TULA SINGER (Cuba)
The embassy called and approved our request to leave the country.
EDWIGE GHEMBESALU (United States)
They tell us to put our hands up. Then, they ask us why we moved. Sister, that is why they shoot.
ARI (United States)
In the jungles of Aklan stands a statue of a man I've never met.
MAISHA EUZEBE (Dominica)
My best friend and I always talk about how we're going to change the world.
KOBY CHEN (Canada)
When my mother and father had left for the West, they brought few things with them.
AILEEN BAK (Australia)
As a Haenyeo, a Korean sea-woman, her day was just beginning, even before the sun rose.
FIONA MADSEN (United States)
I am coming of age in a world that doesn’t make sense. I will turn eighteen quietly, without a party.
RUTH PORT (United Kingdom)
Green are the strands of the winner's laurel;
green is the step of his podium
TUNA SAGDAN (Turkey)
As a child, my relationship with my father was very straightforward.
ELIJAH LIU (Singapore)
Water waits and wastes away in wilted states. It waxes and wanes in winter weather . . .
Our global community of young writers endured generation-defining isolation, disruption, and loss this year. Their exuberant rush towards friends, dreams, and new places was upended—then suspended.
After a year of pandemic, these twelve narratives, poems, and reflections by young writers from ten countries across four continents show Gen Z arriving at what social scientists call a rare “liminal” moment (from the Latin “limen,” or threshold). A time of collective passage to rediscover their freedom of movement, personal engagement, and pursuit of dreams. They’re ready to open doors and step towards friends and opportunities again. These pieces portray how Gen Z adapts to chaos in three steps: acknowledge the uncertainty—search for identity in family roots—and solidify future plans with purpose.
Teren Lee (Malaysia) recognizes random outcomes in her poem “Destiny” saying, “If two beings collided a split second earlier, would the world be the same?” Eighteen-year-old Fiona Madsen (United States) broke her leg during the pandemic and writes, "I didn't realize how fragile life is before . . . I want to scream and shout at every child I see never to take anything for granted ever again . . . .Forget adventure, forget adolescence, and the dream college experience. I hope I turn nineteen surrounded by family."
Other writers echo the worth of finding personal identity in family stories. In “Memories that Never Happened,” Ari (United States) imagines carefree summer days with ancestors she’s never met from the jungles of the Philippines’ Alkan region. In “My Dad And I,” Tuna Sagdan (Turkey) unexpectedly discovers the love and levity of his father—only after crashing his tractor. “Veneer” by Koby Chen (Canada) probes the treasured authenticity of his Chinese heritage during the discomforting process of assimilating in his new country. And “The Floating Anchor” by Aileen Bak (Australia) recalls Korean sea-women ancestors, finding comfort in a mother’s strong arms and security in traditional orange life buoys.
Still other writers build upon this foundation of heritage to chart their vision for the future. They write of a racially just world where Black children live in safety and equality. An economy where short-term profits give way to long-term environmental protections—“ . . . we should live in harmony with the wind and the rain and the treetops too—green is where we made our home,” Ruth Port (United Kingdom) reminds us.
Our writers emerge from this pandemic year with resilience and resolve. In “My Best Friend Wants to Change the World,” Maisha Euzebe (Dominica) strategizes, "So I put a pencil to a paper and I wrote everything out. Plans to make the world accept us for who we are. Because this is our world too and no one gets to tell us how to live."
Finally, in “Buena Vista Social Club,” a multicultural travelogue on helter-skelter pandemic days, Tula Singer (Cuba) relates her Mami’s optimistic words, perfect for Gen Z writers standing at the threshold: “Today was a good day. Today the sky is blue and free of clouds."
Story by story, these young writers show us how Gen Z is preparing to reenter and repair the world. I, for one, am reassured.
- David Weinstein, Founder, Write the World LLC