“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 P. Sipin-Gabon (formerly published as 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 and their recovery of repressed memories as a survivor of intergenerational trauma. They also daylight as the Critical Care Medicine Division Coordinator in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University’s School of Medicine.
(Pronouns :: They/Them & She/Her :: Dissociative Shape-shifter.)
“In my art, I desire to explore new narratives of the Self. I believe every life is worth mythologizing. In my work, I want to excavate and illustrate the functions of memory. Memory is fluid, malleable, a fragile thing. It is a selection of images—elusive at times, but imprinted indelibly on the brain—and serves as a vital tool for the creative process, whether we write about the Self or not. Whatever we write about, even through imagination, all is filtered and distilled through the Self. ‘It’s surprising how much of memory is built around things unnoticed at the time,’ the novelist Barbara Kingsolver once said. Memory happens. We accumulate memories as we live, breathe and walk on this earth, and in turn, we become an accumulation of our memories. And if our memories were one of trauma, abuse, and dissociation, then the need to make things up, the need to rewrite what happened, the need to control what had happened, to erase it and rebuild it and change it—this is what leads me to autofiction.
— Melissa R. Sipin
“On Mythologizing and Autofiction” in Anthropoid
[published in 2017, the year before we remembered]
LIS P. SIPIN-GABON
The name given to me at birth was “Melissa Rae Sipin,” but this name is not my chosen name. Instead, it were names given to me out of the narcissistic neglect of my birthparents, names given to their second child who was not planned and without much thought. Melissa was after Mercedita, my birthmother’s name, the woman who tried to drown me when I was barely a year or two years old. Rae is for Rafael, the birthfather who raped me. But my system’s name—my chosen name—is Pneuma. The one who is writing to you now, who is the current host of this body, is Lis, the thirty-something year-old writer, university admin, proud wife and dog-mom. I am a Multiple. I have multiplicity. I have Dissociative Identity Disorder. I am an intergenerational survivor of incest, and I am a survivor of child trafficking. All of these things I have learned of myself after a quiet day in August 2018, the day of my reckoning:
The day I remembered.
“When I first learned of my [great-]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,”
[ PLEASE NOTE ]
These brief selection of works were published in my previous writing name:
Melissa R. Sipin
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. ]
LIS P. SIPIN-GABON
[Previously published as MELISSA R. SIPIN]
writer, designer, editor
MFA in English & Creative Writing
Mills College, Oakland, CA 
M.F.A. in English & Creative Writing (Emphasis in Prose/Fiction)
Thesis Committee: Elmaz Abinader (director); Patricia Powell (reader)
Graduated Summa Cum Laude
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 
B.A. in English Literature (concentration in creative writing)
Senior Directed Research/Thesis Committee: Viet Thanh Nguyen (director)
Awarded USC Cardinal & Gold in Community Leadership, Dean’s List
Stanford University, School of Medicine, Stanford, CA [Present]
Critical Care Division Coordinator in the Department of Anesthesia, Perioperative & Pain Medicine. Supporting CCM Chief Clinical Faculty and CCM Division
FOR THE FULL LIST OF PUBLICATIONS, TEACHING, HONORS/AWARDS, AND RESIDENCIES/PANELS, PLEASE CONTACT ME HERE.