The moment I saw the photograph of the young girl in Ama Codjoe’s essay “An Aspect of Freedom” [January 2023], I thought of the unforgettable Vietnam-era image of the girl who had been napalmed and was running, naked and screaming, down the road. I compared the two photos and was struck by the similarities in the poses: both girls face the camera head-on with their arms outstretched, both fully embody their pain and rage, and both are far too young to have been exposed to such horrors. My heart broke over the injustice of their situations.
Allegra Hyde’s short story “Frights” [January 2023] is beautifully written and a refreshing change of pace for The Sun.
I was so happy to see a reprint of Brian Doyle’s 2013 essay “Mister Kim” in the January 2023 Dog-Eared Page. When I first read it in The Sun ten years ago, I sent a letter to the editor. I received an email from Doyle thanking me for my kind words. Thus began a friendship that lasted until his passing. I had given up on the idea of ever having my writing selected for The Sun’s Readers Write section, but thanks to Doyle’s encouragement I now have a few such publications. I just spent the last hour reviewing my cherished correspondence with him. Thank you for the reminder.
Madelaine Helga Zadik’s Readers Write piece [“Anniversaries,” January 2023] caught my eye, because I seldom see another person spell Madelaine the same way I do. Her story, about her aunt Helga and her mother, who were World War II resistance fighters, had me in tears. Zadik wrote that her mother kept the secrets of their fighting sequestered in her memories. I am certain she was not alone in doing this.
My father was a radioman in the U.S. Army during World War II. I’ve spent hours sifting through his Army trunk, looking at photos, snatches of song lyrics, and letters written between him and the women he met while stationed in northern Italy. I’ve long contemplated writing a book about the resistance-fighter women, even thinking I could search for the one my father fell for.
I am grateful for Zadik’s story, which has been a catalyst for me to re-commit to my writing project.
I have a unique relationship with The Sun: I was born in January 1974, the same month and year that the first issue of the magazine was published. In January 2004 the Readers Write section on “Turning Thirty” arrived in my mailbox just days before my thirtieth birthday. I had lost my mother only a few months before, and that issue was a great comfort to me. Then, in June 2005, as I helped my father clean out his house and downsize as a widower, the Readers Write topic was “Possessions.”
In February 2012 I went to a reading The Sun held at a cafe near my home. I had a newborn at home, and it was a cold Chicago night, but I wasn’t missing it. I met Sy Safransky and told him I was the same age as The Sun. He replied, “You look good for your age.”
So, when your January 2023 issue arrived with the headline “Our 50th Year of Publication,” I was once again struck by the very personal anniversaries The Sun always reminds me of. I had not considered that turning forty-nine indeed marked the start of my fiftieth year of existence. Congratulations to The Sun, Sy, and everyone involved for bringing so many people such a special view of humanity for almost fifty years. I suppose now would be a good time to consider a lifetime subscription, since clearly this is a long-term relationship. And may we both continue to look good for our age!
Many of the essays and short stories in The Sun are set in big cities, so I was delighted to read JoDean Nicolette’s essay “Angel’s Breath” [December 2022], which takes place in the Montana mountains and shows the relationship between the author and her horse.
Nicolette’s explanation of becoming “joined” with Angel reminded me of my daughter’s quarter horse, Peaches, who seems to intuit what my daughter is thinking from just the smallest knee movement. And the author’s descriptions of “vanilla-scented Ponderosas, underneath the big sky” made me feel like I was riding along with her.
JoDean Nicolette’s reluctance to acknowledge her asthma resonated with me. I am a registered nurse and teach patients every day about the importance of taking their medications. I was diagnosed with mild, intermittent asthma as a young adult and rarely needed albuterol. This fall, when I developed a postviral cough that didn’t resolve after six weeks, I reluctantly asked my doctor for an inhaled corticosteroid. I picked it up from the pharmacy but waited three days to start using it, hoping my cough would resolve on its own and in denial about my asthma. I don’t like taking medication because of the potential side effects, but the deeper reason is that I don’t like admitting there is something wrong with me.
I connected with your November 2022 issue, which shows how institutional and personal systems of care can break hearts and distort democracies. This speaks to me in my role as a caregiver to a beloved brother who despises — but now entirely relies upon — the social safety net after a debilitating health crisis, and in my role as a philanthropy professional working to repair a charitable system that too often extracts from the communities it seeks to serve. I know it’s a kind of personal-validation fallacy to think this way, but each issue of The Sun seems made just for me.
I have a big, old lab mix who has annoyed me his whole life. Three other families had returned him, but I couldn’t do that to him. Fortunately K.T. Landon’s poem “Devotion” [September 2022] about her dog has helped me appreciate mine. I did grudge the “tedium of his needs,” as Landon writes. But now I see his adoration and realize I still have time to return his love. I am grateful to Landon for capturing the beauty that exists in every being.
The stories in your October 2021 Readers Write on “Sisters” made me grateful for my own sisters. The piece by B.G., about what it was like growing up with an older sister for protection and guidance, was especially touching.
At the moment, my sisters and I are living on three different continents: Europe, Africa, and Australia. Being apart is never easy, but we have had a lot of practice. When we were young, we attended different boarding schools. And in those years there was no Internet or cell phones to ease communication. We missed each other dearly.
When we were home together, we were best friends, but when it came time to go back to our respective schools, we would, for no reason at all, get furious with one another. We didn’t know how to deal with our sadness, so we used anger. Years later we finally understood our behavior, and we have built stronger relationships with each other since.
I was sent to fight in Vietnam when I was seventeen, and from that moment on I felt the world was insane. I couldn’t make sense of things. College didn’t clear away the fog, and society seemed like a never-ending puppet show.
In the late seventies or early eighties my mom gave me a subscription to The Sun. I read each issue cover to cover, and I have been a subscriber ever since. One time, while looking through an issue, I had a thought: Where are the puppet-phonies in this magazine? What I saw was not the manipulated, artificially constructed presentations I had come to expect everywhere. There was no advertising or fake, pasted-on smiles. The Sun was about real people, and it helped me navigate my way out of hell.