Joanell Serra

On an island of white privilege at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, I raised a boy of color. He was neither studious, sports-driven, or a morning person. I saw the teachers subtly steer him towards the one other child of color in the classroom, a girl obsessed with horses who had nothing but color in common with him. Or they placed him near the front of the class, to keep an eye, as if he might self- combust. He never had a male teacher of color, in ten years at the public school. And when the boys all pulled a prank and ran, he was the only one the teachers could “recognize.” Those white boys must all look alike? I would wink to him as I left the classroom, his Harry Potter lunch box tucked into the cubby, name on the list to bring enchiladas on cultural day. He usually turned away, smoothing down the hem of his Guatemalan soccer shirt.

In a high school where girls shared kale and blueberry smoothies while taking selfies in thongs in the locker room, I dropped my daughter every day for four years. Her shoulders squared off, she would march in as if to battle, wrapping her self-esteem around herself like a cloak. Home again at four, cloak tattered, we would sew it back together over tea, eating cookies and debating the merits of new wave feminism.

Around noon, the fog burns off and the sun pulls me out of my kitchen, like a sexy friend. I brave downtown. At the café, women debate the merits of Matte tea before or after a sweat-it-out yoga class. A man takes his work call at the counter, says loudly, sounding magnanimous, “No problem, there’s no-one here. What’s up?” I stand before him for a moment, waiting to see if he can see me, if I take any space in this room. But he carries on, staring through my chest. I carry my donut and full-fat latte to a table in the back, raise the hood on my sweatshirt, and place my laptop in front of me. A fortress of sorts.

Coffee slipping into my capillaries, I begin. I smith my words, craft my stories, and throw them into a cyber abyss, hoping for a hit. Praying for connection. On a good day, a message comes in from an adoptive mother in Poland, an acceptance pops up from a lit magazine in Maine, a reader in Boca asks for more of my stories. Somewhere, someone gets me. My words reach from my heart to theirs, like a song on the universal radio, and we dance.

This is why I write.



When the task of writing grows inevitably arduous—and seemingly thankless—we must remember why we started. Inspired by George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Why I Write,” this introspective project highlights our motives for writing. Share your story and join the conversation. Live events are produced throughout the diverse cities of Orange County and feature author readings from curated essay submissions.

  1. Write a 500-word essay explaining why you write.
  2. Submit via Submittable.

The 1888 Podcast Network is a curated collection of educational and entertaining podcasts. Each program is designed to provide a unique platform for industry innovators to share stories about art, literature, music, history, science, or technology.