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editors' note

At dinner with a writer friend whose latest novel had just been published, we asked about the childhood theme in this one. “Why?” he said. “Because that’s where everything happens.”


That “everything” kicks off the first paragraphs of John Updike’s Rabbit Run. Harry Angstrom watches a game of pick-up basketball where boys dribble and shoot, and Updike writes, “He stands there thinking, the kids keep coming, they keep crowding you up.” In this issue, childhood crowds up our pages. From an equation on a schoolroom blackboard for new math students, to a son and father carrying out a heist in farm country, to a high school kid maneuvering through corridors and crushes, the kids in these stories and poems struggle to get a grip on their worlds of conflicting messages and impulses.


J Journal is themed. Whatever route the work takes, it finds its way to a justice question, and kid justice is often the most resonant, a time when we feel most urgently, most oppressively, the right and the wrong. A childhood confrontation. A childhood rebellion. An awakening. A grievous disappointment. These struggles drive the coming of age, obstacles like plot points in our personal stories. Kid-moments stay and become the tales that define us. Perhaps fittingly, this issue ends with a boxing story–like the stripped down emotions of kids, boxing is a stripped-down sport of conflict. No gear. No teams. Just body on body. And each person in the ring was once a kid, who once cried, who once had to overcome young fears.


When Rabbit Angstrom looks at those young basketball players, jealous of their freedom, he must also remember the rougher edges of his young life, his childhood vulnerabilities. It’s why, when he runs, it’s not a pure run. It’s why, when we write, our kid memories are rarely fairytales but layered with intense felt experience.

Adam Berlin, Jeffrey Heiman

New York City

March 2024

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and read the
spring 2024 issue

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