Creative Nonfiction: Of Being by Melissa Llanes Brownlee

Your auntie has too many damn kids mom tells me one day over a glass of Chablis. She’d just taken a capsule of Fastin for dinner as she laughs at her cousin living on government cheese and food stamps, cornflakes served with spoonfuls of sugar and powdered milk. Even at an early age, I knew the shame of being poor, of being fat, of being anything my mom thought wasn’t classy. On her second glass, she whispers the story of how auntie’s mom smothered her last child when she fell asleep, rolling her immense body onto the baby as it nursed. That’s why she has so many kids mom continues to whisper into her third glass, her slender hands cupping it like the face of a sleeping child.

Melissa Llanes Brownlee (she/her), a native Hawaiian writer, living in Japan, has work published or forthcoming in Booth, Pleiades, The Citron Review, Milk Candy Review, (mac)ro(mic), Necessary Fiction, HAD, NFFR, trampset, Superstition Review, Splonk, Emerge Journal, The Razor, and Best Small Fictions 2021. Hard Skin, her short story collection, will be coming soon from Juventud Press. She tweets @lumchanmfa and talks story at

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