When my mother passed away in prison in 2004, she left a handwritten will bestowing her fur coat to me. I had no idea where the fur coat was but I remembered it well. She would show up unexpectedly at dance recitals or at my school wearing this coat, no matter the weather. I would never wear a fur coat and she must have known that. I didn’t even bother looking for the coat but later I wished I had. At the time, I didn’t understand that she left it to me because it’s all she had to give. What I actually ended up “inheriting” was a black garbage bag stuffed with the contents of her cell: Cat Fancy magazines, canteen slips, letters from people I didn’t know. I combed through those items seeking to understand my mother better. I’ve spent a lot of time since then thinking about inheritance, about what gets passed down from generation to generation, both tangible and intangible, about what aspects of our inheritance we’re able to accept and what we reject.
In this issue, our fourteenth collection of true stories, you’ll find nine nonfiction storytellers grappling with questions of inheritance. Some have inherited physical items, others cultural legacies.
Dorothy Rice pieces together the history of her grandmother, exploring the meaning of family lore in “Tianjin Daughter.” Esther Amini reflects on the inheritance of culture in “Iranian Taarof,” as she learns to embrace what her mother has taught her.
In “I’m Sorry About the Dog,” Ronit Feinglass Plank takes us back to her childhood and a winter of loss in a direct address to her sister. Jay Thompson unabashedly praises the most central of inheritances—her body—from a birthmark on her cheek to her pretty eyes within her essay “In My Body Gossip Column.”
In “Appraisal,” Susanna Donato takes you inside a journey of mourning while Kirk Wisland weaves through time to explore identity and his acceptance of the “Inheritance” bequeathed to him by his father.
Katrina Norfleet explores attachment to physical objects and how they can keep us from moving forward in her essay “The Parting”. And Natasha Singh brings us inside attachment and loss through the story of a single necklace in “The Visit.”
Erik Simander’s photo essay “Hjordis, I Miss You” chronicles one man’s life after the loss of his wife and speaks to love and being left behind.
I need to thank two people who made this issue possible. Proximity Managing Editor Maggie Messitt, who patiently guided me through the process of editing my first issue. And thank you to Jennifer Lang, this issue’s editorial fellow, for being with me every step of the way. We hope you find this, the INHERITANCE issue, as thought provoking and beautiful as we do.
Shasta Grant, Editor