It irritates me to no end but I am slow. Slow walker, slow writer, slow to talk about my writing…but announcing “new” publications almost a year after their release is a whole new glacial pace for me. I’m almost impressed with myself!
In truth, it has been a good year, a good several years, really. Writing continues to feel smaller than my life–my relationships, my relationship with myself, a growing trust in my little world even as the greater world burns. My 2021/2022 publications mine fears and frustrations that feel distant, past–until the last few years, what is distant and past is what has felt most real to me. I don’t know if this writing excised things that let me move more into the present. Or if contentment means I need writing less. Or if therapy just really does work! I’m probably posting this now because I am slowly, slowly getting excited about some new work again. In the meantime, I’m proud of and still like these four latest publications (another fresh feeling for me!).
The flowers are not a metaphor; The Pinch
This is a prose poem that frustrated me for years: it would never do what I wanted it to do. I was scared to publish it even if I could finish it: would my family come across it and hate me for speaking about my ethnicity and country this way; do I even have a right to write about Sri Lanka when I’ve lived in the U.S. for so long; would people think this is really my uncle in the poem (it’s not); would they read the speaker as me (it’s not quite); is it cowardly to end on an ambivalent note when there’s nothing ambivalent about the reality of Sinhala Buddhist supremacy in Sri Lanka? These questions are probably familiar to many diaspora writers grappling with the weight of their histories. Some of my answers to these questions are still evolving and will probably continue to since I’m nowhere near done with the subject but I’m glad I published the piece. And I’m glad to find on recent reread that it does more of what I hoped than I remembered. To me, this is a piece that isn’t and maybe can’t really be “finished,” but like a lot of things in my life, I’m finding peace with that. The whole issue is full of ambitious, beautiful work and I’m proud to be in its company. You can buy the issue here.
How to Make a Perfect Apple Pie Crust; Road Trip, New Delta Review
My next two flash are coming at the same subject in different ways. For all of 2021, I was trying to write the dark side of what U.S. assimilation can feel like for middle class/professional class Asian immigrants. I don’t put faith in countries in general, but having seen through organizing work the real brutality the U.S. visits on working class migrants, I wanted to find a way to write about the lesser but insidious ways the state acts on immigrants like me who occupy a “safer” class position. “How to Make a Perfect Apple Pie Crust” is a hermit crab flash written in the form of a recipe against work ethic–something so many immigrants are taught to cling to. An early reader told me that she had always felt guilty for not appreciating her “nice” white boss enough but after reading my piece, she didn’t feel bad anymore. Honestly, the highest compliment! Kim Kardashian is right: nobody wants to work anymore, and we shouldn’t work hard, not for systems that exploit us.
The second flash, “Road Trip,” is hand-to-god mostly fiction! I’ve struggled with fiction in the past few years because it feels like I’m “lying,” which Anelise Chen discussed so well in this Los Angeles Review of Books article on what draws her to autofiction. Finding an itty bitty plot and character in this story opened a road back to fiction for me. There’s still no real conflict in the piece–I may never be good at writing conflict but have accepted that there is a reason for this: it’s a Western narrative structure that doesn’t serve the kind of work I’m writing now. I’m learning ways to drive stories through other paths and non-Western arcs. For this story, my guidepost was kishōtenketsu, a Japanese four-act structure that relies on a third act swerve as its engine. It’s a form I’ll be coming to again and again.
Read both pieces and the rest of the awesome issue at New Delta Review.
This is a Scam, One Minute Press
“This is a Scam” is not subtle! Another hermit crab fiction, this piece is a satirical take on U.S. assimilation written as a 1-star airline review. Big shoutout to the twin scams of the American Dream and Spirit Airlines for inspiring this piece! This flash is the beginning of a time where I’m having more fun with writing–which hopefully leads me to writing more! My writing over the past few years has been knotty, realist, and hard to write. I’m happy to be shifting toward holding hard truths in more buoyant ways, including speculative fiction! I was honored to be asked to submit this piece to their CROSSINGS series by the editor of One Minute Press, a beautiful, communal new press hand-making zines featuring flash. Flash moves and disappears so fast in the literary landscape in a way I both value and feel sad about. It’s a pleasure to have writing “stay” in the form of something tangible made with care and beauty. It’s also an incredible gift to have the art created by a fellow Sri Lankan artist, Amanda Goonetilleke. You can buy this zine and the entire CROSSINGS series as a bundle here.
Hopefully, I’ll be posting new work at least before another year goes by!