Fire In The Belly: Letter From The Editor

It’s been a wild ride. When Laneia and I first got on the phone to discuss the themes we wanted to bring you in 2020, we didn’t know we were going to be delivering you food for thought during a global pandemic, but it’s not like we thought were living in some perfect dream world either. Now that we’re here, I have to say: in the way that I’m learning that I was already kind of living a quarantine lifestyle, I’m also learning that the BIG IDEAS that interest me most are just more pressing and relevant in our current state.

Fire In The Belly is still about the emotions that rip through you, wrench your guts and move you into action. It’s about the feelings that keep you up at night, consume you and drive you into the world to enact their will. We’re talking about the kind of fire that lets you know you’ve had enough or can’t get enough.

Last night I was recalling how, as kid, I’d once thrown a drink in the face of some idiot man, who interrupted me, while I filmed a horror movie in my grandfather’s backyard, in order to make fun of my cousin’s Indian name. It was his fault. He didn’t have to set his drink down. I saw him again when I was a college student, because he was a friend of my grandfather’s, and he asked me if I remembered the incident. “Of course,” I told him, “and I’d do it again today.” I’ve learned that when you laugh after saying something cutting, people tend to allow it.

This is a pretty classic Kamala story. I was a zero-tolerance child. When my friend’s brother cheated in a badminton game, I smashed his racket over his head. When some boys in my second grade class were making fun of my best friend, I tied them to a fence with their shirt sleeves. When an allegedly funny white friend put her face in my birthday cake, I waited in a tree with a Super Soaker for her to drive down my street in her dad’s convertible and drenched them. I’m no longer eight years old, and have since grown some compassion. I’ve learned that these are short term measures that just perpetuate harm. But the fire in my belly does not burn any less strong. It still illuminates what’s most important to me, and drives me toward the things and people I believe in.

“I’m a passionate person” I might write in a dating profile, which sounds harmless and doesn’t touch the deep smolder I experience daily, that I’ve learned to chill with, but is still perpetually about to catch. We’re bringing you stories in this issue from people who are also deeply moved and motivated by their feelings. These stories are not only about anger and indignation — though yes, of course we have those, there is one up right now! You’ll be reading about desire, about truth-seeking, about fighting for change, about fighting the body. It may seem like “action” in a quarantine is harder to find and take, but I think we’re all a lot closer to it than we think. Now is the perfect time to let ourselves be consumed by our emotions and reset, and I hope the stories in Fire In The Belly help lead you there. 🌋

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Kamala Puligandla

Kamala Puligandla lives in LA and is the writer of various autobiographical fictions. She is the distinguished recipient of her parents' leftovers and hair compliments from strangers on the street. Her first novel is forthcoming from Not A Cult. Find her work at

Kamala has written 50 articles for us.


  1. kamala have you considered a series of childhood stories. like, ‘here’s what filled me with righteous fury, age seven, and how i solved it. this issue does/does not apply today and i would/would not solve it the same way”

    because i would read them voraciously

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