Eddie Loves Debbie. If you’ve spent any time in the city of Youngstown with your eyes open and looking closely at things, you’ve seen this phrase spray painted, chalked, or carved onto a variety of surfaces: tree trunks, stop signs, the wall of a brick apartment building. They’ve been here for years. For at least the past couple of decades or so, Youngstowners have often speculated about the identities of Eddie and Debbie. Who they were, what became of them. I’ve heard at least five different mythologies that have developed around this mysterious graffiti, and I expect to hear at least five or six more versions of their story in the next ten years.
It’s all about lore, though, really, this storytelling. It’s the story of two people no one knows much about, and it’s the story of a place. And there are far more other stories about Youngstown and the people who have made it their home throughout its history to listen to, to contemplate. Stories tell us who we were, who we are, and who we’re becoming. Without stories, we have no compass. We drift endlessly. Eddie Loves Debbie is just one story to arise out of Youngstown’s collective lore. This anthology gathers variations on that theme, and then some.
The YSU Student Literary Arts Association was formed in 2008 to create the Ytown Reading Series, which hosts both community open mics and brings in professional authors from the surrounding region to read from their work in Youngstown. As advisor, I helped students learn how to organize and publicize such events, but it was under the leadership of the organization’s second president, Christopher Lettera, that the group also began to publish the online magazine, Jenny (www.jennymag.org). And it was by way of that magazine that the members of the organization grew to have a collective sense of identity as writers in a particular place and time, in Youngstown, Ohio, circa new millennium.
We’ve lost a lot of things in Youngstown, Ohio. All kinds of nouns. People, places, things. The building blocks of a community. But we are trying our best to preserve our past as we go forward into the future. Within these pages are some of the stories we’ve managed to save. There are more, others that are lingering out there on the streets and in the fading neighborhoods, waiting to be heard. Look around, listen, pass them on. This is the way a place continues to live. By telling stories.
-Christopher Barzak, SLAA advisor, October 2013