Pain and Dreams in Art & Literature

Sueño de Abraxas (2016)
Oil on canvas
46˝ X 70˝

20: On Black Being and Magic


Javon Johnson in his essay “Black Joy in the Time of Ferguson” tells us that on the night of Mike Brown’s death, he fell asleep listening to classic Black singers because he “wanted to be happy and Black.” Johnson also gives a nod to Danez Smith’s poem “Dinosaurs in the Hood” in which Smith wants to make a movie about dinosaurs…and that’s it –– not a movie that positions a troubled Black boy as another stereotype in a plot of destruction, and not a movie that is about or causes Black pain. In this movie, Cicely Tyson delivers a speech (or two), Viola Davis saves the town by stabbing the dinosaur in the neck with a Black Power fist afro pick, and “nobody kills the Black boy and nobody kills the Black boy and nobody kills the Black boy for once.” It’s just a movie.

The erotic has endless interpretations and we are called by God and connected throughout the universe to manifest representations of our erotics. Black people need other Black people to make movies about dinosaurs, music to satisfy our cravings for soul at the end of a long day, and hairstyles that polish our glow when we are weary. We need Black people to bring other Black people joy in the millennial era, a frightening era that has us afraid to leave our homes yet zealous to take action. It is important in this time to entertain and exercise the erotic more than ever before because the erotic is our sanity and keeps us alive and apparent.

Wild Berry (2012)
Colored pencil on paper
26˝ X 33˝

Edna and I

Nozomi Saito

It took until I was the age my mother was when she was reconciled with her mother for me to accept that my father’s abandonment had nothing to do with me. The years in between were an emotional time, what I now sardonically refer to as my years of “teenage angst,” which is a flippant way for me to avoid talking about the anguish, self-loathing, fury and recklessness that ensued as a result of his leaving.

But some part of me understands my grandmother’s leaving and maybe my father too. When I read Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, and really listened to Laura Brown, I realized, “That’s me.” Like Mrs. Brown, like Edna Pontellier, I am not a mother-woman. I know if I ever had kids, I would reach a point, when it would all be too much, and I would have to leave. It’s a horrible thing to say, but knowing that, I know I will never have kids. I will never inflict on someone what my father’s abandonment caused me to feel. But I also am not one to stay.

When I think of children, their need to have a parent’s love, dinners around a table, the up and downs of childhood, the angst of adolescence, and all the suffocating accoutrements of familial life, I know I can’t live like that. As Edna says, I can sacrifice the nonessential, but I could never sacrifice myself.



Catherine Chalmers, Núria Farré, Shan Goshorn, Dana Harel, Charles Matson Lume, Gabriela Molano, Julia Randall, Andre Rubin, Phyllis Trout, Johanna Winters

Digital Media

Teresa Braun, Carolyn Guinzio, Shuangshuang Huo, Luma Jasim, Bridget Leslie, Coral Pereda, Alex Hovet, Mert Keskin*, Jordan Strafer*, Zeenyooneen*


Christopher Gonzalez, Piotr Paziński, Tusia Dabrowska, Toisha Tucker


Lisa Cohen, Sarah Cooke, Nazomi Saito


Kimberly Blaeser, Joe Bueter, Monika Cassel, Jane Haladay, Claire Hurley, Peter Laberge, Jesse Peters, Dean Rader, Matthew Shenoda, Lauren Samblanet, Susie Martinez


Matthew Kendall, Farisa Khalid

* works only available in digital edition


Cover: Dana Harel
Only for the Left Hand 3 (2015)
Mixed Media on paper
72˝ X 94˝


Alex Raz
Palak Patel

Digital Media

Michael Joyce
Martin Man
Esteban Uribe


A.J. Cincotta-Eichenfield
Zach Bokhour


Ronald Patkus
Nicholas Barone
Morgan Strunsky


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Michaela Coplen
Dylan Manning

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Jeff Macaluso
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Catherine Lucey


Farisa Khalid
William Garner
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Media and Marketing

Jack Conway
Kayla Schwab


M Mark
Jocelyn Hassel
Abigail Johnson

Advisory Board

Andrew Ashton
Sophia Siddique Harvey
Paul Kane
David Means


J.S. McCarthy Printers


Hua Hsu
Arshy Azizi
Christian Prince

VSR Liasions

Ethan Cohen
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Mark C. Amodio
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Catharine Bond Hill

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A large thanks to our contributors and to the following individuals and bodies for their support and advice in shaping the revival of the Vassar Review:
Janet Allison, Marie Ausanio, Joe Bolander, Francine Brown, Megg Brown, Jonathan Chenette, Steve Dahnert, Robert DeMaria, 

Judith Dollenmayer, Julia Fishman, Joanna Gill, Jeffrey Kosmacher, Daniel Lasecki, Amy Laughlin, Alison Mateer, James Mundy, Dana Nalbandian, Elizabeth Nogrady, Sara Marie Ortiz, Emilia Petrarca, Thomas Porcello, Elizabeth Randolph, Andrew Raz, Daria Robbins, Dean Rogers, Matthew Schultz, Ronald Sharp, Bryan Swarthout, Lisa Tessler, Julia VanDevelder, and Margaret Vetare.
With generous support from the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Office of the President, Archives and Special Collections Library, Office of Communications, English Department, and Vassar Libraries.


The Vassar Review is a revival of the former literary arts magazine published by the faculty and students of Vassar College from 1927 to 1993, and will be released annually.


In each issue, the magazine’s varied content is anchored by a theme. Content is presented both in print and in digital format in order to include mediums that print alone cannot accommodate.

Each section has two student editors and one faculty editor. Each section has a general body of readers who work with the student co-editors.

The journal will include two Vassar writers from the Vassar Student Review, chosen by the VSR co-editors, and a section from Vassar Special Collections, selected by the Archives Editors.