It has been a long, long time since my last email update. Three years! Instagram and twitter are mostly where I write updates these days, but I’m currently on a social media hiatus. I hope it lasts forever, but it probably will last about a month. Anyways, I hope you don't mind my sending the new equivalent of snail mail.
So, in three years some things have changed, and some things have stayed the same. I became an auntie for the third time, climbed with new and old friends, backpacked the Lost Coast Trail, became a certified Wilderness First Responder, dabbled in modeling, and read a lot of books. I also started publishing my writing.
My short story, “The Black Menagerie,” came out in FIYAH yesterday! It was very special to work with FIYAH, a semi-pro zine of Black speculative fiction, over this past month. The publishing industry is so white. FIYAH is so Black. And they make a playlist for every issue (tracks 7, 8, and 9 go along with my story).
FIYAH raised enough money last month such that it will be a pro-zine in 2021, which is a big deal in the world of genre magazines. It means they can pay their authors a professional rate, which means more Black writers will qualify as professional writers, important for various reasons. I’m attaching my PDF copy of the issue here, but if you’d like to support this zine that employs Black editors and publishes Black writers, you can also buy a copy or get an annual subscription.
more (on) writing.
A question I have asked myself many times over the past six months is “what is my role in this movement?” Maybe what I mean is, “what does it mean to take the time to write in this moment?”
To me, prioritizing writing has meant hoarding quiet, solitude, calm, and time for dreaming, and wondering. The urgency of justice tells me that there’s no time for dreaming or wondering. But an analysis of power tells me that time to think, dream, and wonder is the province of white men and women with resources, whose imaginations then take up an inordinate amount of space in the collective imagination of the entire country. I worked on lawmaking in California for long enough to understand that imaginings become stories become culture become law. For me, it is no great leap to understand that the United States thrives as a violent, white supremacist nation because the dreams, wonders, and visions of Black and Indigenous people and other people of color are systematically excluded from its collective imagination.
So what does it mean to be a Black person taking my time and writing stories?
Writing moves at the slow pace of healing, not the rapid pace of trauma. This is good. But taking my time to write means I’m not giving my time in other ways, and spending hours in nature thinking about an essay instead of, say, drafting legislation to close prisons or defund the police, can feel like wasting time rather than taking it. How, as a Black, Malay, queer, femme American can I choose to respond to the violent trauma that’s killing Black and Brown people everyday in this country *by writing fantastical stories*?
I don’t know. I do not know that I’m not alone in learning how to navigate this complexity. I am part of a long tradition of Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx, and other people of color in America choosing to make political art as a way to navigate individual power and oppression alongside structural power and oppression within a social, political, and economic context none of us can claim to fully understand.
In one sense, writing, and sharing my writing, is my way of giving the time I’ve taken back to all of us, so that we can enter into an imaginary space that sees, welcomes, loves, and values us. That does not imagine us as dead, or worthless, or only worth as much as we can work. That imagines us with wonder. We deserve to be imagined with wonder.
A few books, stories, and essays I’ve read in the past few months that imagine us with wonder:
- This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
- The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
- One Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous Ocean Vuong
- Aye and Gomorrah and other stories by Samuel Delany
- The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
- Talk Like Man and other stories by Nisi Shawl
- The City We Became by NK Jemisin
- The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
I’d love to hear from you about how you are taking your time right now.