Language & Writing

The Children

by Elana Lev Friedland

Selected as the winner of the 2020 Blurred Genre Contest by James Hannaham.

Elana Lev Friedland’s “The children” steadfastly
resists categorization—it is a poem, short story,
speech, spell, lament, outcry, and probably a
couple of other things. Friedland invokes,
in incantatory, impassioned lines not unlike
prayer, the most desperate moments of
parenthood and of life, but specifically of
motherhood—the anguish that results when
heartless outside forces succeed in breaking
the bond between mother and child.

Initially these lines seem to address the
horrors of the Holocaust, but it is not a stretch
to say that they also evoke current events.
Take your pick: separation of families at the
US border, Rohingya relocation in Myanmar,
the war in Syria. And yet Friedland’s work
also reaches backward in time and world
history to show us the personal heartbreak
that has arisen out of conflict between
societies since civilization began. Somehow
Friedland accomplishes all this without
moralizing, but with compassion, truth, and
even humor.

– James Hannaham