Lisa Lee Herrick
Writer. Editor. Artist. Producer.
Lisa Lee Herrick is an award-winning Hmong-American creator and arts organizer based in California with over 20 years experience in film, broadcasting, publishing, and philanthropy. She is featured in the Best American Essays 2020 and is currently shopping her first memoir—a collection of personal essays—and working on a graphic novel.
Herrick was the first Hmong-American journalist to write a regular column for a national news magazine and was a finalist for the 2020 Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Award. She has collaborated with productions for and/or has appeared on MTV, PBS, FOX, ABS-CBN/myxTV and independent films. Today, she is a steward for ArtPlaceAmerica, a regular contributor to The Rumpus, co-founder of LitHop, a Writing By Writers fellow and the editor at large for Hyphen Magazine.
Illustrations, sketches and works in progress
“Hibiscus Tacos” by ire’ne lara silva
“They call me Santisima. They call me Flaca. They call me La Pelona. Like I was their mother, their lover, or their twitchy high school friend—never quite right but never excluded. Some of them still call me Mictlantecuhtli and Mictecacihuatl, and make me offerings.”
“What Kind of Alone?” by Nadia Shahbaz
“When she moves to her legs, sliding a thin layer of oil from the outermost point of crotch to ankle in one downward slope, her torso bends, at which point the hair on her head is revealed, breaking Khalid’s hypnotic state. (....) To get a closer look, he walks toward the woman and then thinks about yanking the bun off her head, even lobbing it high into the sky as if it were a golf ball, an object meant to fire into the air. No. That’s crazy. He’s not crazy.”
“Overlook” by Ashley Lopez
“To be a woman in this world is to be adopted by other women. Neither Andaleeb’s new mother nor her old mother would claim to be feminists. Feminism is one of those bad words that takes on a tang in some mouths, running wild over the tongue.”
Two Flash Fictions by Kelsey Norris
“The mayor told us not to wear clothes anymore.
It was really a crazy thing for him to say. We couldn’t believe it.” (published: 10/28/2020)
“Fingers” by Rachel Heng
“Soon the orange tape was everywhere. It resembled a twisting, winding maze. (....) Still, the parents would not admit that the situation was dire. They went about their daily activities with new vigor, often jogging from one place to another in order to make up for the lost time caused by the orange tape.
The children decided that something had to be done. If their parents would not face the fearsome truth lurking beneath their very feet, then they would.” (published: 10/9/2020)
From The Editors: Election 2020
A special message from the editors of The Rumpus. (published: 10/6/2020)
“Reina with White Roses” by Nadya Agrawal
“When the bell goes off, we take our time walking back across to the Math and English building. We know everything is forgivable today. Out front some freshmen are crying together. It wasn’t like this when Shaina Rothschild totaled her car on Cowper. I saw like maybe two kids cry then.” (published: 8/26/2020)
“The Warning Bell” by Alisson Wood
An excerpt from BEING LOLITA (Flatiron Books, 2020)
“That day in November, I was watching his hands, chalk white on his fingers. I was waiting for him to write the number for later that night. He hadn’t written one yet. I looked at the clock—only a minute before the first bell, the beginning of the end of class. (....) I thought about his hands. I imagined taking one along my shirt, wiping the chalk off, I imagined kissing the top of his thumb where he had a callus from playing guitar. He told me he was writing a new song about a crush he had the other afternoon, I hoped it was about me.” (published: 7/20/2020)
“Losing the World” by Amanda Montei
“My baby and I were all touch, at sea together, floating through space and time without the words to speak our big love for one another, a love that was tested again and again by her ruthless dependence on my body. And though I spoke to her—it was the only way out for us—I also knew in the earliest months that my words were just noise.” (published: 6/16/2020)
“A Vocabulary for Apostates” by Daniel Allen Cox
“My enlightenment peaked a few years later when I started having sex with men. Each orgasm unfurled in my head like a flash of new light. Slipping into bed with someone felt so right. Each time, I stumbled a little further away from Jehovah. I had started building a theology of queer tenderness. Nerve endings don’t split on ridges of good and evil. Pleasure cascades down both sides.” (published: 5/5/2020)
SEAWEED SOUP (MIYUK GOOK 미역국) by Maria T. Allocco
“It is not a struggle for Miyuk to stay grounded. Miyuk knows how to survive the pounding of the sea. She plants herself so deep that tumultuous waves wash over her. (....) She sources herself from the sand, which is also fluid—made of shells of billions before her. From here, she finds her center.” (published: 3/10/2020)
Four Poems by Justin Rovillos Monson
“When I Ask My Ex How It Was When I Left, She Tells Me “Like You Died but Were Still Alive” (published: 3/26/2020)
Reposted at PEN.org on April 20, 2020: https://pen.org/temperature-check-2
“Skin” by Jessica Rae Bergamino
“In the month before my grandmother died she woke herself at night screaming and repeating, Why did you leave me? Why did you leave me? Why did you leave? It had been thirty years since my grandfather died and five since my father disappeared, leaving my grandmother with a closet filled with arrest warrants in his name. I had left, too, first for college and then for California, looking for the promise of a queer future that San Francisco had once offered but that was already, even then, being pushed out by a tech bubble.” (published: 12/9/2019)
“Where to Find Him” by Annabel Graham
“Iris knows she is a family’s worst fear. She knows how her hair hangs lank, how the bones ripple in her sternum. She is all sinew, no meat. Jagged purple splinter of a scar snaking down her forehead, along the side of her nose, across her lips and down her chin. Eyes like two holes. Hands quick and small, sticky with something, always. She’s the reason people lock their car doors at intersections, the reason mothers look away: Iris and Jewel doped up slow and sludgy, moving like they’re underwater. Iris cradling Jewel’s matted head in her lap like something precious, bruised legs draped across the metal of the bus station bench.
It was Jewel who had shown her how to cook the drug on a piece of tinfoil, how to suck the curl of white smoke with the sawed-off end of a milkshake straw. One rule, he’d told her. Never shoot.” (published: 11/27/2019)
“Chicken Marsala and Meth” by June Sylvester Saraceno
“In addition to being a great cook, my sister is the mother of a son who struggled with addiction, a struggle he eventually lost. When I became aware my husband was an addict, a fact I had been blissfully oblivious to when we married, I turned to her. She consoled, listened, sent books, gave ideas, but pain—like love—pierces the heart’s core. There’s nothing to do but face it and let it rip you apart.” (published: 11/12/2019)
Two Flash Fictions by Andrea Passwater
“I think of the last time my daughters were my daughters. They were growing from my hip. My leg. My elbow. I was gurgling daughters—that’s how filled with song I was.
“Daughters!” I called to them, my mouth opened wide to keep their bodies unruffled. A new one started growing from my teeth. My jaw ached until it felt strange to have it closed.” (published: 10/30/2019)
“Ghosted” by Claire Sicherman
“When you stop talking to me it feels like my guts explode and hollow out. I feel empty, like a large dark endless pit that can’t be filled. Instead of feeling pain, I can’t feel anything. I am confused. I don’t understand. How is it possible for a person to cut another person off without an explanation? How is it possible to be friends with you for over thirty years and it all ends with a snap of your fingers?” (published: 10/8/2019)
“Gauri Kalyanam” by Kristen Sahaana Surya
“Her heartbeat is a history folded into a vessel. When she is born her mother counts three beats where two should sound: an arrhythmic omen embedded in a baby’s chest. She is born black, not brown, and on her first full moon she is offered the sweet-sounding titles of fair-skinned goddesses. (....)
She is sold to a man twelve years her senior.
She is sold with the promise of cash and a cow.
On the day of her wedding her heart beats twice.” (published: 8/14/2019)
“Sardines” by Joan Li
“In the past year, Hong has been free to rename herself Hong and get her nose pierced and cut her hair short and Jessica has been free to take a new job in a different state and Jenny has been free to text her exes. These deliberate changes encode something important to Hong, Jessica, and Jenny. Daniel, Dennis, and David respect this, but each worries that these choices deplete the reasons why he fell for her in the first place. None have gotten around to talking about this concern. Instead, they have asked their respective girlfriends whether they might ever leave him, and have been repeatedly reassured that that will not happen.” (published: 6/26/2019)
“Finding the World Within” by Hadiyyah Kuma
“No one will know about my family’s struggle with mental illness because no one will talk about it. Generations have lost this knowledge and now I have only my mother’s half-hearted attempts at storytelling to help me understand my own mind. A slim recount of my grandmother’s breakdown and other such stories. God forbid I repeat them here. It’s not the fault of my family, so I don’t say this with anger. Secrets are expectations passed down over silent years.” (published: 6/18/2019)
“World in a Box” by Justin Burnell
“On the other side of the room the dad and the lover watch a morning talk show. Maybe they have not noticed the boy is awake, but he does not turn to them. He wishes for a door or partition. He wishes for a moment that isn’t like this.
But the boy has the TV, and with the TV the boy is separate. The boy feels closest to himself with the TV. It teaches him how to tell stories about himself and other selves he might be.
We begin with cartoons. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live underground with their rat parent, who is not like them because he is a rat and they are turtles. They subsist on pizza and fast food, which makes them feral and moody. They argue and never make up, but they go on together because they are brothers.
The boy thinks he needs a brother who is like him.” (published: 4/24/2019)
“Infatuation” by Alexa Eve
“When the Infatuation eventually did take Mother, the girls didn’t notice until the sun set and she was still standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window in the direction of the lavender field cast in the shadow of the pines. She had been peeling carrots. Nina, being older, gently pried a soil-coated carrot from her left hand and a knife from the other. Mother’s eyes had seemed untouched by the weight taking her body. She looked at her eldest daughter and tears came freely, but she could not say anything as she felt the carrot leave her clenched hand and wondered if it was the last feeling she would ever feel again.” (published: 4/10/2019)
“Coyote on Holy Mesa” by Quintan Ana Wikswo
Excerpted from STRANGE ATTRACTORS: LIVES CHANGED BY CHANCE (University of Massachusetts Press, 2019)
“I have come to the desert in search of bones. Looking for bones, I walk the desert and feel watched—everything dead is waiting to be exhumed. I walk to the rise of smoke from over the holy mesa. There is an old man with a dirty adobe and a fire of juniper in his stove.
Why are you here, little girl? he says, although I am not little. I am huge and fierce and my hair is strung with bones, even down below.
I have come to the desert looking for bones, I say.
Whose bones? he asks.
The coyote’s bones, I say.” (published: 3/19/2019)
“Sisters” by Carolyn Kirby
“That summer in the workroom, when all the girls were learning to knit socks, Alice seemed to get away with just holding Cora’s wool. Together, Cora and Alice chanted the stitches out loud almost in one voice until their overseer Millie Leggatt, a girl of fifteen who could knit as fast as a loom, told Cora to shut her mouth.
The other girls, click-clacking with their steel needles, sneered but weren’t bold enough say anything. They were jealous because Cora and Alice had become as close as sisters. Cora patted Alice’s hand and smiled at her sweetly, ignoring the puzzled looks and the giggles. The others no longer mattered.” (published: 3/5/2019)
“The Language of What Happened to Us” by Eve Ettinger
“If I look more closely at the homeschooling community in which I grew up during my high school years, I see more of this: a high school friend who had never really touched herself until after she gave birth and was given a vibrator by her husband for an anniversary gift, who used it and then texted me: “I get it now.” A sister who was sexually assaulted by an older female neighbor, who didn’t know it was wrong because it was a girl who did it to her. A friend who was raped, who reported to her parents and to the police, but who was gaslit into signing an affidavit at the police station that she was making it up and seeking attention. A friend who was forced to drink Everclear by the pastor’s son and his friends, and who woke up the next day disheveled and in a house alone, and never questioned what happened until years later because she had blacked out, end of story. A friend whose brother assaulted her for years and used cruel torture techniques on her from books he read, who didn’t know what it was that had been happening to her until she learned more about sex when she started going to a public school rather than being homeschooled. Another friend who didn’t know she had been raped because she didn’t know what rape was, but knew enough to go to a doctor for an STI check, distraught that she had lost her virginity, and then was told she had been raped.” (published: 2/18/2019)
“Toil and Trouble” by Nicholas Russell
“In Helen Oyeyemi’s novel White Is for Witching, what comes back to haunt Miranda, the protagonist, is both a family history of mental illness and its exacerbation by grief. There are no witches in this story, only legacies and ghosts. “Please tell a story about a girl who gets away,” she says.” (published: 2/6/2019)
“Good Enough: Foraging for Answers with Mary Oliver” by Eve Ettinger
“I couldn’t stand to read the Bible anymore, but I could read poetry. I couldn’t pray without giving myself a migraine, but I could walk and mutter poems under my breath. I felt it was absolutely necessary to hear her in person, like a pilgrim feels about making oblation to the saint they have toiled to visit.” (published: 1/31/2019)
“Tiamat on the Treadmill” by Caitlin Dwyer
“The gym is a place where the body is primary. For these men, it offers a chance at glory. For me, as a young woman, this is a dangerous priority and so I consciously de-emphasize the public visibility of my body. I wear baggy shirts that fall past my butt. I do not make eye contact. I cocoon into my playlist and, like a child with no object permanence playing peek-a-boo, I pretend to disappear.” (published: 12/6/2018)
“Babysitter” by Susan Scott Peterson
“Katie was all youth and beauty. Tall. Blonde. Slender. Tan. No makeup. She wore her shoulder-length hair straight. Pink short-short athletic shorts announced the beginning of her smooth, golden legs, and white anklets and sneakers defined the end. The caricature of a coed.
By contrast, I was suddenly, unequivocally middle-aged. Pregnancy, childbirth, and the first year postpartum had been something of a liminal space. The drama and pace of the changes my body underwent was so dizzying there was no question it was temporary. I couldn’t inflate and deflate at that clip forever. My body would have to settle. And the arrival of this nubile young woman made it clear on which side of the maiden/ma’am fence I had landed.” (published: 11/8/2018)
“Compulsion” by Sarah Fawn Montgomery
Excerpted from QUITE MAD: AN AMERICAN PHARMA MEMOIR (Mad Creek Books, 2018).
“When you fill a glass with water, wait eleven seconds before holding your cup under the flow. This frees poison from the pipes. If you forget and time slips to twelve seconds or thirteen, wait until twenty-two seconds. If it happens again, thirty-three.
Set alarms for palindromes. Wake at 6:06, 6:56. Aim for the nearest hour or half hour: the right alarm is 6:26, never 6:36.” (published: 9/17/2018)
“Welcome to The Pink Peony, a Newsfeed for Women” by Tiffany Quay Tyson
“Dear Valued Subscribers,
The editorial board of this major mainstream news organization has recently been made aware that it doesn’t always represent women’s voices in a way that accurately reflects actual women. Ladies, we hear you. You can stop calling, emailing, and sending us your profanity-filled invectives.” (published: 8/2/2018)
“The Earth Revolves Around the Sun” by Vanessa Cuti
“When I opened the box at the party the whole room squealed and laughed, already four, six mimosas in. Show us, my fool of a future sister-in-law said from the couch, her legs crossed sloppily at the knees, exposing her floral cotton underwear, the whites of her thick thighs. I held it up and blushed. For our first time, I said. It will be so special. I smiled—a huge, fake disaster of a face—and felt my hot, round cheeks pressing my eyes closed. His mother was sitting right in front of me but I was drunk, just like the rest of them. Make a baby in it, someone yelled from the back, over by the omelet station. I could see only the top of a wavy brown head, a glass raised in celebration. From your mouth to God’s ears, I’d say now, considering. Thinking back on it, the outfit could have been a gag gift. What do I know about these things.” (published: 7/18/2018)
“The Abattoir” by Lisa Lee Herrick
“On Sunday, it’s announced at church that we are going to kill a pig. I’m five years old, and I have never thought to kill an animal before.” (published: 5/29/2018)
The Sketchbook Project 2019
THE PARTY’S OVER: PEOPLE I USED TO KNOW is now housed at the Brooklyn Art Library, New York.
The Sketchbook Project 2018
YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN ME COMING, now housed at the Brooklyn Art Library, New York.