More Than Just Blood

Angie Spoto

Edited by Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo

Illustration by Iara Silva https: https://www.instagram.com/iiaraz_/

I hadn’t felt my baby move yet and wasn’t sure I wanted to. I confessed this to a friend in a café, who, bringing his hands together in front of his chest and clawing his fingers, said, ‘Yeah, it might feel, you know, like Alien.’ And his hands exploded outward, raining imaginary blood across our lattes.

My friend touched on a fear of mine: that having a baby would be like hosting an alien creature in my body. A fear no doubt inspired by my consumption of science fiction. Immediately, the prospect of pregnancy makes me think of the 1979 movie Alien, which undeniably plays out humanity’s pregnancy fears in the form of chest-ripping, murderous alien children. There’s also the ‘mystical pregnancy trope’: women in science fiction media are regularly forcibly or accidentally impregnated by aliens (Sarkeesian). This trope appears in Stargate SG-1, the X-Files, and Torchwood among other television shows and films.

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The Heat Death of the Universe

Jossalyn Holbert

Edited by Jahna Hampshire

Art by Holly Summerson hollysummerson.wix.com/arts

Pamela Zoline’s “The Heat Death of the Universe” outlines a day in the life of Sarah Boyle, a married mother of an indeterminate number of children living in Alameda, California during the 1970’s. Her life consists of pink children’s bottoms fresh out of the tub, strawberry jam on a strawberry floor, cleaning her house and meticulously labelling the items within it as a means of creating some order in her cluttered space. Her home becomes an enclosed vacuum, a microcosm of the wider universe barreling quickly and unstoppably towards a state of complete chaos, entropy. Physics enters the story sideways and strangely, with the heat death of the universe occurring in Sarah Boyle’s very kitchen. She has no means to stop it, attempting every day to sweep, vacuum, dust, wipe down, and order every object before in her path – no small task given that there are 819 objects in the living room alone (4). Despite her efforts, entropy descends upon Sarah’s kitchen anyway. Throughout the text, Zoline combines a feminist critique of the heterosexual, nuclear family dynamic pervading life at the time with a metaphysical association of the home as a miniature universe. Sarah Boyle’s struggle is not only against the social norms that tie her to her kitchen, full of dripping strawberry ice cream and ‘wet jelly beans’ (8), but also the monumental, intangible, unconstrained laws of the universe. The only agency she has, then, comes with hastening the inevitable state of entropy so that it occurs all at once and by her own hands. In other words, Sarah Boyle trashes her kitchen.

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Second Class Citizen

Elizabeth Lawal

Edited by Muireann Crowley

Art by Zoë Guthrie http://zoeguthrie.com/

Second Class Citizen (1976) by Buchi Emecheta is set in Lagos, Nigeria during World War II, and is about a woman called Adah and her marriage to Francis. Although life initially seems rosy for Adah, things turn sour when it becomes clear that Francis is physically and emotionally abusive.

When I was in high school I came across this book by chance; it was in a box full of books the teachers said we could take for free. The main reason I picked the book was because I noticed that the writer was Nigerian and of Igbo descent. Later on, I gave a presentation on it because there were no books by a black woman on our English Literature syllabus. After the presentation I asked if the book could be added and although the teacher was encouraging, my classmates were not. I think it was quite different to what they were used to – most of my classmates were white British. I vividly remember an Irish girl shouting from her desk, “I don’t want to learn about Africa.” I was a confrontational child, so I asked, “Why?’’ And she hit me with: “I just don’t.” I remember being so disappointed, and saying, “Well, I don’t want to learn about James I or Shakespeare and the Industrial Revolution, but you don’t hear me complaining.” This was met with silence.

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Caucasia

Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo

Edited by Ketaki Zodgekar

Illustration by Maïa Walcott https://maiawalcott98.wixsite.com/mysite

Danzy Senna’s first novel, Caucasia (1998), is a coming-of-age story about a girl named Birdie with a black academic father and a white mother who is the estranged descendant of a prominent Bostonian family. The story follows the highly problematic construction of the young girl’s identity after being separated from her sister and black father and growing up with her white mother on the road around New England assuming different racial identities, which she is able to do due to her ambiguous ethnicity and her ability to “pass” for white.  It is a story deeply indebted to the history of the American Bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, and its philosophical preoccupations, providing poignant commentary on the trope of “lighting out,” a term taken from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, meaning going west, shedding history, and switching identities. While, during my undergraduate education, I studied a number of texts that addressed these genres and themes, Caucasia highlights the racialisation of the traditional American Bildungsroman and the American identity that it constructs in a way that none of the other texts I studied did.

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The End of Eddy

Toby Sharpe

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Art by Arta Ajeti https://www.instagram.com/artawork/

The End of Eddy by Édouard Louis, first published in French in 2014, is one of the most successful pieces of Francophone writing in modern times: translated into twenty languages, it has taken the European literary establishment by storm. The novel details the life of a child in Northern France, a boy whose story echoes his author’s, with all his hints of wit, his budding charms – and, crushingly, his overwhelming suffering. This is a text about a young man’s pain, as an effeminate homosexual in a social world that reviles him.

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Cooking Dinner for Adam Smith

Elizabeth Dietz

Edited by Rianna Walcott

Art by Arta Ajeti https://www.instagram.com/artawork/

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest”. Adam Smith famously asserted the rational features of man in The Wealth of Nations in 1776, and inspired a constellation of theories on Homo Economicus that would come to define the field of Economics.  Over two centuries later, journalist Katrine Marçal wonders if these claims hold true. In Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? (2016) she points out that Adam Smith in fact had his dinner made by his mother, Margaret Douglas. Why did she make her son dinner? Not simply because of rational self-interest, thinks Marçal, as she develops a feminist critique of economic rationality. What could this perspective add to how we understand the economy? Perhaps it is time Economics students found out.

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J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother)

Ananya Sen

Edited by Karli Wessale

Art by Edith Pritchett https://www.instagram.com/edithpritchett_art/

French-Canadian actor and director Xavier Dolan’s debut film, J’ai tué Ma mère (I Killed My Mother) released in 2009, when he was twenty years old. Dolan is a self-proclaimed gay actor, director, writer and costume designer. J’ai tué ma mère has won the hearts of many critics as it depicts, in a highly Bildungsroman fashion, a love-hate relationship between a teenage son and his mother. Recently, he has made a name for himself with his 2016 movie Juste la fin du monde (It’s only the End of the World). The movie won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival and several other awards. While he is best known for Mommy, released in 2014, in this article, I will focus on J’ai tué ma mère and attempt to justify the need for this movie to be a part of the university syllabi.

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Everything is Illluminated

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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Guapa

Ralph Haddad
Editing by Toby Sharpe

Cover art by Emanuele Ragnisco

When I first read Guapa, I was taken aback by how relevant the book was to my own life. The narrative follows a queer Arab protagonist, as he navigates a day in his life in an unnamed Arab country. The opening scene sees the main character, Rasa, the morning after his grandmother – with whom he lives – catches him in bed with another man. This opening scene sets the tone for the entire narrative – themes of anxiety, self-doubt, tension, hopelessness, and shame come to dominate the story. It was the first book I read where I thought to myself: “Yes. This is it. This guy understands it.” The author, Saleem Haddad, is a self-identified queer man of various heritages – among them Lebanese, Iraqi, and Palestinian. The book itself follows the fairly conservative form of the conventional English novel; it does not claim to reinvent the wheel. It is not the most experimental work with a queer element that was published in 2016, but it is exceptional and refreshing in its content. Guapa was published originally in English under a publisher based in New York. The novel quickly received wide acclaim from contemporary Arab authors, such as Randa Jarrar, and ended up on many end-of-year lists on media platforms such as BuzzFeed and the Guardian. Haddad himself ended up on Out magazine’s one hundred most influential people of 2016.

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Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Snigdha Koirala
Editing by Avani Udgaonkar

Art by The Ink Wave http://www.theinkwave.com/index.html

I first came across Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies while in search of more female South Asian voices in literature. And since first reading her collection, my relationship with her work has developed into one of communion – one of personal and emotional resonance. Lahiri explores the lives of Indian immigrants, attempting to bridge the gap between two places that are simultaneously foreign and familiar – places that are of belonging and of isolation. And given my own history of such attempts (having been born in Nepal, raised in Canada, and now living in Scotland), it didn’t take long for my aforementioned communion to develop with Lahiri’s stories.   

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