Learn a little more about our 2021 Editorial Residents: Sarah Ghazal Ali, Swastika Jajoo, Alysia Gonzales, and sheena d.
Each of these brilliant writers came to our Issue 13 topic, “Rebellious Joy,” from a unique perspective and with a distinct voice; our hope was that their collective energies would help to set the tone for our issue, which interrogated joy as our birthright and as a rebellious force that pushes back against systems trying to rob us of this most fundamental human emotion. Sarah, Swastika, Alysia, and sheena were among the 12-16 voices we publish for Issue 13, which launched in April 2021. Below, learn a little more about our four extraordinary residents, and why we were so excited to bring them together for this virtual residency.
Sarah Ghazal Ali is a Pakistani writer born and raised in the Northeast. An MFA Fellow, Juniper Fellow, and Best of the Net nominee, she is a third-year MFA candidate in Poetry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She teaches both introductory composition and creative writing. Her poems have appeared or will soon appear in Palette Poetry, Memorious, Narrative, Tinderbox, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Waxwing, and Wildness, among others. She currently lives in California and is drawn like a moth to all things green and growing. Much of this past year was spent misting her houseplants, learning to identify local trees, and playing inordinate amounts of Animal Crossing.
“To be a Muslim woman in America,” Sarah wrote, “is to be constantly erased. Despite this, I celebrate myself, my imagination, and my obsession with lineages both real and imagined.” From the moment we read her words, we knew that Sarah embodied everything this call — Rebellious Joy — is all about.
Originally from India, Swastika Jajoo is currently a Master’s student in Linguistics, based out of Sendai, Japan. Her poetry is much like how she understands her unparalleled love for the local matcha latte and the longing for her mother’s spiced chai: an exercise in navigation. She won the second prize in the poetry contest organized as part of the international Glass House Poetry Festival in July 2020. Her work is featured or upcoming in Eunoia Review, Capsule Stories, The Wild Word, Riggwelter, Muse India, and Huffington Post, among others, and her spoken-word pieces have been featured on UnErase Poetry, one of India’s leading spoken-word content producers. In April 2019, she gave a TEDx talk featuring spoken-word poetry at her school, Tohoku University. She was also invited to perform with Rolling Stone India for Pride Month 2020. Her favourite things are fresh snow, old books and a traditional Japanese sweet called anmitsu.
“I try to build conversation around gender, language, and mental health through my writing,” Swastika wrote to us. “Deeply interwoven with the idea of ‘otherness,’ these themes have gained fresh meaning for me after moving to Japan. As a queer woman and a foreigner, I am constantly afraid of taking up space. I want to bring this platter of intercontinental loneliness, 孤独 (kodoku), अकेलापन (akelapan),” through my art that is shy, but still resolute in its seeking out.” It is this searing awareness, honesty of creation, and commitment to unearth the interconnectedness of our inner and outer worlds that struck us about Swastika’s work, and which we felt embodies our topic of Rebellious Joy.
Alysia Gonzales is a writer born and raised in San Francisco. She is in the final year of her MFA program in Fiction at San Francisco State University. Being of Chicanx, Latinx, Indigenous, Filipinx, Puerto Rican, Greek, and more ancestry, her work grapples with race, class, identity, family, and ancestors. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Ana and The Seventh Wave. She is a 2021 Seventh Wave Editorial Resident. When she is not writing or reading, she can be found hiking, jogging, sipping tea, watching film and TV, being curious, or playing with her dog. She is currently working on a short story collection focusing on class and race’s long reaching arms into individual lives, and a novel about indigenous culture, California mountains, climate change, and how indigenous history persists through repeated attempts at cultural erasure.
“As a person of extensively mixed races (polyracial),” Alysia wrote to us, “I find myself continuously unpacking things that I didn’t even know that I had internalized, memorized, held as part of the way I move through the world.” What we love about Alysia’s voice, interrogations, and work, is not just that it unpacks, but that it also “seeks to find the joy in this unpacking and rejoining. Those parts of us we have hidden away to survive, how can we begin to reconnect our whole selves, and how can we find the peace and joy in that act?”
sheena d. (she/they) has West Virginian and South Carolinian roots, was brewed in Ohio, and now splits her time between Brooklyn and South Florida. She dabbles in stand-up comedy and doodling; her go-to scribbling tools include Muji’s black Gel Ink Ballpoint Pens (0.38mm, of course) and Tombow’s Pastel Dual Brush Pen Art Markers. Reoccurring themes in her writing are blackness, queerness, girlhood, diaspora, junk food, and dread.
“Most of my writing had to do with girlhood, blackness, queerness, and education; these things, combined with humor and dismay, paint my aesthetic and voice,” she wrote. We felt this intimately, and immediately, when we read sheena’s work. Her writing, and her work at Brooklyn Library — she recently received a grant to pilot a series called “We Everywhere: Dialogues of the African Diaspora” to explore Afro-descendent communities under-represented in the U.S. media/education) — is urgent to the core, and connective at heart. And we cannot wait to see the work she creates for Rebellious Joy. A piece that, “through personal narrative and cultural criticism, explores the landscapes of the locations we teach young girls to scour for joy.”