in securing the borders while the Democrats claim to be willing to help the people in need of a path to documentation. Both sides of the argument do agree on one point, there is need for change. The large amounts of unrecorded inflow and outflow of people for so many years is what has caused the situation to become overwhelming as it is now. Many claim that undocumented immigrants have broken the law, and are some kind of criminals for staying here, but when they first get here there are no limitations on what they can do. Federal laws say they have to get out of the country but there is no difficulty as far as matriculating their kids in schools, or renting homes, participating in free English classes, finding employment or even getting driver’s licenses in some states. Mother America welcomes immigrants and makes them feel comfortable. There is no need to make people less welcome to visit America but when time is up people need to be strictly asked to leave or the implicit message is that they can stay, as they have all these years.

Reform would give people their documentation in this country, people that are law abiding, people that are willing to pay taxes, speak the language of the country, people that can prove they have developed roots, are studying to better themselves, are currently working here, and have been living here for many years and can participate effectively and positively in this country. The other choice would be massive deportation which is very costly, and would take away the structure of the lives of many undocumented people as well as American citizens who have developed employment, emotional, and economical relationships with this “second class” population. While it is illegal for undocumented immigrants to live in the Unites States, it is not illegal for them to get an ITIN number and pay taxes, to send their children to school, to attend and graduate college, to sell goods and services to them, to give them credit, for them to buy a car, open a bank account, and even buy a house. If laws as are not enforced they will not be obeyed.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform would generate a safer country for many reasons. In most states, after the September 11 attacks, laws have been changed making it impossible for someone who does not have a valid social security number to get a driver’s license, and therefore to insure a car. But most people still do drive, and the consequence is, if stopped by the police, while driving without a license five hundred dollar fee.

There is also danger in the future of the youth. According to Dr. Marcelo Suarez-Oraszco, a co-founder of the Harvard Immigration Project, who has studied the psychological impact of immigration status on young people, he says about the undocumented students: “The schools look the other way. They have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. But the clock is ticking, and in a few years these kids will graduate high school and try to enter the labor market. It’s a train wreck waiting to happen” ( Another useful insight is from Eduardo Penaloza, who works at the Mexican consulate dealing with the stories of troubled children, he states: “as teenagers discover their status, it can lead to a severe loss of motivation. The mothers say, ‘Don’t worry about that today. Shut up, go to school and work hard.’ What we’ve found, though, is a growing number of Mexican students where the desertion rate is getting higher. We are observing the weakening of the family bond.” ( The Urban Institute estimates that 65,000 undocumented young people graduate high school each year. If there is no hope of a better future in this country they know as home, the tendency is for them to revolt against the system they live in. Many will conform to doing what they have watched their parents doing for many years. Some will even go to college, to just find a brick wall at the point of graduation, with no jobs without a social security number, without a green card. Others will rebel against their parents who have brought them here, against the government that does not recognize them as citizens of this country. The criminal implications will come, it is a matter of time. Whereas, if given a chance these young people with hearts full of dreams and minds full of innovative ideas can help build a better America.

It is very scary to think that in a country as powerful and respected in the international arena as the United States there is no control of who is in the country, the Immigration System is so backed up. Some people get here on tourist, working, or student visas, and just over stay the time they are told to leave. Others simply cross the Canadian border or the nearly 2,000 mile south border, where the largest amounts of undocumented immigrants come from. There is not enough staff, control measures in place and laws to enforce the notion that the United States is closed for new people to come in. It is the negligence of many that have made this country vulnerable as it is today.

The easiness of living here without being “checked in” shows why the country has become an easy target for terrorists and for internal plotting from people who want to hurt the American system and its people. The ones who are here and have nothing to hide, live a functional life and are easy to be found, but the ones that are here to hurt America are the ones that need to be found and controlled, that should be a priority by any administration, to account for every person. Mother America needs to be loved and cherished and protected, and not be subject of violence and disrespect. Let the people who live here know that and not take for granted the fact they are here, let every person be held responsible for their share of nourishment and care for the land they are enjoying and making a living at, and not be instigated to destroy it.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform would strengthen the labor force. It is known by the government where most undocumented immigrants live, at least the ones who have built their lives here. It is known where they work, where their largest communities are, they fly planes, they attend schools, they are not hiding in basements or abandoned homes, they are very easy to track. Illegality is not a secret. The implied message is that you can stay as long as you know where you belong and your limitations, you are here to serve the capitalist America. And then the conflict comes in, between the wishes of capitalist America and Mother America.

Many immigrants arrived here from Europe, in the late 1800’s and beginning of last century, who were screened when they got here, as we can see in the museums in Ellis Island, a very good experience for one to realize the hardship America was built under. These Europeans came here with nothing to offer, just their labor and will to build a better life, much like the immigrants that are here today. One wonders why there is such difference in the way immigrants are being received by Mother America, would it have to do with the “class” of people that are migrating here today? Would there be a difference if they were all Europeans, blond with blue eyes? Would the immigrants be worthy of of being educated and invested in if that was the case? According to a research done by the Pew Hispanic Center 78% of the undocumented immigrants that lived in the United States in 2005 were either Mexicans or from another Latin country. (…)

According to a Pew Hispanic Research unauthorized immigrants account for 28% of the foreign-born population and there are 7.8 million unauthorized immigrants in the labor force, 5.1% of the total. While it is very convenient for the capitalist country we live in to keep this huge amount of workers with no rights to health insurance or to contribute in a retirement plan, to work off the books, to be a given the same rights and obligations an American worker has, eventually these people will get older, will have health implications, there will be need for more than just a cash job, and that is where this could cause many implications, because they have not worked towards being ready for those outcomes. It is better to legalize them now while they can work and contribute into social security, while they can better themselves for their future, than to leave them living in this limbo, or “sophisticated modern slavery”.

Mayor Bloomberg is leading a group of representatives of states where the largest number of undocumented immigrants live making a case for Immigration Reform. In a meeting with the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law he said the following: “the more difficult we make it for foreign workers and students to come and stay here, the more likely companies will be to move jobs to other nations,…, just look at what’s happened in Silicon Valley. Many companies that have not been able to get workers into the country have been forced to move jobs to Vancouver, Canada.,… we know that our businesses need more high—and low-skill labor than we are letting into the country. Right now, there are one million high-skill jobs that companies cannot fill, because they can’t find workers,… just as troubling, more and more foreign students are reporting plans to return home because of visa problems. We educate them here- and then, in effect, tell them to take that knowledge to start jobs in other countries. That just makes no sense whatsoever.”(Bloomberg, Murdoch Push for More Skilled Immigrants in U.S.).

Comprehensive Immigration Reform would strengthen the labor force by giving young people, who still have many years to work hard (and contribute into social security, maybe even solve the babyboomers issue), to prepare themselves for better jobs, to bring new ideas and assets into the businesses, to make unions stronger, knowing that these workers would be joining other workers to fight for their rights, keeping in mind that undocumented immigrants are not enemies of the American workers, they are a slice of the pie of American workers, and if legalized they will join with the same requests that any other worker has.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform would create an economic incentive for growth in the United States of America. Undocumented immigrants are babysitters, waitresses, landscapers, construction workers, housecleaners, salad preparers, cooks, busboys, secretaries, hairstylists, car washers, high school and college students. They purchase clothes, food, i-phones and i-pods, high definition television sets and pay sales taxes, they get their hair and nails done, go to restaurants, to the movies, travel to other states, purchase cars and homes, rent apartments, start businesses. Therefore they are active members of the economy that runs in this country today, that cannot be denied. If legalized they will certainly feel more confident and more confident consumers purchase more of those goods and services just mentioned. It is also estimated that much of the money they make is sent to their countries where they come from, according to the article “Immigrants Send Money Home in record Numbers” last year Mexico received about seventeen billion dollars in remittances. All that money as well as all the resources from all immigrants could have been invested here if they had guarantee they could truly live here.

Mayor Bloomberg, in the same speech also affirmed that “immigrants pay more in taxes than they use in benefits. Immigrants come to America to work,… they create new companies that produce jobs. He also argued that in the states where the largest concentrations of immigrants are, such as New York, the recent economic difficulties have had less impact in the economy.

In conclusion, the issue has become so important that it can no longer be ignored. It is time to take control of the situation because this could turn out to be a disaster, the implications of keeping people in the shadows, with unequal rights, being denied an opportunity can never create good results. Let’s be logical, get organized, and solve the problem by creating a system that puts in place the control measures of the country’s population, make every person that lives in the land assume responsibility for their own debts to the country, and let people grow and add to the country as immigrants always came here to do. As a result of that America will prove to still be the “Mother of Exiles”, the “Land of the free” where it is truly believed that “all men are created equal”, and be greatly positively impacted by it in the many years to come.

Jonathan Vogeler

Second Prize, Non-Fiction:
Jonathan Vogeler  History, City College

“We Fought With Our Arms”: The Bracero and Arizona Cotton

The Bracero Program was the largest foreign worker program in United States history, importing 4.6 million Mexican farm workers from 1942–1964 through a series of bilateral agreements between the U.S. and Mexico.1 In 1941 Arizona cotton growers requested a suspension of the ban on foreign contract workers, claiming that war manufacturing was creating a critical labor shortage.2 The AFL and CIO opposed the program from the start because of fears that it would lower the wages of American workers.3 Historians have generally focused analysis of the Bracero Program on its advantages for American growers, the adverse impact on the American labor movement, or the institutional forces that drove the U.S. government to first promote, then abandon the program.4 Representations of the braceros themselves are heavily dependent on research done by American labor activists such as Ernesto Galarza, without considering that these reports were produced for American political consumption. The complex motivations of the bracero workers are consequently reduced to an insatiable hunger for American jobs, while their capacity to resist exploitation is minimized.

This essay will focus on braceros in the Arizona cotton fields, making special use of a series of forty-three interviews of Arizona cotton workers who participated in the bracero program.5 While this will not allow for a full analysis, it will highlight some of the traditional biases in depictions of the bracero workers. Although many braceros were indeed driven by financial need to work in the United States, many more were motivated by wartime patriotism and feelings of international solidarity. Once in the fields, workers were certainly exploited, but their failure to respond in ways that are familiar to labor historians must be understood in the context of their differing priorities and unique legal status. Braceros are not properly understood as historical agents if they are reduced to passive victimhood.

While the United States government cited a critical wartime labor shortage, the Mexican government sold the Bracero Program domestic audiences with its own propaganda campaign. Newsreels and editorials suggested that picking crops in the U.S. was as noble and vital to the preservation of democracy as fighting in the trenches.6 Decades later, this is still how some former braceros saw their role.

We came to America to fight, to fight hunger. We fought, not with weapons, but with our arms. That’s why we came, to feed these people and send food to those who were fighting. How can you fight with weapons but no materiel? They had no money. We came to lift up this country, five million people. Do you realize how many people came here to support the United States? And we were also a part of the wars that were happening, because with our work they didn’t have to worry that their wives and children had enough to eat.7

As the press in both Mexico and the United States became more concerned with the abuses of the system, this heroism was forgotten. The bracero became transformed into a perpetual victim who would do anything for money.8 But a popular Mexican corrido, or folk song, preserved the “fighting bracero”: “I am a Mexican bracero/ I have come to work/ For this sister country/ That has called me./ They ask for arms/ To substitute/ Those who are fighting/ Without fear of dying.9

If not all braceros were answering their nation’s call to war, most were of military age. Of the 43 interviewees studied, the median age was twenty and only one was over thirty. Miguel Jáquez López recalled, “A man of fifty was rare at that time, it was only young people like myself.10” Some, like Elías Espino, had just gotten out of the military and wanted to see new things before settling down.11 Several went with brothers or close friends. José Solano’s parents objected to his going, but eventually agreed to give him the money he needed. He was frustrated because he had never left his small village and wanted to see other places.12 Gregorio Flores felt like a child living in his parents’ home and wanted a chance to “eat at the table.13 José Hernández enlisted on a dare.14 For many young men it was a chance to challenge themselves and experience freedom not available at home. One man reminisced, “it was beautiful because we were working and we were young. We were going to the movies, to church, to eat at a restaurant—little things like that.15

In contrast to the press accounts that decried low wages, poor housing, and long hours, the single greatest source of complaint from the braceros themselves was the food.16 This baffled government inspectors, one of whom suggested that perhaps, “complaints about food were not actually basic complaints, but that the food question was brought up as a front for some other issue, such as lack of employment, differences with employers and supervisors, dislike of the type of work, and so on.17” While this may have some validity, food continued to be the top concern among interviewees over four decades later, according to the interviews analyzed for this paper. Studies found that workers were satisfied with the quantity of food, but resented getting up at 4 AM for breakfast, bag lunches, and especially cold sandwiches.18 Workers staged protests ranging from scattering their food across the field to marching to the road and stopping cars.19 This created a minor diplomatic crisis. The U.S. government requested that Mexico permit some braceros to work as cooks, to alleviate the shortage of kitchen workers who were familiar with Mexican food.20 It was a welcome opportunity for some workers, such as José Guadalupe, who discovered many new recipes and eventually became a cook at a restaurant in Austin, Texas after returning to the United States.21 Failure to appreciate the significance that food held for the braceros is symptomatic of a general tendency to ignore the expressed preferences of the braceros themselves in favor of an American normative framework that excluded their experience.

The influence that Mexican peasants exerted on their government, which represented them in negotiations, is also neglected. Richard Craig claims that “the sociopsychological milieu in which the average Mexican peasant was reared prepared him ideally for his role as the servile, hard-working, seldom complaining, perpetually polite bracero”.22 Yet three pages later he commends the wisdom of Mexican officials in using the program as a “safety valve”, since “seizures of haciendas, mass squatter movements, riots, and occasional premeditated murders characterized Mexico’s sporadically violent rural populace”.23 The workers are portrayed as naturally subservient, except that sometimes they are violently revolutionary. In Mexico as in the U.S., Mexican workers are interpreted as docile victims of persecution, despite ample and obvious evidence of effective resistance .

Popular discourse devalued the skill and cultural perspective of Mexican workers and presented the bracero as the helpless victim of extreme poverty, left with work that nobody else wanted. Opponents of the program chastised growers for exploiting misery, complaining that, “because there is not enough misfortune at home, we rely on misfortune abroad to replenish the supply.24” In Farm Workers, Agribusiness, and the State, Linda and Theo Majka dismiss the braceros as having “few of the characteristics of a free agricultural proletariat.25” Growers responded by insisting that braceros took work that nobody else would do: “Cotton is a slave crop, nobody is going to pick it that doesn’t have to… the Mexican is about the only reservoir of labor that we know of that really wants to pick cotton, because he gets more money than he ever saw in his life before, or ever expected to see.26

But to fully understand braceros as workers in their own right, the historian must consider the knowledge and experience that they brought to their work and the goals that they sought to achieve. Lauriano Martínez, for example, was proud to be a bracero and would gladly do it over again. He learned new styles of dress and broadened his horizons. But ultimately, like most braceros, he was more comfortable living in Mexico, where he lives now with his wife and children.27 This is not to suggest that his is “the” typical experience, but neither can the bracero experience as a whole be reduced to one of helpless oppression doing work that nobody else wanted. The bracero cannot be defined in relation to the work that Americans were willing to do, the pay that they expected to receive, or the resistance strategies that they employed; as a worker, he must be evaluated on his own terms.

  1. Manuel García y Griego, The Importation of Mexican Contract Laborers to The United States, 1942–1964: Antecedents, Operation and Legacy, (La Jolla, CA: University of California San Diego, 1981), p. 46.
  2. Wayne Rasmussen, A History of the Emergency Farm Labor Supply Program 1943–47, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1951), 200.
  3. Kitty Calavita, Inside the State: The Bracero Program, Immigration, and the I.N.S., (New York: Routledge, 1992), 63.
  4. J. Craig Jenkins, “The Demand for Immigrant Workers: Labor Scarcity or Social Control?” International Migration Review, Vol. 12, No. 4, (Winter, 1978), 44.
  5. See especially The Bracero Program: Interest Groups and Foreign Policy by Richard Craig, Inside The State: The Bracero Program, Immigration, and the INS by Kitty Calavita, and “Caught in the Middle: The Mexican State’s Relationship with the United States and its Own Citizen-Workers, 1942–1954” by Deborah Cohen.
  6. These interviews were conducted by the University of El Paso Oral History Project. The Spanish language transcripts of the full interviews, as well as full audio recordings, are available at Individual interviews will be cited throughout the paper.
  7. Deborah Cohen, “Caught in the Middle: The Mexican State’s Relationship with the United States and Its Own Citizen-Workers, 1942–1954” Journal of American Ethnic History, Vol. 20, No. 3, (Spring, 2001), p. 112.
  8. Mireya Loza, “Ignacio Gómez,” in Bracero History Archive, Item #156, (accessed December 5, 2010).
  9. Herrera-Sobek, 32
  10. Ibid, 82.
  11. Laureano Martínez, “Miguel Jáquez López,” in Bracero History Archive, Item #214, (accessed December 3, 2010).
  12. Myrna Parra-Mantilla, “Elías Espino,” in Bracero History Archive, Item #7, (accessed December 5, 2010).
  13. Violeta Domínguez, “José Solano Ramírez,” in Bracero History Archive, Item #110, (accessed December 3, 2010).
  14. Domínguez, “Gregorio Flores Pérez,” in Bracero History Archive, Item #107, (accessed December 3, 2010).
  15. Steve Velásquez, “José Hernández Romero,” in Bracero History Archive, Item #157, (accessed December 14, 2010).
  16. Domínguez, “José Solano Ramírez,”
  17. Rasmussen, 229
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid, 230.
  20. Mireya Loza, “Ignacio Gómez,” in Bracero History Archive, Item #156, (accessed December 5, 2010).
  21. Rasmussen, 229.
  22. Domínguez, “José Guadalupe Verdín Arriaga.”
  23. Craig, 15.
  24. Ibid, 18.
  25. US Government, Migratory Labor in American Agriculture, 3.
  26. Majka, 136
  27. Ibid, 20.
  28. Martínez, Laureano, “Miguel Jáquez López,” in Bracero History Archive, Item #214, (accessed December 3, 2010).

Genill Reynoso

Third Prize, Non-Fiction:
Genill Reynoso  Lehman College

Sin Nombre

It is always a very exciting but tough process to successfully conduct an interview. I was looking forward to listening to people’s specific experiences to see how they shape their views and thoughts on life specifically the topic of undocumented immigrants. I began the project with a somewhat hesitant attitude. I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to find a person that would be able to open up about their unique experiences and let me enter their world. What if the interviewee wasn’t able to clearly get their point across? How would I be able to draw those thoughts out? What if someone got too emotional? How would I deal with that? How could I make sure that the interviewee felt comfortable and free to speak to me? My biggest fear however, was that I was going to go through interviewee after interviewee and not find a person who was able to tell me their story as well as depict true emotion and passion about the issue.

It all came to me one night after dinner. I was helping my mother clean up when our neighbor and long time friend walked in to have her ritual cup of coffee with my mom. They were watching the news and a segment Obama and his failed promise to bring about immigration reform in his first year came on. I noticed that she had a lot to say about this and her thoughts and points seems to be valid enough that I thought she’d be able to sit down in class with us and openly debate immigration policy. It occurred to me to ask her to allow me to interview her and she promptly agreed.


Me: Tell me a little about yourself. Where were you born? How did you grow up?

Sin Nombre: I was born in the Dominican Republic, in the capital in a small city called Pedro Brand in el kilometro 28. I lived there with my big family of nine. Five boys and umm four girls not including my parents and the usual people that would take refuge in our home. My parents were both ministers of an evangelical church which was located in front of our house. We had a big piece of land envied by many but in very humble conditions. Through the church, my parents started an orphanage to help the children in the area, so since I was about 8 I was running around with tons of other kids. Actually, two of my siblings came from that orphanage. They were left by their mothers who fled Haiti during a conflict in the 1981. The mothers left to find their family in Haiti but never returned from the conflict torn country. So I basically grew up around the church and the orphanage helping my mother braid the girl’s hairs and teaching them how to read with el libro Nacho. Everyone learned to read with that book back then. As for our living conditions, we didn’t grow up poor or rich either we were stable enough to have food on our tables and to get funds from the government to help the orphanage.

Me: It sounds like your whole family as very involved in the community?

Sin Nombre: Yes all of the time. My parents really instilled on us the teachings of the bible and the power of lending a helping hand. We never turned away anyone who passed by the church. On a normal day we’d have about 4 or 5 people who weren’t relatives or friends spending the night. Usually people who needed food or shelter would drop by stay to sleep in the church for a few days and then leave. Most of them would return and become members of the church which warmed my mother’s heart. My mother wouldn’t even let us question why we had so much people with us all the time. We just knew that it was the right thing to do and it became part of us.

Me: What was your life like right before you decided to come to the United States?

Sin Nombre: I spent my days going to school. I was always the shy girl but keeping to myself helped me focus on my studies which actually allowed me graduate 2 years early. Right after graduation I then went on to work with my aunt in the center of the capital. She was in the tourism business and trained me to become a travel agent. I got to interact a lot of important people from the Dominican Republic and traveled to tons of countries. My job allowed me to visit Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Venezuela and Canada. I felt so alive, I was young and traveling the world, having the time of my life. I still have all of the pictures from the trips in a big album.

A few years after that I got pregnant with my first child with Antonio, my boyfriend at the time, and my whole perspective on life changed. The rest of my life continued here in the U.S.

Me: Why did you decide to come to the United States? How did you get here?

Sin Nombre: It wasn’t really my idea. Antonio had some family over here and he had arrived illegally using his cousin’s documents. It kind of funny how it happened, his cousin at the time was brought to the United States to play for an American baseball team, I don’t remember which one. Antonio had to hurry and travel before his cousin’s visa expired. So he arrived in New York in early 1993. Right away he married a family friend to get his permanent resident card.

It was like a dream come true for him. He had been eager to come. He was in love with idea of a new beginning, better jobs and better futures. We had two kids together at the time, I was 24. It was just the right thing to do. I had to follow him here and build a new life together. It sounded crazy but no one really wanted to be in D.R. It was hot. Not summer hot, but like a scorching burn your eyes kind of hot. There weren’t any good jobs and you were constantly surrounded by poverty and misfortune. There was just no going forward in my country. At that time it took twelve pesos to equal one dollar. That means that people where earning lower than what is considered minimum wage here. It was just time for a real positive change.

Me: And how did you get here?

Sin Nombre: I got here by plain. Despite what people say, not all of us come in a banana boat. It’s a nasty generalization just meant to ridicule us. I had a visiting visa. So I was able to come and return after a few months.

Me: What did you think you would encounter when you got here? What did you actually see?

Sin Nombre: I had these images in my mind of what it would all look like. I thought it would be like what you see it the movies. Tall beautiful buildings, bright blue skies and tons of beautiful people in the the streets sipping on their iced drinks as the strolled down the streets. I imagined lots of grass and little houses with big backyards and a mail box. It was kind of like a dream to me. The U.S was where everyone wanted to be. I was just excited to have the opportunity. When I got here I was amazed by the skyscrapers and the nice cars, but I noticed something weird right away. The air felt different. I didn’t really know what it was but just different. On the way back from the airport the buildings went from tall and shiny, to little and ugly.

I arrived in the Washington heights area with Antonio to his aunt’s house. For the first few months things were great everything was new and exciting to me, but quickly everything went bad. I wasn’t living my fantasy. I was stuck in a house cramped with about 6 adults plus my two children. I was having a hard time finding a job and didn’t understand anything going on around me. For months I stayed indoors with my Antonio’s less than friendly aunt. It was hell. The cold winter was a total new shock to me along with everyone else’s bitterness. I was missing my country, but knew I was doing the right thing.

Me: How did you become undocumented?

Sin Nombre: My biggest mistake was overstaying my visa. When it was time for me to go I never went back, but that was never in the plans. I already had my children in school and wasn’t going to put their futures a risk. They were already learning English and watched the same cartoons as all the other children. It was amazing to see them accommodate to this new place. I just couldn’t get myself to leave. I tried to fix my status by marrying a friend. He was Puerto Rican and we were sure I’d get my papers. We got married in my apartment with my boyfriend present just like if it was real, priest cake and all. Unfortunately that didn’t work out. Immigration paid him a visit in his house, they were there to investigate our marriage. They noticed that we dint live together and he couldn’t answer simple questions about our marriage. He cracked under pressure and told them everything. After that my case was opened and in 2005 I was called for deportation. I was given the chance to leave the country on my own but I never did.

Me: That sounds awful. What happened after that? How did you feel?

Sin Nombre: I was destroyed at that time I lived in Pennsylvania and had saved up enough money to open up my own travel agent business. Antonio opened up barber shop and business was great. We both had our cars and were living comfortably. Finally we decided everything was going good and decided to buy a house. Over the years we had accumulated enough money for the down payment basically had part of our dream life come true. The day I was set for deportation brought everything crashing down. I still remember that day with fear. I received a letter from immigration saying that I had to go to court. I was horrified my knees were trembling. Everything had turned upside down. When I went to court I was put in handcuffs and told I was going to be deported. One of my friends had heard what happened. He was a high ranking officer in Pennsylvania. He convinced the officers to let me go home gather my things and close my business, he told them I was trustworthy and that I would leave the country on my own.

As soon as I was let go I picked up my children from school gathered what we could and took the fastest bus to NYC. Here we reunited with my Aunt in the same house where we originally arrived. We had left everything behind, our beds, clothes, dog, backyard, that perfect little life we had, all thrown away. My business and hard work abandoned.

At the time my kids were 13, 11 and 9 years old. Their emotional stability worried me the most. It was hard to explain why I pulled them out of school and moved them to a place they barely remembered. Horrible to explain why the dog their best friend, had to be left behind at the shelter, why everything was so different. The move from suburban Pennsylvania to NYC was a huge shock to all of us.

Me: How did you guys accommodate to New York City?

Sin Nombre: It wasn’t easy. Still to this day we are still not truly integrated. It’s all different. My kids spent 3 months out of school because I was afraid to place them in school under my name. I was scared that immigration would track me down. I finally found an uncle who did me the favor of placing them in school. We had to start from zero again after 12 years in this country I had to start from zero. It was even harder to do it in New York City. The rent was more expensive, people were less helpful and the pace of the city was too fast. It wasn’t what I wanted my family to grow up in. I found myself living again with Antonio’s horrible aunts who treated me more like a maid that anything else, but we had nowhere to go. For two years we stayed there until I finally found a job and was able to move into a one bedroom apartment with my three kids. It wasn’t the life we were used to. We were in a neighborhood surrounded by gangs and drugs along with a lot of homeless which was nothing that my children had ever experienced before. Every day it broke my heart to see them get up early to take the bus and train to go to school. In Pennsylvania I used to drive them or the bus would pick them up at our doorstep. I wasn’t able to do that anymore there was nothing I could do to help. My license had expired and I was scared to go to the motor vehicles also in fear of deportation.

On top of that I’m stuck working jobs that I am over qualified for. I had an interview a while back to work at a restaurant. The owners told me that I was pretty and would be put to work at the bar. They told me I had to flirt with the guys and get them to buy me drinks. I was appalled by the thought and quickly forgot about that job offer. I was used to working in an office setting. Another time I went to an interview for a corporate travel agency in midtown Manhattan. The job was perfect for me, I would be helping companies prepare packages for the business trips their employers took. They were going to start me off at $24 an hour. I was really excited I was sure I’d get the job, I was competent, had 22 years of experience and bilingual. I received a call later that week saying that they had found someone else. I was in total shock, they seemed so eager to work with me, but right away I realized that something had come up during my background check.

Me: What is your situation now?

Sin Nombre: Still to this day it is hard for me to wake up every morning and have the drive to continue. My father passed away a year ago and I wasn’t able to attend his funeral. Even though he died of Alzheimer’s, my mother tells me he always remembered me and would wake up randomly asking for his daughter. The last few years have been the most difficult. I see my middle son about to go to college, not even eligible for an S.A.T fee waiver, yet still applying for college hoping that someday some legislation will pass by that would allow him to have a brighter future. It kills me to see that two of my children have their documents and one is in the shadows just like me. My eldest, a permanent resident, my middle child an undocumented immigrant, and my youngest born a United States citizen. At any moment we could all be separated for life. I live with this fear every day of every month of every year. I’m hoping that I can keep myself and my family in the shadows long enough to keep us safe from the INS until we get an immigration reform that will make everything better. I want to be able to travel see my family, my country breathe that same clean air again and still have the opportunity to live in the United States. I want to have a license and be able to vote and take my kids on a road trip across the country without the fear of being stopped. I desperately want our family to be normal like most Americans, free to chase after their dreams without these kinds of obstacles.


I really tried to dig deep with intriguing questions to obtain rich answer, but honestly I didn’t have to try very hard. My interviewee was full of stories and her descriptions made me feel as if I was living her experiences. The one thing that interested me most about her was the reasons that convinced her to leave the place where she grew up to move to a completely unknown land. Such a decision can never be taken lightly by any person. Immigrating to a new country is the most dramatic and adventurous trip one can partake in. I wanted to see what she thought were the benefits and how she sees herself today in the United Stated.

Interviewing my neighbor has to be one of the most enlightening experiences I’ve had in my life. It opened my eyes to the real life obstacles that immigrants face in this country. As she spoke and went on with every sentence I felt like a piece of my heart was breaking. It is absolutely unimaginable that a human being could endure so much pain in one lifetime. Even though I had a hard time keeping the tears away during the interview it was well worth it. Stories like these need to be heard, because we need to attach human faces and emotions to these stories. The one way to achieve immigration reform is to hit the United States with the cruel hard facts about the experiences of undocumented immigrants in this country. I truly hope that the interview helps many other people speak up to tell their story, and realize that we need to unite as a community to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.


Honorable Mention, Non-Fiction:
Luis Cabrera  English Language Arts, Hunter College

A Little of You

Damn its hot, how do they do ten hours of this crap? I tightened my grip, feeling grains of sand move like little wheels between my calloused, blistered hand and the shovel. I stabbed the earth, my arms recoiling at the impact and withdrew a bulk of soil, sand, roots and rocks that I spilled half of when moving it. My arms are shaking, I am tired and becoming sloppy. I am almost there just a few more feet and I can get out of this inferno. Huitzilopochtli is fucking up today, he is probably angry, that bastard. The sun is pummeling South Florida, it feels like a giant weight is on my shoulder and he is pushing it, the more you move the heavier it gets. The more you think about it the heavier it gets, there is no escaping that stupid fireball. It feels as heavy as my skin, following me everywhere unable to hide from it.

That’s why I am here, I call it being on the wrong side of the fence at the wrong time. I still love you though “ma” you had this same fight with the sun and the endless ocean of sand with my 6 month old weight in your arms. I guess it’s a good thing I am doing this, I am in your shoes even if my clothes are different, is this why you always keep saying “estudia mijo”? With your eyes that swell up and sparkle, your eyes that hold more guilt than a murderer even when you smile. Don’t worry though momma this will not be forever, I will draw earth from the ground today and blood from a patient tomorrow. My thoughts consumed my mind and nature consumed my body, if they can do it so can I, CLANK!!! My wrist gave my body rushed towards the ground, the shovel stayed in place, impaled in the ground the air still ringing. I felt my blisters scrape against the old uneven wood of the sweaty handle, each sand grain digging into the bubbles in my hands. My trembling leg rushed forward and stopped my body from falling. I stood there unsteady like a brown foal. Fuck this job!, I let my exhausted body fall backwards and sat at the edge of the 15 foot long, two feet wide and three feet deep hole following the walls of this house. I looked up and saw a row of houses all sealed off from this heat, the world was in a quiet submissive state, the sun held it hostage. Not us though, we had to fix the AC to this house, we needed cash. I rested a bit longer with the nagging heat on my back. I got myself back up grabbing the shovel once more and finishing the few feet that remained. I will be like them but better taking the best of both worlds. They are definitely monsters though, maybe they have like internal AC or something they work like the sun does not bother them. They smile and laugh, why aren’t they bitter? Shit, I am bitter and I don’t do this every day, at least I am done now.

“Gerardo, ya termine” I called out Gerardo walked over with all the crap he needed. He began to assemble the PVC pipes expertly, making sure sand didn’t get in them because it would make pushing the cables a total pain the ass. He looked like a spider, his legs stretched out, careful not to step on the edge of the hole while his hands joined the PVC pipes in a perfectly orchestrated motion, like a spider weaving its web. He was done in five minutes. He grabbed some cables taping them to this wire strip and pushed the cables through the PVC pipes until they popped out on the other side, 18 feet away. He took seven minutes. His hands moved like he was fencing the wall with a screw driver, soon enough the cables are attached to the electrical panel, he rushes to the other side and fenced the wall again. It reminded me of movie Edward Scissor hands when he was trimming the hedges, but this was our version, Gerardo electrician hands. The cables were connected, he turned on the electricity making sure everything is good and pushes the earth back in the hole. He took 30 minutes.

“Ya esta hijo, en el carro hay dos botellas de agua” Gerardo said in a blissful tone.

His face shinny with sweat, shovel on the ground next to him, his brown arm wiping his brown wrinkled forehead and smiling, making his already stretched eyes looking like they were squinting. His shirt a darker shade now and the moistened sand attached to his legs, like sugar and cinnamon on a “churro”. He is nothing like my father I thought as I retrieved the water bottles he mentioned.

We chugged the water greedily, it was life in a bottle. We grabbed the water hose and blasted our legs and arms with water. We finished cleaning ourselves and placed towels on the seat of the car, our shorts were soaked in sweat and we sat waiting for the owner. I stared at my hands, my palms were embedded with dirt that no rubbing would take out. There were blisters on my fingers and palms; I can believe people do this as a living. Gerardo got out of the van and walked over to the approaching white G35 Infinity car, the owner handed Gerardo an envelope shook his hand and departed. In three hours we made 400 dollars, but apparently that is extremely cheap for the job we did, most companies would charge 800–1000 dollars. But who were we to argue, we still had dirt under our nails.

“vámonos hijo, tu mama nos está esperando” said Gerardo still cheerful.

“Yea let’s go” I said to myself

I put on the radio and let the music flood the car, the sun was starting to set. The car grunted and started moving, the breeze felt nice. I was glad to be leaving this place.

Jacqueline Handman

First Prize, Poetry:
Jacqueline Handman  English Language Arts, Hunter College

Lowell Mill Girls

April twenty third, 1833:
Into the morning dew stepped Katie Halbery.
With a hug a suitcase heavy with home,
footprints trailed to women’s unknown.

She was an explorer—a pioneer
helping to widen the women’s sphere.
But employed life in the mill would not let it grow,
as once hopeful women soon came to know.

Yearning for independence, Katie traveled to the Lowell mill,
but after eight years of labor, she had not received it still.
These factories sought employees like Katie—
young women not bound to school or to babies.

What mill owners liked most—though they tried to pretend—
was that women would work for half the wages of men.
And to further control and oppress,
employees were kept under surveillance.

Each worker had to return to the boarding house by ten o’clock
and those who did not obey were fired on the spot.
Complaints about working conditions were forbidden
for fear that too much power would be gained by these women.

Each employee had to act with “temperance” and “virtue”,
and to keep faith, they were each required to purchase a church pew.
Honesty, cleanliness, and frugality were heavily stressed:
Between working and “self improvement”, they could never rest.

Many women still clung to the illusory dream,
but factory life was not what it once seemed.
Conditions were poor and hours were many;
each hour earning little more than a penny.

And to keep employees under control,
The Lowell Offering was offered to Lowell.
“This publication is your voice.” Lowell mill girls were told,
but the contents of its pages were strictly controlled.

The theme of self improvement filled pages and pages
with no mention of factory conditions or wages.
Promoting learning and culture was that publication’s mission
to preoccupy workers from working conditions.

Soon it was clear: The Offering did not offer fact.
So employees published their own “Factory Tracts”.
In these publications, the truth was confessed,
marking the beginning of the American labor press.

Though workers were told they had no say
in matters of working hours or pay,
the “Factory Tracts” gave workers the choice
to publish their writing; to echo their voice.

Men heard the call, but did not lend a hand
to help their counterparts; their fellow working women.
Mill girls were a cause all their own:
barred from men’s unions; they struggled alone.

Katie remained a mill employee
until the day she was to marry.
But this union too gave no freedom to her;
the fire of change left to flame on the back burner.

Is this what Katie hoped to be?
Do her footprints lead to a place that’s free?
Sisters, how long must we fight?
Even today, our flame burns bright.


  • Arthur, T.S. Starting For Lowell. Illustrated Temperance Tales. 1850.
  • Homer, Winslow. Bobbin Girl. Lowell National Historical Park.
  • Hymowitz, Carol, and Michaele Weissman. "On the Loom: The First Factory Women." A History of Women in America. Bantam. 1990.
  • Minkoff, Harvey, and Evelyn Melamed. Exploring America: Perspectives on Critical Issues. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company. 1995.

Jude Campbell

Second Prize, Poetry:
Jude Campbell  English Literary Criticism, Hunter College

Touch of Hardship

All that I know about work I
learned from Grand mother’s hands.
I learned when there is no work,
work will be hardest.
I learned to wake early because
dreaming accomplishes nothing.
A cupboard full of dreams is bare.
No one ever called my
Grand mother a dreamer.
Her hands were practical as calendars
and equally familiar with the
unsympathetic seasons that
came and went as they willed.
Onions must be pulled in April
And cry all you want
there is no changing an onion.
There is no way to coax
an apple before Fall.
Between onions and apples her
fingers bled through the picking
of a billion ripe green beans.
Her hands, bereft of diamonds
or gold, were sun adorned tools
working the earth until it frosted
then into the sweater factory to
mend for pennies. The coughing factory,
the factory tears couldn’t fix,
the factory that forbid dancing,
fingers caught dancing would be
put to the needle.
Though she loved dancing she
Got through unharmed if a
little hardened. She could still
count ten on her rusty hands.
Some sixty years later she could
still pull a blanket up around me
as I pretended to sleep.
Needle threading, bean picking, dirt digging,
pasta kneading, grand child
tucking in dream machines.
Ninety five years of use,
no warranty, nothing guaranteed by prayer,
through coal ash cold and thorny
bake a dust cake summers when
work only grew longer with the day.
Are there machines still build like those hands
that feel so beautiful against my cheek?
machines that run on love,
Such pure fuel

Mary Sofianos

Third Prize, Poetry:
Mary Sofianos  Lehman College

Unlock the Door
(For those who fell victim to the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire)

Pardon me, ladies
On floors eight, nine and ten
Make room for love
For forgiveness, strength and
Honor all above
It was rough from the beginning
And the times, they were tough-
One hundred years later,
Little has changed for many
As some of us can still be seen
Feeding from the same trough
But the virtue we contained has grown
To a size too big to try and control
And the landscape has rearranged
Past the streets of Washington and Greene
Eyes have opened and ears have heard
That the people must live without
The perils and horror which
Tear us away from our hearts and each other
The uncovering of hazardous terrain
Leads to repavement with thought
The blood stain remains on our shirtwaist
With this we shall never part
There will always be a way
For darkness to seep
Onto our doorstep or fire escape
But that is when more light is shone
From the people that fight for the freedoms
Into that which we are born
And there will always be people like you
Who are exploited, martyred and inexplicably doomed
It is the duty for those who can
To fight for those who are disadvantaged
I have seen miracles in the instance of plight
Changes made and wrongs turned right
We all posses the goodness in turn
Within our experience and other’s
To ensure that the fire will always burn
Unlock the door so that we may live and love
We’ve got the key we need to the past
Unchain the present and continue to learn
Be there for and grow from each other
This we must not forget
With hopes and fears for future generations
That our liberties may ever last

Jhenelle Robinson

Honorable Mention, Poetry:
Jhenelle Robinson  Lehman College


The cuts on My fingertips bleed out capitalism
Currency trickles from the lesions.
I nurse my fingers in my mouth
Sipping, licking.

My hands are stained by the dye of the shirt you struggle to fit into.
My fingers are pricked coarse by the needles I use to stitch your favorite jeans.
My family embraces the scraps of your dessert.
The land of milk and honey isn’t as delicious as they had promised: “Come to America, land of chance and opportunity.”


I boarded the plane from a speck in the Caribbean February 18, 1987 intact with a carryon case complied with my good shoes, pressed shirts and skirts and my hopes. I folded that hope so tightly—I made sure it fit. As soon as I unpacked bag, my hope sprawl out like loose candy from a piñata.



The CUNY/Labor Arts essay contest is dedicated to expanding and revitalizing the study of work and workers at CUNY, and is open to any undergraduate attending a CUNY senior college.

We would like to thank all of the students who submitted work for the 2011 contest, and to congratulate the authors of the prize-winning essays and poems featured in this exhibit.

The contest was made possible this year through the efforts of The Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation and Don Rubin; Lehman College/CUNY and Dean Deborah Eldridge, Dean Timothy Alborn, and Professor Terrence Cheng; and LaborArts and Rachel Bernstein, Henry Foner and Evelyn Jones Rich.

Special thanks go to Professors Salita Bryant (Fiction); Nicole Cooley (Poetry); and Vincent DiGirolamo (Nonfiction) for their time and effort in selecting the winning essays and poems.

The photographs of students were all taken by photographer Gary Schoichet at the Awards Ceremony, held at the CUNY Graduate Center on May 24, 2011.


Making Work Visible—2012
A Writing Contest sponsored by and The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation

Open to CUNY undergraduates, this contest offers cash prizes in three categories: poetry, essay, and fiction/non-fiction narratives. Students will select a topic that links to labor arts—art about work and workers, and art by working people—and that will showcase the student’s creativity, imagination, and analytical ability. The “arts” are broadly construed to include photographs, posters, buttons, banners and flyers, as well as paintings, sculpture and other fine art by or about working people. is a web museum displaying many examples from each medium.

Each entry must include a link to an image from LaborArts that is relevant to the submission. If there is no image related to the student’s subject matter students may submit an electronic file of an appropriate image with their entries.

Funded by the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation, the contest addresses the foundation’s essential mission “to support innovative efforts to make social organizations and institutions more effective and more responsive to a broad range of human needs.”

Guidelines & Entry Procedures:
Undergraduates in good standing in any branch of the City University of New York are eligible to compete. Entries must be Word documents, submitted by January 27, 2012 to:

Lehman College Dean Timothy Alborn (School of Arts and Humanities) and Professor Terrence Cheng (Lehman, Department of English) will serve as contest coordinators.

Entries will be judged by an impartial panel of CUNY faculty who teach undergraduates. Representatives of the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation and Labor Arts are not eligible to participate in the selection of winners. Entries will be judged according to originality, content, and style. Students may enter as many of the three categories as they wish (one entry per category). All entries must be the student’s original work; winning entries will be published on the Labor Arts website. Prizes will be awarded at a ceremony in Spring 2012.

Prizes in each category are as follows:
First Place: $1,500
Second Place: $750
Third Place: $300
Honorable Mention: $100

The Categories
Judges will be looking for thoughtful work—poetry, historical analyses, and documentary and fictional narratives—that focus on particular subjects of relevance to work, to working people, and to the labor movement. Topics might include: organizing campaigns; economic and social problems; issues of immigration; conflicts based on race, class, and ethnic identity; environmental concerns; child labor; women in the labor force; economic justice; globalization and international labor markets; crime and corruption; anti-labor campaigns; cultural and artistic visions; ideals and ideologies.

Poetry submissions should be single-spaced, no page limit.

Essays not exceed 12 pages double-spaced.

Fiction/Non-Fiction Narrative submissions should not exceed 12 pages double-spaced, written in either the first or third person.

Students should identify entries as fiction or non-fiction, and include a jpeg of or the link to the Labor Arts image that most relates to their entry (or include the scan of an alternative image).

A separate cover sheet should include student name, e-mail, phone number, address, college, and major.

For more information, contact Professor Cheng at