I am a black, malaysian, and gay american writer from Worcester, Massachusetts.
My work explores science fiction, fantasy, and horror as robust sites for the development of critical philosophies of race, black phenomenology, decolonial thought and theories of radical black utopianism. I am interested in the underlying epistemologies that facilitate and hinder the realization of black utopian ideas, endeavors, and social spaces.
I worked as a prison abolitionist policymaker in California for many years, carving out real black utopian spaces by posing alternatives to carceral solutions to poverty, mental illness, and violence. Working under the conviction that there is no wellness without the unfettered dreams of fiction, I write to imagine wild concepts of liberation, new black and brown ontologies, and alien epistemologies. I write to dream what it means to be well as humans, especially black humans.
My essays have appeared in Black Warrior Review, Alpinist, and Bay Nature magazines. My speculative fiction is in Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, FIYAH, Nightmare, and other fantastic/al magazines. My work has received notable mentions in Best American Essays and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the runner-up award from the Black Warrior Review nonfiction contest. I have been a Tin House Scholar and graduate of the Viable Paradise and VONA workshops. I was a Spring 2023 writer-in-residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin, where I was a McLaughlin Children's Trust awardee. I am currently a PhD student in African American Studies at UC Berkeley.
WHY DO I WRITE?
A question I have asked myself many times is “why do I write?” Maybe what I mean is, “what does it mean to take the time to write in this moment?”
To me, prioritizing writing means hoarding time for quiet, solitude, dreaming, and wondering. The urgency of justice tells me that there’s no time for dreaming or wondering. An analysis of power tells me that if I don’t take time to think, dream, and wonder, art will remain the province of white men and women with resources, whose imaginations will then continue to take up an inordinate amount of space in the collective imagination of this country. I worked on lawmaking in California for long enough to understand that imaginings become stories become culture become law. For me, it is no great leap to understand that the United States thrives as a violent, white supremacist nation because the dreams, wonders, and visions of Black and Indigenous people and other people of color are systematically excluded from its collective imagination.
So what does it mean to be a queer Black and Malay person taking my time and writing stories?
Writing moves at the slow pace of healing, not the rapid pace of trauma. But taking my time to write means I’m not giving my time in other ways, and spending hours in nature thinking about an essay instead of drafting legislation to close prisons or defund the police can feel like wasting time rather than taking it. How can I choose to respond to the violent trauma that’s killing Black and Brown people everyday in this country *by writing stories*?
I don’t know. I do know that I’m not alone in learning how to navigate this complexity. I am part of a long tradition of Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx, and other people of color in America choosing to make political art as a way to navigate individual power and oppression alongside structural power and oppression within a social, political, and economic context none of us can ever fully understand.
In one sense, writing, and sharing my writing, is my way of giving the time I’ve taken back to all of us, so that we can enter into an imaginary space that sees, welcomes, loves, and values us. That does not imagine us as dead, or worthless, or only worth as much as we can work. That imagines us with wonder. We deserve to be imagined with wonder.