Back to profile

Stories by Jangchup Phelgyal

Jangchup Phelgyal and the Reader

Olive Street, Jonestown, San Diego black activists, Sherley Williams, the blind, the fat, the author's family

Born Hawkins Mitchell in Southeast San Diego and sent to St. Augustine High School, he was a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford. He began writing feature stories for the Reader at the urging of Judith ...

22 Reader writers on school experiences

When the loud bell rang

My first day in school was really my second day — Jangchup Phelygal The Radiators That Ticked Heat into the Room — Laura Rhoton McNeal Rear Rank Rudy — Jim Morris Forget-me-nots — Rosa Colwin ...

My first day in school was really my second day

I wept more. My heart was breaking.

It was September 1950, and that first day of school my brown uniform shirt scratched, the heavy corduroy pants were stiff with newness, my suspenders would not stay up, and my new shoes (bought a ...

Leontyne and Me

I met Joseph when I was 25 and he was 52, eight years younger than I am now. I shared my one-bedroom apartment on the Lower East Side in New York City with night-crawling cockroaches ...

Dear People: Remembering Jonestown

Includes 43-minute tape in which Jim Jones leads his followers into drinking from cyanide-laced vat

“A child who had just gotten to Jonestown, writing back to a friend, ended his letter with a request: ‘Please send me gum.’”

The California Youth Authority may come late in a delinquent's career

What happens after a kid goes bad?

These are accounts of ten angry young men with nothing to lose. Mayhem at home, drugs and alcohol, gang warfare, drive-by shootings, armed robbery — even murder — and always stints behind bars with a ...

Aunt Jemima, a Sambo, and a tube of “Darkie” toothpaste

The Black memory market

When public television’s Antiques Roadshow rolled into the convention center the last weekend in June 2001, local collectors crowed. Suddenly San Diego seemed invested, artifact-wise, with the status of a major metropolitan center like Chicago ...

Atrocious Act

Black Muslims react with horror to September 11.

Given their numbers, Mahdi said he was surprised when Oprah Winfrey interviewed Muslims for her show, a program called "Islam 101," and did not speak with one African-American.

Where are San Diego's black activists now?

Their hair was huge, their speech was loud, and their message was simple: revolution now!

Members of the United Domestic Workers have packed the main chamber and spilled into rooms across the hall and upstairs. When the vote is taken, Fahari Jeffers and Ken Seaton-Msemaji are seated in the paneled main chambers.

San Diego black writer: Murr, my father, and my brothers


My mother parked the truck on my foot three hours after my father told me that he loved me. It was March 1965, I was 20 years old, and that was the first time my ...

Olive Street residents near 30th can't get much closer, part 2

A quiet cul-de-sac in North Park

Between 1903 and 1909, the trolley expanded into the area east of Balboa Park. Thirtieth Street became the route, and a bridge was built to extend the street across Switzer Canyon, from Laurel to Olive.

Olive Street residents near 30th can't get much closer, part 1

A house and a tree spell contentment to me

In 1957 an earth-fill bridge replaced the old wood-and-iron one, which had been the center of controversy for many years. San Diego youths had seen the bridge timbers as a challenge and had often made the climb.

You Might Not Think a Cat Could Hog a Whole Bed

San Diegans on what pets do for us

Recently Missy had to pry the lizard's mouth open with a butter knife after he clamped down on Ruben's hand. While his teeth are small, the creature was able to break skin and draw blood.

Bird Talk

When she walks along Pacific Beach in the warm evenings of summer, Renee Lowe turns heads. The 38-year-old has long brown hair and the good looks that once made her a teen model, but it ...

Sugar Jones

The only thing worse than a liar was a thief.

For a whole year — beginning in 1959 — I stole from my father and I never got caught. I was 14 years old, a freshman at Saint Augustine’s High School on Nutmeg Street in ...

Sherley Williams – from Fresno to La Jolla

Raised not to hope too hard

Sherley and I were the same age, both of us writers, both of us descendants of slaves. In 1966 we became the first in our respective families to graduate from college.

Honest talk with San Diegans Linda Flores and Kevin Kelly about blindness

Not the absence of vision but another way of seeing

They were being murdered by the light. I watched and said nothing. When we began our lunch, the sun was just burnishing the windowsill. It was a hot day and Linda had left the window ...

Marriage is Temporary, Dogs are Forever

Love loss and dog loss

Terry Wilson has won five Emmys for his television directing, producing, and on-camera hosting; he’s been a national martial arts champion; and his 1998 article on the Marine dogs of World War II won best-short ...

Best Reader stories from 2000

Penasquitos teens in big trouble, Stephen Facciola, Olive Street, Cameron Crowe, Lester Bangs, San Diego Chinatown, Padres and the Mob

Rancho Peñasquitos boys charged with hate crime The teenagers shot at Roman from the Subaru with the BB gun during three or four passes. They took turns shooting at him as they drove by, but ...

Stan and Ollie

Cats help Gary Sassaman adjust.

Gary Sassaman is elusive. The 43-year-old enjoys his work as a news graphic designer for KUSI-TV; he also has good friends and likes to spend time with them. But like many artists, he seems best ...

One-legged professional with Federal Fire Department of San Diego.

Accident came while training for Baja 1000

He goes by both. Whether “Buddy,” the two-syllable synonym for pal, or the more mature-sounding “Bud,” the single-syllable term for what is young and unfinished, both fit. Bud McElroy, at 39, seems easygoing and uncomplicated. ...

African-Americans below the border not happy

I'm done with the States

The restaurant was a rambling wood affair with families crammed together and happily intent over their plates until that rumba line of black men – a half dozen of them – began to snake between ...

San Diego author's African-American family surrounds dying brother

Big brother says goodbye

The medical team in Tijuana had told André that blood transfusions would give him strength. Back at Kaiser, he had two and found they did. I was there when he came home after his third transfusion.

Otay Mesa prison – built to house 2200, today there are 4636

The parking lot is nearly full

Otay Mesa is part of a vast sweep of scrub that stretches along the U.S.-Mexico border as far as Texas. Donovan State Prison State Prison is located there, a huge complex of buildings 25 miles ...

Fat in San Diego: Are you known as a Two-Ton Tillie, Big Daddy, or Big Whopper?

Heavy silence

The ad was a big mistake. It was meant as a call to overweight men and women willing to talk about what it means to be fat. Pot bellies, love handles, slow-spreading thighs — humdrum ...

Twenty-seven years of unread letters in a disabled San Diego child's family

I wonder what you can see as you trouble my silence

Sheri’s brows were knitted, her lips tight. Like a scowling infant, unhappy thoughts appeared to flit over her face. The eyelids fluttered, and then her eyes opened; they were beautiful—large, a brown color flecked with gold.

Gizella Sabo: “I survived Auschwitz... for this?"

Six months to live

Gizella Sabo took the news hard. “I survived Auschwitz,” she said, smashing that bitter noun to smithereens. “I came out alive from that place. And for what?” she demanded. “For this?” This had turned out ...

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader