By Charlotte Jusinski
Perhaps one of the most damaging “rules” of writing taught to us as children is that using first-person is unprofessional. Despite being told to think outside the box, we were forbidden to say who did all that thinking we were writing from. I remember conducting all varieties of grammatical acrobatics to avoid saying “I think” in my school papers. “It could be said that” and “Some believe” were a couple of my favorites. (And, yes, those phrases often got circled in red by my teachers.)
Thankfully, upon entering thirteenth grade (aka the College of Santa Fe), most of the rules I learned the previous eighteen years went out the window, and I was allowed to truly learn the craft of writing. And before you say that I’m talking about two different types of writing—creative versus academic—I know I’ve seen similar acrobatics in peer-reviewed articles that are just dying to get a little personal. “These writers assert,” for example, or “The author has found that” … All just thinly veiled Is and wes and mes.
As the pieces for this issue of El Palacio began arriving in my inbox this spring, I was struck by how many featured prominently the first person. Writers with whom I have worked before and who I know don’t always insert themselves into their pieces chose this issue to speak from their own mouths. And I appreciated it. In one writer’s first draft, I highlighted a section of first-person and asked for a rewrite—but specifically told them to keep the Is and mes. I like them. I want them. I look for them, to be honest.
One of my personal and professional goals as I helm El Palacio is making this magazine as accessible as possible; I don’t think our readers should have any particular level of education or familiarity with the subject matter to enjoy the stories herein. I want these pages to be enjoyed by folks from all walks of life and of all backgrounds. And I think one of the first steps toward making this reading enjoyable for everyone is making the language used as human and down-to-earth as possible, while still maintaining the quality and integrity you have come to know and expect from this publication. One of the easiest ways to bring the reader in, I think, is to let the writer come out.
The true test was when I penned something myself for El Palacio. Aside from my editor’s letters, I haven’t written anything for these pages—and that was by design. As an editor, passing the mic is one of my favorite things to do. But for this issue, I made an exception and published a piece on the Bosque Redondo that I started working on in 2019.
I resisted using the first-person for almost the entire piece, but by the very end, I had to slip in just a few instances. I couldn’t pretend a robot wrote it. I wrote it—me, a living, breathing, bleeding human. To deny that human beings are behind each and every word of this magazine would be disingenuous, and so I encourage my writers (and myself) to lean into that reality. We made this, and we present it to you—another human being, who will hopefully forgive the “sin” of the first person.
Thank you for reading El Palacio, and thank you for trusting those represented within these pages to tell these stories right from our own mouths.