“I’m compelled, I’m speaking of myself as a black man, to doubt my history, to examine it; I’m compelled to try to create it. I’m trying to excavate my history from all the rubble that has been buried for so many hundreds of years. And that means I have to question everything.”
― James Baldwin
Lis (Melissa R. Sipin) is a writer from Carson, California. They won Submittable’s Eliza So Fellowship (2017), Poets & Writers’ McCrindle Fellowship (2016), Glimmer Train’s Fiction Open (2013), and the Washington Square Review’s Flash Fiction Prize (2014). They co-edited Kuwento: Lost Things, an anthology on Philippine myths (Carayan Press 2014), and their work is in LitHub, Salon, Black Warrior Review, Prairie Schooner, Guernica Magazine, 580 Split, and SLICE Literary Magazine, among others. As cofounder of TAYO Literary Magazine, they partnered with CUNY’s The Feminist Press to help establish the Louise Meriwether Debut Book Prize, the first book contest dedicated to Women of Color/Nonbinary of Color writers. Their fiction has won scholarships and fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Kundiman Fiction Retreat, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and they are represented by Sarah Levitt at Aevitas Creative Management. They are hard at work on a novel inspired by their great-grandmother’s capture in WWII Philippines. They also daylight as an Administrative Associate II at Stanford University School of Medicine in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine.
(Pronouns :: They/Them & She/Her :: Dissociative Shape-shifter.)
“When I first learned of my grandmother’s capture in World War II, it was at her funeral. One of her sisters, the many matriarchs of the Dulay clan and my grand aunt, stopped the processional and confessed details about my own grandmother’s life—my adoptive mother—I did not know. I felt it in my body. The shellshock. The inaudible confusion. I felt in it my bones, my genes, in memories that I do not own but somehow inherited. The term is epigenetics: what your ancestors suffered or survived years before somehow has a direct effect on you, outside of your genes.
They say if your grandmother survived a war, what she survived or suffered through leaves an indelible mark outside your genes, an epigenetic expression, and thus affects how certain cells are translated. Here is a fact: “Studies have shown that children born during the period of the Dutch famine from 1944-1945 have increased rates of coronary heart disease and obesity after maternal exposure to famine during early pregnancy compared to those not exposed to famine.” (What Is Epigenetics?)
The offspring of the Hongerwinter had their metabolic cells shifted because of what their parents went through, and even their offspring had those same indelible effects on their metabolic cells. Which is to say: trauma is inherited, even if one does not remember the famine.”
— “NOTES ON SURVIVING RESEARCHING A FAMILIAL/HISTORICAL NOVEL,”
in Eliza So Fellowship Submittable (2017)
“Filipineza doesn’t mean “servant”:
Notes of witness from an immigrant daughter,”
“‘This First Breath’ by Melissa Sipin resonates most deeply with me. This story is, in effect, a story about stories; it is also a story about how we craft stories about survival, and how these new stories inevitably alter the trajectories of our lives. What I am trying to say is that this story says so much in just a few words; in the end, this is what all writers are trying to do.”
— Tope Folarin, Washington Square Review’s Flash Fiction Prize
[ Read the winning story here. ]
“As immigrant artists for whom so much has been sacrificed, so many dreams have been deferred, we already doubt so much. Who do we think we are? We think we are people who risked not existing at all. People who might have had a mother and father killed, either by a government or nature, even before we were born. Some of us think we are accidents of literacy. I do.”
— Edwidge Danticat,
Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work
I create, I write, because it is what I’ve always done. It is something that adds a distinct layer of nuance, complexity, observation, and love for life that no other action or behavior can imitate—it’s similar to one’s decision to fall in love, get married, or have children. Writing adds something to my life that nothing else can. It has saved my life. Like Alice Walker has said, “It is, in the end, the saving of lives that we writers are about.”
This footage always damages me in a slow, pregnant way; it marks the infancy of my familia, it marks the moment when we were once together, before we broke apart. I decided to loop the video in hopes of producing a kind of fragmentary remembrance.
— “To My Unknown Daughter,” Center for Art & Thought’s #TalkingBodies Exhibit.
I have extensive graphic design experience in website design and print publications, and I served in editorial and production positions at a range of organizations, including Poets & Writers Inc., Arcadia Publishing, and VONA/Voices Conference, among others. In 2009, I cofounded TAYO Literary Magazine, a literary journal focused on issues of identity and social justice. I co-edited Kuwento: Lost Things (Carayan Press 2014), and I am currently a member of the Board at PAWA Inc. I provide freelance graphic design, editorial, and copyediting services. For inquiries, please send me a message via the Contact page.
[ Please note: I am currently looking for freelance work. Thank you for stopping by, and I hope to hear from you soon. ]