letterBlockFINALI’ve long been fascinated with borders, fringes, and in-between spaces. I grew up in a town in West Texas that sits near the edge of a land mass called the Caprock Escarpment, where the flat, high plains of the Texas Panhandle crumble and descend into rolling and jagged terrain. It’s a place that, to outsiders, can feel like a desolate in-between space, a no-man’s land of rough and rocky transition. To me, it feels like home.

Each of us lives amid countless boundaries and in-between spaces: Geo-political borders that threaten the lives of loved ones (or, if we are so privileged, that we read about in far-away lands from the safety of our newspapers). Emotional boundary lines that mark our own private terrain—the stark moment that separates who we were before and after the diagnosis, the divorce, a loved one’s death. Borders of belief and life experience that can make our neighbors feel like strangers or, worse, like enemies.

Here, in this seventh issue of Proximity, we encouraged our contributors to consider what borders mean to them. We received incredible responses—some personal, some socio-political. Most of them addressed issues of identity, those fundamental ways we define who we are and the places we occupy in the world. As an editor of this issue, I was struck by how many submissions dealt with issues of race. In fact, the majority of submissions addressed this and identity in some way. We didn’t shy away from that, which is why you’ll see these issues reflected in about half of the pieces we selected for publication.

Strong, passionate writing that is honest and a little raw is my favorite kind of writing, and I’m proud that we’re offering some of that here.

Sasha Debevec-McKenney’s powerful essay, “Making Space,” explores the emotional aftermath of the police shooting and death of Tony Robinson in Madison, Wisconsin.

Laura Maschal’s deeply personal essay, “Borderline Mother,” challenges common beliefs about what it means to be a “real” parent—while Erica Trabold’s flash essay, “Child Proof,” challenges the notion that everyone wants to be a parent in the first place.

Sarah Reynolds’ provocative audio essay, “Split Down the Middle,” explores one teenager’s painful secret, and how sharing that secret became a form of activism.

Kirk Wisland‘s essay, “Genesis,” explores his Minnesota origins—both culturally and geographically—while we travel with him along the roads of his familial past.

Siri Pairin, in “Blood & Belonging,” and Naseem Jamnia, in “If I Were A Boy,” both examine interior borderlines of self and identity, while Meghan McClure’s essay “Lifting from the Sea,” traces the real and private borderlines of her own physical body.

And Sarah Einstein, in “Mot Sleeps” –an excerpt from (and sneak preview of) her award-winning memoir Mot –explores the border between what is true and what we agree to believe is true.

In introducing this issue, I have to acknowledge two other people who have made it possible, as I stand on the edge of my own personal border, the transition into motherhood. Proximity co-editor Maggie Messitt and former contributor-turned-assistant editor Ellee Achten stepped in to shepherd this issue from working draft to the polished issue you’re seeing here.

Together, we hope this collection will leave you feeling challenged, inspired, and provoked to consider what BORDERS mean to you.

~Carrie Kilman, 7/15/15