by Elane Kim
Issue #66 • April 22nd, 2021•Buy Now!
Some summer days, when her shifts at the supermarket run late, Grandma makes me watch over my younger sister. I am fifteen, Maya is eleven, and she is always whining about one thing or another. This is a truth in our household, one that sinks in all of our stomachs.
Today, we don’t have the juice brand she wants: the kind in a floppy silver pouch, not a box. I want to tell her to suck it up, but Grandma pinches my wrist.
“What’s wrong with the juice we have?” she asks, her Korean lifting in question.
“It’s gross,” Maya says in English, arms folded.
“You liked it a few days ago.”
“I don’t like it. You can’t make me drink it.”
“Maya,” I finally say. “There are worse things in the world.”
Maya begins to make the sour face she does before crying. Her lips are puckered, her eyebrows taut. Grandma makes the same face.
“Okay, all right. I’ll pick some up after work,” Grandma says, her forehead folding into parabolas.
Bitterness, sticky and heavy, fills my throat. “No, Grandma, she needs to learn. She’s old enough to know that you don’t always get what you want by crying about it.”
Elane Kim is a high school student who enjoys creative writing, science, and rainy days. She is the editor-in-chief of Gaia Lit, an online magazine dedicated to spreading awareness about pressing environmental issues. Her writing has been recognized by the National YoungArts Foundation and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is very happy to meet you!
Patrick Ryan on Smorzando
As 2020 was nearing its close, we received more than 450 entrees for One Teen Story’s Teen Writing Contest—the most we’ve ever received. They came in from teen writers ranging in age from 13-19, and we grouped them into three categories: 13-15, 16-17, and 18-19. Our goal, as always, was to pick a winner and runner-up in each category, and our team of dedicated contest readers set the process in motion by diving into one of our favorite shared activities: reading. It was heartening, indeed, to discover that not only had the teens been writing during a tumultuous year, but they’d also produced some powerful, moving stories.
We’re pleased to present to you the winner of our 13-15 age category: Elane Kim, who has written a quietly moving story called “Smorzando.”
“Smorzando” is about two sisters, Amy and Maya, who have lost their mother, live with their grandmother, and share a passion for playing the piano. As is often the case in stories about siblings, there is rivalry: Amy is more dedicated (at first); Maya is more talented. The fact that Maya is the younger of the two sisters isn’t lost on Amy, who does her best to tolerate her sister’s immaturity while struggling to accept that, no matter how immature she is, Maya will always be the better pianist. Add to this Amy’s desire, as the older sister, to help keep alive the memories they share of their mother, whom they both dearly miss.
Elane Kim has written a tender and utterly convincing story about these two girls at a challenging juncture of their lives. We hope you enjoy “Smorzando” as much as we did.
Q&A by Patrick Ryan