In the sea of faceless humans, we ache to have our identity confirmed through connecting with others who are kindred spirits. On a remote ranch in 1960s Montana, a boy’s lonesome quest to find others who aspire to a literary life turns up a questionable kindred spirit.
The following digital collages intend to question outdated social and cultural norms and behaviors, and stimulate a critical conversation leading to change by liberating human experience from the boundaries of conformism. The artist draws inspiration from music, society, literature, ukio-e, and sci-fi; and often repurposes lighthearted vintage imagery to explore themes such as feminism, mental health, and human interactions.
Can we ever truly understand anything beyond our own mind? If not, do assumptions form the backdrop of all human behavior? What assumptions do we make about others, and how does this affect our interactions? “The Solipsist” is a story about a clash of cultures, where either side is perhaps a little too certain of its understanding of the way things are and should be.
Rejection and fear of rejection are universal themes that plague the lives of all. As children, we desire not to have to fulfill certain obligations; we hope and dream that something will cause a disruption, that it will give us a pass from having to participate. The following flash fiction piece, “The Doorbell,” answers the question: “What if, as an adult, I chose something different?”
This piece speaks to the lasting impact of colonialism within the Caribbean. It shows how degrees of African-ness can be used to separate peoples within a shared narrative. As the witness, the author is an added layer of American diaspora struggling to accept the microaggressions enacted by the fair collector using the pejorative “negra” (black) towards a person of Haitian descent.
“Can You Believe it?” is a meditation on a weekend the author spent with some friends at a kung fu retreat about twenty-five years ago. Through this personal narrative, the author ruminates on the nature of belief, reviewing how martial arts and religion have had an influence on him and the culture at large.
For a nine-year-old girl, it was incomprehensible to watch her father gather all his books to take them out of town to burn them secretly. Worried about her father being arrested by the new regime in Iran in 1981, young Shabnam had to let go of the books she had planned to learn from, one day when she grew up.
‘Caul’ is a short story about the passage of time and how memory is what ties us to our existence. In this short story, the narrator observes and understands what was taking place in his family and the lives of his neighbours; through this understanding, he empathises with their experiences. No matter how much time passes, memory is still relevant and is part of identity — even if the physical environment has changed, the history that underpins a place is still relevant.
As humans, we are relational beings. Most obviously, we develop and rely on relationships with others (e.g., family, friends, or work associates), creating a sense of community. Less obvious are the relationships we create with ourselves, with activities we do that give us purpose, and with nature. The following poetry collection touches on a variety of impactful relationships between an individual and the self; parents, grandparents, and cherished things; community during a crisis; tribal/clan culture; and God and nature. Who are we if not a compilation of who and what we choose to surround ourselves with?
“The Winning Way” examines the slow, insidious chipping away of one’s own conscience through adherence to rigid belief systems, which provide a comforting certainty. It takes a hard look at what humans are willing to give up to feel connected, and how easy it is for us to fall prey to sinister ideas and beliefs when we are hungry, nearly starving with unmet needs. This story taps into a drama currently playing out in the world, as COVID-19 runs rampant, along with conspiracies. Many families are watching as vulnerable loved ones cleave to groups such as QAnon. They ask themselves, “How can they believe these things?” This story is a response to that question.