A Good Life

Written by Jessika Hepburn, Illustration by Jen Collins

“I will begin with what I know,” she writes, as we tumble into lives lived so vividly we forget that these women — Mom, Nana, and Aunt Lizzie — aren’t characters in a paperback. Jessika sifts through the flotsam and wreckage of family trauma to reach an understanding of sorts — of herself, of those who came before her — leaving us to wonder if this kind of knowledge is accumulated in the retelling, in testimony, or maybe elsewhere. As a reader, it’s almost akin to the effect of an impressionist painting examined minutely, and then gazed at from afar, as it should be seen.

Featured story for September 2018

I never saw myself how others did: as a little white girl. It was small occurrences that slowly illustrated my difference: the story my mother told about an older woman in a grocery store asking if she was the nanny, the cafeteria lady who wouldn’t let Mom pick me up early from elementary school because we “didn’t look related,” the inferences or outright inquiries about whether I was adopted. For a while I wished so badly to be brown, my abundant freckles an omen of future darkness, but I was a jumble of black-white-brown, neither one thing or another. As I got older our visible differences stopped mattering so much, my struggle with Mom became deeper, closer to the bone.
— Jessika Hepburn

Jessika Hepburn

Jessika Hepburn is a longtime community organizer, maker, and activist with a focus on cooperative development and creative economies. She’s also a mother, an avid reader, a writer, and co-owner of a bookstore and cafe in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia with her partner Chris. Jessika’s work has been featured in many publications and projects including Uppercase Magazine, You Care Too Much, Chronicle Herald, and on her own site, Oh My! Handmade.


Jen Collins

Jen Collins is an illustrator from Scotland. Her work often notes quiet moments, human connection and the natural world. Pencil and paper are her tools of choice, but she occasionally plays with clay, too. Jen graduated from Dundee's DJCAD before spending time freelancing in Glasgow and Toronto, and currently works out of a little studio in Dundee.