A Space for Writers of the World
A Letter from the Guest Editor regarding As/Us Queer Issue
When Cassie and Tanaya asked me if I would edit a special online queer issue of as us, I was a bit worried. There was a whole lot of “other” wrapped up in one. Queer. Women. Writers. Of color. I admit, I felt like I was alone in this label. How often have I stared into that publishing void and wondered if there was anyone out there like me? How many other Filipino writers? How many Filipino Queer writers? And yes, it was “of color” but what exactly did that mean?
And then the submissions started rolling in, and it was easy to stop worrying. Poem after poem, story after story, essay after essay. There was artwork, and podcasts, and music. We opened the submissions to queer men of color, and in came even more. Turns out, not only were there enough writers like me out there, but these writers were doing some really cool shit.
This issue represents my favorite work from the summer. Tastes, as we know, are subjective, and there are probably other pieces that I should have snagged up, but in the end, the ones that made it into the issue were pieces that excited me because they approached the idea of “queer” and “of color” in unexpected ways. Sometimes the unexpectedness came in the way of form. In Cindy Sylvester’s story, for example, we see a love story flipped on its head. What begins as a third person narrative evolves into a first person tale pieced together by a daughter trying to come to understand her mother’s life. Other times this unexpectedness came through of view. Elsa Valmidiano’s essay “Queering the Straight Girl” takes an academic approach by looking at the way “queerness” can be reflected in all of us – gay and straight alike. In another example, Celeste Chan and Jezebel Delilah X present a poem that works like a converation between two women of different races, presenting to the reader a call to action that asks for walls to be knocked down, stereotypes to be broken. More still, the unexpectedness came in the form of content: the intensity of Anna Puthuran’s poem “On Rape” gives power back to the powerless; Itoro Udofia combines drums and vocals in an unexpected song of spoken words; Maisha Johnson’s recounting of a first-time sexual encounter elicits our surprise when the speaker learns the other woman has only one breast; Randi Beck Ocena’s meditation on language guides us through much of her life; and Nia King makes us wonder if we really can change the world one podcast at a time. We are also very happy to include work by Cherrie Moraga.
My listing here could go on and on, but combined, the selection of short stories, poetry, music, spoken word, and photography presented in this issue show an impressive range of what art can do. Be aware, mind you, that I didn’t say “what queer artists of color” can do. This is art at its best, and I am honored to present it to you.
Samantha (“Sam”) Tetangco Ocena
P.S. Reading a magazine online is a fascinating endeavor. How does one decide what should go at the beginning and what at the end, and if I took the time to place one item after the other, would you even read in that order anyway? In the end, when “ordering” these pieces, I decided to keep it simple. What you have here are the artists in reverse alphabetical order. I was going to simply go alphabetical (Best American does this, by the way), but when I was in grade school, this always resulted in me getting to do everything last. And so, I decided, why not reverse it.
That Sam, always queering the order!