A MAGAZINE FOR MIXED IDENTITIES, STORIES AND VOICES.
ISSUE 6 | SUMMER 2022
Meet the team
Editorial PAULINE JEREMIE Founder and Chief Editor SUMAYA KASSIM Prose Editor MINA MORIARTY Poetry Editor CAITLIN CLANCY Art Editor
Design HAZEL MIRSEPASI Graphic Designer PHOEBE BROADFOOT Illustrator
Community CARINYA SHARPLES Workshop Facilitator
Editor’s note Dear Reader, Mattar paneer with fresh chapati, vegetable accras, chicken adobo, ackee and saltish or zurbiyaan. Those remind us of grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts, of warming scents wafting down our streets, of belonging. Food has always had the power of uniting people, gathering loved ones and strangers around tables to share meals bubbling with history. Food can be sensual and engage your body in kneading, chopping, folding, spooning. Food can be concrete or metaphorical — it exists on our plates as much as it does within our heads. For some of the artists and writers within these pages, food anchors memories in their senses or highlights ways in which everything else has vanished but the taste of the meals a loved one used to prepare. For others, it joins two halves, sometimes more, or links us to ancestors we never even knew. In this issue, you will find modernised recipes, sweets that make your teeth hurt, cooked remedies for all ailments, because, for a lot of us, food is the pillar of our cultures. Whether we focus on its flavours, on its preparation, or on the conversations exchanged around it makes no difference. Food impacts us all, one way or another. We hope this issue helps you discover new dishes and encourages you to connect with your own food history and with that of the contributors in this issue. We hope you start questioning its provenance and where it goes once it’s disappeared. If anything, at least, we hope it makes you hungry. Happy reading, The Middleground team
Contents REVERSALS// Hannah Sakura Arata
MÈRE NATURE Charlotte Marie
JADE D’ANTAN AND BLEU VINTAGE Shana Weisberg
SQUISH SQUISH Hollay Ghadery
KONWOHRACHET, PASAKORN AND MAX Max Pasakorn
BAKLAVA Salma Abumeeiz NUMBER 5 & THERES A 湯 FOR EVERYTHING Sean Wai Keung
i, SPLIT Lucille Mona Ling
PRESCRIPTION RELATIONS Courtney Moore
GORSE Carina Haouchine
AROSKALDO Hannah Villuanueva
GOAN OYSTER SHELL WINDOW Inez Hickman
POMELO Marie Lee
ART IMITATES LIFE AND SUPERIOR(ITY) COMPLEX(ION) Alison Lubar
A RECIPE FOR NOURISHING ROOTS Nadia Henderson
Reversals// HANNAH SAKURA ARATA
I have a memory of throwing up on my pillow in the
of her cheek as she drew figure eights in the batter with
middle of the night. お祖母ちゃま was fast asleep on the
the hand mixer.
tatami floor beside me. She woke up, flipped my vomitcovered pillow onto the other side, fell right back asleep.
Later, a large nebulizer machine gets plugged into the wall and the tube is put in my mouth. I’m watching Out
A few summers later, she held out a bucket as I threw
of the Box with grandpa. He is in his large chair next to
up undigested miso soup. Wakame and tofu chunks.
me, a light pink bucket for spit up next to him, a bell to
My mom was on the other end of the phone line, on the
ring for emergencies. On his arm, a faded black tattoo
other side of the world asking daijobu, hana? Daijoubu?
of an eagle that he got in Times Square. We quietly
お爺ちゃま drove us through the snow to see a doctor. The doctor used a rainbow pencil. He drew o-ekaki, tiny
watched the kids on TV make red tomatoes out of construction paper.
portraits of me with light brown hair, black lines for my
At 15, I found myself at the same hospital I was born in.
eyes, a smiling mouth as he explained how to properly
I’m at my grandma’s bedside, scared to get too close. She
use an inhaler for asthma.
passed out at the aquarium while in her wheelchair. She
That same year, 6,798 miles away, in our double-wide trailer home in North Carolina, I woke up from a bubble gum amoxicillin fever dream. It was summertime in the
wakes up and thinks Abraham Lincoln is the president. My aunts and cousins laugh but maybe it’s not funny. She still remembers that I’m her favorite grandchild, right?
south. My grandma pushed the sweaty hair out of my
People always say “they’re in there somewhere”. When I
face as I cried about a large butterfly in my nightmare. In
was 23, just weeks before she passed, she recognized me
the morning, she made me pancakes, chewing the inside
on FaceTime for the first time in years.
Earlier that same year, at 23, お爺ちゃま drove me, my mom and お祖母ちゃま in the scorching summer heat to a countryside hospital in his small lemon-colored car. I bought a set of masks from a vending machine for 100 yen. I pushed お祖母ちゃま, so tiny and frail, around the waiting room in a wheelchair. Just last week, I FaceTimed with お祖母ちゃま, her arm in a sling after a fall in the bathroom. With a huge smile on her face, she asked me if I have a boyfriend. The same question repeated over and over again. Neither set of my grandparents have ever met, ever spoke. Yet, they worked together from opposite sides of the planet, keeping me whole, soft landing spots for my falls. This world was manageable then. It didn’t matter where I was, whose care I was in, what language I was speaking: I was safe. She’s strong now, okay? Daijoubu, 大丈夫
Jade d’Antan SHANA WEISBERG 6
Bleu Vintage SHANA WEISBERG
Squish Squish HOLLAY GHADERY
“He actually wanted to peel the skin right off my nose, like a face in one of those spy movies.” “They all do that, Farrah. They have to. To get at the bone.”
“I don’t see how being outside is abnormal. It’s the most natural place we can be. Plus, at Amoo’s place we’re not only lakeside, but we have access to a free, fully-stocked liquor cabinet.”
“And then, he said he’d need to break my nose in half to reshape it and shave some bone off the top.” Farrah tapped the ridge of her nose. “Right here.”
“You’re so weird.”
Farrah spears a fat marshmallow with a stick and begins to slowly rotate it over the fire. Bita winces.
“I will,” Farah says. “But once it cools.”
“I don’t know how you can still eat those.” She nods at the marshmallow. “Carefully. That’s how.” Bita shifts on her seat — a log Farrah rolled to the edge of the circle around the firepit. A breeze is keeping the mosquitoes down but is blowing wood smoke into Bita’s eyes. “Damn it, Farrah.” She fans her face. “Next spring break we spend in a bar, like normal, horny university students.” 8
Farrah blows on her marshmallow and smiles. “You should just do it, you know.”
Bita shivers. “No, not that. The nose job.” Bita gestures at the marshmallow. “And don’t be so morbid with that thing.” “I’m not being morbid.” Farrah purses her lips and blows again. “I’m being sensible. I’m learning from the mistakes of others.” “Hanieh’s mistake wasn’t the marshmallow, Farrah. Getting involved with a married man who took her on rustic romantic getaways to secluded resorts without any hospitals nearby? Sure. But her death could have happened to anyone.”
“Who eats a roasted marshmallow when it’s still burning hot?” “Who doesn’t get a nose job when her father will pay for it?” “Someone who doesn’t need one. Baba also said he doesn’t think I need one. It’s you women who keep pestering me about it.” Bita scoffs. “Farrah jan, you’re beautiful and all but all that beauty is being hidden behind a huge honker.” “The difference,” Farrah points the skewered marshmallow at Bita, “between me and you, and Hanieh and me, is that I have an appreciation of who I am. What makes me, me. I’d rather have this nose,” she taps it with her finger, “than the Michael Jackson carbon-copy every woman in Iran under 50 seems to have. I’m not trying to erase who I am with a broken nose, laser hair removal, and botoxed lips.”
“The point,” Farrah straightens herself, cracking her back, “is I don’t need to screw around with someone else’s husband or change the way I look to feel good about myself.” “I don’t think you have to worry about screwing anyone, ever, with a schnoz like that.” Farrah plucks the marshmallow off the stick, appraising its browned, bubbly shell as Bita laughs. “Careful, Bita jan,” she sing-songs. “You remember what Hanieh’s big-money man told uncle? About the choking? The CPR? Her ribs, fractured into splinters?” Farrah squeezes the marshmallow between her fingers and pops it into her mouth. “Hanieh died laughing too.”
“A broken nose, laser hair removal and botoxed lips are what it means to be Persian these days, in case you missed the memo.” 9
Baklava SALMA ABUMEEIZ
number 5 SEAN WAI KEUNG
of course it burns as well as numbs that would be the teaspoon of bitter vinegar mixing with the sesame oil flatten your tongue to it say eeeeeeh not aaaaaah notice the different shapes the muscle forms this is what allows the flavours to wash over different portions of your taste buds / bamboo shoots are the thing that brings it all together really bamboo shoots are the secret ingredient in most of the recipes here and did you know that raw bamboo shoots contain cyanogenic glycosides which can cause convulsions and sudden death if improperly cooked
theres a 湯 for everything SEAN WAI KEUNG
whether its correcting an inner imbalance or healing an ailment theres a 湯 made from wolfberry and pig theres a 湯 made from watercress and squid the power of 湯 is a power over earth itself its a way to wield nature against the unnatural before there were hospitals or brain surgeons there were butchers and cooks stirring deep pots heres how i suffer you would say to them heres how to heal they would reply *** central to the principles of 湯 are the concepts of heat and cold in food and medicine its when heat and cold inside the body push against each other that illnesses begin i suppose a western version of 湯 might be a chicken soup to help relieve a cold or the trendy shops in new york which sell their own homemade bone broths
my two halves fight with each other because i really want to make my own 湯 but for the price of the right ingredients
i could buy a dozen cans of soup from the shops
*** at times like this i often wonder about the past if and how a half-half person would be treated if i told them heres how i suffer then would they feed me a 湯 and if so then what would it be made from which side of me would be the side of heat and which side the side of cold
o great wholeness please give me a recipe that will make me feel like me again
please give me the strength i need to heal me from all the things that hurt
Aroskaldo HANNAH VILLANUEVA
I’m learning how to make lugaw from a recipe but autocorrect keeps changing my entry to Lowe’s Home Improvement Store and shows me the nearest one is a nineteen-minute drive away from our house in the woods, two blocks away from the mall strip where a tobacco and liquor shop, a mailing center, and a massage parlor cluster. None of these I paid any concern to the day before the headline. Instead I drive to the grocery store and b-line to the end of aisle a5. We never buy small bags but exchange common sense, like saving hotel trial shampoo bottles or taking off your shoes before you enter a space. I haul the cal-rose bag the size of a child. I’m home now but I don’t know where to start. My dad is at work and I have asked him about this dish — no response. Youtube becomes my saving grace. I’m learning how to make lugaw from an unfamiliar recipe because I can’t use my memory because she lived far away in two thousand and nine because — damn it the stove is too high. A response! He asks if I can pickup bananas but the green ones because they’re better. I press play and pour the fish sauce. Drip the chicken and two more cups of rice because I used the wrong measuring cup. One day I won’t need to use measuring cups but instead just recall the memory. Like how my dad exclaims when his taste buds hit the soft yolk, scallions and melted ginger chicken skin. My mom made this. My mom made this when I was a kid.
Pomelo MARIE LEE
A Recipe for Nourishing Roots NADIA HENDERSON
Over the phone on a Wednesday evening, I ask my dad how to make Trinidadian stewed chicken. The method he recites is circular, non-linear. I write it down on the back of an envelope, knowing not all of it will be relevant because I’ll be using meat made from soybeans, not chicken, which won’t require washing. I promise to let him know how it goes. In a pastel-pink mixing bowl, I rub garlic salt and dried thyme into the frozen slabs of fake chicken. I wash two spring onions. I peel away their gooey top layers. I cut them into tiny pieces. I add these to the bowl too. I add a stick of chopped celery and a diced white onion. The herbs stick to my hands, fragrant and hopeful. * I haven’t seen my dad, or my home-home, London, in nearly two years. I live in Sweden now, where my husband is from, in a four-bedroomed, red-painted house that was built in the 60s. I dreamed of this house, of this life, for years, and now, here I am. My Swedish 17
is faulty but functional. In the tiny village I live in, I am learning a new way of life: a dense, lonely quiet that puts my soul at peace; Cassiopeia and Orion bright bedfellows in a sky that never sleeps. Sometimes, I miss the speed at which London moves. I miss bookshops selling stories filled with words I can read. I miss takeaways and popping out for coffee on a whim. But the Swedish countryside, with its folklore and forests, its lower costs and stronger seasons, has won my heart. * I halve peeled potatoes, cut carrots into discs. I’m standing in the kitchen whose cabinet doors I painted teal blue over my first summer in Sweden. It was a painstaking process of sanding, cleaning, priming, one that brought me close to the old wood and dirty hinges, the history of the house. I’ve spent more time in this kitchen than any other. In it, I’ve tried to nourish roots old and new: I’ve waited for well-travelled plantain to ripen, spread butter, sugar and cinnamon onto sticky dough. Neither have come naturally. I’ve 17
wondered over and over again: am I doing this right? Next year, I’ll be allowed to apply for Swedish citizenship, my marital status having shaved two years off the wait. Perhaps the difference between a permanent residence card and a passport will be culinary. Perhaps my kanelbullar will no longer be stodgy and plain. In the overwhelming aisles of the supermarket, I will finally have a handle on the price of things. * I’ve been to Trinidad once, when I was ten. It was February, just before carnival. In the evenings, we’d visit the panyard where the band was rehearsing for the upcoming Panorama competition. I ate bake and shark while sand clung to my skin on Maracas beach. I drank Diet Cokes and watched Titanic on my grandmother’s sofa. I wish I’d known her better. It’s her that I think of as the gelatinous seed gloop falls out of the tomatoes, staining the chopping board a pale red. I remember the trip in what feels like insignificant fragments: getting carsick on the way to visit a bird sanctuary; swimming doggy-paddle in the pool at the Hilton hotel; flicking through the pages of my cousin’s stamp collection. I was old enough for details and moments to catalogue themselves in my mind, but too young to feel connected to the land, curious about the part of myself that grew from there. I couldn’t make sense of the expensive, long-haul flight as a barrier to going again; when you’re young, two weeks can feel like forever. * I used to pick chunks of tender, browned chicken off my plate, returning them to the pan in the kitchen of my dad’s flat in North London. I was trying to be a good vegetarian and a good daughter at the same time. I was trying to knit together two ways of being, as if they were detached from each other. But the flavour of the meat had entangled itself with the dish 18
in a way that couldn’t be separated out. This I knew as I portioned ripe avocado onto my spoon, cool and soft against the sweet tang of the kidney beans. * The muscovado sugar I’ve added to the oil congeals in my non-stick pan. I watch it form spherical globs like crumbs dropped from a giant’s lips. That’s not how it’s supposed to look; it’s meant to darken and expand, like the sea transforms sand at the shore. I’m not even sure if muscovado is the right type of brown sugar to use, but it’s all I had in the pantry. I scoop the vegan meat into the pan and stir it around in the sugar. Already, I can tell that I’ve done something wrong. It’s strange to feel like an imposter in my own identity. To feel like cooking a dish from my childhood is an invocation of a shadow self rather than my own, whole self. But this is how I feel as I add half a cup of water to the frying pan, worried I’ll dilute the flavours. It’s not just the vegan meat that has me questioning the authenticity of the dish but also the distances between the pieces of my heritage — pieces that float like small islands in uncharted waters. The tributaries lead to other places, too: Yorkshire, Ireland, China; Sweden, now. I don’t have the map but I do have an old wooden spoon. I squirt a generous dollop of ketchup into a well in the centre of the simmering stew, and stir. There is so much more I wish I knew about my heritage and history, but I don’t know where to start, and asking feels somehow invasive, as though I should already have all the answers. As though being rooted to a place should mean the seeds of the story are already inside you. Behind the thick, warm walls of my Swedish home, I reach for the Land of the Hummingbird, cooking it into sharp focus. It’s so far away, but as the kitchen fills with the wholesome smell of onions caramelising and carrots softening, I feel like I might be able to touch it.
* There’s something in the first bite: a memory, or a feeling. My tastebuds flutter. ‘It tastes like stewed chicken,’ I say, excited, wondering what my dad would make of my attempt. It’s an approximation of the dish I remember. I have guessed at measurements and timings, imitating and substituting, folding my efforts and shortcomings into the food. Maybe, I think, there is power in this, the strength of my intention more important than the final result. In writing down the recipe, gathering ingredients and setting aside an evening to chop and slice, season and stir, I have summoned the flavours in a way that feels true to me. They shift on my tongue: hearty thyme and garlic, root vegetables bringing the comforting warmth of the earth to my plate. They taste, somehow, like home.
Mère Nature CHARLOTTE MARIE
Konwohrachet MAX PASAKORN
Our names live vicariously through us. Wohrachet means to be a good person. Kon makes it masculine. My ancestors did not have this surname. It was chosen by my father. My mother said he was addicted to gambling and wanted to start over. To the Thai people, the name is a fresh set of clothes. Cotton pressed on my body like it was porous and prone to a fresh scab wound. I had to learn to walk stiffly in loose boots that filled with rain, smile handsomely when I am spoken to. If I had a choice, I would have shed this name, shaved off my skin with a vegetable peeler. My mother’s
surname was Li. She changed it so we could be one full family, so nuclear that we might just randomly burst into fireworks. But we split before my body began to store memories. I wonder what it would be like to be Max Pasakorn Li. Maybe then I’d have liked martial arts and seen myself in peaches and rivers. Maybe then Singapore would shake my hand and let me eat all the laksa I want.
Pasakorn MAX PASAKORN
When I was in primary three, a boy named Desmond told me, “Your name is too difficult to learn, can I just call you popcorn instead?” So I let them imagine I was a corn kernel that had burst under pressure. It wasn’t too far from the truth. I pretended I was a fireball of excitement. I liked everything the boys did: the Beyblades and the basketballs. But nothing could conceal our differences. The teachers I met stumbled over my name like I was an exposed drainpipe. When the list is alphabetical, they might pause for a long time around the P’s. I imagined them trying to sound the name in their minds. Is it Pass-a-korn? Paste-a-con? Pas-ar-cun? I raise my hand before they try to read the name. Yes, I am here. I know you are struggling because I am a good student. In secondary school, a girl named 22
Kimberly just abbreviated my name to P-S-K, or “psk!”, like a short airy sound that escapes the mouth when another Singaporean has cut the queue. I learnt to stay skittish. When concrete floors are tiled with squares, I would walk in diagonals, in case there is someone behind me who wants to walk straight. I tell myself I am being efficient because diagonals are always shorter. My name Pasakorn was given to me by my father. It means the son of the sun. He hoped I would be bright but also bold. When I graduate from school, I might have to let the name go, so my absent father can pass down to me yet another regret he could never bring to life.
Max MAX PASAKORN
My parents came up with the name Max because one day they were watching the 80s American TV show MacGyver. They saw how the titular character escaped captivity and diffused bombs with paper clips. “That’s our child,” they said. He will know how to rear danger like sheep on a farm. He will know to slip behind the right wall, listen to the right clues. My cousins were named after nature: “ffon” for rain, “fa” for sky, “nut” and “pearl” and “diamond”. My parents thought I should be named after a human shadow, a secret name treasured like a family heirloom in a hardwood cabinet. The world might know me as Pasakorn. But the people whose hands I’ve touched, they’ll know me as Max. Max, like
the line that cuts through the top of a curve. Max, like the hundred percent I always put in. Max, a name so gender-neutral it has learned to shimmer softly, like rainbow fairy lights strung around the window of a gay bar as it closes for the night. When I tell my friends to call me Max, I imagine the one scene from MacGyver I found on YouTube, where he catches a knife, slices through his captor’s net, and lands gently on the ground. I am learning how to walk with this name whistling right behind me, telling me that this short three-letter word is perfect for a person who has got so much to let go of.
i, SPLIT LUCILLE MONA LING
Prescription Relations COURTNEY MOORE
in a miscellaneous drawer filled with any and everything I used to try on my dad’s old glasses if I could not look like him then at least I could look like him the floor would be distorted too close and fish-eyed when the looming headache arose I would return the glasses to their respective clamshell case saving them for later realities now I wear contacts a result of genetics or perhaps my own doing though the lens is clearer the floor is still unsteady my eyes more deceptive than ever
Gorse Ulex (commonly known as gorse, furze, or whin) CARINA HAOUCHINE
I’m getting a tattoo tomorrow of a gorse branch. I’m inking identity because it feels necessary but I worry it’s a little desperate. Gorse grows in my favourite parts of Scotland, in both the east and the west. Hanging on coastal crags, embossing the sides of dual carriageways. Gorse is adapted to dry growing conditions. It is common to see it in Mediterranean areas from countries like France, Spain, Italy and Algeria. When asked why I’m getting this plant tattooed along the back of my arm, I reply it’s something that will always be part of me. Tizi Ouzou is a city in north-central Algeria. It is among the largest cities in Algeria. It is the second-most populous city in the Kabylie region. The name Tizi Ouzou is made up of two Kabyle words: Tizi meaning col (valley), and Ouzou meaning Genisteae (Gorse). The full name of the locality, therefore, means “the valley of the gorse”. In Tizi Ouzou’s Kabylie Berber mountainsides, the yellow flowers bloom. They are embedded in the shards of green glass that line the roadside. Berber 26
beer bottles glinting under a Mediterranean sun. It’s my first time in Algeria. I’m four years old. I’m in a car. The green and yellow look like the flags I saw outside the airport, on the shoulders of my cousins when they came to collect us. In my Gran’s courtyard, my Scottish feet burn on the paving stones. I try to play football but I’m not very good. I’m told that my grandpa played for JSK, a successful Kabylie team. I feel like I should be better at football. The Kabylie region experiences a hot climate. Its geography has played an important role in the people’s history. The difficult landscape of Tizi Ouzou served as a refuge when under pressure or occupation. I don’t know what anyone is saying but it doesn’t matter. I play in the streets with my cousins and we find canisters of tear gas. My eyes water for the rest of the day. I like that there are fewer rules here. I learn how to say essential Berber words like ill ha — ”it’s good”. My skin goes darker, the soles of my bare feet tougher. I feel very free.
The Kabyle people speak Kabyle Berber. Since the Berber Spring of 1980, they have been at the forefront of the fight for the official recognition of Berber languages in Algeria. I’m five when my gran visits Scotland. She watches my family, women and men, booze and have fun. She tells my dad that the alcohol in Scotland must be different from what they get. Maybe they give us expired drink, she says, because ours makes men aggressive but here it makes everyone happy. The Tizi Ouzou Valley leads to a Mediterranean coastline. I’m eight. We’re at the sea and the water is scarily clear. I want to be in it all day but they say it’s not good for me. I’m wading in my baggy 101 Dalmatians swimming costume when the ambush happens. It feels like a knife slashing at my wrist. Looking down I see a dark umber-coloured balloon of goo. Someone screams la méduse and I run out of the water. I don’t know what that means and it hurts so I cry. The man in the medical tent tells me the purple wound will go by the end of the week as he spoons bicarbonate of soda onto my arm. I still have a tentacle shaped scar. Between the different species, some gorse is almost always in flower, hence the old country saying: “When gorse is out of blossom, kissing’s out of fashion”. I’m nine. At the wedding they make me straighten my hair. I eat too much couscous and now everyone’s dancing in a way my body can’t. My dress is sticking to me and my hair is shiny and flat on my face. I want to change back into my t-shirt and play football in the courtyard. I want to show my cousins that I’m getting better. But the older cousins say I’ll mess up my nice straight hair. I look more like a girl than last time I was here and apparently that makes a difference. A sprig of gorse is often added to a bride’s wedding bouquet as a symbol of fertility. On the wedding night, we go to the newlywed’s apartment. My mum is speaking her greatly improved Higher French with a couple of aunts. They are
explaining the blood on the wedding bed sheets. I have no clue what they are talking about and can’t tell if it’s because of the medley of second-hand languages or the subject matter. I think I know what sex is but why would there be blood? I decide that I don’t think I will ever want to have sex and worry that they will be disappointed because then I won’t be able to get married and have a bloody sheet show. Gorse is hermaphroditic, having both male and female reproductive organs within the same flower, like tomatoes. These flowers are oftentimes referred to as bisexual flowers or perfect flowers. When I’m back at school I tell people at school about Zinedine Zidane being Berber like me. The boys are pretty impressed. I like talking to the boys more sometimes. Zidane is especially famous for the Glasgow kiss he gave Materazzi this year at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final. I don’t want to kiss any of the boys in Glasgow. I didn’t know then but turns out my kiss isn’t allowed to travel to Tizi-Ouzou. Wouldn’t make it over on the plane, wouldn’t be able to sleep in the same bed as me. Gorse flowers have a distinctive coconut scent, experienced very strongly by some individuals but weakly by others. I’m thirteen. From the backseat, I watch my cousin’s left arm on the outside of the driver’s door as if the car needs to be held together. He’s also eating a baguette with merguez even though we’re driving to the sardine restaurant. I don’t understand which arm is driving but I’m feeling too sick to question. Men line the roadside, finding purpose in coffee and dominoes. I’m wearing my swimming costume under my holiday clothes. I’ve upgraded from dalmatians to a more mature black one-piece. When we get to the beach the heat is telling me to swim but the men in long-sleeved black tops and gelled hair stares make me hesitate. My dad tells me to ignore them, but the more I hesitate, the more I understand they want me to swim. I decide to 27
eat sardines in the shade. During the 1962 Algerian War of Independence, Algerian women fought as equals alongside men. They achieved a new sense of their own identity and a measure of acceptance from men. The wedding this year is in a venue bulging with white and gold trimmings. Cakes have been imported from Algiers. Cake quality is relative to status amongst extended family and neighbours. I feel heavy with food and foreignness. My granny is upset that the party wasn’t at hers so I promise I’ll get married in her courtyard. I even swear to Allah and she says inshallah. Historically, Berber women tattooed their faces, feet and arms for beauty, health, protection and fertility. Tattoo symbols served as a unifying force, deeply rooted in each tribe’s history and purpose. They tied women to their land and conveyed familial ties. My parents are arguing. My mum is angry that she’s spent two weeks of her summer holidays washing dishes and mopping floors with her sisters-in-law and nieces. My dad is defensive but tipsy from the beers he had with his friends over lunch. I lock myself in the cake room which seeps honey. I’m not sure if I’m allowed in here. I listen to Paolo Nutini on my iPod Nano. I pick at the broken golden pieces of makrout that are soaking in a wide basin. There are two weeks left until we fly back and I would like to remain in this room forever because it smells like home. As a result of stigma due to the French occupation and the rise of Islam, Berber tattoo practice is disappearing. Elderly Kabyle women of today are the last generation to have taken part in the tradition. I’m fourteen. My uncle is depressed though nobody uses that word. He won’t get out of bed. They take him to the mountains. An old lady with a tattooed face gives him an egg. She tells him to put it under his pillow. In the morning the evil energy will have left you and gone into this egg, she says. He is then told to 28
throw it away. He wakes up the next day and goes to work for the first time in weeks. The pink triangle was originally used to label gay men in the Nazi camps. Women who did not conform to the ideal Nazi image of a woman were imprisoned and labelled with a black triangle. Many lesbians have adopted this as a symbol and tattoo. I’ve stopped going to school. When I do, I feed my lunch to the birds on the way there because I don’t like to think I’ll be there for the rest of the day. My dad tells me about my uncle and the mountain ladies with their eggs and tattooed faces. I’m not convinced an egg could take this feeling away from me. I discover Patti Smith and convince myself that she is my mountain lady. A common myth about Berber women’s tattoos is that they protected women from French soldiers by making them unattractive in Western eyes. I’m eighteen. I’m sitting at the bar in the Glasgow Airport British Airways lounge with my dad. Our flight to Algiers is delayed and we’re drinking G&Ts. He tells me about emigrating to Italy and meeting my mum. They were both twenty-two and got pregnant with me shortly after that. He moved to Scotland and stayed away from home for a total of seven years to avoid military service. For historical and economic reasons, many Kabyle have emigrated to France and beyond. My cousin sees a songbird in the Casbah. He takes its drinking water to give to his son. It’s supposed to help the baby talk. I wonder what would happen if I drank that water. Would I make more sense to them? Hamlakim is phonetic Berber to mean “I love you” when said to a female. I’m nineteen. I’m in the passenger seat of my eldest female cousin’s car. We’re driving down from her mountain village, high above Tizi Ouzou. It’s October and everything is still green and in bloom. The light
is hazy and the roads are twisting but I don’t feel sick because I’m in the front seat. We have a rambling conversation in the space between her English and my French. She tells me that people can be very liberal in the mountain villages — girls wear bikinis, people act more French than Algerian. Her face is animated even in profile and the radio is low with bouncing rai music. I bring up the concept of homosexuality because it feels safe in this moment. She tells me of her friends with secret friends. She tells me I can talk to her about this but not anyone else. They might get the wrong idea.
the way home from our beach day they had to stop again for us.
Article 333 of the Algerian law reads: “When the outrage to public decency has consisted of an act against nature with an individual of the same sex, the penalty is imprisonment of between 6 months and 3 years, and a fine of between 1,000 and 10,000 Algerian Dinars.”
The Algerian Family Code, which became law in 1984, proclaims women to be minors under the law and defines them as existing only insofar as they are daughters, mothers, or wives.
I’m twenty-one. In Algiers the bars are hidden, in Tizi Ouzou the bars are everywhere. But the women don’t drink. I’ve been legally allowed to drink in Scotland for three years. My dad buys me wine and hides it on the terrace. This is the first time I’ve been here and known who I am and I’d quite like a nice glass of red to wash it down please. The wine’s good but only the men know this.
The symbol, ⵣ, represents Freedom for the Berbers. It was used in the war against the Arabs. I’m twenty-four. I’m asleep in bed with my girlfriend and get woken by a text message from my mum. My dad’s gone to Algeria, my gran is very ill and might not make it. I spiral in guilt about the conversations we never had. I think about my promise to marry in her courtyard and lie closer to my girlfriend until I fall back asleep.
I’m twenty-four. I get my gorse tattoo and it makes me feel more Berber. There’s something about the organic lines that feel ancient and grounding. It has been four years since I was last in Algeria. My cousin reacts to my Instagram story of the tattoo with a love-heart-eyes emoji. According to a survey done for BBC News Arabic in 2018-19, about 26% of Algerians think that homosexuality should be accepted. I have exactly twenty-five first cousins. So about six?
Local Berber wine production began through the French colonisation.
In Scotland, Gorse is also known as Whin. Whin is the 17th letter of the ancient Celtic alphabet.
I’m twenty-three and I’m getting my first tattoo, the Berber letter Yaz, Z (ⵣ in Tifinagh). I’m sure it will make me feel more Berber but when I look at my forearm it makes me feel gayer.
The 17th letter of the English alphabet is Q.
Following the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb, most Berber tribes eventually became Muslims. Berbers are the first non-Arab people to have established an Islamic state. I’m twenty-four. I’m at dinner with my parents and they’re meeting my girlfriend for the first time. We’re drinking negronis with Scottish vermouth. My dad tells her about the first time my mum and I went to Algeria. He talks about us driving to the beach and there being a cease-fire across the motorway so we could pass. On
The Q in LGBTQ can mean both Queer and Questioning. Gorse’s status as native to localised montane districts of North Africa remains uncertain. I’m twenty-five. I hold the status of dual nationality. I have a passport, whose sole purpose is to allow me into Algeria and potential suspicion on entry to most other countries in the west. The difference between this passport and my British passport is that the photograph page includes my blood type: A-, and marital status: Unmarried.
Goan Oyster Shell Window INEZ HICKMAN 30
Art Imitates Life ALISON LUBAR
Antwerp & Edison, 1932-1992 Here’s the difference — the opalescent bowl lives at the country house, atop a smaller mantle than the main Antwerp address. Her husband would spend a childhood picking strawberries instead of painting them. Sweat shimmering on an upper lip, sunburned cheeks just as red. The towels in my grandparents’ bathroom were the same color as the tile, walls, tub, pink and acidic, phosphorescent frosted glass lamps and my grandfather’s dark back awaiting a boar-bristle brushing. In the cluttered back room, two twins made an uncomfortable king. Visiting, at six, with my mother, I’d roll to the middle rift to get closer after I’d struggle through Dr. Seuss. Now, I imagine my own mother, at seven, rolling into the soft, white arms of her own. In the morning, learning to paint freckles on fruit, smoothing over all blemishes, all the brown, rotting bruises.
Superior(ity) Complex(ion) ALISON LUBAR
Oakland CA, 2009 Auntie says, “Jack was handsome to European girls, but among us, he was a dime a dozen.” He shrinks each year. Turns to prune. Refuses to return my mother’s letters. Then loses each of us like a spring branch snipped before its buds unfurl. As so many losses of names overseas. Whole cities. At least two. And here, three years of camps. When Auntie says, “I’m glad they lost the war,” she means that no one wins when families disintegrate into poverty, or into mere atoms. Auntie says, “The good die young. That’s why I’ve made it to my eighties.”
Contributors Salma Abumeeiz (she/her) is a librarian and illustrator. Utilizing traditional and digital approaches, she enjoys exploring themes related to place, community, and nostalgia in her work. She loves comics, video games, and animation, and is probably enjoying one of those things right now. Hannah Sakura Arata (she/her) is of Japanese, European and American descent. She has used writing to explore her different identities and cultural intersections since she was a child writing novels in a composition notebook. She received her BA in Literary Studies from Beloit College in 2017 and went off to work for a variety of arts organizations. Based in Chicago, she now works at the American Library Association. Hollay Ghadery is a writer living in rural Ontario on Anishinaabe land. She has her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. Her fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have been published in various literary journals, including The Malahat Review, Room, CAROUSEL, The Antigonish Review, Grain, and The Fiddlehead. Fuse, her memoir of mixed-race identity and mental health, was released by Guernica Editions’ MiroLand imprint in Spring 2021. Her debut collection of poetry, Rebellion Box, is due out with Radiant Press in spring 2023. Carina Haouchine is a Scottish-Algerian writer, filmmaker and musician. She works across a variety of creative fields, which greatly influence her writing. Her documentaries have won various awards and have been screened internationally. She is also the bassist and key songwriter for Glasgow Indie-Rock band Blip. Shaping narratives from reality and songwriting are major influences in her work. Carina holds a BA in Digital 34
Film and Television from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and is currently undertaking an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. Nadia Henderson (she/her) is a London-born writer of short stories and creative non-fiction based in rural North Sweden. Her work primarily focuses on nature and how our connection to the natural world shapes our identities and motivations. Nadia is an alumna of Write Like A Grrrl and Comma Short Story Press courses. Her debut collection of short stories, Tools For Surviving A Storm, was published by Dear Damsels in December 2021. Inez Hickman was born and raised in Hertfordshire to parents of English and Goan heritage. She is a self-taught illustrator working with a wide range of mediums including digital, acrylic, and lino printing. During the pandemic she has returned to creating artwork that explores themes of identity, history, culture and social-environmental issues. You can see more of her artwork on Instagram @inez.hickman.art or visit her website inezhickman.com to learn more about the creative conservation project ‘Goan Oyster Shell Windows’ that documents the deterioration and modification of ancestral homes. Sean Wai Keung is a Glasgow-based poet and food writer whose work often explores concepts of mixedness, identity and migration. His first full length poetry collection, ‘sikfan glaschu’, was published by Verve Poetry Press in April 2021 and was shortlisted for the 2022 Kavya Prize. Full credits can be found via seanwaikeung.carrd.co.
Marie Lee is a UK- based illustrator. Her work is inspired by bold colours, East Asian calligraphy painting, and nature.
means to grow up and exist as a biracial person in a binary society. Her poems have been featured in The Green Light literary journal.
Lucille Mona Ling is a poet and visual artist from Berlin, currently studying in Glasgow. Her poetry has appeared in The Dark Horse and Middleground Magazine. Her writing was also included in Berlin’s 2021 Suturo online exhibition. She is one of the four poets chosen for St. Mungo Mirrorball’s Verse Apprenticeship Scheme Clydebuilt 14, 2021. She has designed The Kelvingrove Review 2021 and Fleet (G-You’s Creative Writing Magazine) 2022. Her digital collages can be found on inoumena.com.
Max Pasakorn (he/she/they) is a queer, Thai-born, Singapore-based writer, poet, and spoken word artist. They are one of the founding members of the Singapore-based writing collective /stop@ BadEndRhymes (/s@ber). By day, Max studies liberal arts at Yale-NUS College in Singapore and works in their school’s library. By night, Max writes poetry, practices makeup artistry and reads academic papers for his degree. Read more about Max at www. maxpasakorn.works and follow Max on Instagram at @maxpsk_writes.
Alison Lubar teaches high school English by day and yoga by night. They are a queer, nonbinary femme of color whose life work (aside from wordsmithing) has evolved into bringing mindfulness practices, and sometimes even poetry, to young people. Their debut chapbook, Philosophers Know Nothing About Love, is now out with Thirty West Publishing (May 2022); you can find out more at www.alisonlubar.com or on Twitter @theoriginalison. Charlotte Marie is a 25-year-old graphic artist living in East London. She was born in Brussels, to Congolese and Belgian parents. Having been brought up by a single African mother, her culture heavily influences the way Charlotte thinks creatively. Charlotte studied Graphics and Illustration at university, and did an MA in Graphic Design and Visualisation, during which she specialised in studying the way women of colour are represented in fashion photography. Her own multiracial identity influences everything in her life as well as her academic and creative careers.
Hannah Villanueva (she/her) is a multidisciplinary artist of Filipino, Puerto Rican, and Russian descent who grew up in Alaska. Her work extends through film and photography along with spoken word and poetry. Her writing has been featured in Sienna Solstice and the 2022 Cadence Video Poetry Festival. Her pieces speak to the understanding of relating self to community and the ways that remembrance can be a way to nurture home. Shana Weisberg is a Vietnamese-American artist and interior decorator based in Paris, France. Shana incorporates themes from French decorative arts in her work, often drawing inspiration from materials with Asian origins, such as silk and porcelain. Her universe explores the connections between her Asian and European heritages.
Courtney Moore (she/her) is based in California (United States), and is mixed with Black and White ancestry. She earned her B.A. in Communication and Studio Art, and her M.S. in Higher Education Counseling and Student Affairs. Courtney’s poetry explores several social identities, but mostly what it 35
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