Meet our 2019 Bainbridge Residents: Courtney Young, D.A. Navoti, Callum Angus, and Yasmin Boakye.
They each came to our Issue 9 topic, “What We Lose,” from a deep and different perspective, as well as form, and their collective voices provided the foundation for our issue. They were among the 12-16 voices we published for Issue 9, which launched in January 2019. You can see a little bit about each artist below, as well as the work they pursued during the residency in February 2019.
Courtney Young is a writer and an entrepreneur who splits her time between NYC and Southwest Louisiana (where she was born and raised), and she is the founder of Think Young Media Group, a boutique technology and media firm that produces narrative, documentary and TV projects. She is currently working on her first book, a collection of short stories.
When we read Courtney’s cover letter and work, we knew that she was exactly the kind of resident that we were looking for: someone who is constantly interrogating — both herself and the world around her; someone who is seeking — both solo time to write and community; and someone who is questioning — both her own writing and how engaging fully with it can help her grow. We were struck by the wide range of her fiction, and her ability to access timely topics — race, patriarchy, violence, grief — in inventive new ways of storytelling. Of what motivates her to write, Courtney says:
“The driving forces behind my work are my innate curiosity for the human psyche and my passion for telling untold stories through dynamic imagery and experimental typography. I give minority voices a space to feel vulnerable and to be heard. By visually conveying taboo topics relating to the Asian American identity, mental health and inclusive feminism in my work, I question societal standards and encourage self-reflection on those topics. Ultimately, I want my work to spark significant and profound conversations with and among my audience.”
D.A. Navoti is an indigenous writer, a descendent of Hopi, Pima, Zuni and Yavapai-Apachi tribes. He writes to explore the intersection of his identities as a gay atheist and a member of the Gila River Indian Community. He has received emerging writer fellowships from Hugo House and Jack Straw Cultural Center, and lives and writes in Seattle, Washington.
The loss of land and place was a theme that came up frequently in many of the applications we read through this year, but there was one in particular that struck us for its thoughtful juxtaposition of physical loss and a disappearance of memory. D.A.’s prose examines the landscape of nature writing itself, and how we can better understand the intricacies of our own beings and identities by exploring physical territories with vulnerability and curiosity. Of the themes he’s interrogating in his work, D.A. writes:
“What does it mean to be an indigenous person living in the 21st century? Part pilgrimage, part grief memoir, the driving force behind my work is to settle accounts with my tribe; that is, that I left them eight years ago because we’d forgotten who we were — nomads — and that my father’s death released me to the world.”
Callum Angus is a trans and queer writer trained in geography, whose work exists at the intersection of creative writing and the natural sciences. He believes that all trans people should be allowed to have more than one transformation, and writes stories to disrupt the notion that transformation and change have an expiration date. He has received fellowships from Lambda Literary and Signal Fire Foundation for the Arts, and was a 2018 Writer-in-Residence at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest. He previously taught writing at UMass Amherst and Smith College, and currently lives in Portland, Oregon.
When we select our residents each year, we look at both the strength of their work and their uniqueness of voice, as well as the tenets of that person based on their level of introspection and willingness to be vulnerable about their place in the world. When Callum’s application hit our inbox, then, we were immediately won over by his awareness of self, the breadth of his work, and the ways in which his lived experience as a trans and queer writer informs everything from the fantastical genre he writes in, his considered word choice, and the emotional weight of his stories. Callum writes:
“Trans people are so rarely included in nature writing, and it’s this omittance that subtly reinforces the idea that we are “unnatural,” that our bodies and lives go “against nature.” I write stories to disrupt the notion that trans people can only have one transformation; transformation and change do not have an expiration date for my trans characters who grow as tall as buildings, turn into mountains, and give birth to cocoons, all after their initial transition.”
Yasmin Boakye is an essayist and fiction writer raised in the Maryland suburbs of DC. Her prose has appeared in Refinery29, Puerto del Sol’s Black Voices Series, and Bird’s Thumb. She is currently based in Iowa City, where she is pursuing an MFA in the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program.
Sometimes, we get residency applications that reverberate through us to the core for the clarity with which they can access truth, unearth realities, and tussle with the messiness of an experience. Yasmin is one such writer — the daughter of West African immigrants, she examines the complexities of the modern diasporic experience and draws heavily upon the influence of classic and contemporary writers to better understand origin stories. Yasmin writes:
“As the daughter of West African immigrants, a half-century and whole ocean removed from the rubble of (de)colonization, I write to offer shape to the lives formed from the aftershocks; to articulate the complexities of the modern diasporic experience: origin stories, stories of separation, of what happens when there is a chasm between.”