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With an aura of newness infiltrating the streets as we embark on 2006, it’s all too easy to plunge headfirst into the new year without looking back. But as we here at In The Fray have learned, letting go requires holding onto vestiges of our past; progress demands retrospection.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that our readers and editors became a bit nostalgic when we asked them to select their favorite ITF stories of 2005 this past December. Their selections, featured in this issue of ITF, reflect on holding on and letting go—and set the bar for the editorial excellence and innovation we strive to continue as our magazine embarks on its fifth year.

We begin with the Vanishing Heritage series, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer John Kaplan’s three vibrant photo essays documenting the indigenous cultures of rapidly dwindling ethnic minorities in China, Bolivia, and Thailand. Halfway around the world, Penny Newbury, in her essay Ña Manu, returns to Fuerte Olimpo, Paraguay, only to discover that despite her three years there, she still doesn’t quite understand the place she called home.

Taking their own somber journeys of sorts, columnist Afi Scruggs uses the recent trial of Edgar Ray Killen to gauge how far we still have to go before our country overcomes a shameful history of racist violence in Mississippi Learning, while Katharine Tillman disrobes one young runaway’s so-called Land of Enchantment in her tale of a woman seeking to flee a dying relationship for a better life.

Speaking of the quest for a brighter future, contributing writer Emily Alpert investigates the struggles faced by transgendered and transsexual prisoners in California and surveys the prospects for combatting their double-marginalization in Gender Outlaws. Meanwhile, guest columnist S. Wright explores how the battle for gay marriage may adversely impact another class of sexual minorities—gays and lesbians of color—in the long-run.

And in Always Know Your Place literary editor Laura Madeline Wiseman explores the divergent ways Irene Kai and three generations of her female ancestors challenged and succumbed to female cultural expectations in Kai’s memoir The Golden Mountain. Offering another perspective on generational gaps, Rhian Kohashi O’Rourke reflects on her aging grandfather, a World War II veteran, as she grapples with keeping his memory alive even as it fades from his mind in Tofu and Toast, voted the Best of INTERACT … so far this past fall.

Rounding out this month’s collection of oldies but goodies are two large doses of humor from ITF’s resident cartoonists. The Boiling Point offers you The Super-Duper Quick and Easy Guide to Not Becoming a Terror Suspect for all those worried about being classified as a terrorist in this brave new world, while Secret Asian Man reminds you which people qualify as The Default Race.

The excellent stories we featured in 2005 were made possible in no small part by our ability to pay many writers a modest honorarium. Because we are an almost entirely donor-supported publication, we need your help to continue publishing pieces from the margins, journalism with depth and heart that you won’t find in the mainstream press. If you have enjoyed what we’ve published this past year—and I hope you have—please consider making a donation to ITF so we can continue to pay our writers and bring you more groundbreaking content.

We hope you enjoyed reading ITF in 2005 as much as we enjoyed producing it. Happy New Year!

Laura Nathan
Buffalo, New York

Coming in February: our “defying gravity” issue.

In The Fray is a nonprofit staffed by volunteers. If you liked this piece, could you please donate $10?