For many people, December is a month full of cheer. But if you look beyond the surface of what seems to be December’s overarching narrative — Christmas, family, gifts, happiness, Santa — you’re likely to find people who are left out because they celebrate Kwanzaa or Channukah, or can’t afford presents for their children, or can’t afford to partake in the ritual of overeating. You might even discover that the chubby man in the red suit at the mall isn’t chubby at all — and doesn’t live in the North Pole.

In this month’s issue of InTheFray, we invite you to look beyond surface-level appearances. We begin with ITF books editor Amy Brozio-Andrews’ review of The Short Bus, Jonathan Mooney’s attempt to relate to children and adults who have been labeled as learning disabled. A severely-learning-disabled-student-turn-Ivy-League-graduate himself, Mooney illuminates “how students and adults labeled as learning disabled assert their own identities beyond established societal expectations.”

Meanwhile, Michael Tedder uncovers just how traumatic a simple greeting can be for the five million Americans who suffer from social anxiety disorder. And Activist’s Corner Editor Anja Tranovich reveals how defiant religious leaders can be when she interviews former nun and activist Lupe Anguianoabout pioneering efforts in welfare activism and the women’s rightsmovement and reframing religious debates to include social justiceissues.

In her photo essay "Shanti Shanti," Emily Anne Epstein visits India and discovers a place that is simultaneously unique and not all that different from the United States. And over in Morocco, American Sumayya Ahmed discovers the importance of visiting — and learns the how-to of being a guest. 

Back on U.S. soil, we turn to Obama and me, Leslie Minora’s humorous account of how campaign propaganda is inviting heartache as candidates try to wedge their ways into our lives. From there we consider Jacqueline Barba’s case for why newspapers should embrace narrative-style reporting as the onus of breaking news shifts to the Internet and 24-hour broadcast news.

Rounding out this month’s stories is Birgitta Jonsdottir’s essay, My mother’s journey in the belly of the Ladybug, which reveals how the author has used old and new rituals surrounding death to cope with the loss of her mother. In this multimedia tribute featuring a poem, a song sung by her mother, and a photo essay with a written essay, Jonsdottir makes new memories of her dead mother with the help of a ladybug box, her mother’s ashes, and an urn.

We hope you enjoy this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together. Happy holidays!

Laura Nathan
Editor
Buffalo, New York

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