Announcing The Muslim Protagonist 2015: Art as Protest

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McNally Jackson will sell books for signings on Feb. 28th.

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The Muslim Protagonist is an annual literary symposium of Muslim and minority writers, artists, and thinkers at Columbia University, hosted by the Columbia Muslim Students Association (MSA) and opened to participants of all backgrounds, ages, faiths, and cultures as a means of facilitating dialogue, networking, and inspirational as well as practical tools for pursuing “literature as an agent of social, intellectual, and spiritual change.” The event is not an event exclusively for Muslims, “minorities,” or Columbia students/faculty — everyone is welcome.

In 2012, in order to address the growing need for a Muslim voice in the great sea of American literature, the Columbia Muslim Students Association invited renowned novelists, playwrights, journalists and academics from across the world to Columbia University for a weekend filled with inspiration and wisdom. The symposium, a series of talks, panels, and workshops held during the weekend of November 10th, attracted over 300 attendees from universities and communities across the northeast. Focusing on literature and art as agents of social change, the event shed light on the importance of the Muslim protagonist in a post-9/11 America, and gave prominent Muslim and non-Muslim writers of this generation the opportunity to discuss their shared experiences within an emerging American-Muslim literary community. The symposium has since expanded into a three-day event consisting of an open mic and speaker performances, a main day of panels and talks, and workshops and seminars taught by esteemed speakers. The Muslim Protagonist has received coverage from The Huffington Post to Pakistan’s Express Tribune and has been lauded by speakers and attendees as “groundbreaking.” 2014’s Media Kit provides more information.

In its third year, The Muslim Protagonist will build on the previous years’ remarkable successes and delve deeper into the issue of marginalized narratives in and outside of Muslim communities in a unique and thoughtful way, bringing together writers from diverse communities in America. This year’s theme, “Art as Protest,” will feature discussions surrounding art and literature as agents of socio-political, intellectual, and spiritual change. We will be examining questions such as: What does it mean to produce and interpret non-canonical literature? What does it mean to be a subject, a citizen, a community member, an artist, and a protagonist? What roles do literary and artistic works play in the charged political climate dominating our world today? What role have they played historically for Muslims in and outside of modern America, and what lessons if any do they provide us with today? What is at stake in producing work that disrupts dominant narratives?

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The War Correspondent

As the plane rumbled forward, Noorain looked out the tiny pod-like window and thought the sky looked different today.  It had none of the uniformity that she had captured in so many of her photos and its permanent fixtures (the distinctly round, bright yellow sun and the fluffy cotton candy clouds) had all disappeared. If she were to photograph this sky, they would call it a Modernist picture that flagrantly disregarded the boundaries that had once been so important. The clouds were mere memories, smoky wisps scattered across the bright horizon, and the canvass itself was a mélange of pastel colors that bled indiscriminately into one another. The blue began before the lilac had ended and joined the orange in the very same moment. The pink wove in and out of bits of cloud and the last rays of sunlight danced so passionately with the indigo that just looking at this spectacle you would not know whether the sun meant to rise or set. There was a restlessness about the clouds today and their wispy white spread across the canvas so freely that it seemed they intended to meld the sunlight with the fog so that they may escape in the confusion of it all.  It was impossible, after all, to slip out unnoticed in an ordered setting, but disorder; the merging of everything and the blurring of all boundaries? Disorder held promise; chaos bred freedom. And that was what today’s sky was: chaos. Had the sun set obediently behind the hills without a word of protest and the clouds sat still like cotton wads as they did in all the paintings she saw at the Museum, she would never have believed letting go was a choice but this sky, this colorful, chaotic mess gave her back the hope she thought she had lost exactly one month and six days ago when they had told her Ahmad had been shot.

Soon the plane would rise above the clouds and the familiar sky would be gone. It made her nervous to think how she would spend the next few hours without the view to distract her. She had flown to foreign countries on her assignments more times than she could remember but she could not remember the last time she had flown without Ahmad in the next seat. She did not know how to keep her mind from wandering to the easy laugh he laughed as he told her funny stories—the kind of stories they both needed to distract them from the horrible realities they encountered everywhere they went. Soon she would need Ahmad to come back and distract her from her dark thoughts.

Ahmad was one of those people who have a natural flair for telling stories. He could be describing the most mundane thing and it would seem interesting. In college, he had covered a story about the dining hall with so much wit and energy that the entire campus seemed to be posting about it on Facebook. Noorain had known Ahmad since her freshman year when she signed up as a photographer for the news section of their college paper. Eventually, they had realized they always wanted to cover the same stories (the tragic public safety car accident outside Brown Hall, the student protests for worker’s rights, the candlelight vigil for Joseph Hamilton) and began to work as a team: he would write the stories and she would take the photos that captured the moment. When he graduated, he began work as a war correspondent for a leading news agency and a year later, she did the same and they spent the next two years working as a team again. Their anti-war protests and writings in college had turned into a desire to work to unmask its horrors in adulthood. Their youthful capacity for hope was still alive and it guaranteed that even in the toughest times, they had faith in their work. They were passionate about the stories they covered, confident that documenting violence would mean that one day people would not fund it or support it.

Noorain had not been on the Afghanistan assignment during which Ahmad was shot. She was at the office working on safe civilian territory where the ground would not explode any second when a colleague told her about the news. Her first reaction was disbelief, her second was to ask for more details—it did not even occur to her in those first few seconds that he might not have survived the attack. After all, both of them had been injured before, it was just something you expected when you worked in active war zones but neither of them had suffered any permanent damage from their injuries.

Even when she had been shot in her right leg five months ago, she had been able to recover in a month- physically, at least. She could never forget the carnage in the photos she took on that assignment, the flames and all the bodies, the look of desperation on the nameless strangers’ faces. She could still smell the strange smell of gunpowder mingled with sweat. She had been framing a shot when she suddenly found herself caught in a firefight. The cloud of bullets had been so fast that she could not tell which one came from which side. Screaming and smoke had permeated the air; Noorain had turned to confirm that Ahmad was a safe distance away just as she felt a searing pain in her thigh. She had woken up on the crisp, white linen of a hospital bed and frantically looked around, only seeing the bloody fields of Najaf, wondering if the racing civilians had managed to escape the firing. She would wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes, drenched in her own sweat and only calm herself by taking deep breaths as her doctor had suggested. She had not been well enough to go on another assignment and Ahmad had gone to Afghanistan alone. She wished she could have been there now, could have done something to save him.

Afterwards, she began to doubt their work. With the image of Ahmad wrapped in the white kahaf that covered his bullet wounds and the sound of the takbir reverberating through the halls of the mosque at his funeral fresh in her mind, she could not muster any faith in the work they had chosen. Was there really any purpose behind what she did? The fighters, the paramedics, they did all the work; she only took photographs like some cheap spectator. She knew in her heart that this assessment was not true but she did not know how to believe it. An image flashed in her mind, then; it was the one they had run on the front page of the paper once. She closed her eyes and saw the toddler with curly brown hair and muddy green eyes who stood dangerously close to a scorching fire, clinging to his mother’s bloodied body as his father tried to pull him to safety. She remembered the anti-war protests her photograph had inspired. She thought of what Ahmad had said about it: that the politicians needed to see the photographs to realize the reality of what they were doing, that those of us living in peace needed to see humanity’s ugliest face too but she did not know how to believe his words when the spirit behind them had driven him so close to danger that it had murdered him. Now, the media used his story as an example of the violence that plagued the world and she could not help but feel angry at them. They all talked about his “kind spirit,” his perseverance, his bravery- all true things- but none of them talked about him: about the fact that he loved Milky Bar buttons or knew all of The Lion King by heart—those were things news journalists like her,were supposed to dismiss as irrelevant to the story. Noorain wondered if her photo of the Kurdish girl crying amid the wreck of the car bomb that had killed the girl’s brother had somehow betrayed her. She thought about how she had not even tried to talk to the girl- there had been no time in the chaos- and wondered if she should have. She wondered too why she had not cried once after hearing that her best friend was dead and if she was fighting against her feelings.

“Are you alright?” a tentative voice interrupted her thoughts and Noorain realized something on her face must have betrayed her thoughts. Noorain tried to nod and straighten her expression, clutching her black camera tightly, hoping it would give her some comfort but as she turned to look at her neighbor, it became too painfully real that Ahmad would never sit next to her on a flight again, never work with her. The woman looked at her with a serious, concerned expression, her watery blue eyes crinkling and her messily painted wrinkling mouth opening as if she were debating to say something more. She asked Noorain about her camera in an obvious (and well-meaning) effort to distract her, adding that her son wanted to be a photographer with pride glowing in her voice. Noorain managed to collect herself again and tell her she worked as a photojournalist. The woman’s eyes lit up with recognition at that and she remarked carelessly,

“You’ve chosen a dangerous job. I was just reading about a journalist who was accidentally killed in a military shooting in Afghanistan-”

Noorain never heard what she said next because it was in that moment that she felt it all, reality hit her like a torrential gust of wind she could no longer seek shelter from and, for the first time, she felt that Ahmad had really died—even complete strangers knew that. Her best friend had passed away, his funeral prayers had been offered, the world was still on fire and she was here on a plane to El-Arish in Egypt from where she would go to Gaza. Hot tears seared their way down her cheeks for the first time in months and she was unable to stop them- she wasn’t sure she even wanted to. She was oblivious to both the stricken woman next to her who wondered if she had said something wrong and the flight attendant who tried to calm Noorain with soothing words Noorain did not hear. The plastic cups on the flight attendant’s abandoned trolley rattled with the motion of the plane and the passengers stared at the young woman in 16C who could not stop crying.

The War Correspondent was written by Sauleha Kamal.

Trial… By Separation

“Devotion is the root of all good work. You do not achieve anything without effort.” — Ali Farka Toure (lyrics from The Source)

His name was Joctan.

He was to become a man on trial. He carried many identities: husband, father, Pakistani-American. Muslim. Her name was Feriyal. She had given up everything for him.

Everything had been just fine for years. But then Joctan and Feriyal moved to New Jersey.

There was a stiff tension in the car. He pulled the white Honda Accord into the driveway, having finished up a nearly three hour trip. As the doors flew open one might sense the feeling of discomfort oozing outward, or was it just in his mind?

They had just returned from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, dropping off Feriyal’s mother who had just finished up a two-month visit at their Cherry Hill home. Joctan followed Feriyal into the house as their teenage son tagged behind. It was a late summer afternoon, bright and sunny still.

Feriyal turned around and announced, “Let’s go for a walk.”

“Now? We just got back. What about Raza?”

Feriyal responded, “Let’s drop him off at Janet’s – he can hang out with Samuel.”

The couple often went for walks around the neighborhood, which was their earnest effort to spend additional time together, discussing the day, or the in-laws, or a multitude of other topics which has been a signature trait of their relationship.

They stepped back outside without spending any time in the house, and dropped off Raza at the next door neighbors.

As they began their walk and Feriyal spoke, a cool October breeze blew strands of her long auburn hair across her light olive face. Their usual walking pace was a swift calorie-burning affair, yet today it was very decidedly different. Their steps were slower, more deliberate and cautious as they began to listen to one another.

They had just argued in the car not an hour earlier. The reason for which neither could adequately remember.

After some awkward small talk, Feriyal gestured towards the dark green park bench in the neighborhood park, “Let’s sit down.”

The cool breeze had turned the hard bench into a frigid seat, and Joctan could not help but rocking to keep himself warm. As he crossed his arms to keep out the breeze, Feriyal began speaking about what she had been holding in for the past few minutes.

The October sky was a deep and endearing blue, yet grey clouds were approaching from the far west.

She began, “I have to tell you something, but you have to let me finish, and then you can have your turn. I know you have a tendency to interrupt or wander but please I need you to listen to me very carefully this time more than ever before. Joctan – you know that I love you. You’re a good person. You’re a good father. You have good intentions. And I do love you. But…”

She sighed.

“I can’t keep living the way we’ve been living these past few years, and I know that I finally need to put ME first. I need to know that you love me, but I’m just not convinced that you do.”

His raised eyebrows evolved into a smirk, of astonishment.

She continued, “…You see Joctan – what’s extremely important is that you support me, and all of my needs – be they emotional, financial, physical or spiritual. And… if you simply can’t believe that what I say to you is true without needing to check for yourself, or if you simply can not even validate me, then I just can’t…”

His rocking motion to keep out the cold had slowed and now his leg bobbed swiftly up and down with apprehension and nervousness, awaiting her next words. This was getting quite dramatic, yet he listened fastidiously to each of her sentences, but began to lose track as she began to speak more quickly.

As she spoke, her words now fell out rapidly at times like gun-fire, then at times with sincere compassion, as if her words were petals falling off a flower at the end of a hot summer. After several more minutes of her mostly hurried stacato talk, he continued in his mind to process each statement made, whether fact of belief, each insinuation or accusation and each expression of endearment.

Hers were indeed a heart-felt and emotional cascade of words – yet in his mind he was immediately attempting to place each bit of information into logical quadrants such that he would then be able to appropriately respond to each and every statement she made. He had assumed that logic should dictate a rational true/false response to each of her statements, along with an appropriate defense, if needed, and an offense where required. That is how he had conceived of how one should make an argument, or participate in one. He had assumed that is the way all others did so as well.

But is love logical? He failed to ask himself that.

As she continued to speak, Joctan found himself becoming distracted and uncomfortable. He wondered to himself, “What DID those relationship books say?” He had read quite a few of those texts by this time into their marriage. He then briefly recalled having purchased more than

five books on relationships after they’d gotten married, all within the first twelve months of their marriage. These were books with titles like, “The Seven Basic Quarrels of Marriage.” He had by now already understood that she was indeed from Venus while he hailed from the red planet, figuratively.

What he didn’t understand, nor perhaps convey, much to her chagrin, was empathy. Rather he chose to picture the events others described to him in visual terms in order to process and then reply with some comment or prescription, this as opposed to conveying sentiments to the like of “oh, that’s too bad” or “I know how you feel” or “I’m here for you” or best yet “I affirm you.” After all, such empathic statements are not really necessary are they? These are simply wasted words if they are simply stated rotely. His wife, above all individuals, must know that he cares for her and deeply loves her, most assuredly, without any need for such statements. Or does she…

Feriyal was still speaking. It had been nearly twenty minutes. By this time several tears had formed in her soft brown eyes, a few having fallen onto her pale blue argyle sweater. She sighed. She inhaled a deep breath as another salty tear dripped onto her dry lips. She exhaled.

“I want us to have a trial separation. I’m going to live here in town – you don’t need to since you have no ties her like I do. I want to keep Raza with me. I know that you can move on – you can meet someone else – get married again if you want to – have kids – but not me – I can’t. I just won’t have kids – I know it. Again I’m probably never going to get married again – so I need to have my son with me.”

Joctan had expressed absolutely no emotion until this moment. Only at this specific moment, after these few words expressed by Feriyal did his own tears begin to flow with the realization that the woman seated next to him had unilaterally decided that he would not be a crucial part of her life any longer – and more distressingly to him perhaps – was the recognition that his son would be given up by him with her suggestion of his ability to pursue another new family of his own. Logic had faded. Feelings were finally expressed – but not through words. Instead his heart pounded ever more swiftly as his eyes welled up with tears.

Six years earlier, Joctan had lost a well regarded and very well paid investment banking job at one of the world’s largest global banks. He had worked there for the previous twelve years, having been recruited on the campus of a prestigious global business school. The layoff came as a bit of a surprise, especially after having received several promotions and traveling extensively for his employer on the corporate dime, to London, Mexico, the Middle East and throughout the US for business deals. He had even managed to survive and thrive through several bank mergers, 9/11, the usual bouts of market turmoil, and multiple relocations for work or family.

After the corporate severance, a more polite way of referring to a layoff, life become progressively more difficult than it had ever been before for the family. Joctan had never before been ‘laid off’ nor ‘fired” ‘let go’ or anything of the sort.

Trial… By Separation was written by Adnan Shamsi.

Submission

That first day we spoke over coffee after Friday prayers, you confessed you had never held a turbah before. I carried it with me in a small velvet bag which also contained my prayer beads. My mother had given me these things before I left for college, I explained, handing the stone to you across the table with only the slightest hesitation. I wasn’t sure if you registered that flash of reluctance, and if you did, whether you attributed it to my shyness with a boy, or my mistrust of a Sunni. Even if you had asked about it, I couldn’t have told you which it was anyway.

I watched your face as you turned the turbah around in your hand, tracing the engraving with your thumb. I wondered if you would begin to interrogate me. This had been my limited experience so far with any non-Shias. You only smiled and said it was beautiful, like a work of art. I still remember the way the smile reached your eyes, and the way my heart believed you meant it.

It was no coincidence you mentioned art that day. This was something we shared, as we’d first met the week before in Art History class. I don’t think you knew I was Muslim then, I hadn’t known you were. It made me happy to discover this. I found it strange that I was shy with you when had never been shy before. I grew up in a small town where my brother and I were the only Muslims in school, and I had plenty of friends, both girls and boys.

At your suggestion, we rode the bus together to the museum for our first assignment. We sat side-by-side, your head leaned back listening to music, my head leaned forward reading a novel. Not touching, yet I could feel the way your body expanded and contracted with each breath. By the end of the drive, my breathing matched yours.

Inside the museum, we wandered through galleries, pointing out what caught our eyes. We studied the intricate stone Buddhas, the color of their mud matching my earthen turbah. I worried this would be your moment to educate me about “idolatry,” that you would reveal some secret prejudice. Instead you said you wondered how Buddhists felt about their sacred works in this secular place, if they were upset to see their belief reduced to their aesthetics. Like women, I said. And you raised your eyebrows. Women are always being reduced to their aesthetics, and judged by it, I pointed out. You smiled, biting your lip, and said, lucky you for being so pretty then.

God help me, I think we both blushed, we were so innocent. It was not the first time I’d been called pretty, but it was the first time I wanted a boy to think so. It felt like a weakness to want this, and I did not mind it. Maybe because I believed it was not all you saw in me.

When we left the museum, we made plans to come back for the upcoming showcase of night sky photographs from around the world. It felt very grown-up, out with a boy I liked, making plans to see a museum exhibit unprompted by a class.

I woke the next morning to find an email had gone out to the entire Muslim student association, banning turbahs during prayer, so as not to divide the congregation. Reading it, I felt a vise on my heart like someone I had only just begun to trust had reached a violent hand inside my chest. I was not the only Shia on campus, but I was one of a small few. I called you to tell you how I felt about this. You listened and said you didn’t like to hear I’d been made to feel bad.

I didn’t see you again until Friday prayers—homework for these college courses was getting the best of both of us. I’d gotten used to looking forward to seeing you at Jummah, and the way we talked for hours at the cafe afterward. What I remember now about those days: how you rested your chin in your hand while you listened to me, your fingers rubbing your lips. The patches of hair you missed when shaving, and the creases in your shirt which hadn’t been fully ironed. The way your lanky body unfolded itself when you got out of a chair. We only met in public so these details passed for intimacy. You were comfortably familiar and excitingly unknowable.

This day, you’d invited some of your friends to come out for coffee with us. I didn’t mind, meeting your other Muslim friends. These three guys and two girls had known you since high school, though, and it was quickly clear I was the odd one out. One of the girls was beautiful, and I hated myself for feeling the pinch of insecurity sitting next to her. She laughed too quickly at your jokes, and I couldn’t help but notice this, too.

That weekend I got a text from you asking if I wanted to go out to the movies with the group. It was last minute, and I’d made other plans. Despite this, I considered canceling to go with you. But I didn’t. I felt excluded even though you were trying to include me. Later, I saw pictures of your day online, and I fell down the dark rabbit hole of looking at photos of that girl. Her pictures were artful, ever conscious of the aesthetics, even when they were just of her hand in her car holding her morning cup of coffee—the gold of her bracelets gleaming, her slim fingers adorned with rings, the emblem of her luxury car visible on her steering wheel.

She made being worthy look like a matter of acquiring the right things. And there was something appealing about working hard to look good, because it was something to do to avoid the real work. Like you could busy yourself with those adornments to push back the ugly feelings. And we were all so easily seduced by beauty. What were we doing in those galleries if not looking for beauty?

When you and I spoke next, you asked if I was upset about something. I was tired/confused/lonely, and told you I was just feeling down. You said that you didn’t like to hear that I was sad. And I asked you: what upset you the most, that I was sad, or that you had to hear about it? It wasn’t a fair fight, and I’m pretty sure you didn’t deserve it.

You came over, uninvited, and sat beside me on my dorm room floor. In between breaths where I kept my sobs in, I said, in Pakistan, where my cousins live, where my aunts, my uncles, my Nani and Nana live, Shias are being murdered. Accused of being non-Muslim. Unbelievers. Apostates. Those that try to protect them are being killed. I have to speak up, I said. I have to say something at least here, on this small matter, where I can.

You sat listening, saying nothing, just sitting on the ground beside me nodding your head in agreement, not calling me crazy or emotional or melodramatic. And I loved you for it.

We went to the night sky exhibit and marveled at the beauty of this world. Thousands of stars seen in places where there was no ambient light. God’s complex universe was kept hidden beyond the man-made glare, there for anyone who left behind the worldly chaos and sought it in the deserts and fields, the mountains and forests. It was all around us, right this moment, even as we gazed at representations and approximations of it on the museum walls.

That night, I kneeled on my prayer rug, the cool stone beneath my forehead, the last words on my lips, subhanallah, subhanallah, subhanallah.

Zareen Jaffery is a writer and editor who lives in New York City.

Forgetting

At least Rover kept her company. Khadija walked beside her dog on the trail by her neighborhood in Long Island. The black Labrador didn’t have experiments to run, concerts to perform, or long nights spent obsessing over patients. All Rover had was an outside doghouse and these evening walks with Khadija.

After he returned from his trip to Seattle, Khadija’s husband Qadeer had been spending many more nights in the lab. It wasn’t the first time he’d broken his promise to limit himself to two nights a week in the city. He seemed incredibly excited, but he would not share news on his latest projects with Khadija. All she knew was what everyone else knew: he was a leader in the emerging field of synthetic neoangiogenesis, or synthetic blood vessel creation. His goal was to create blood vessels out of molecular materials to treat cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The nights he did come home, dinner played out poorly. Khadija remembered last night’s dinner while she picked up speed along the winding gravel path, twisting through fragrant pines that filtered out the noise of the Long Island Expressway. She had just passed the two-mile mark.

“How was your day?” he asked.

“It was okay, the usual,” she said. Her mind was as saturated as a sponge from the needs of her patients and the business of her private practice.

“Yeah? Sounds good. Lab was good today – making gains,” Qadeer said, in between bites of the chicken ravioli cooked by their maid.

“I’m glad, Qadeer,” Khadija said. He looked tired to Khadija – the skin sagging under his eyes, the honey missing from his voice.

His cell phone rang, and he answered it.  He filled his mouth with the last two ravioli squares while he listened.

“Okay, yes, right. Let’s try modifying the hard stop sequence tomorrow. I think we’re close. Thanks, Alexandra. See you. Bye,” he said. He hung up, left his place at the table, and went to the study. Steam still rose from the green tea Khadija wanted to drink with him.

“Have tea with me, Betty?” she asked the housekeeper.

Betty sympathized. She had raised three boys and her husband had been a captain in the NYPD. She too, knew what it was like to be left alone at the dinner table while men chased ideas, projects, or money. She worked for her neighbors, the Rahmans, because she was desperately tired of being an empty nester. Khadija’s company alone was worth more to her than the pay.

 

“Sure, darling,” Betty said, “The doctor sure does look busy, but that’s no reason for him to leave his beautiful wife alone with her tea, is it?”

“Oh Betty,” Khadija managed, “you are too kind.”

Khadija and Betty talked until Betty left at nine PM. They washed the dishes together and shared dessert – Betty had made flan like she used to for her own sons.  Khadija fell asleep around ten, her mind buzzing with goals for the next day – patients who were about to deliver, patients seeking advice regarding contraception, patients with fibroids, patients with cancer.

Sometime around midnight, she felt a kiss on her cheek.

“Good night, jaani,” Qadeer said.

“Good night,” she said, turning to face him, annoyed but hopeful.

He was still in his work clothes, already asleep.

#

As she jogged along the winding trail, looking upon the fabulous manicured lawns and the opulent houses, she wondered about her husband. She knew he was driven to succeed from the moment she’d met him. Twenty-three years later he seemed to be forgetting all the things he used to be to her – counselor, confidant, exercise partner, friend. At this time last year, they were praying Fajr every morning together. She craved his honeyed voice, rising just above a whisper as he tenderly recited Sura Fatiha before the break of dawn. Those mornings were a highlight of their marriage.

She wondered about her son, too, as she turned off the pine-lined trail into the neighborhood sidewalk. Ali had stopped sending the daily texts he was so conscientious about and that Khadija was so accustomed to receiving. She missed his updates from New Orleans: “Ran by the river, Ammi,” or “Big breakfast today!” or simply, “Had a wonderful day, Ammi, Love you!” As these grew fewer and further in between, he occasionally called his mother and apologized: “I’m sorry, Ammi, just busy with classes this semester and getting a lot of gigs, too.”

For her son who was always so in love with the swimming pool and his saxophone, she failed to imagine that there might be room for another kind of love.

Swallows chirped in the tree overhead. She jogged the rest of the way home with Rover. The brilliant sun was about an hour away from setting in the purple sky. From a distance, she could see the rays of light glinting off of Qadeer’s car in the driveway. He sat on the porch, looking up at the sky.

Rover bounded to him, breaking free from Khadija’s leash. He jumped into Qadeer’s lap and licked his cheek and neck and ears, nearly capsizing the rocking chair on which Qadeer sat.

“Not on the lips!” Qadeer said, pushing the dog away, “my wife gets those first!” The pungent warmth of the dog’s tongue give way.

“As-salaam-u’alaikum,” Qadeer said.

“Wa-alaikum-as-salaam,” Khadija responded.

Rover watched like a child as husband and wife held each other, then he averted his gaze as they kissed lightly.

“You’re embarrassing Rover, Qadeer” Khadija chided her husband.

“Sorry, Rover,” Qadeer said as he kneeled down. Rover gave him a big, wet lick across the top of his head.

“Can we talk?” Qadeer asked, standing, facing his wife.

It wasn’t easy, but she stowed away the disappointment growing inside her heart from her husband’s constant absence. Thankfully, it had been a light day for her at the office and the weather outside was beautiful – sixty five degrees with a delicate breeze from the North. Spring was just around the corner. Their french revival house, the crowning achievement of their earning lives together, glistened pink in the twilight.

“Sure, jaani,” she said.

“Too tired to walk?” he asked. He admired his wife. She wore a New York Knicks baseball cap, long sleeve Stanford Cardinal shirt, and black windpants. Her cheeks blushed from her run home. He thought the drops of sweat on her neck looked like the dew drops on the stem of a flower.

“Me? I’m never tired!” she laughed.

“I know, Khadija.” He smiled.

#

While her husband changed in their bedroom, Khadija pondered the faces in the photographs hanging above their fireplace. In the center portrait, their son Ali stood tall in his royal purple high school graduation gown, with his purple mortar-board and purple tie. Khadija beamed, wearing a cream suit with a purple shirt, a purple puma brooch glimmering on her lapel. Qadeer smiled. A purple pocket square was his one concession to the Pitcairn High Pumas. Sometimes, looking at this picture, Khadija would think to herself: “My hair looks great.” But mostly she looked at the picture because her family was together. Her family was happy.

In the portrait to the right, Khadija and her parents and siblings sat around a glowing bride and groom. Khadija’s niece had married into a French Canadian family one year ago in Quebec. The cool breeze of a Montreal summer that day was like the weather outside today.

The portrait on the left showed Qadeer’s siblings and father in Pittsburgh, all seated at the dinner table where they’d grown up. Qadeer’s mother was the only one missing, having died of sudden cardiac death five years prior.

Khadija wondered if what Qadeer wanted to talk about had to do with his father. Murtaza Rahman sat proudly in the photograph, his snowy white hair flowing, regal. The crow’s feet and laugh lines in his copper skin stood out. His cheeks leaned back into an easy, broad grin. He looked so vital. And it was no surprise that it was Qadeer who closest to his father in this picture. The younger of two sons; the most naturally intelligent and at the same time the most diligent at his school work; the one most drawn to the Urdu language; the one most drawn to Murtaza’s garden in the suburban Pittsburgh home they lived in; and the most fair-skinned; Qadeer became his father’s favorite the moment he was born, and stayed that way even after the arrival of his younger sisters. Murtaza Rahman wanted greatly for his children to succeed, and to be a physician was the paramount of success in his eyes. Qadeer filled the cup of that dream until it runneth over.

As Murtaza aged, Qadeer housed him lovingly. Khadija and Qadeer set aside a first floor guest room for him in their home. They parceled out a patch of the sprawling backyard for Murtaza to have his own garden. There, Murtaza was happiest, tending to the same fruits he’d enjoyed as a boy. In his old age, he learned to care for flowers. For his part, Qadeer enjoyed working in the garden with the rigor that he inherited from his father. But sometimes, tired from a day’s exhausting labor, he would simply sit inside his home with his wife and look out the French doors at the old man nurturing his plants.

Not all was perfect, though, between father and son. At eighty, Murtaza still claimed good health. He walked the neighborhood trail regularly and took care of himself within the confines of the house. He kept his room clean, dressed well, and ocassionally woke up Khadija and Qadeer for a simple breakfast. Qadeer, though, remained frustrated by his father’s stubborn refusal to take medicine. Never an enthusiast for pills, Murtaza continued to resist his regimen of two blood pressure medications, a statin, and aspirin.

And he continued to smoke.

Throughout his life, Qadeer tried and failed to end his father’s smoking habit. He found it repulsive. He worried about what the poisons in the cigarettes would do to any cell in his father’s body, for he knew that just a few mutant cells could snowball into cancer. From later experience in his medical training, he worried most about what would happen to his father’s blood vessels. Would a heart attack take his father’s life, just as it had taken his mother’s life? Or would the toxins slowly, inexorably, cripple the man’s mind? Of the dire prophesies that swirled about in Qadeer’s head when he watched the white wisps float from the tip of a cigarette or emerge from his father’s mouth, it was this last possibility that came true. As he put on his running clothes, preparing to tell his wife how he planned to save his father’s mind, he wondered what Murtaza’s experience of forgetting must have been like last week.

#

The sun hid behind thick clouds as Murtaza peered out on the neighborhood.

Murtaza was bored. Rover looked forlorn. “Go for a walk, Rover?” Murtaza asked, pulling on his black tennis shoes.

“Woof!” Rover said. Rover immediately hauled his belly off the floor and stood to attention, tongue wagging.

“Let’s go, boy!” Murtaza said.

Murtaza carefully locked the door behind him as he left the house. He marveled at the palace that his son lived in. In size, it rivaled those of the British imperial mansions of his native India.  Qadeer’s house was always the type of house he would drive by wistfully on the way back home from work in Pittsburgh, knowing it was out of reach. As he walked down the block, he wondered what kind of people might live in these homes. Perhaps there were other physicians, or lawyers, or else successful entrepreneurs. Men, and women, he supposed, who had gone to prestigious schools and worked long hours at difficult jobs and saved diligently.

Rover walked in front of Murtaza, who did not bother leashing the dog on this occasion. Murtaza had never seen Rover act out, even when the neighbor’s menacing bulldog snarled at him. Murtaza slowed his walk as he surveyed the spruce trees in the front yard of one of the homes. He looked to his left and saw a gravel trail leading through a lush forest.  He took . It was not the Circle trail that circuited around to his son’s home. Oblivious, Rover went to his right, down the path that he spent many afternoons on with Khadija.

“My, what marvelous trees,” Murtaza thought, the light growing dim around him as the forest grew thick. The scent of pine and the crunch of gravel underneath his feet invigorated him. He kept walking, deeper and deeper into the forest, wondering how long it would be before the path led him back. In fact, the trail he followed ended twenty miles beyond, at a small creek where families picnicked on hot summer afternoons.

When Rover turned around, he saw nothing where Murtaza should have been. A flock of sparrows swarmed in the sky above. He bounded back in the direction that he had come, following Murtaza’s trademark scent: ithar, or musk.

“This can’t be right,” Murtaza said to himself as he leaned against a thick oak, catching his breath. “I don’t get tired this easily on this trail.” He thought about breaking his promise to himself of never smoking in a forest, a promise he’d made after watching breaking news one summer about California forest fires that ravaged thousands of acres. Investigators said the fire had been started by a single cigarette butt. Murtaza reached into his coat pocket. He found nothing there. Then he remembered that he had endured this temptation in the past, and to prevent himself from giving into it, he never placed cigarettes or a lighter in his pocket when he left the house to walk the neighborhood trail. He slumped down against the massive trunk and closed his eyes. Sleep overtook him.

A heavy, warm, wet tongue awoke him. Rover stood with his paws on Murtaza’s chest and thighs.

“Woof!” he shouted.

“Alright, alright, don’t shout at me, boy,” Murtaza said. “Where did you run off to?”

He stood up and used the inside of his jacket to clean the saliva off his face.  Rover walked alongside Murtaza towards home.

When the pair did not reach home by seven PM, Khadija went looking for them. She feared for the worst – anything could happen to a man of Murtaza’s age, and on the seldom used Circle trail that she walked with him and Rover, it could be hours before any one would notice.

Near the entrance to the Circle trail, she heard Rover. His excited yelps, though, did not issue from in front of her. Instead, she turned around and entered the gravel trail, now even more concerned. She followed the sound of Rover.

One mile from the entrance, she found Murtaza seated on a large stone, with Rover seated quietly at his feet.

Abba, what are you doing on this trail?”

“I just wanted to get out of the house and take a walk, but I suppose I took a wrong turn somewhere. But Rover here is taking me back.”

“How long have you been out of the house?” The Circle trail only took 45 minutes to complete, even at Murtaza’s pace.

“I believe I left right after Zuhr prayer.”

That would have been 1:30 PM. It frightened Khadija to think how far Murtaza must have walked before being found by Rover.

They walked home together. Khadija remained pleasant and acknowledged Murtaza’s remarks about the beauty of the forest in the fading light. The clouds had broken, and the sun lit up the clouds like they were golden sheets for the bed that was the sky. Silently, though, she pieced together Murtaza’s risk factors: “History of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, prior transient ischemic attack; history of smoking; poorly compliant with medication.” A string of recent episodes shot through her memory: the time Murtaza had asked her to help him look through the entire house for a book that turned out to be right by his bedside (where he had claimed to look first); the time he said he had fed Rover, but she saw the bowl of dog food, untouched, clearly not offered to Rover; and his frequent asking about what her son’s name was. She turned over a diagnosis in her head. He likely had dementia. Most likely vascular dementia.

He had been visiting them from the small home in Pittsburgh that he so loved, with a ticket to go back in three weeks’ time.

She called her husband, wanting urgently to tell him what had happened, about her judgment about his state of mind. Should they cancel the ticket back?

Qadeer’s answering machine greeted her. He worked in the lab that night.

Khadija sighed and clicked off her phone.

She walked over to the guest room and saw her father-in-law, fast asleep. Rover watched him intently.

“Go on Rover, get outside. Let your training partner get his rest. You get some rest, too,” she said, and she ruffled his head before showing him the door to the backyard.

A single firefly floated in the darkness of the backyard, and she wondered why it was shining alone tonight.

#

The next afternoon, Khadija received a frightened call from Murtaza while she was seeing a patient at her clinic.

“My daughter,” he said, his voice quivering. “I’ve left the water for my tea on the stove for too long. There’s a small fire in the kitchen and I can’t put it out.”

She thought she could hear a faint crackling in the background.

“Call 911,” she instructed calmly.

“Okay,” he said, “yes, I’ll do that.”

“I’ll be right there,” she said.

“Come quickly, my daughter,” he said.

She was about to hang up the phone, when she said, “Do you know our address?”

He hesitated for a moment, then she heard him open the front door. “Yes, I see it here.” And he told her the address.

“I’m coming. Allah Hafiz (May you be in God’s Protection),” she said.

She called 911 immediately after hanging up. She thanked God that she only had to re-schedule five patients that afternoon.

In her black Range Rover, she commanded the hands-free phone to call her husband.

Again, his answering machine greeted her. This time she left a message:

“Qadeer, you need to come home now. Your father left the stove on and there is a fire in our kitchen. Call me back now.”

#

The train hurtled out of the tunnel like a cannonball. “What is happening to my father?” Qadeer wondered, putting down the phone after hearing Khadija’s sobering message. Could it be that the vascular dementia he had so feared was finally making itself known?

He did not want to believe it at first. When Khadija brought it to his attention that his father asked “What day of the week is it?” much more frequently, he simply chalked it up to the benign forgetfulness of the elderly. It made his father more loveable in a way; here was a larger than life man who couldn’t remember whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday, and it didn’t really matter to him anyway because deadlines and meetings and railroad timetables no longer riddled his days like so much machine gun fire.

When Khadija reported that he’d forgotten Ali’s name several times, Qadeer grew concerned. Murtaza never asked Qadeer what Ali’s name was. He also didn’t mention Ali much around Qadeer, now that he thought about it. Murtaza always referred to Ali as “my grandson” in front of Qadeer. Either Khadija was exaggerating the frequency of Murtaza’s forgetting, or Murtaza was more comfortable showing his weakness to his daughter-in-law than to his own son. Qadeer suspected the latter.

#

At dinner that night, microwaved leftovers filled Murtaza’s plate. He had hazarded his life by entering the kitchen to turn off the stove shortly after he called 911. The firemen that arrived contained the flames easily. One of them wondered why the old man hadn’t used the fire extinguisher on the counter top just across the center island.

Khadija and Qadeer sat in silence at opposite ends of the table. Murtaza sat in the chair to the right of Khadija.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call back earlier,” Qadeer said.

“I really needed to talk to you yesterday about this, Qadeer,” Khadija said. “Abba walked into the forest. Thank goodness for Rover. He was with Abba and helped him get back towards the street, but even then I had to go a mile into the forest trail to get him back home. I hope you accept that something is not right with Abba.

Abba, how come you didn’t tell me you were forgetting?” Qadeer asked.

“At first, I didn’t realize it. Then, when I did figure that out, I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t want to be a burden on you or Khadija. I guess it’s getting bad now. I’m very sorry for the kitchen. I’ll pay for the repairs,” he said. He tentatively picked at the saag paneer on his plate with his fingers.

Abba, you are not a burden on anyone here,” Qadeer said.

Khadija did not say anything. She gazed intently at her husband.

Qadeer looked up at the ceiling, taking a deep breath. He reached over to touch his father’s hand. Murtaza set down his fork and looked at Qadeer.

“Abba, I know this is going to be very difficult for you to accept,” Qadeer began. “But you can’t live alone anymore.”

“Son, it was just an honest mistake. Don’t tell me you’ve never left the stove on and gone away for a couple minutes.”

Abba, this is not the only time you’ve made a serious mistake. I’ve been keeping track. You sometimes do not take your medicines at all for three days in a row, and then at other times, you get confused and you take multiple doses at the same time. You’ve forgotten your own grandson’s name. You’ve gotten lost. You cannot live alone.”

Silence at the dinner table. Khadija chewed on a half-mouthful of saag paneer and naan.

“Are we going to have to sell the house in Pittsburgh?” Murtaza asked his son.

For all the larger-than-life legends she’d heard about him, Khadija pitied her father-in-law now, for how easily he’d thrown in the towel against his son in this fight about his future.

“Khadija and I will discuss with Umar, Fatima, and Aalia what will work best for you,” Qadeer said, listing out Murtaza’s children.

“You’ll be alright,” Khadija said, caressing her father-in-law’s other hand.

Murtaza did not eat much that night.

When they had all finished, Murtaza sat on the couch and gazed upon the photographs hanging above the fireplace. He turned his attention to the photograph of his grandson the graduate, and wondered what he was doing in New Orleans.

#

Julia licked the powdered sugar off her lips. The beignets tasted better than usual and she was happy. She had good reason to be – she got the highest score on the first biochemistry test of the semester and Ali was proud of her.

“My grandfather would love this place,” Ali said. He leaned back into the plastic chair, sipping the cafe au lait slowly. The night air was full of the sounds of a funeral march passing by.

“My grandparents had their first date here,” Julia told him.

“Really?” Ali asked, intrigued that she had never told him this story though by now they had been to Cafe Du Monde a dozen times.

“Yes, my grandfather and grandmother met here back in the sixties. He was working at the bank just down the street and she was a student at the nursing school. They had seen each other at church but never gotten a chance to talk because both of their parents were so strict. So one day, Grandpa worked up the courage to walk over to grandma’s house in Prytania and ask her father if he could take her to Cafe Du Monde. He was interrogated, Ali. He didn’t know what he had gotten himself into. There he was, a skinny black boy in his Sunday best, being stared down by my great grandmother, my great grandfather, and all five of Grandma’s older brothers. They asked him what he ate for breakfast. Did he have loans? Who was the president of Egypt? What did Grandpa think about McCarthy? Did Grandpa drink alcohol? Who were his friends? What did his parents do?

Ali laughed.

“So what did your Grandpa say that earned him the right to take your grandma to Cafe Du Monde for some beignets and coffee?”

“My great grandma, so I hear, had quite the death stare. She looked my grandpa right in the eyes, and asked him, ‘What are you giving up for Lent this year?”

“And?” Ali asked, leaning forward, coffee in hand.

Julia tried to tell him but instead laughter bubbled out of her mouth like champagne from a bottle.

“Come on, tell me! What did your grandpa give up so he could get your grandma?”

Julia composed herself. Ali gazed upon her glowing cinnamon skin, her auburn eyes. There was still some sugar at the corners of her mouth and there was red lipstick on her napkin.

“He said…” and she laughed again, “he said, ‘I’ve given up being happy except when I’m with Miss Flora Mae Reynolds.’”

They both laughed. The funeral march played on and visitors ebbed in and out of Cafe Du Monde like the flow of the Mississippi River just on the other side of the embankment. The full moon was out and the city was getting ready for Mardi Gras again.

“That was great!” Ali said.

“Well, as my grandpa told me, not one of them said a thing. They all just stared at him. And then, my great grandfather said, “Well I guess you’re going to be sad except for between 5AM and 7 AM Sunday morning, because you better have her at church by 7 or you’re going to be sad for some other reasons.”

They ate and talked until midnight, and then Ali and Julia rode to her dorm in his hand-me-down Mercedes. He walked over to her side and opened the door for her. They walked to the entrance of her dorm together, arm-in-arm.

“Hey, congrats again on the test, Julia. You’re so close to med school now. Just think, by this time next year, you’ll know where you’re going to be.” Ali said.

“Thanks Ali. Tonight was really nice. I’ll see you at school on Monday. We’ve got family visiting tomorrow so I’ll be busy all day.” She said.

They hugged.

“Have fun, Julia. See you, “ Ali said. He walked back to his Mercedes and drove back to his place near Tulane, falling asleep while thinking of when they would next see each other.

#

The night before, when Khadija and Betty drank tea, Qadeer was not in his study discussing the progress of the nanoscaffolding for the synthetic blood vessels he was working on. He was holding an international conference with his siblings to discuss how best to help his father.

His older brother, Umar, sat in his home in Kuwait, where it was the early morning. He had thirty minutes before he had to drive into the offices of the multinational oil and gas corporation where he was a regional vice president. His sister, Fatima, was wrapping up work at her clinic in Los Angeles. And Aalia, the youngest, was up in the middle of the night in London, frantically finishing a project for her consulting firm’s client.

“As-salaam-u’alaikum,” Qadeer began

“Wa-alaikum-as-salaam,” the others said.

“By now, I hope you all have had time to think about the various options for taking care of Abba. We could try the standard approach, right? We could try to get him to take his medications, stop smoking, and see if that will prevent his dementia from getting worse. But I doubt that will work since he hasn’t been good about taking his medications for fifty years. And he’s been smoking for about the same amount of time. We’d need someone to be with him full time so that he doesn’t burn down the house. Which is fine, al-hamd-u-lillah, since he saved well for his retirement. But there’s also the option of cryogenic preservation. We could literally freeze Abba in time and bring him back when my synthetic microvasculature is ready. It will probably take me another five years. We can give him hippocampal regenerative treatment and help him reconstruct his hard drive. We can prevent him from dying the grueling death of a patient with progressive vascular dementia – one in which our father will be bed bound, unsure of where he is or perhaps even who he is. What do you all think?”

“Absolutely not, Qadeer,” Umar began. “Why would you put Abba in ice for five years? Who knows what can happen in five years? What if you die? What if one of us dies? What if the facility is destroyed? What if the company goes bankrupt? And what if you can’t produce the blood vessels in five years? Then what? We just keep waiting until someone else does? There are too many unanswered questions for me, Qadeer. Let Abba be – he’s lived an amazing life and we have all benefited from it. Let him age with grace and let Allah take him when the time comes.”

“My concern,” Fatima said, “is that there have only been three ‘successful thaws’ out of the ten people who have come out of preservation so far. Those were people who came out completely unchanged from when they went in. Two people came out with severe debilitation and the other five could not tolerate the thaw and died. So Abba, as of right now, has a 50/50 chance of coming out of the thaw alive. That means you have a fifty percent chance of killing him if you recommend this to him and he goes for it.”

“I think its great that you’re trying to help Abba, bhai,” Aalia said. I remember working in this high end memory care place in college in Boston, back when I thought about going to med school. There were these people there who were bankers, doctors, lawyers, professors. And they couldn’t remember who their spouses were. One guy, who used to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, would walk around smelling like feces because he just didn’t remember that he was supposed to go to the bathroom. I was later told it was because he had so many micro-strokes in the front part of his brain that he didn’t care about anything anymore. He died from a urine infection because the bugs from his feces got into his urinary tract and then into his blood stream. If that’s something that could happen to Abba, then I think he himself would have wanted to do anything he could to avoid it.”

“Umar, Aalia brings up a good point,” Fatima said. “It’s still up to Abba what he has done -he can still understand what is happening to him and that it can get worse. I spoke to him about it yesterday. He knows. He understands. And if he wants to do cryogenic preservation, we can’t stop him.”

“But we can try and talk him out of it, Fatima!” Umar said. “Are all of you crazy? He will be dead to us for five years. This is not something we can just reverse overnight. And it wasn’t meant for such short term use anyway. The people who thought this stuff up meant it to be for people who would come back decades into the future. Maybe that’s why its been so hard to bring people back – I mean, maybe we don’t have the right technology to even bring people back yet. Fifty percent? Would you do anything that had a fifty percent chance of failure? Take a plane ride? Cross the street? I don’t think so. And now you’re asking me to be okay with taking a fifty percent chance on my father’s life? I can’t do it.”

“Umar bhai, there is a one hundred percent chance that our father will die. There’s no doubt about that. The only questions are when and how it will happen. Like Aalia said, I would hate to see him whither away. He’s lived too noble a life to suffer an end like that.”

“Qadeer, look, I know you’ve made room for Abba the longest in your house, and you two are the closest out of all of us. You always have been,” Umar said, “But you can’t play God here. You can’t kill someone and bring them back without something happening. But God knows best. And if Abba wants this, I will try and talk him out of it. But if he still wants it, I can’t stop him.”

They all talked then, about the possible arrangements for preservation, the time frame for his “retrieval” as it was called, and they agreed that if he was to proceed, that all of them would meet with him before he took the plunge.

#

Khadija and Qadeer walked into the backyard, hand in hand. Khadija knew by the pace Qadeer was taking that he wasn’t here to exercise today, but because he had something on his mind. They walked to a bench in the backyard where he often told her of his wildest, most fantastic ideas, whether medical, financial, or spiritual. She would listen patiently, and when he was done she would hold him in her arms to let him know she believed in him.

“Khadija, I’m sorry I haven’t been good to you this past couple of weeks. I’ve been ignoring you and its wrong. Its just that I’m worried about Abba.”

“Me, too” she said. Qadeer’s apology was one she’d heard before, only this was the first time that it came with a more legitemate reason than his usual attribution to “progress”

“I talked to everyone last night: Umar, Fatima, and Aalia. I’m going to ask Abba if he would like to consider cryogenic preservation and retrieval. The neoangiogenics I’ve been working with might help him.”

She looked at him, searching for the origin of this idea. In making the statement he just did, was he asking her permission? Was he asking for her advice? Or was he the product of his father’s selfish genome, trying to do whatever it could to preserve itself, even one generation down?

Forgetting was written by Salman Ahmed.

Sleep Dealer’s Second Chance

Sleep Dealer

SLEEP DEALER is a feature-film set in Mexico in the near future. It tells the story of Memo Cruz as he struggles against a brave new border.

SLEEP DEALER Film Trailer

SLEEP DEALER represents the love and hard work of many people, it won a few awards at Sundance – but it never properly made it to audiences. Now’s the chance to change that! Find out how at https://rally.org/sleep-dealer.

An Update on Protag

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In order to allow more people an opportunity to submit each year, we are implementing a few changes to the structure of Protag. Instead of a monthly online issue, we will have one issue per each of four quarters per year.
 
In accordance with these changes, the first issue of Protag will be published online on July 1st, and quarterly issues will subsequently be published to the online magazine in the first weeks of OctoberJanuary, and next April. Submissions for the inaugural July 1st issue will continue to be accepted through June 1st, and any submissions already sent in will be considered for this issue.
Writers and artists of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to consider submitting pieces to the upcoming issue of Protag. Submissions must address or relate to literature or art as agents of social, spiritual, or intellectual change in some way.

Regardless of the changes, we plan early next year to publish a “best of the best” from the four online issues in a print magazine entitled, Protag.

Click Here for Submission Information.