J Lazar

We Are Always At The End Of What We Know

J is writing about family, postage stamps, migration, and alchemy.
Be in touch.
Instagram: @gingershazar
Email: jen.lazar@gmail.com
"The End of What We Know," Ploughshares, Winter 2023-24
"How To Fix Everything," Grist Literary Journal, Issue 14
Portrait of Jen Lazar, 40 year old woman with shoulder length brown hair with highlights, wearing a dark yellow shirt.
J Lazar
Jen "J" Lazar is a writer and educator interested in stories that can't stop telling themselves: myth, conspiracy, birthright, reoccurring dreams, hauntingly bad pop music... She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Hollins University and is the 2023 recipient of the Ploughshares Emerging Writer Award in nonfiction. She has received two grants from the Vermont Arts Council as well as support, mentorship, time, and space via VONA, Tin House, and the Vermont Studio Center.
She is currently seeking representation for her first book: "American Philatelic." This manuscript received the Melanie Hook Rice Award for Outstanding Nonfiction.

In a previous chapter of life, Jen co-founded a traveling high school committed to making learning and life indistinguishable for high school students in the United States regardless of family income, background, geography, or grades. She spent the better part of a decade crammed into a fifteen-passenger van. She cooked three meals a day for a team of sixteen year olds over camp stoves. She listened to their stories and questions, revisions and ideas about "America." Together, they created a new idea of what school could be.

Those students and teachers dared Jen to take her writing seriously and she is so grateful they did.
If you'd like little updates with bits of writing, curious facts she comes across in her research, favorite recipes, and strange truths, send her an email: jen.lazar@gmail.com.
The End of What We Know
Read it online or order it in print.

This essay won the 2023 Ploughshares Emerging Writers Award for Nonfiction.

Praise for "The End of What We Know"
In formally exploratory and lyrical prose, the author explores the stakes--and losses--entailed in migration. If migration is the 'end of what we know,' the essay asks, then how can nonfiction adequately explore it? It is hard to innovate formally in the personal essay genre, but this essay does just that, entwining research and fiction to build out a past that time has eroded. While the stakes here are intimately personal, the essay ambitiously plays with form, allowing the writer to explore the far-reaching implications of her family's emigration from Iran, powerfully meditating on diaspora, loss, and language.
Meghan O'Rourke, author of The Invisible Kingdom, and The Long Goodbye
Author's Note
"The End of What We Know" includes historical scenes based in a Jewish ghetto in Tehran and descriptions of religious and cultural oppression. This oppression had devastating consequences for my family over generations. Today, I'm watching as the people of Palestine undergo the same brutalities and more at the hands of the Israeli state and I reject the narrative that this is to achieve peace and healing for me, my ancestors or my children. I reject the fundamental belief that violence can beget peace. I began this essay in an effort to better understand how we got here (my family, our mythologies, the global politics entwined) and am ever more clear that hurt people hurt people and, without intercession, the oppressed often grow up to become oppressors themselves. For me, this research and storytelling is one form of intervention, one form of healing. May we all step towards the work that will bring peace.
Essay Images
The following were meaningful for me in the writing of "The End of What We Know," but are not included in the Ploughshares publication:
Map drawn by Kyle Newman | SOURCE
FSA A.15 08: Jewish Quarter of Tehran (Iran), 1880s-1930s
Jay A. Bisno Collection of Sevruguin Photographs | SOURCE
Meme Zivar, Family Portrait