ByVanessa Willoughby

Vanessa Willoughby is an editor and a writer. Her work has been featured on Thought Catalog, The Toast, The Hairpin, Literally, Darling, and Bitch Media. She is a Prose Editor for Winter Tangerine Review and writes at

  1. In Christie Watson’s Where Women are Kings, sometimes love cannot conquer all. Sometimes love is not a beautiful savior, but destined self-destruction disguised as selflessness. Watson’s characters are not written as victims of their environment, but rather victims of their own demons. Certainly, the subject of angels and demons and the overall influence of religious ideology is a pulsating theme throughout the novel. The heart of this affecting narrative is Elijah, a seven-year-old Nigerian boy…

  2. Vanessa Willoughby's previous work for The Toast can be found here.

    I trusted her because she had big eyes that sparked up like little bugs convulsing in bright claps of electricity. She smelled like rosewater. Before our interview, she’d sloppily applied the finishing notes of her makeup in her rented car, a basic sedan on loan until the autobody shop completed the repairs to the passenger side of her Volvo. She’d forgotten

  3. i.

    I woke up again on the bedroom floor.

  4. Newly trimmed nails painted with baby-shower-pink polish were attached to gold ringed fingers, which were attached to a smooth-skinned hand that picked up the duffel bag on the curb. The owner of the manicured hand, a young-looking mother who suffered from the slow toxins of time and an unfaithful husband, was waiting on her daughter to speak although she did not want the daughter to speak. They were standing in a highly public place and…

  5. I think that Chelsea picked me because she knew that I was willing and malleable, a brown clay girl sprouted from ragged roots thirsting for water, my Otherness as imposing and pervasive as a beached-whale rotting beneath the tug of an occasional wave. In those days, I was always picking at my cuticles like they were flecks of gold. I think that we all have that one friendship that defines the confusion of girlhood. The…

  6. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, (and I’m paraphrasing here), that intelligence can be measured by holding two opposing views at the same time. I have never simultaneously loved and loathed someone, with the exception of my sister Carolina May Flock, or Carly as my mother renamed her five days after her birth, or Cally as my father liked to call her after she’d won some shiny school award for Best Grades or Class President or Most…

  7. We moved out of the city and into the yawning expanse of the suburbs a few days after my twenty-fifth birthday. My fiance, always one to guzzle the clear poison of mouth-numbing optimism, barely lamented the loss of our diverse Brooklyn neighborhood. Although I’d been raised in the nondescript and cloistered confines of small-town America, I knew that I would miss the liberation of anonymity. Walking the streets without feeling like a sloppy spectacle. Engaged…

  8. “You’ve been away too long.” My mother’s voice is a honey-thick purr and I am sitting cross-legged on my unmade twin-sized bed, the sheets in dire need of an industrial washing (beating). The pillows are suffused with cigarette smoke, a cheap brand that makes my lungs throb like a sputtering heart on a cold operating tray, unfiltered tobacco and nicotine that make my hands shake. I don’t even know why I took up smoking again.

  9. This post was brought to you by Samk12345. “You don’t look your age,” he says. I know his type. He’s not one of those newly minted millionaires, the kind that slides into the bar decked out in the season’s latest Brooks Brothers, throwing around his plastic like he’s an elite member of an underground society. He looks like a gentleman, a carefully curated image, wrist adorned with one purposefully selected piece of expensive jewelry.

  10. Previously by Vanessa Willoughby: Lost and Found. I could still smell the bleach beneath my nails long after I’d washed my hands. The apartment had been adequately cleaned a few days earlier, but sometimes the cheapest form of therapy for me did not involve downing tequila shots, as my nicotine-fiend boyfriend would like to believe, but busting open a new pack of sponges and a bucket of bleach. I typically began my power-hour washing…

  11. The summer we lost the dog was the summer that we lost Joey. It seems somewhat misleading, even crude to say that we lost the dog because to lose something implies that you noticed when it was gone and to say that I lost Joey would be simplification, an attempt to beautify a carrion. We lost the dog that summer because my father was tired of looking out for another life. We lost Joey because…

  12. Lately I never leave the house without my armor. Maybe it’s because of my passion for social issues and cultural representation, or to paraphrase the clinically sharp bell hooks, the dismantling of our white supremacist society that teaches black folks to internalize racism, has become an easy target for chauvinists. Some people of the patriarchal army would believe that I actively place myself in the role of the victim. (How many times have I heard…

  13. I’m starting to believe that my boyfriend’s father is the New England mascot for the worst of white male privilege. Naturally, such privilege is bedazzled with the nicotine-flavored, boisterous rumblings of unflinching homophobia and an admiration of Reagan-era conservatism. It’s a badge of paternal lordship, sharpened by the nervous-titters of his obedient family members, people who adhere to specific stage blocking not like trained actors, but well-worn chess pieces. My boyfriend’s father knows that I…