The cover of the journal Cottonwood, Spring 2017.

This story is set in a St. Paul neighborhood that is near and dear to me, Groveland. In real life, there’s Mac-Groveland, and Cathedral Hill and Selby-Dale and more. These were my stomping grounds in my college years, and later I settled there and got to know the community through its parents, teachers, and professional colleagues. Through going to its gyms, reading at its libraries, biking its streets.

Plot-wise it was close to home too. I may insert a photograph of myself and the child who inspired Nerese, the 6-year-old black girl who takes part in the “little sister” mentoring program. Or I may not. Is this story an example of what would later be called white savior complex? I don’t see it that way. Of course I knew someone who resembled the protagonist, the teacher Michelle McLellan, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable presenting this story now, in 2021, if the story derived from intentions that were anything less than honorable and just. I know it was a case of excessive generosity. Anyway, I believe the big-hearted workaholic is a well-known and heroic type in many midwestern workforces, especially in the field of education. We can all agree on that, I’m sure.

Hats off to our teachers! I believe this was the message that the editors recognized and received when they accepted the story for publication in the Spring 2017 edition of the journal Cottonwood, which is published by the Graduate Program in Creative Writing at the College of Arts and Liberal Sciences, in Lawrence, KS.