Letter From the Editor: Community

Letter From the Editor: Community

Kate Jane Villanueva
Media Staff

It is my firm belief that all writing is, at its core, about community. Anything worth writing about will find its most powerful moments centered around the people who care for us and the ways we care for them in return. This could take the form of blood family, childhood friends, neighborhood book clubs, mutual aid organizations, online fan communities or even an underground circuit of knitting enthusiasts. Whether united by common interest, physical proximity or merely our shared humanity, we create shared language, shared culture, inside jokes, all in an effort to understand each other and ourselves with the kindness and consideration we all deserve. 

The other Iris staff members and I picked the topic of community for our last issue of the semester over a month ago, and our writers have been working diligently on their drafts for a little over two weeks. However, I must acknowledge that as I am writing this letter, it has been less than a week since three members of our UVA community were taken by a horrific act of violence. I believe I speak for the entire Iris staff when I say this has been a hard week for everyone, but we stand together in support of our school, particularly the victims and their families. I don’t pretend to understand how best to move forward from such an incident, and I don’t claim that this magazine holds any substantive solution for the problems we face in the aftermath. All I can hope is that this collection of articles may provide comfort, a sense of connection, or even just a distraction for those who feel they need it. If you are hurting as so many of us are, just know we are working through this with you, together. 

UVA Strong

Growing up sometimes means growing out of one community, and into another, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to let go of old connections. Kiki McLaughlin’s poem, “Homecoming,” examines the complicated, interwoven emotions that surface when revisiting former homes. While some may travel to places familiar, others travel across oceans to, against all odds, find their people, connected by the memories and oddities of childhood. In “When Mary Threw Me a Tea Party,” Hailey Robbins reflects on her time spent in Edinburgh, Scotland -– the people she met, and the peculiar imaginary friend they all seemed to have shared at a young age. In another explosion of shared joy, Bailey Middleton captures the exhilarating swirl—glitter and all—of marching in her first Pride Parade, in the aptly titled “My First Pride.” 

Committing to community sometimes means defending it against misunderstandings and oversimplifications. In her open letter, “Stop Asking Me What I’m Going To Do With My WGS Major,” Eryn Rhodes flexes her Women, Gender Sexuality Studies muscles in a witty takedown of those who willfully underestimate the program’s strength and value. Cheyenne Butler also seeks to understand the nuances of gender roles, in particular the ways they influence heteronormative relationships, in “Will The Bar Always Be in Hell?” Why is it that women in these relationships are held to such a higher standard than their male partners? What effect do these expectations have on both men and women? 

Communal identities shape personal identity in deeply profound and often difficult ways. Miriella Jiffar grapples with the complex intersecting histories that connect her to her family's past in “The Indelible and Invisible,” a poem engulfed in history itself. Wendy Gao’s poem, “Self-Portrait,” traces intersecting lines of race and body image, threading them into an artful display of self-perception. As we struggle to find our own identities within inherited communities, we often face heavy expectations, and strained relationships with those closest to us. In “My Mother, Her Daughter,” Jasmine Wang delicately untangles her complicated relationship with both herself and her family environment. From childhood to adulthood, these bonds we form with each other build and expand to help us grow into the people we hope to become. 

It has been a difficult week for the UVA community. I hope you are leaning on the bonds of your communities when necessary, and that you are being gentle with yourself. Sincerely, thank you—now more than ever—for giving your time and consideration to Iris.