f-yeah: intersectional feminism O
Aayushi loves stories, believes each and every story is worthy of sharing, and also hates calculus.
Mel Mel watches too much TV and should probably stop adding even more to her Netflix queue.
E M I
Lana Rafaela Cindric is insatiably curious and she loves bringing new stories to light.
Caroline loves indie folk, photography, night skies, short stories, number theory, and baseball.
O U R
C O N T R I B U T O R S
Emily we're always looking for new contributors and team members! check the back cover or message one of the staff for details
w e b z i n e
f o r
d e d i c a t e d d i v e r s e , f e m i n i s m
i n t e r s e c t i o n a l
a n d
a n d
p r o v i d i n g
m u l t i f a c e t e d
w o m e n
a c r o s s
f e m i n i s m , v i b r a n t , l o o k t h e
g l o b e .
GIRLS TRIP REVIEW
WONDER WOMAN: WARBRINGER
THE BOLD TYPE REVIEW
MUSIC REVIEWS: RAINBOW BY KESHA
F-YEAH'S HIGHLIGHTS REEL
FEATURED ARTIST: ZOHA
FEATURED ARTIST: JOSIPA
PEOPLE, JUST LIKE YOU AND ME
MOTHER TONGUE: ORIGINAL FICTION
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STARRING: REGINA HALL, QUEEN LATIFAH, JADA PINKETT SMITH DIRECTED BY: MALCOM D. LEE According to the title of her bestselling book,
This squad actually seems like a group of
Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall) has it all: fame,
friends with history, which helps pump some
money, and a great relationship with her
reality into the kind of slapstickery you
gorgeous husband Stewart Pierce (Luke
expect in this type of movie: The Flossy
Cage’s Mike Colter). Unfortunately, behind
Posse in an 80’s style dance battle, an oral-
that perfect façade, there are mile-wide cracks
sex tutorial based off the infamous Bars
in the Pierce marriage and Ryan is missing
Jones’ YouTube video, and a club trip full of
something: the group of lifelong friends she
hallucinogens that ends with Latifah’s Sasha
made in college, the Flossy Posse.
making out with a lamp. This movie is
When Ryan unexpectedly
unapologetically goofy and it’s supposed to
gets the opportunity to
be, but it’s also genuinely funny where lots of
travel to New Orleans,
comedies in this genre fall flat.
she decides a girl’s trip is the perfect way
Overall, the film is full of women who are
to reconnect with her
given powerful, well-rounded roles, with only
two-exceptions (and in my opinion the only bad notes in the film) a woman who is
The Flossy Posse’s
sleeping with another character’s husband is
other members include
presented as a one-note Instagram “thot” and
Sasha (Queen Latifah), a
a white character who continues to imitate
gossip blogger modeled after
black slang even when told not to.
TMZ whose career is on a Beneath the laughs
downward slide; Dina (Tiffany Haddish), who was fired from her job and is ready to
however there are
forget her troubles; and Lisa (Jada Pinkett-
deep messages to be absorbed about public
Smith), whose divorce and single motherhood
image vs. private
have left her exhausted and sad.
happiness, work, unabashed sex
An overused comedic plot has new life breathed into it thanks to a great cast with real
positivity, and the value
warmth and great chemistry, wonderful comic
of loyal friends who are
set-pieces, and a star-making performance
always ready to fight for you,
from newcomer Haddish, whose Dina is a
call you out on your mistakes and celebrate your successes.
one-woman scene stealer. Every moment Dina is on scene is a gift, but Haddish really seals the deal when she calls her girlfriends
I love the underlying message found in Girls
into her hotel room for a quick group prayer,
Trip: everything can go wrong in your world
which she keeps simple and sweet: “I feel my
but your girls will have you through thick and
heart filling up with joy to be with my friends
again,” she says, and so do we. BY APRIL MORRIS
b o o k
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ONDER WOMAN : WARBRINGER by Leigh Bardugo
I had approximately three hundred feelings about this book before it was even released, mostly because it’s written by Leigh Bardugo (author of the Six of Crows duology, from which I have not recovered) and also because of the hype generated from the movie, which, as we all agree, was a cinematic masterpiece. Thankfully, it lived up to expectations, so I’m here to give you the rundown with a pros/cons list:
~ THE AMAZING CAST
~ DISTRACTING FORMAT
Other than the one white
The POV tends to switch
character, the rest of the leads were
without warning. If you’re easily
characters of color, and I just have
bothered by that, you might not
to say that it’s so NICE for white
enjoy the book as much!
not to be the default for once.
~ LACKLUSTER VILLAIN
~ LGBT REP!
The main Big Bad is just…
Say hi to Nim, the most
entirely unconvincing? He came
amazing badass there is, who
off flat to me, especially
canonically mentions that she is
compared to the likes of Six of
in fact Gay™ and has a teeny
Crows antagonists Jan Van Eck
(huge) crush on Diana —
and Pekka Rollins.
which, honestly? Relatable.
~ FUN, TWISTY DIALOGUE I mean, I’ve come to expect it considering the many great lines in Six of Crows, but Warbringer was still a lot funnier than I expected. So many amazing wisecracks.
Ultimately though, Wonder Woman: Warbringer was an amazing, empowering read and we can only hope that Bardugo would be so kind to grace us with a sequel at some point. (No, seriously. I’ll wait fifteen years if I have to.)
~ FOCUS ON FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS More than anything else, the book was centered around Diana and Alia’s
REVIEW BY EMILY HENG
relationship — a platonic friendship in the strongest, purest sense. Not to be a cheesy old lady here, but it is beautiful to read.
Editor’s note: This review was previously published on Emily’s book blog. It has been republished here with some minor edits.
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What is it about The Bold Type that has all of social media abuzz? What makes it so special that Freeform renewed it for not one, but two new seasons? As far as premises go, The Bold Type's is pretty basic: a trio of twenty-something women working at a prestigious fashion magazine called Scarlet. To be completely honest, it's not the Highest Quality television out there. There are plenty of shows with better writing, acting, cinematography — better song choices, even. But right from the pilot, one thing was clear: someway, somehow, this show was going to be important. If there's anything The Bold Type deserves praise for, it’s for the consistently and unapologetically female voice. Everything about it is firmly anchored in women's perspectives. Arguably the most solid thing driving the success of this endeavour is the strong friendship between the main trio — Jane (Katie Stevens), Kat (Aisha Dee), and Sutton (Meghann Fahy). Throughout the season, all three experience their fair share of conflict, both as separate individuals and within the trio. Nevertheless, their firm unity as a group has never once been called into question by the show. When they disagree, they work to understand each other, instead of flying off the handle for ~dramatic tension~. When one girl needs help, the other two are right there. There’s no question: the relationship that comes first on the show is always, always the trio. It goes a long way towards showing that female friendships canbe portrayed as the cornerstone of media works without being reduced to the crude (and far too commonlyemployed) level of Device For Creating Unnecessary Drama Between Women.
One hotly discussed aspect of the show is the romance between Kat and Adena (Nikohl Boosheri), a lesbian Muslim photographer whose work is featured in Scarlet. Undoubtedly the best thing about Kadena is that they're not just a token WLWOC feature. They're frequently given screen time that is 100% their own. They have their own plot lines, often branching out from what's happening in the Scarlet offices. In developing this relationship, the show touches on several important issues like sexuality, censorship, religion, and even xenophobia. True, not all of these are handled as deftly or impactfully as could be. Even so, the show succeeds in establishing the Kadena connection with heartfelt love and deep respect. It's no surprise that this pairing has won over so many hearts. Despite its faults, The Bold Type isn’t just another pink-glazed dramedy with a spunky female lead. The show’s got real heart and soul to it, one that you can’t help but be won over by in its best moments. On the whole, it's a lovely, vibrant season that the cast and crew have created, brimming with earnest truths and fierce ambition, and I for one can’t wait for more. A/N: If you want to catch up on The Bold Type (or just relive the magic all over again), Season 1 is currently up on the Freeform app for free viewing!
REVIEW BY MELISSA LEE
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m o r e
CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND Created by Rachel Bloom, Aline Brosh McKenna Starring Rachel Bloom, Vincent Rodriguez III, Donna Lynne Champlin If there’s anything on TV right now that’s completely unique from everything else on offer, it’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. This show masquerades as a fluffy musical romcom, but behind that flowery veil lies sharp comedy, heart-warming and wrenching drama, and some seriously impressive musical numbers.
Showrunners Bloom and McKenna make deft use of their white-girl-self-indulgent-sob-story premise to dive deep into themes of mental illness, female friendship, and the concept of romance as an emotional crutch. The show also features multiple POC main characters (including a Filipino lead!), as well as refreshingly unapologetic LGBT rep (Darryl/White Josh 2kforever!). With two stellar seasons and multiple awards under its belt, fans and critics alike have much to look forward to in the show’s newly premiered third season.
STAR TREK: DISCOVERY Created by Bryan Fuller, Alex Kurtzman Starring Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones This gift of a show brings us the one thing that’s been sorely missing in the sci-fi/fantasy genre ever since it began — a Black female lead. Not dressed up as an alien, not covered with green or blue bodypaint, but a Black woman in her own skin.
Beyond all the hype of this casting choice, the thing that truly makes this show great is lead character Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). Her Vulcan upbringing has trained her to be cool and logical in the face of fire, making her an exemplary Starfleet officer. Her humanity allows her to form deep attachments to the people around her, like her crew and her captain, Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). Her natural tenacity and strength of resolve makes her a formidable force to be dealt with. All in all, Michael Burnham is a truly awesome, admirable combination of brains, heart, and pure nerve, one that Martin-Green plays with great depth and nuance. It’s rare to find a character that well-rounded and -formed anywhere.
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Of all the notable releases of 2017, Kesha’s
Returning to her country roots was clearly an
Rainbow is arguably the most deserving of
inspired choice for the Nashville native. Case
the descriptor “comeback”. Having undergone
in point: her cover of ‘Old Flames (Can’t
a very drawn-out, public battle with her
Hold A Candle To You)’, a tune penned by
record label in an effort to free herself from
Kesha’s own mother, Pebe Sebert, and made
the thumb of her alleged abuser Dr. Luke, one
famous in 1980 by Dolly Parton (who returns
can only imagine the immense stress,
to duet with Kesha on Rainbow). Kesha is
devastation, and turmoil that Kesha’s been
clearly in her element here, and, without
through over the last few years.
exaggeration, this is possibly the absolute best her voice
Against the backdrop of such
has ever sounded.
traumatic struggle, Kesha’s been hard at work crafting a new sound, one that hits profoundly from the first strains of opening track ‘Bastards’. She ditches her trademark synths and autotune in favour of a guitar and her (sorely underappreciated) twangy tenor, and the result is a plaintively earnest up-tempo Lennon-style ballad that conveys one simple message: nothing is going to keep Kesha down. It’s a message that carries through the entire album — from the brassy, untamed ‘Woman’ to the unabashed joy of ‘Learn To Let Go’. It’s even in the stripped-back quiet of ‘Rainbow’ and ‘Godzilla’, the latter of which reads much more like Juno soundtrack-esque whimsy than anything.
Even so, there remains an undertone of the synth-crazy party girl that first burst onto the scene in 2010 with iconic banger ‘Tik Tok’. Take ‘Boots’ for example, where electric guitars and a toetapping kick drum unite to boost her rhythmic 'ohwhoa-oh' wail (a vocal hook that could have dropped right out of ‘Timber’, her 2013 collaboration with Pitbull). It’s important to note that as an artist, Kesha has never been unconfident. All the same, there’s something distinctly different about the vibrant boldness of Rainbow. It’s not just confidence that’s brimming over in the music and lyrics. It’s conviction. It’s faith, and hope, and — above all — love.
MORE MUSIC WE'RE LOVING:
Holiday Destination - Nadine Shah
Ctrl - SZA On her debut album, SZA
Shah's third album is
(a.k.a. Solána Rowe)
perhaps her most political
expertly navigates the
and astute yet, with
depths of heartbreak,
themes of war, terrorism,
loneliness and feminine
capitalism, racism and
power with lyrical lilts
hate speech underscoring
and rap-sung rhymes
the choppily rhythmic
that’ll have you reeling in
guitars and militant drum
f-yeah's highlights reel
w o r l d ; BY MELISSA LEE
Shinta Ratri INDONESIA Founder of the Pondok Pesantren Waria alFatah, the world’s only Islamic boarding school for transgender people In the face of increasing anti-LGBT sentiment and political action in Indonesia, Shinta’s work provides trans Indonesians with a safe haven to pray and commune with each other “In here you can be with a women’s clothes or men’s clothes, it’s up to you. It depends how comfortable you are.”
Dr. Esperanza Cerón
Head of Educar Consumidores, a consumer advocacy organisation campaigning for increased tax on sugary drinks that lead to obesity and diet-
STAR TREK: DISCOVERY
related illnesses (e.g. diabetes) Despite being repeatedly harassed, persecuted and silenced at every step by soda companies and
Created by Bryan Fuller, Alex Kurtzman government agencies, Dr. Esperanza continues to Starring Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones
lead the fight to push Colombian soda taxes up
Shalene Flanagan USA First American woman to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years Known for ‘nurturing and promoting the rising female talent around her, a rare quality in the cutthroat world of elite sports’, especially the male-dominated field of distance running The Shalane Effect is so potent that all 11 of her training partners have made it to the Olympics as a result of training with her.
“I thoroughly enjoy working with other women. When we achieve great things on our own, it doesn’t feel nearly as special.”
"Being broken is not beautiful Its not liberating refusing to put on your glasses just because you don't like what you see Its not romantic to convince yourself to get out of bed every morning Its not effortless when tears come out more steadily than your breathe Its not strong to survive without something you once couldn't live without Its not living but surviving on a mattress full of broken glass and not willing to leave it Its not your strength but weakness staring back at you everytime you look into the mirror Its sleeping in a plastic bag and complaining why you can't breathe Its seeking therapy in blowing dandelion seeds while having asthma Its reminding yourself that the coming days are going to be worse but there's no other way Its waiting for someone to turn on the switch when its the cord that has been cut Its spreading thorns on your doormat and holding up a help sign from the window Its not safe when your tears are the only thing that make you feel warm It is not numbing but painful when your head feels so heavy after all the crying that you can't fallÂ asleep Its when all your tears dry up and choking on your breath seems like the only option Its checking the waters and realizing they don't care any more than you thought Its believing that staying broken isn't beautiful but healing is It's realizing you have to be whole again not for anyone else but yourself Its looking at yourself red nose, blue under eyes and hoping that it will change."
f e a t u r e d
a r t i s t :
z o h a INTERVIEW BY LANA RAFAELA
1 0 So let me have everything The good and the bad The ugly and the beautiful The small things that are too precious just because I can't have them and the big things that are too basic just because I own them Let me see it whole Let me feel everything Just for once don't say a word and let it be useless, nonsense, humiliating or too much for me.
"Some things take longer under the ground to grow than they do on the outside It's okay if the things which make your heart beat race are the same that will clog it with pain Its okay if you're losing more friends than you gain (It doesn't matter you're all you need for yourself) Or so is important to believe in on nights like this when you feel like nothing would change if you pulled the trigger You might not feel or hear this often but doing what you are is enough (You often fail to measure the mental effort it takes) along with the sweaty palms the taste of iron in your mouth the sweet poison corroding your heart the dark side of love (the single sided love) I think its time to realize that following your dreams is just like paragliding, you finally jump out to fly It's not worth it to stay at the same place only in the fear of trying No it's reasonable not to care about falling down on your knees when your dreams are out there in the sky You cannot stay at the same place barefooted with the shards of glass beneath your feet No you cannot stand among the voices of people who tell you that you can't just because someone told them the same years ago And they're passing their legacy of breaking dreams onto you so you will stand at the same place and tell someone else how they will never make it just like you didn't No honey the world is not a uniform manufacturing machine and you're not an amoeba undergoing multiple divisions of the same kind You're human with the capacity to break but heal by yourself as well You're vulnerable enough to soothe others' wounds by exposing your own"
"Your teeth although straight and perfect are ugly because they don't rattle at the sound of the monster's calls anymore They've become bulletproof Your feet are not being used for what they were sent here The chains have become too small for your dreamy head They don't turn wherever the eyes go they trace their path on their own now They're hard to tame now, just like your hair blowing through the July wind You think you're are not strong enough to be a rebel But you're still called one for not giving in without even trying."
Empathy and resilience. Storytelling and
"I've been told that my nature is calming
too and I need to be a little more intense in writing, which I didn't take seriously, at
When you find literature that helps you
least for now," she says. "That's where it
live through the bad days and feels like
comes from in the first place. That’s who I
standing under a waterfall, you stick to it.
am and I'm still learning how to embrace it, softly, one step at a time. Honestly,
For me, and for many of her loyal readers,
poetry allows me to be myself completely,
that's exactly what Zoha Jan's poetry is.
to reveal what I'm made of and what I believe in without any fears."
Born and brought up, in her words, amidst the Himalayas in Pakistan's capital
The question, however, is whether it has
Islamabad, Zoha is an introvert who
helped her adopt a different lens when
doesn't think she is very good at
going about her daily life.
expressing herself orally. "I've been obsessed with doing something creative
She believes that it makes her look at
since as long as I can remember," she says,
everything through a different, bigger lens,
be it music, drawing, or books.
helping to broaden her perspective. "I think I actually become a better person
A person of contrasts, she is either taking
each day with my writing," she muses.
up any chance she gets her hands on or
"The biggest influence it has is on me."
trying to hide from the most necessary things, there's no in-between. "And yes, I'd like to call myself a storyteller of some sort."
She first started writing in her journal when she was in the 6th grade. “I did it because I wanted to let something out but I didn't know how to, so I took to pen and paper and did that right there and then.”
"I felt like I was good at something for once and it made me feel better for the first
However, it also had a big influence on the
time," Zoha recalls. "I'm still in pursuit of
relationships between her and people in
finding that experience once again. I
her vicinity, supplying wise lessons ever
remember realising at one point that this is
since she started writing.
my purpose in the world. That I had to write and contribute to the world with my
"I try not to form opinions about people
until I walk in their shoes," she says. "I try to understand and help if I can, or just
Her purpose shines through. Zoha
learn from it. You never know the whole
certainly seems to possess an intricate and
story, so it's better not to judge."
deep understanding of what it means to be human. It leaves the reader with a feeling
Zoha doesn’t shy away from talking about
of calm, and calls for resistance in a soft,
the impact poetry has had on her approach
to people around her, once again proving that no matter the perception of poetry as a solitary activity, it can never exist in a bubble.
1 2 "I'm not saying I'm better than anyone else
"Isn't expression the first step to
but I try to become better with each coming
resolution?" she proposes. "To me,
day," she confesses. "I also try not to
expression is resolution. And what I've
channel out my negativity in a world
learned recently is that you don't always
already so full of hypocrisy and hate. I try
have to come to a solution. Sometimes
to play my part in doing whatever I can. It
letting it all out in a safe space with like-
has made me sensitive to people's feelings.
minded people is enough.
And I've realised that no one is all good or bad. There's something to learn from
"Resolution is a myth. It's never there.
everyone and every experience.”
Expression is a true thing, something concrete, and you can practice it the way
One of the standout features of Zoha's work
you want to. Expression is what art is all
is that she often combines photography
with poetry. This synergy between two different artistic channels makes one
Even though some of her posts are just
wonder - when does the moment of
notes to herself, she also uses her work to
realizing something is a perfect fit come?
converse with her readers. “I've made so many friends on the page," she says.
"Honestly, I write and take pictures
"People who support and understand my
separately without keeping one thing or the
art, and you're one of them. I wouldn't be
other in my mind," she reveals. "Whenever
able to continue without them honestly.
I feel like posting, I choose a piece of
This is my space and all of my followers
writing and go through my gallery to find
are my people who are there whenever I
something and I finally post it if I do.
have something to say."
Otherwise, I simply don't."
You don't always have to come to a solution. Sometimes letting it all out in a safe space with like-minded people is enough. Amongst all the lessons her poetry has
Zoha frequently collaborates with other
taught her, the ones Zoha values the most
artists as well, collaborations which she
are "resilience and empathy." “I wouldn't be
describes as learning experiences. “While I
the person I am today if it wasn't for my
was collaborating with Nabeel
art," she declares. "It has also made me
[nabeelsartistry on Instagram] I was in the
fearless in one way or another. Although
moment of writing that poem, which I think
I'm still trying and learning, it has taught
is the most emotional and personal one I've
me to never give up. It has made me
shared so far. That illustration came into
understand people more compassionately.”
my mind and it just clicked. It provided the inspiration I needed to complete the poem."
And so, from writing – the closest thing to magic there is – we come back to being
Since poetry allows her to be who she is
deeply human. With its faults, messes, joy
unapologetically, the page is a place of both
and sadness, there is yet so much beauty in
expression and resolution. Literature is a
the human experience; and nothing
place of learning for her, for ground-
illustrates it as perfectly as Zoha Jan’s
breaking thoughts that her readers can
where to find zoha:
featured artist: josipa One of the first things I noticed about
And if her main inspirations, horror and
Josipa’s art was how cool it was.
fantasy movies and TV shows, are anything
Simultaneously it felt like a breath of fresh
to go by, what she sees with her own eyes is
air and something familiar which I could
quite thrilling. In Josipa’s words, she’s been
not put my finger on.
“drawn into this world ever since I was a child and I think it has a big influence on
In short, I found it unique and during the
themes in my drawings and the design of my
months I’ve spent following her, I find
myself growing more and more delighted with each work she posted. From her
One look at her drawings and it’s obvious
depictions of mermaids (all of which were,
that she borrows heavily from horror and
once again, so interesting that I wanted to
fantasy to create her stunningly surrealist,
write a story for each drawing she posted)
sometimes eerie depictions that manages to
to her zodiac series and other fandom
pique curiosity in all the right places.
works, Josipa just keeps getting better and better.
When asked about where she sees her art in the next five years, Josipa’s already got a
Josipa describes herself as a twenty year-
plan. “As a computer science student, I’m
old computer science student from Croatia,
hoping that I’ll be able to merge my future
who has been drawing ever since she
profession and art. I’d love to work on the
became aware of herself. As it is often the
design and development of apps and video
case with artists, she took time before she
started pursuing it seriously and for her, that happened at the end of elementary
Finally, when dealing with the problem of
creative blocks, Josipa prefers a more relaxed approach. She refrains from forcing herself
To my question of why she started
into big projects if she’s lacking inspiration,
drawing, she says: “I’ve had vivid
and practices anatomy drawings or goes back
imagination since I was a kid and a huge
to her main inspirations - movies and books.
need to show others what I saw with my own eyes.”
where to find josipa:
“Ideas come on their own right after that.”
people, just like you and me
1 5 by Caroline
A few months ago I visited the Museum
And it hit me, in that moment, that these
of Modern Art in Manhattan. It’s one of
were real people. Parents who scrape
my favorite museums, and not just
together anything they can find for their
because I get in for free. There’s just
children, children who want to learn
something so vibrant and alive about it:
reading and spelling and multiplication.
the colors, the people, the history that
People want to live, not just survive.
doesn’t feel so faraway as history should.
They’re the same as us.
During my visit, I found an exhibit that struck a resonant chord with me.
I left the MoMA inspired, and shaken, and ready to take on the world. I was
In the center of the room was a house
going to find ways to, as a mostly broke
constructed of some heavy-duty metal and
college student, fight for these people, get
plastic. It looked like someplace a child
them the food and water and shelter they
would play; in fact, some bored kids were
need and deserve.
running in and out, their parents otherwise engrossed in the photographs lining the black walls.
People want to live, not just survive. They’re the same as us. Within a week, I had promptly forgotten everything I had promised myself. Life went on around me, everything moving at a rapid New York clip. There were weddings to attend and exams to ace and friends to meet. There was so little time.
A map of the world, constructed from
And then I went to the library. I hadn’t
different colored electrical wires, circuit
been all summer, busy with an internship,
boards, and speakers provided a
but school started again and left me with a
soundtrack to the room. The exhibit was
rare hour to browse the stacks and
about refugees and the conditions they
actually read what I had found. I pulled
live in. An entire school is housed in a
books off the shelves, novels, young adult
midsize cardboard box, a five-person
fiction, and then stumbled upon a
family can live comfortably in a 188-
collection of short stories by Viet Thanh
square foot emergency temporary shelter.
Nguyen, entitled The Refugees.
Skinny kids faded into the dismal backdrops of their villages, but their eyes shone bright through the photographic paper and straight in my direction.
1 6 To be honest, I had discovered the book in
These are people- men and women, gay
the spring and wanted to read it back then,
and straight, full of good qualities and
too. But I forgot the name of the title and
bad- and the only thing they had in
the author before I had a chance to place it
common were their heritage, and a need
on hold. When I found it again, I brought
for a helping hand. And once again, I
the hardcover home.
wanted to give it to them. This time, I didn’t wait.
The Internet is a beautiful thing. Within seconds, I had found dozens of ways to help, with both my money and my time. Here you have my words, which is a start, but there are petitions to be signed, volunteer opportunities to attend, and donations to be made.
But more than this, I’ve shifted my perspective. Somehow, I had forgotten that my own grandparents were among the thousands of Jewish refugees who left Europe after miraculously surviving the Holocaust. Their lives were torn apart, and they needed a place to go to begin And it was amazing. This isn’t a book
anew. It’s been nearly 75 years since the
review by any means, but I’d recommend
Holocaust, and somehow, hatred based in
The Refugees in a heartbeat. The eight
race and religion is still rampant.
stories all featured Vietnamese refugees, people fleeing the Vietnam War and the subsequent Communist regime. The author was a refugee himself, arriving with his parents in America at the age of four after the fall of Saigon.
‘Refugees’ is not enough of a descriptor.
Before starting the book, I had kind of
Right now, I can change myself, and I
expected eight of the same story, because
will. I am. Because refugees are not
really, how different could these people,
numbers, not facts and figures that are so
all Vietnamese immigrants, actually be?
large they cease to have any meaning. They are people. They are fathers and
So different. Mind-blowingly different.
sisters and boyfriends and wives and students and athletes and thinkers and
After tearing my way through the pages, I
dreamers. They will be doctors and poets
couldn’t believe that all of these
and business owners and investment
characters had come from the same place,
bankers and teachers and therapists and
because each voice was so unique, and
dogwalkers and cooks. And right now,
each story constructed in almost its own
they are people.
world. And it reminded me of what I had seen in that exhibit almost a year ago-
First and foremost, they are always,
‘refugees’ is not enough of a descriptor.
m o t h e r
t o n g u e
original fiction by Emily Heng
I learn my mother in fragments, in a foreign language that sounds guttural falling off my lips.
The words are clumsy on my tongue—unused to anything else except for the way it seems to curl upwards when I say three, my teeth clicking together in unison to pronounce gone. Still, I persist anyway. I list them out in my head in the long stretches of silence, murmur them under my breath so I can get them just right. They stay perched against the back of my teeth, on most days. Unused, but lingering, like how you can never quite forget how to swim once you’ve picked up the skill. Survival isn’t something you can unlearn.
I break them out from time to time, on the days when she’s around. They’re stiff and stilted and halting; an actor fumbling through her lines, desperate to impress. A habit that I’ve never quite learned how to break. I’m always disgusted at myself after; the independent, confident persona I’ve so lovingly cultivated discarded carelessly on the ground, dignity included. But I can’t help it. Under her keen, watchful gaze, I am suddenly transformed to the same six-year-old that slept with her night light on, counting on the faint glow of a Mickey Mouse shaped lamp to keep the monsters away.
It’s the same starry-eyed, gullible six-year-old that believed that her mother to be infallible. In my eyes, she was downright mythical; a product of one of my favorite fairytales come to life. Everything she did held a kind of glamor to it, a kind of mystique. She didn’t walk around barefoot, like the rest of us, and instead bore a pair of dainty cloth slippers with roses stitched on them. Her mug bore lipstick marks, the smears of pink stark against the porcelain, the dregs of her coffee still swirling at the bottom. When she laughed, you could see right back to her molars.
In a sense, I had always been right. My mother had been something out of a fairytale, made out of the same stuff as unicorns and mermaids and other impossible creatures. A distant and faraway thing, powered by the strength of one’s own beliefs. Unattainable, some would say. A less tactful explanation would involve the word make-believe being thrown around. (Another simpler word for it would simply be absent.)
The first time she disappears, I am seven years old.
No one notices.
Well, not for a while, at least. It’s hard to, considering how it had happened without
warning; her requisite cup of morning coffee still resting against the countertop and belongings in place. This is how I learn that trouble doesn’t always flash like a neon, flickering sign. A beacon in the dark, glaringly obvious in the night. Trouble doesn’t always mean raised voices and slammed doors and feet stomping down hallways. Sometimes, it’s the tight set of a mouth, edges cranked up to force a smile. Averted gazes and nails tapping against linoleum, mind a million miles away. A quietly disquieting, frightening thing.
She comes home a week after, duffel bag in hand and sporting dark, bruise-like shadows under her eyes. It’s only half unpacked the next time she leaves, the bag unceremoniously dumped under a chair in favor of a newer, better one. This time, she disappears for a month. This time, I wash out her coffee cup and set it up on a high shelf. A more productive use of my time instead of wasting it crying.
In the years that pass, I learn to catch glimpses of her. Hoarding away every detail that I can get, turning it around in my hands and wearing out the edges. It’s a finely honed skill, a meticulously managed system. Like finding cracks of moonlight filtering through the night sky when it’s cloudy out. I find pieces of her in the phone bills shoved through our mailbox, in the new pair of slippers that materialized overnight. Sometimes, it’s a rolled-up magazine balanced on the edge of a sink. A whiff of perfume wafting through the kitchen. A small comfort, of sorts; a moment where I can tell myself, almost convincingly, that I might have just missed her. Ships in the night instead of looking out into an empty harbor.
On good days, I let myself wonder. Beyond my usual worrying about her mental state and safety, that is. On those days, I think about how she’d look at me. I imagine the cock of her chin as she takes me in, a crease forming between her brows. In that scenario, my lips are already forming an apology. For the ink spanning my ribs and my back, the streaked hair. My sharp laugh and the red of my lips. It’s a toss-up between I’m sorry and I wish I knew how to be soft.
On the bad ones, I burn. I’m screaming every terrible thing I’ve ever thought about her as she lights the pyre at my feet. In those dreams, I tell her that I’ve learnt to swing first before anyone else could come close. That I’ve learnt not to flinch each time it breaks skin. I don’t look away when the flames begin to lick at my ankles.
Most of the time, I just think about her. I think about the soft patter of her clothed feet as she ambles down the hallway, her steps punctuated by a loud yawn. I think about her pale fingers wrapped around her cup, her pinkie raised as she rounds the corner into the kitchen. I think about the hitch in her voice when she tells me good morning, her tongue rolling over the syllables and edges of the words that I’ve never quite understood.
I turn around, smile. Then offer her a cup of coffee.
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A webzine for intersectional feminism , dedicated to providing a vibrant, diverse, and multifaceted look at feminism and women across th...
Published on Nov 24, 2017
A webzine for intersectional feminism , dedicated to providing a vibrant, diverse, and multifaceted look at feminism and women across th...