“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
Melissa R. Sipin is a writer from Carson, CA. She won Submittable’s Eliza So Fellowship (2017), Glimmer Train’s Fiction Open (2013), the Washington Square Review’s Flash Fiction Prize (2014), and was a semi-finalist for the James Jones First Novel Prize (2017) and shortlisted for the 2017 Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award (2017). She co-edited Kuwento: Lost Things, an anthology on Philippine myths (Carayan Press 2014), and her work is in Salon, Bitch Media, Black Warrior Review, Prairie Schooner, Guernica Magazine, Slice Literary Magazine, PEN/Guernica Flash Series, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, Eleven Eleven Magazine, and Amazon’s literary journal Day One, among others. Cofounder of TAYO Literary Magazine, her fiction has won scholarships and fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Poets & Writers Inc., Kundiman, VONA/Voices Conference, Squaw Valley’s Community of Writers, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and is represented by Sarah Levitt at Aevitas Creative Management. She is hard at work on a novel on her grandmother’s capture in WWII Philippines.
“I had to leave L.A., wander for years, then return to its perpetual summers to learn who I was in translation and why, despite the varying claims that writing about myself and my family’s experiences was steeped in narcissism or boxed in ethnic, immigrant literature, to struggle with this conflicted, untranslatable, racial, and gendered identity was a necessary and political act of visibility.
I write against tangential divagation, I write autofiction, a literary tradition many Black artists have been doing for decades, as a means to say not only that I exist, but that my familia, and that I, have survived.
— “TANGENTIAL DIVAGATION: Notes of an Immigrant Daughter,”
VIDA: Women in Literary Arts
“‘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. ]