Photo credit: Jessamyn Harris

Jess D. Taylor: Made Local Magazine Editor

Jess D. Taylor is the editor of Made Local Magazine and an English instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College. Formerly a freelance writer for the Bohemian, her writing can also be found in Creative Nonfiction, The Sun, Little Patuxent Review, KQED, Traveler’s Tales, and several other journals.

Who do you admire, and why?

I admire my mom for pursuing her own happiness, though it meant becoming a single parent (the only one in my entire Catholic elementary school in the mid-80s!). I admire anyone who sacrifices comfort and stability for their own self-preservation. I also admire my students for believing in the promise of education, my friends for their deep wells of love, and all activists who are working for change.

What was the last best thing you ate?

For lunch today I picked a bunch of Swiss chard leaves from my wine barrel garden and topped them with lemon juice, olive oil, crumbled cojita, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds. Yum!

Name something you do or do not regret.

I do not regret finally getting a reliable car five years ago.

What 3 things bring you joy?

Swimming, anywhere. Dancing in the kitchen with my daughters. An email from a student who remembers something I taught them years ago.

Where else have you lived?

I was born in Japan and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana. I spent summers with my dad in Tokyo, Ontario, and then Paris. Before landing in Sonoma County, I lived for six years in Burlington, Vermont.

What are you good at making?

I’m good at making time to hang out on my friends’ porches, and groovy desserts with almond flour, coconut oil, and dates.

Photo credit: Jessamyn Harris

Recall a time you changed your mind about something.

I used to believe in the myth of personal responsibility over the truths of systemic injustices. Now I realize it’s more nuanced than that.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Besides ask Ryan Gosling out on a date? Or become a back-up dancer for Lizzo? I’d rid the world of billionaires, without any bloodshed, so that those resources could fund solutions for the climate crisis and provide basic human rights for everyone.

If you could instantly have one skill, what would it be?

I’d be fluent in Spanish.

You host an intimate dinner party with up to four guests, living or not. Who’s coming?

I read Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness in my early 20s and was blown away by how her spirituality manifested as activism. Toni Morrison’s Beloved taught me that language can both devastate and redeem. I love teaching the play Sweat by Lynn Nottage, about class injustice, addiction, and xenophobia. And I just finished the novel Luster by 30 year-old Raven Leilani, so deeply moved by the fresh language and emotional resonance that I didn’t want it to end. If I could keep from losing consciousness, those four authors around my kitchen table would be incredible.


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