Growing into community action, genealogy, dystopia, and more.
Carmen Agote, Chen Chen, Ed Lin, Janice Lee, Jenny Zhang, Kai Cheng Thom, Kirsten West Savali, links, Solmaz Sharif
We’re back again with eleven-tabs-full of clipped articles from the past two weeks, ready for your weekend reading queue. This time, we’re going back and surveying what we’ve missed — from newborn babies to new configurations of the world; cityscapes to white American suburbs; polluted waters to polluted roads. Get a window ready for mapping out the world as-is and tilling for what it could be.
At the Salton Sea by Jenny Zhang
Jenny Zhang for Harpers digs into the geneologies of Southern California’s Salton Sea, among the increasingly toxic atmosphere, surrounding communities, and beaches’ worth of brittled, dried fish.
The sound and vision of this empty beach remind me of the cities I’ve lived in after they’ve been quieted by extreme weather, though this is less beautiful than it is grotesque—a ghost beach town blanketed not by fine, undisturbed white sand, but ground-up bits of millions of dead fish. I’m not the first outsider who has ever been tempted to see the Salton Sea as poetry for end times, as allegory for what happens when humans interfere carelessly with nature; I’m part of a tradition.
Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang, trans. by Ken Liu
In a novelette that won the 2016 Hugo Award, Hao Jingfang imagines a futuristic Beijing society through the eyes of a waste processing worker, published in Uncanny Magazine.
He began to steel himself. If Peng Li didn’t return in time, he would have to go on this journey without consulting him. Although it would make the trip far more difficult and dangerous, time was of the essence and he had to go. The loud chants of the woman next to him hawking her jujube interrupted his thoughts and gave him a headache. The peddlers at the other end of the road began to pack up their wares, and the crowd, like fish in a pond disturbed by a stick, dispersed. No one was interested in fighting the city cleaning crew. As the vendors got out of the way, the cleaning trucks patiently advanced. Vehicles were normally not allowed in the pedestrian lane, but the cleaning trucks were an exception. Anybody who dilly–dallied would be packed up by force.
Content warning in the following piece for abuse.
Kai Cheng Thom: Giving Birth To Yourself by Kai Cheng Tom, interviewed by Claire Schwartz
Kai Cheng Tom with our friends at Guernica explore livelihoods of queer communities of color in Canada and rebirth in the face of violence and death.
When we enter queer community, again there’s no context for us because queer community in Canada is often very white, and often very rejecting of people of color—particularly anti-indigenous and anti-black. When you begin to define yourself as a queer person of color (qpoc) and transgender or transsexual and of color, you have to, in a sense, give birth to that. You have to invent who you are, and decide how to conceptualize yourself and your connection to tradition.
In the format of a classroom syllabus, Janice Lee explores the uniquely Korean concept of “han” in Entropy magazine.
Students in this course will explore the unique emotional identity and Korean concept of “han” as it manifests in experimental texts by Korean & Korean-American authors. Looking closely at the relationship of cultural history & identity and aesthetics & narrative, students will explore how the presence of unresolved corporeal history and the impossibility of articulation or expression leads to new encounters in language and narrative via experimental writing practices. Texts will look at how emotions like “han” relate to themes of authenticity, historical accuracy, individual subjectivity, and lived/embodied experience. Questions will include how history and accuracy intersect in individual creative work, how emotional and real violence intersect with aesthetic contradiction, how the limits and failures of language allow for reaching beyond traditional narrative structures, and how lived experience intersects with individual identity. Students will look at both creative and critical texts, and work in a collaborative atmosphere by participating in discussion, exploring concepts of failure and inarticulation in their own creative writing practices, and thinking critically around relationships between history, individual, and language.
Porous Identification, Radical Translation and Immigrant Imagination: in the works of Carmen Argote by Gelare Khoshgozaran
Gelare Khoshgozaran introduces artist Carmen Argote’s latest work in context of subversive minimalism, immigrant displacement, and the concept of porosity for Contemptorary.
Carmen Argote’s work throws me back to those early years in the U.S. as an immigrant MFA student and the way they shaped and continue to inform my position as an artist. I visit Carmen at her live/work space in Lincoln Heights. She’s working on a new piece, titled “live/work” for an upcoming exhibition at the Denver Art Museum. The piece is in progress a couple of feet away from where we are sitting: a metal divider through which I can see parts of the kitchen and three cats occasionally moving around in the “live” space. The metaphor of home is superfluous in the literature by and about immigrant artists, writers and poets.
The Dome Is Where the Heart Is by Tasbeeh Herwees
Tasbeeh Herwees discusses the significance of architectural domes to Muslim communities around the world on Zócalo Public Square.
I used to go to the mosque with some regularity, and when I did, seeing the dome peek up from the skyline as I approached that corner of Jefferson and Exposition boulevards always evoked in me in singular feeling of belonging. This city is so hostile to so many inhabitants, its extensive sprawl isolating and alienating and its public services meager and allocated selectively. But L.A. had inscribed a place made specifically for me—a Muslim-American—and marked the territory with one of the most recognizable symbols of Islam, the dome, along with its sister symbol, the minaret.
Fartherhood by Ed Lin
Long-time Workshop friend Ed Lin pins points from Jersey family homes to lunch in New York City in rebuilding an unexpected, unsteady map to fatherhood, in a guest post on Angry Asian Man‘s blog. (Catch the Workshop mentioned in the post too!)
I hadn’t had a happy childhood. Maybe that was one reason why I wasn’t anxious to have kids. My parents had owned a business and my sister and I were forced to work there every day of our lives. On top of that we were bawled out for not getting straight As in school.
Maybe I was afraid of reliving those years if I became a parent. Maybe I was afraid of what sort of parent I would be.
Content warnings in the following piece for child sexual abuse.
Reading Boring White Girls by Morgan Jerkins
In a reworking of Emma Clines’ recently released The Girls, Morgan Jerkins in Hazlitt inquires why it is that suburban white girls seem so drawn to destruction.
After finishing The Girls, I realized I do not read about white women’s lives in the same manner in which I read about the lives of women of color. The former is an escapist route for me. These white female characters have everything: family, money, friends, and societal reinforcement that they are better than rest. And yet, they still want to ruin themselves, and the writers often do not explain why. Is it the danger that their whiteness does not afford them?
Content warning in the following piece for sexual themes.
An Ode to Reading Rimbaud in Lubbock, Texas by Chen Chen
Oh, Lubbock. Why did I choose you? How did my boyfriend choose to come with me? The name makes me think buttock & banana & hammock. So why isn’t Lubbock the new Fire Island or P-town? For months I dreamt it was, could be. I was teenage me again—dreaming of making out, moving in with Jake Gyllenhaal, dreaming of the day I could bring a boyfriend, a Jake, home. At times I thought, If only, & tried to see myself picking out nightstands with Maggie Gyllenhaal.
ABOUT LOOK: on looking, writing, and war by Solmaz Sharif
Solmaz Sharif’s tumblr catalogues formative pieces for her debut poetry collection Look.
A collection of words, images, videos, obsessions, thoughts, griefs, sounds that have gone into the writing of L O O K. Maintained haphazardly by Solmaz Sharif.
Content warning in the following piece for antiblackness.
#Attica45: Muhammad Ali Recites His Powerful Poem About the Attica Prison Uprising by Kirsten West Savali
Kirsten West Savali in The Root reminds us of Muhammad Ali’s poem on the 1971 Attica Prison Uprising, which is called back upon in the continuing work strike being organized and carried out by incarcerated people across the United States which commemorates the former action’s 45th anniversary.
In 1972, one year after the Attica prison uprising, Muhammad Ali traveled to Ireland to fight Alvin Lewis. While there, he was interviewed by Cathal O’Shannon. Just as pretty as ever, “the Greatest” spoke on his boxing career, the importance of being Black (with a capital B), getting rid of our “slave” names, the Nation of Islam, racism, militarism, the historical oppression of the Irish people, and the ridiculousness of Tarzan and white Angel food cake.