Story spotlight: “Friends” by Rei Rosenquist

Below the pristine mountains of Portugal’s countryside, a war rages on in Rei Rosenquist’s “Friends.” Thrown together in a dismal war camp, imported refugees share nothing but their suffering. No common culture. No common tongue. But friendship can spring up even in the toughest of times.

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“Friends” appears in The Golden Door, a collection of stories showing the impact on people when they’re treated as “the other,” whether they’re immigrants to a country, a group of targeted within their own country, or something else besides. The title refers to Emma Lazarus’s welcoming words inscribed on the plaque on Statue of Liberty, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Tales of mistreatment of “the other” abound in historical or religious writings from around the world and through all time. But there are also plenty of examples of people helping each other, caring for one another, learning about each other. Sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small—but they all add up.

All proceeds will be donated to Doctors Without Borders and the ACLU.

Find The Golden Door

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Excerpt

The air was a confused hum. Everyone who spoke Português was from a different place in the country: different dialect, accent, vernacular. I saw nobody from home. Everyone, a frightened stranger. At least half the people spoke a tongue that confused my ears entirely.

“Nihongo,” someone with a Português accent whispered.

I got the gist. Refugees who’d been shipped in.

More strangers, harder to get.

We were being forced apart, separated at the very seams.

I rebelled at the idea. If nothing else, we were humans and that would be enough.

I looked at the nearest fellow inmate and forced myself to look for—not the differences: hair color, eye shape, skin color—but the similarities. The sameness. Something to give me grounding. What I found were identical expressions. The same tight broken frown, brow knitted up, eyes narrow and without trust.

Our humanity, reduced to isolation and fear.

—from “Friends” in The Golden Door by Rei Rosenquist

About Rei

Rei Rosenquist is a queer agender (they/them) speculative fiction and romance writer who depicts a wide variety of identities struggling to find a place in a wide variety of worlds. They are also a barista, baker, musician, and lifelong semi-nomad.

Rei first remembers life as seen out the high window of a hotel balcony. Down below is a courtyard, swarms of brightly dressed tourists, and the beach. The memory is nothing but a blue-green washed image. Warmth and sunlight. Here, they are three years old, and this is the beginning of a storyteller’s life. Over the years, Rei has  traveled to many countries, engaged many peoples, picked up new habits, and learned new languages. Across lands, they find constant inspiration in the stories we tell each other, the food we share with one another, the music we make together, and the world we can build when we allow ourselves to dream.

Find Rei

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Find The Golden Door

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The Golden Door: 14 Stories of Wisdom, Justice, and Love

The Golden Door is a collection of stories showing the impact on people when they’re treated as “the other,” whether they’re immigrants to a country, a group of targeted within their own country, or something else besides. The title refers to Emma Lazarus’s welcoming words inscribed on the plaque on Statue of Liberty, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Tales of mistreatment of “the other” abound in historical or religious writings from around the world and through all time. But there are also plenty of examples of people helping each other, caring for one another, learning about each other. Sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small—but they all add up.

All proceeds will be donated to Doctors Without Borders and the ACLU.

Find The Golden Door

Universal Book Link ~ Amazon ~ Apple Books ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Kobo

The Stories

In Adrianne Aron’s “The Envelope Trick,” an immigrant learns the very system that’s helping him in his new country is also hurting him.

A woman and her young daughter escape death in their home country, only to find themselves separated at the U.S. border in Steve Carr’s “Needle in a Haystack.”

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, a young boy who dreams of emigrating to the U.S. to study at MIT comes across a pair of Soviet officers, and learns there’s more at stake than he’d ever dreamed in Tonya D. Price’s “Spy in the Sky.”

In Lesley L. Smith’s “Ke’s Symphony,” a family of aliens, refugees who escaped a disaster on their own world, is welcomed with both friendship and fear on the planet that took them in.

The president of the United States wishes for peace in “The Un-American President,” by Jason Dias. Sometimes integrity is doing the right thing because everyone is watching.

A little girl leaves her war-torn home with her parents, and learns that life is built on small kindnesses in Bonnie Elizabeth’s “A Used Pair of Shoes.”

Hedi Framm Anton’s “La Despedida” shows two sides of a story of farewell. A young girl lives with her grandmother in Honduras; they wait for a check from her mother, who works in San Francisco, so they can pay the fee the gang members demand every month.

Below the pristine mountains of Portugal’s countryside, a war rages on in Rei Rosenquist’s “Friends.” Thrown together in a dismal war camp, imported refugees share nothing but their suffering. No common culture. No common tongue. But friendship can spring up even in the toughest of times.

An American temporarily loses his sight in an accident in Beirut in Bob Sojka’s “Transient Pains.” While recovering, he tells his nurse stories about growing up in an immigrant family in Chicago in the 1950s, where stereotyped animosities arose among people of different origins.

In Adrianne Aron’s “Like a Snake,” an American is surprised to learn that the man she meets in a poor rural village that doesn’t even have electricity has two sons going to Mission High School in San Francisco. But is it really a surprise?

Jamie Ferguson’s “Something in Common” takes place in a small town in western Pennsylvania in 1910 where a young woman discovers she and a recent immigrant from Austria-Hungary have more in common than she’d realized.

A wealthy actress in Hollywood in the 1920s takes on a pair of immigrant faeries as indentured servants in DeAnna Knippling’s “Myrna and the Thirteen-Year Witch,” but she didn’t realize just how high the cost would be to keep them safe.

In Rob Vagle’s “Dispatch from the Other Side,” a young man who was separated from his family while trying to claim asylum in America follows the instructions on a postcard sent by his long-lost mother, and discovers things about his family he’d never expected to find.

A young woman, who moved from Afghanistan to California with her brother, has to make an important decision in David Stier’s “The Path.” Her choice will change both of their lives, forever.

Inspiration for the title “The Golden Door”

The title for this collection comes from the sonnet “The New Colossus,” which was written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


—“The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus