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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories


The men here carry their personal space like body armor. They have been taught the gospel of toughness since they were young. They think it is necessary for survival to wear your strength on the outside. If you show weakness, someone will take advantage. The men here are good at taking advantage. It’s how they got here in the first place.

Small Victory

I pulled into the garage. The sun was still echoing off the leaves and the heat was as oppressive as the week before. I clicked up to neutral and turned the key, my hand automatically reaching for the petcock. I moved my foot to the side stand and dismounted. I did it. I did it. The whispers escaped from my lips as I peeled off my leathers and picked at my gloves. My right hand still vibrated and my butt ached just like my back before the birth of my first boy. I did it. I could have gone on; I could have ridden more today. It had been a long week — 1,500 miles — and I did them all on my own bike.

The Convict's Dictionary

These selections are from “The Convict’s Dictionary,” compiled by James Harris, an inmate at Vacaville. A broad, racially diverse group of prisoners reviewed the entries; though sometimes graphic, they reveal much about prison life.

The Prison Experience

Most of my photography time,” writes Morrie Camhi, “isn’t with a camera but with a cup of coffee, learning about the people I will photograph.” Camhi’s book,The Prison Experience, is a photographic record of the eighteen months he spent documenting life at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, overcrowded home to eight thousand convicted felons. Despite its name, only a small percentage of the prison’s inmates are there for medical reasons; both Sirhan Sirhan and Charles Manson did time at Vacaville.

The Witness Tree: Memoir Of A Ritual

Let me tell this story from the grave. Life, seen from the grave, looks like the negative of a photograph: light turns dark, dark turns light; the photo reveals secrets it didn’t know it was keeping. This is a story that leads to a grave, then proceeds from the grave, so it’s best I lie in it and speak from it.

Home Alone

If we were in bed, I’d want to make love. If we were talking, I’d want her undivided attention. Am I ever satisfied? What if she were ill? I’d be thankful she was breathing. I’d be thankful for her life.


Italian Supper

The last time I went to Europe I fought with my husband every day. We fought every day in regular life, but in Europe I thought it would be different.

What Marvin Knows

Marvin had been watching the car, a red Ford Escort, drive by his house for perhaps twenty minutes. It was driven by a young fellow, probably one of the local college students. There was a small dent in the rear fender on the driver’s side. Marvin took note of the car on about its fourth trip down the block.

*NOTE: Original copies of this issue are no longer available. Unbound, laser-printed copies will be provided for print orders.

Readers Write


I found the package of Oreos under my pillow on the very night I awoke to the muffled groans and pleas and tearful whimpers from the cell next door. The late August air was still and hot; the dense smell of sweat drifted through the steel bars to where I lay.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸


“When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.”

Abraham Joshua Heschel

More Quotations ▸
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