My Mother the Ganja Dealer

Narratively – Outsiders Week – December 31, 2014


“MAIL CONTAINS DRUG, YOUNG WOMEN SEIZED” reads an August 22, 1969 headline in the Milwaukee Journal. Below, in grainy black and white, floats Meridy Domnitz’s mug shot. At twenty, my mother looks more pathetic than criminal. Her frizzy hair has gone renegade from a sideways ponytail and she wears what appears to be a paisley kurta.

My mother never disguised the fact that, throughout my childhood, she made her living selling marijuana. I grew up listening to her spin vivid yarns while she rolled joints or counted cash, usually sprawled sideways on her king-sized bed. Customers would climb aboard the bed — nicknamed “the barge” — and linger for hours, enveloped in a miasma of smoke and stories.

I’ve heard my mother tell the story behind this article a hundred times, and I never tire of it. This was her first dalliance with the wrong side of the law; by the time she gave birth to me, nearly a decade later, the dealer persona was center stage.

If my mother were a comic book superhero, this would be her origin story.

Read this essay on Narratively.


Essay in Tin House – Winter 2014


I’m thrilled to have an essay in the gorgeous “Winter Reading” issue of Tin House,  the sharpest journal in the west. This issue includes new work by the legendary  Ursula K. Le Guin, Joy Williams, and Josh Weil, among other fine writers. I could  not be more pleased.

I encourage you to pick up Tin House at your local (independent) bookstore, but  you can also read my essay, “In Any Light, By Any Name,” online.

Read this essay in Tin House.



My essay about children in immigration court is live this morning, featuring original illustrations by artist Chris Koehler.



October 19th, 2014

The courtroom smells of talcum powder. On this afternoon’s docket, we have thirty-four children. Thirty-four out of 35,000 or 57,000 or 90,000 kids who have crossed our borders without permission since last October, depending on which source you trust to make sense of what doesn’t.

Read this essay on The Rumpus.

Straight, No Chaser returns to Vesuvio

Straight, No Chaser: Writers at the Bar

In what has become a Litquake tradition, hallowed North Beach watering hole Vesuvio Café opens its doors for an edgy and hilarious evening reading. This is a rare opportunity to glimpse authors performing new work in their natural habitat. Emceed by Alia Volz.

SF Weekly interview

The Write Stuff: Alia Volz on Not Settling and Being Difficult to Manipulate

Posted By on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 8:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

 What is art? Is it necessary? Why?

I used to worry that my writing wasn’t political enough, that by not  focusing on current events, I wasn’t doing my job as an artist. But I’ve  come to see all art as political. Even a simple artistic act, like drawing a  daisy, is a kind of affirmation of individuality. A flexing of perspective. I  think art makes us more difficult to manipulate. Especially these days,  with the constant barrage of media manipulation, we need strong inner-  worlds, muscular minds. It’s more necessary than ever.


 Read the full interview on SF Weekly.

SF Weekly’s 2014 “Best Of” Award!

Best Writers Without a Book San Francisco 2014

By Evan Karp

Chances are you could make a list of more than 10 people you know right now who deserve to be on this list. In a highly unscientific Facebook poll, 124 participants answered my question: Who is your favorite Bay Area writer without a book? A total of 190 writers were nominated; unsurprisingly, “me” was the most common answer, at 14 votes. To honor that, here are 14 of our must-reads (in no particular order):

Siamak Vossoughi
Writes beautifully simple meditations on living an ethical life, with a lucid voice of reason making sense of the world around it.

Alia Volz
Funny, dark, bizarre, worldly, hyperlocal … Volz is a rare talent who will always surprise you.

Nate Waggoner
With a masterful use of voice that dances the line between sarcasm and sincerity, Waggoner may be best described as hilariously outrageous and absurd.

Graham Gremore
So comically precise in his storytelling that sentences frequently make you laugh just for the tone in which they are written.

Erika Staiti
Currently working on a prose manuscript called The Undying Present, Staiti uses multiple and shifting pronouns for unnamed characters.

Elizabeth Bernstein
The writing coach and Grotto-ite has had stories in the Los Angeles Times Sunday magazine and the San Francisco Bay Guardian (she won its fiction contest), and her plays have been produced at theaters including Exit and Impact.

Kai Carlson-Wee
Recent Stegner Fellow who won the Missouri Review‘s Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize, Carlson-Wee writes poems that contain a calm sort of post-chaos ferocity.

Brittany Billmeyer-Finn
Wrote a manuscript called The Meshes based on the short film and techniques of filmmaker Maya Deren, focusing on the intersections of witness and spectatorship, voyeurism and viewership; when she finished, she translated the work into a play entitled The Meshes in Two Acts.

Nic Alea
Uses a stunning combination of mysticism and body-intensive imagery to address identity and belonging. Co-founded and hosts The New Shit Show, one of the best open mics in the Bay Area.

Cheena Marie Lo
Lo’s writing deals with identity and the other in different ways. From a work in progress: “i am learning how to be in my own body in relation to foreclosure and underwater mortgage rates.”

Marcus Lund
A recent Mills MFA alum who writes some of everything, Lund’s short fiction is packed with wonder and exuberance and often humor.

Mu~thoni Kiarie
Winner of the San Francisco Foundation’s Joseph Henry Jackson Award for her novel in progressThe Secret Ibis, her dissertation at Mills College, Kiarie is an alumna of the Voices of Our Nations Arts program.

Sarah Ciston
Co-author of a forthcoming Invisible City Audio Tours choose-your-own-adventure project called Make It Your Mission, Ciston is finishing a manuscript called Song of Ourselves — an anthemic exploration of the We Generation.

Carolyn Ho
Ho’s work is wry and usually very funny. She’s good at letting things unfold and tying loose threads back together, which may or may not have something to do with her origami expertise.