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With a new year upon us, it can be all too easy to rush into bettering ourselves—without reflecting on past accomplishments. But here at In The Fray, we know we’d be nothing without our past—as well as thousands of new readers and dozens of new contributors.

As we close the book on another year and the twelve issues it brought us, we commemorate the Best of In The Fray 2004 by republishing the stories that our readers and editors thought best reflected the excellence ITF strives for. From Rachel Rinaldo’s investigation of how a wounded Rwanda is rebuilding itself ten years after its harrowing genocide, to Benoit Denizet-Lewis’ fictional conversation between then-presidential candidate John Kerry and former vice president Al Gore, the winning pieces represent some of ITF’s best offerings to date. On Monday, January 17, we’ll also publish one new story, Occupation’s Death Grip, Jason Boog’s exploration of the once-powerful Russian military’s downward spiral.

And in a world constantly changing—for better and worse, we here at ITF are also making resolutions for improvement. Through interactive surveys and a host of strategies designed to connect you with others who are also concerned with issues of identity and community, we plan to engage readers more frequently.

Adding new perspectives to the ways we envision the world and debate issues concerning identity and community, two familiar voices, Scott Winship and Russell Cobb, will begin penning regular columns in the months ahead.

And when ITF launches its first annual college writing contest later this month, lesser known, but equally important, voices—maybe even yours!—will also help us see the world through different I’s. We’ll ask prospective contestants to write about their subversion of a gender, race, consumer, or other kind of social norm in a public, family, or campus space. The writer of the best essay will be awarded a $200 prize. (Click here to learn how to participate.)

In addition, next month, on the heels of the holiday season’s ritual bingeing and purging—and an international debate over providing sufficient disaster relief to Southeast Asia—we’ll publish our Excess issue, the first of several theme-oriented issues.

By the end of this year, In The Fray hopes to publish the first print edition of the magazine. So far, we have raised $1,163 of the $12,000 we need. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our nonprofit, all-volunteer organization—we’ve added new ways that you can help. As you know, In The Fray is a completely volunteer effort, and we depend on the ongoing support of readers like you.

Happy New Year—and thanks for helping ITF ring in another year!

Laura Nathan
Brooklyn, New York

The Best of  In The Fray 2004

Outsourcing Marriage, by Radhika Sharma
Best of IDENTIFY. Expat suitors are returning to India to sweep brides off their feet and their continent.
Published April 5, 2004

Genocide’s Deadly Residue, by Rachel Rinaldo
Best of IDENTIFY (runner-up). The international community looked the other way while more than 800,000 people were murdered in Rwanda 10 years ago. Now, justice remains elusive and the harsh aftermath of orphans and HIV, psychological scars and physical scarcity threaten to prolong the killing.
Published September 6, 2004

GAY LIT, by Richard Martin
Best of IMAGINE. If you think being a closeted queer is suffocating, just imagine what it’s like to be an imprisoned gay man.
Published July 12, 2004

The Specter, by Hildie S. Block
Best of INTERACT. She could never really appreciate her father’s 30-year struggle with multiple sclerosis. Until her own fingertips went numb.
Published September 6, 2004

Sex, Lies, and Adult Videos: An Interview with Christi Lake, by Laura Nathan
Best of INTERACT (runner-up). Being a female sex symbol isn’t easy, but Christi Lake likes to do it. A conversation with the adult film star about reclaiming sex—on and off the camera.
Published December 6, 2004

Portrait of a Child Soldier: An Interview with Josh Arseneau, by Kenji Mizumori
Best of IMAGE (tie). An interview with artist Josh Arseneau, who painted portraits of Liberian youth for his Pacific Northwest College of Art senior thesis, one of which was exhibited at In The Fray’s recent benefit in Manhattan.
Published August 27, 2004

Marriage Month, by Adam Lovingood
Best of IMAGE (tie). Most people are aware that San Francisco allowed same-sex marriages for a month earlier this year, but few know the poignant tales behind the unions.
Published May 17, 2004

Life after Torture, by John Kaplan
Best of IMAGE (runner-up). Hoping to kill off the ghosts of Abu Ghraib, President Bush wants to tear down the now infamous Iraqi prison. But getting rid of Abu Ghraib won’t ameliorate the trauma—at least not for the tortured, who struggle with their pasts on into the present.
Published June 7, 2004

Strangers in a Strange Land, by Laura Nathan
Best of OFF THE SHELF. Just as Texans are told to remember the Alamo, Jews are told to remember the Holocaust. But as David Bezmozgis suggests in Natasha and Other Stories, maybe it’s time for Jews to remember that they’ve also wandered through the desert and trekked across international waters.
Published July 12, 2004

A Wild Life, by Alexandra Copley
Best of THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. Leading simple but hard lives, Brazil’s cowboys are responsible for producing much of the beef that fills North American supermarkets.
Published September 20, 2004

Searching for Belonging, by Afi-Odelia E. Scruggs
Best of the Columns (tie). Shopping for palm oil, cardamom coffee, and identity.
Published February 2, 2004

Looking for a Silver Lining, by Henry P. Belanger
Best of the Columns (tie). With a big gray cumulonimbus looming above following the 2004 election, consoling ourselves over the results is hardly easy. But Red Sox Fans, who know what it means to endure years of pain, have some wise ideas for coping with this strange new world.
Published November 9, 2004

A 20/20 Vision, by Bob Keeler
Best of the Guest Columns (tie). All I can do to cope with the fear of another Bush victory is entertain the political fantasies dancing in my head.
Published October 18, 2004

The John and Al tapes, by Benoit Denizet-Lewis
Best of the Guest Columns (tie). If only John Kerry and Al Gore would speak candidly in public … But since they don’t, here’s a fictional late-night conversation.

Google Jew, by Tak Toyoshima
Best of Secret Asian Man.
Published September 6, 2004

Operation Heterosexual Freedom, by Mikhaela B. Reid
Best of The Boiling Point.
Published August 16, 2004″

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