Survival Kit
// by Dana Fang

 

 

As a first generation Chinese-American immigrant who also identifies as a queer, non-binary femme, I have constantly struggled with what it means to belong. Growing up meant being straddled across many different cultural and social worlds, never quite welcome in any of them. I learned how split myself into pieces to create many versions of myself, so that I could survive without being hurt, again and again, by people and a world that does not understand and sometimes, do not even want to understand. While my many selves help me get up in the morning (which version of myself will I wear today?), this mechanism also creates a lot of self-hatred and self-doubt. I hate that I’m not ‘strong’ enough to be who I want to be all the time, without being blown away by exhaustion; I am scared that I will never become the person who I want to become, doing the work that I know needs to be done to push back the tidal wave of oppression. It’s still a work in progress—the whole business of ‘being alive’.

 

Three Pieces of Art

1. such as, by wo chan:
It’s hard for me to describe exactly the estrangement I feel from my body, from the languages that come out of my mouth, from a world and place that is supposed to care about me and my humanity (but doesn’t). It is difficult to have a body in the same way it is difficult to love family. Whenever it gets particularly hard, I return to these poems.

2. “Knowing Your Place,” by Sylvia Watanabe:
This essay is actually written by my professor and mentor, a person who I love dearly. It’s a story of transition and displacement; of trying to find a ‘home’—something that my mentor and I talk about in my work.

3. “The Ceremony,” by Joy Harjo:
There are a lot of white poets who write poems about why poetry matters to them and to the world: Billy Collins, Frank O’Hara (these are the poets I’m remembering off the top of my head) etc. etc. Joy Harjo’s poem “The Ceremony” follows in the tradition of poems on poetry, but the stakes are different. When she talks about being ‘sticky from the late storms of grief and went to look for poetry’, I know exactly what she means. I could talk for a long time about it.

 

Two People That Make You Feel Less Alone

1. My brother. He’s twelve (almost thirteen) and we didn’t get along when he was younger. Now, he’s someone who I’m always trying to love in new, profound ways. Someone I want to support in ways I didn’t know I could support someone. It’s hard, seeing that I’m away from where he is most of the time. But being separated from him and also being together with him help me re-learn and re-define what love can look like, what it can mean.

2. Mitski. I’m doing this radio show over the summer dedicated to women and people who identify as femme and their sorrow, loneliness, anger, despair. If I could Mitski’s whole album, “Bury Me at Makeout Creek” for the whole hour I could. The first time I listened to Mitski, I cried because I felt like there was someone who felt the world in the same colors I did.

 

One Thing You Carry With You

I’m going to take this question extremely literally. I have worn apink jade bracelet everyday since my sophomore year at Oberlin that was given to me by my mother in high school. It took me a little while before I felt ready to wear it, but now I never take it off. There are some people who say that the color of jade changes to reflect the person who wears it; I swear that the pink in my bracelet has turned increasingly purple throughout the years. This is a bracelet that protects me, keeps me safe, reminds me of a cultural heritage that I often feel I cannot claim.

 

 

Dana Fang is a writer, artist and dog-spotter, currently living in Oberlin Ohio, hoping to get the hell out of there. They have recently graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in Creative Writing and English Literature and is looking to the red horizon for something else to do. Their work can be found in The Susquehanna Review, The Plum Creek Review and The Wilder Voice and is upcoming in Thin Air Magazine.


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