Launch Night Excerpts

Art by Priyanka Meenakshi https://www.priyankameenakshi.com/

We celebrated Project Myopia with a beautiful launch event towards the end of semester 2. It was a night of music and poetry, as well as an opportunity for some of our contributors to elaborate on their essays and ideas. Our performers touched on a wide range of serious issues: from the exclusion of racial minorities’ contribution to the canon of literature, to the oppressive nature of zero-hour contracts that prevent tutors from being able to fully engage in helping all students get ahead, let alone those from a minority background who need assistance most. We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who performed and shared their experiences, and we also have to thank everyone who attended and helped us drink the wine we provided! Project Myopia aims to bring marginalized people together and amplify their voices, and our launch felt like a perfect culmination of our semester’s work: people came together and shared their experiences of an academic world we need to change.

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Quicksand by Nella Larsen

Sarah Thomson

Edited by Rianna Walcott

Art by Jazmine Sheckleford www.facebook.com/jasmineillustrations13

Despite taking courses titled ‘International Modernism’, ‘World Gothic’ and ‘Comparative Feminist Drama’, it wasn’t until enrolling in a ‘Black American Fiction’ seminar in the final semester of my degree that I was first assigned a text written by a woman of colour, Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929). Although I initially I felt guilt that I’d apparently chosen classes with so little diversity, I soon realised that Passing would have made a fitting addition to a range of courses I’d studied previously. A concise but complex novel, Passing packs articulate discussions of class, gender, sexuality and race into just over 100 pages. It’s an injustice to the quality of Larsen’s prose to see it pigeonholed into the category of ‘black’ fiction, rather than used to enhance a course on something else entirely. The fact that it took enrolling in a seminar built around race before it was addressed in one of my classrooms speaks to the prevailing issue of the erasure of minority voices in academe.

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Orientalist Fantasies: Reclaiming the Middle East in Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran

Anahit Behrooz

Edited by Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo

Art by Christina Thomas https://www.behance.net/gallery/47755703/Portfolio-Strong-women

Over the years, I have read numerous novels, short stories, and poems in which I have seen myself reflected in characters, events, and language, but it wasn’t until a class on Orientalism (1978), Edward Said’s seminal text, during my masters that I saw my experiences echoed in a work of cultural criticism. In Orientalism, Said posits that the West’s complicated relationship with the Middle East is rooted and exacerbated by its reductive framing of the “Orient” as a backward, barbaric, and exotic space. Said argues that these attitudes are irrevocably linked to the West’s history of imperialism in these geographies, meaning that these perceptions are the product of a power play over the governments and peoples of these diverse countries, an attempt to criticise and diminish their cultures and identities in order to justify the conquest of their land.

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Selena

Izzy Bravo

Edited by Carolina Palacios

Art by Laila Borrie https://www.facebook.com/underthepeacocktree/

Each year in March I see a wave of young Latinas on social media expressing their love for Selena, as they share images of their Selena-inspired make-up, Selena outfits for the Selena club parties, and plans to watch Selena, the 1997 film that chronicles the short life of Selena Quintanilla. Why March? March 31 is the anniversary of Selena’s death, which occurred in 1995. And for any young Latina who grew up dancing to Selena’s “Como la Flor” in their living room, March is an important month to remember those days and the unhinged hope for a music idol. I grew up listening to Selena and have memories of my sister singing along to “Como la Flor” when it played in the radio. I can also recall trying to hide this fandom in a poor attempt to assimilate to the American culture I was learning in grade school. It was not until my first year of undergrad that I noticed it was suddenly okay to be Latino.

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Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Safia Munro

Edited by Cristina Dodson Castillón

Art by Holly Summerson hollysummerson.wix.com/arts

Mohsin Hamid has long been a prime example of an author who has managed to flawlessly bridge the ideological disconnect between the so-called ‘East’ and ‘West.’ His latest work, Exit West, could not have been published at a more pertinent time.  Global conflict, reactionary nationalism and a growing refugee crisis are central in guiding the text’s narrative. While the novel incorporates aspects of magical realism, through the piercing reality of the novel’s themes, Hamid fashions a dystopian reality that so vastly mirrors our own. The authenticity of Hamid’s work largely arises from the fact that Hamid tends to construct characters that are not constrained by involuntary factors such as gender, religion or nationality. Instead Hamid’s work is scattered with individuals that very much resemble the complex people we encounter in our everyday lives; conservatively dressed liberals, loving women who resist motherhood, high-lying drug addicts, atheists, theists and everything else in between.

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Emily Miller

Edited by Carolina Palacios

Art by Cat Faulkner https://www.jellyarmchair.com/

“The situation’s a lot more nuanced than that!” shouts the series’ protagonist in the first season theme song from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The Emmy, Golden Globe, and Critic’s Choice Award winning series focuses on highly successful and deeply unwell Rebecca Bunch, who, after running into Josh Chan, her ex-boyfriend from summer camp, decides to move across the country from New York City to West Covina, California, to pursue Josh again. Rebecca spends much of the first season attempting to both fit into Josh’s life and convince the people around her that there weren’t any ulterior motives in her moving to West Covina. Meanwhile, Josh struggles with his parents’ and girlfriend’s expectations of him, while trying to figure out Rebecca’s place in his life.

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Everything is Illluminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Zack Abrams

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Art: Livi Prendergast https://liviprendergast.wordpress.com/ 

When Everything is Illuminated came out in 2002, Jonathan Safran Foer was praised by literary reviewers for writing an autobiographical novel that, among other things, “blends laughter and tears” (Abramowitz 130). The novel’s story is rather straightforward: the protagonist, also named Jonathan Safran Foer, goes on a quest to find the woman who helped to save his grandfather during the Holocaust. It was Foer’s blend of magical realism and his use of language that got the public talking about his book. Francine Prose claimed (and Scott Veale reiterated) that “not since Anthony Burgess’s novel, ‘A Clockwork Orange’, has the English language been mauled and energized with such brilliance and such brio.” (Veale 28).

Foer’s novel sticks out in my mind for a much more personal reason. This novel gave me a character I could empathize with, one who attempts to answer questions about his family left in the wake of the Holocaust. I answered questions about my own history, my own Jewishness, through Foer’s quest. When Foer traces his grandfather’s origins back to the shtetl of Trachimbrod, a fictionalized version of Trochenbrod in Ukraine, it felt as if I had discovered the name of my great grandfathers’ shtetl. When he sees and feels what shtetl life was like for his ancestors, I imagined mine there too, living there alongside his family. I felt as if I was reading my own fictionalized family history; I was vicariously answering questions whose answers are otherwise unattainable. You see, the shtetls where my great-grandfathers came from were bombed and burned to the ground by the Nazis during World War Two. We have no further knowledge about their lives in Europe beyond that and our pre-anglicized names.

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Letters I Never Sent To You by Paula Varjack

Frederick Alexander

Edited by Toby Sharpe

Art: ‘Want and Need’ by Olivia Twist http://www.yesoliviatwist.com/

I would like to introduce Paula Varjack’s Letters I Never Sent To You as a text that may be used in an academic curriculum. During my undergraduate degree at the University of Edinburgh, I became involved with the Scottish and UK live literature performance network. Through this scene, I became aware of Varjack’s theatre work, in particular her solo performance ‘Show Me The Money,’ a piece of documentary theatre that explores the economics of artistry under austerity. I was excited for the release in 2015 of her debut collection, Letters I Never Sent To You, especially in the context of her previous work.

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‘Cashmere’ by the Swet Shop Boys

Ketaki Zodgekar

Edited by Karli Wessale

Art by Raj Dhunna http://rajdhunna.co.uk/

Cashmere is a rap album by the ‘Swet Shop Boys’: a duo comprised of Riz Ahmed, a British actor, known for his work in ‘Four Lions’ and Heems, an American rapper, known for being a member of ‘Das Racist’, both are of South Asian descent. The Swet Shop Boys rap about contemporary social and political issues which face the South Asian diaspora, sound tracked by traditional music from the Indian Subcontinent.

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Kerry James Marshall: A New Old Master

Emma Nance 

Art: ‘Asleep’, by Horace Pippin

Editing by Rianna Walcott

We are unable to embed the work of Kerry James Marshall here for copyright reasons. To view the works of art discussed in this review, please click the links provided.

Update 6/11/17: The Seattle Art Museum is scheduled to exhibit Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas. At Artsy you can find more information about Kerry Marshall, including a biography, over 60 of his works, exclusive articles, and up-to-date Marshall exhibition listings.

A riot of domestic hues. We take in the boxy blue couch, the yellow table with the half-eaten meal, the worn, braided rug, the music swirling above the heads of the lovers. We can vaguely make out the tune if we strain and cock our heads, but the song is not meant for us. We are intruding on their private space, and yet she is accustomed to this interruption, so she lets her eyes slide to the left and relaxes into her partner’s body. Faceless and steady, he imperceptibly sways her hips to the rhythm. She exudes subdued serenity. Finally. Alone together. We quietly slip out and leave them to their slow dance. 

https://www.artsy.net/artwork/kerry-james-marshall-slow-dance

Slow Dance, 1992-1993, Kerry James Marshall: Mastry 

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