the body narratives

Writing Tips #6: Punctuating Dialogue (Advanced Skills)

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to another installment of Writing Tips. Today, we’ll be discussing advanced dialogue punctuation (for more basic skills, please refer to episode 5). Let’s get started.

1. Combining narrative beats with dialogue tags. In the previous post, we discussed how to properly punctuate dialogue tags (he said, she said, they asked, etc.) and narrative beats (body language, non-vocal responses, etc.) Of course, there are times when you want to use both techniques at once. In this case, you want to punctuate the dialogue like so:

g.) “I can’t believe you did that,” she whispered, staring at him in horror.

h.) He turned to her and said, “We’re going to need more explosives.”

i.) “Well,” she said, eyeing him appreciatively, “that went better than I expected.”

Each of the above examples handles this technique in a slightly different way, but you’ll notice that the punctuation is consistent with that of dialogue tags, rather than narrative beats. In this structure, it can be helpful to think of the dialogue tag acts as the main course, while the narrative beat is more of a side dish (which is not to say that your side dish is any less nutritious or delicious than your main course, but much like the main course at a fancy restaurant, the dialogue tag gets priority.)

And because I am sneaky, I have nested another set of dialogue lessons into these three examples. Example G is the vanilla version of combining narrative beats with dialogue tags. It’s the format you’re most likely to see, and the most easily constructed.

But look at Example H. Rather than coming after the dialogue, as you’ve seen in previous examples, the dialogue tag (and narrative beat) come before the dialogue. The punctuation is very similar (a comma to conjoin each segment of the sentence), but you’ll notice that the first word of the dialogue is capitalized. Dialogue like this is basically a complete sentence nested within a larger sentence, and is punctuated independently (except when followed by a dialogue tag, in which case the period at the end of the dialogue becomes a comma, as we’ve discussed.)

Example I is even more complicated, with the dialogue split into two separate pieces by the tag/beat combo. In cases like this, you want to insert the tag/beat where there’s a natural pause in the dialogue (usually at a comma). But because you are continuing the dialogue after the tag/beat, you end the tag/beat with another comma (as we saw in Example H), then continue the dialogue as if there had not been any interruption (by which I mean, do not capitalize the first word of the second segment of dialogue). Here are a few more examples of how to do this correctly:

j.) “I hate to break it to you, mate,” he said, setting his hat on the bar, “but it might be time to admit defeat.”

k.) “You know,” she said, “it probably would have been faster to walk.”

l.) “I don’t normally say this,” the man grumbled, peering down at her, “but that was some damned fine shooting.”

Note, however, that if you split the dialogue at the end of a sentence, you end the following tag/beat with a period, not a comma, then punctuate the next snippet of dialogue as normal. Examples:

m.) “That wasn’t quite what I had in mind,” she said, pulling her shoes on. “I was trying to suggest we look for answers ourselves.”

n.) “If you don’t clean your room right now, you can forget about going to the park,” his mother said, hands on her hips. “Honestly, the things I put up with around here …”

o.) “We could always kill him,” she suggested, frowning when her girlfriend looked at her in horror. “What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

2. What to do when the dialogue goes on for multiple paragraphs without a break. This is a fairly rare occurrence, since most of the time, it’s pretty easy to sprinkle in a response from another character to break up a monologue, but you may find occasion to use it, so here’s an explanation: When a single character is speaking for more than one paragraph at a time, without any sort of narrative beat or interruption, you punctuate it like this:

“See, Leah was a fine young woman. Had a mouth on her, sure, and she could shoot a man dead in the eye from a hundred paces, but she had her chips in a row, if you take my meaning.

“Cindy, now, she was a different beast. Mean as a rattlesnake, and just as quick. Why, I’d rather go into a gunfight unarmed than cross her. And that’s not even takin’ into account that dog of hers. Meanest sumbitch I ever did see.”

Notice that there is no ending quotation mark after the first paragraph. This indicates that the dialogue is not yet finished. Note also that there is an opening quotation mark at the beginning of the second paragraph, which acts as confirmation that the dialogue is indeed still going on. And then, at  the end of the second paragraph, when the dialogue actually is over, there’s a closing quotation mark. As I said, it’s rare for dialogue to go on for more than one paragraph without some sort of interruption, but it does happen, so it’s best to be prepared for it.

3. Quotes within quotes. Another situation you might run into is having a character quote something another character has said (or mentioning something, such as a poem, song, or short story which would ordinarily be in quotes). Fortunately, this one is pretty easy: you follow the same rules you would with any regular piece of dialogue, except that instead of putting it in double-quotation marks, you put it in single quotation marks (note: with British English, the reverse is true). Here are some examples:

p.) “And then she said, ‘Well, I just don’t know what you’re talking about.‘ As if she really didn’t know! Can you believe that?”

q.) He leaned back in his chair, expression thoughtful. “Yeah,” he said in his gravelly voice. “I remember the first time I met her. Up on stage, singing an operatic version of ‘Second Chance.’ Damned beautiful, she was.”

r.) “You’ll find ‘The Raven’ on page two-hundred sixty-four of your textbook,” the teacher said.

And that’s pretty much everything you need to know about punctuating dialogue. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like clarification on any of the above points. In the future, I will post lessons about how to write dialogue itself, but that’s a ways off yet. For now, I hope you found this post helpful, and thanks again for reading.

here’s some positivity bc i’m tired of my own internalized transphobia

💖if ur transmasc and like makeup that’s ok and ur valid💖

💖if ur transmasc and like ~feminine clothes that’s ok and ur valid💖

💖if ur transmasc and like ~feminine colors that’s ok and ur valid💖

💖if ur trans and ur dysphoria is mostly related to being perceived as the wrong gender instead of the born in the wrong body narrative that’s ok and ur valid💖

💖if ur trans ur good and valid💖

Body Rolls and Tight Pants, Or a Ramble About Feeling Fat

This is a part of the experience of my life as an ALT, and I think it:s important to talk about this, even if it is a ramble. Japan is great, but it:s not magical+ your problems before don:t just cease to exist while you are a resident here. You have to address and realize that you’re still you no matter what kind of adventure you on. there’s no magic that can change that, and sometimes… well, that can be really good. This was a moment of really good to get this out. Now I feel a lot better because I’ve admitted that this has been on my mind here. Anyway, ramble ahoy!

So I’m having a moment that, I think, everyone who’s bigger and ever lived in Japan must be having: a moment where I feel negative, capital-f FAT.

(It’s an ongoing thing that I think sometimes gets exacerbated in Japan despite living in a prefecture and city with bigger, Japanese bodies that, more often than not, inch closer to my husky American frame than the thinner image pushed through fashion media in both countries.)

I bought some new tunics, and when I looked in the mirror, I thought they were cute. They have nice patterns, all fit well, will accommodate modest shrinkage from the wash, and will be nice, light, and airy on my trip to Niigata City. Add a tanktop beneath, a pair of jeans and some cute accessories, and I’m ready to keep warm in the cool, 22-24 degree weather on the coast.

There was just one problem: I looked fat. Not adjective or positive fat, but big ol’ negative fat.

I always look fat though: in my pajamas, in my casual clothes, in a dress, in a yukata, in anything I wear because I am fat and that can’t be divorced from my person. I will most likely always be fat: I don’t say that as some sort of “pity me” story, but as a fact. I’m okay with that, 95% of the time. I like my body: it’s good to me, is useful, is soft and treats me right…

…But then that 5% crept in under my skin right as I slid into a shirt I had really wanted, reducing me down to feeling like I just looked ugly and pregnant, a feeling college me knew all too well and current me does not want anything to do with.

Now, the shirt I really wanted didn’t flatter me, I felt, until I adjusted it, bunching it cutely at the hips so that it fell a bit shorter. I might pin it or adjust it so it falls over my bottom, but hits just below my belt line to flatter myself.

*That’s always my problem, btw, because I have like, no torso, and here in Japan, clothes accent the torso a lot more, making me feel stumpy.)

Even with the adjustment though, I started noticing the glorious hills and valleys of my body reshape into trenches and mountains, into giant, rolling hills that made me feel swallowed. It made me feel very visible, even in my own apartment, like someone was going to know. The secret was out: your ALT is fat, and it suddenly became a really bad thing.

(But like those tunics looked cute on the plus size model and most likely also on me. Like… when don’t I look cute?)

Those negative thoughts are part of a state of mind that I constantly fight against: it’s hard to feel beautiful at times because of it, but I really want those tunics, and think that they looked awfully cute. I don’t want to go on vacation with half of my clothes being work tops: the whole point of getting away is to step outside of a role and enjoy another one. I want to be Vacation Mercedez, not ALT.

The reality is, I’m never going to be thin: it’s just a fact, and being thin wouldn’t’ solve everything, but sometimes, it’s hard being a big person in Japan. While you can bet I’m over the moon that I live near three plus-sized stores –they don’t have my size, but that’s major progress, I feel– and have access to dozens of Japanese stores stocked with “Queen”, “10L” and “Fluffy” sizes, it still sometimes eats at me. Even though I exercise daily, know that I’ve lost weight, and am trying to love myself and be healthy, it still hurts on occasion.

Yet, life is about my experience, and being fat doesn’t change my right to a happy one. I definitely am still feeling down today, but I have a right to exist as a big body in Japan, and I’m going to continue to assert that. From Kyuushu to Hokkaido, I’m gonna let everyone know that my big chest, wide stomach, wider hips, and body rolls are here to exist too. My life here has value fat or otherwise: my presence in this country is meaningful to me, and has led me to make many friends and positive memories. More, certainly, than any negative experiences.

I say this, also, as I start to save up money for two new cosplays for my birthday in September since I’m realizing that A) buying cosplay does not make you a bad person and that B) I just don’t have time in this ongoing adjustment period to sew . I’m doing this as a continued quest to feel pretty too, even if it means that I’m a Dragon or an AI Program, or hey, a Nurse! (Tohru from Miss Kobyashi’s Maid Dragon and Nanami Chiakia and Tsumiki Mikan from Suepr Danganronpa 2 respectively.)

Basically, this was me just saying being fat here is hard, but not impossible. I go through the moment, dissect it, get upset, but then I have to come out of that. Tonight, I’ll try everything on after a good dinner and revaluate through clear eyes: if I really don’t like the shirts, then they go back and I get a refund. If I do like them, then they go into the travel suitcase so that the first time I wear my new duds in on vacation.

Regardless though, I’m gonna be big: and that’s not bad, but a part of my identity, and a really positive part. I can rock anything with enough confidence, and as my confidence continues to bloom, I want to keep loving myself, body rolls and all.

(And hey, if my hips take up that little bit of extra space on the seat for two and turn it into a seat and three quarters, then the victory goes to me: now I don’t have to hold all my bags!)

You watch as she pinches the fat on her stomach, hips, thighs–disapproval written all over her face. “If only I wasn’t so fat,” she says. “I’ve gained so much weight lately.”
And you don’t know what to say. Nothing comes out right. You tell her “you’re not fat,” and “curvy is in these days,” but that’s not what you mean to say, and she knows that you are lying. What you mean is “yes, you are fat, and yes, you are beautiful, because the two are not mutually exclusive.” What you mean is “fat” is not an insult, it is not a swear word, it is an adjective, and the fact that it can be applied to her does not mean that she is lesser. What you mean is “you are beautiful no matter what your body looks like.” But nothing comes out right.
—  Nothing ever comes out right.

anonymous asked:

What is your pet peeve?

Shit like this:

Come on, I don’t burn everything.

…But I did burn his entire front yard. And four or five cop cars. And the cops. And a bit inside his house.

I probably traumatized his parents, but fuck them, they were assholes. Cat was cute, though.

unpopular opinion but i think, or at least hope, that the popularity of Butler in trans communities will go the way of the “born in the wrong body” narrative in a few years.

i think Judith Butler’s current popularity is attributable to the same things that caused many trans people to actively perpetuate the notion that we were “born in the wrong body” – we’re desperate for a language that describes our experiences and this seems to be the only one available.

but much like the conception of being “born in the wrong body” i think there are far too many truly fundamental problems with Butler’s approach that render it of very little use to us in the long run, and i think we’ll eventually realize that. What i would hope is that when we do, we don’t just latch onto someone else’s framework just because it’s the nearest thing again.

Dear binary trans and cis people,

You don’t get to decide that Ruby Rose’s experience as a genderfluid person is “suspicious”, a “publicity stunt”, or otherwise not valid.

Same rule applies to every single agender, genderfluid, non binary, genderqueer, polygender, etc. etc., person you know or know of.

Guess what, we don’t need an “I’ve known since forever” narrative, or a “trapped in the wrong body” narrative for our experiences to be valid.

a lot of people know the “i feel trapped in the wrong body” trans narrative.

and if you are trans and that is how you feel, that is totally valid – but that is not how I feel, and not how a lot of trans people feel.

i love my body. i think it’s useful and attractive and relatively healthy.

but when i wear makeup or women’s clothes, society tells me that i’m ugly. i get called a faggot or a tranny, and people stare if i go out in public. i don’t feel happy or loved presenting how i want to, and perhaps most importantly of all, I don’t feel safe. trans women are murdered regularly just for being outside and “looking trans”.

so maybe i do want to physically transition. maybe i want more feminine facial and body features. not because there is anything wrong with my face or my body, but there is something wrong with how our society perceives my face and my body.

if our society and our culture depicted trans women as sexy, desirable, and normal, i could dress how i want. but instead we are depicted as gross, as abnormal, as pedophiles and perverts.

i just want this to be clear: if i, as a trans person, decide to physically transition, it is not because i hate my body and want to become different – it’s because the world hates my body and won’t let me be how i want to be while i’m in it. so maybe i will change so that i can live a life with fewer insults, less staring, and less harassment.

i love my body. there is nothing wrong with me – there is something wrong with how society perceives people like me.


The term began as identifying as a trans woman while dfab, or a trans man as dmab. This definition is the most problematic, and is where the term came from. Use of the trans qualifier to describe your gender requires your gender alignment to be trans (identifying as a gender separate from the one assigned at birth).

The ask sent to AANB added even more issues to the term, using a “born in the wrong body” narrative. While the narrative is fine for individual use, the definition given implied that trans folk (specifically trans women) are all born in the wrong body, while people who are circumgender are born in the “right” body despite identifying as trans.

This causes a lot of problems. It invalidates trans folk who do not experience dysphoria in the very specific “wrong body” feeling. It fetishizes trans folk, especially those who do experience that kind of dysphoria. It erases nonbinary folk as a whole and in different ways depending on how they experience dysphoria. It also invalidates the experiences of intersex folk, both cis and trans.

The original poster was a cis woman troll. When her blatant transphobia was called out, she continued the ruse that she was a confused young trans person. She resorted to faking self harm. Many people did defend her with good intention before she was revealed as a fraud. These people did legitimately try to educate her on why this identity was offensive and to steer her toward better information in her gender exploration. These folk are not at fault.

In the same way that plantkin trolling is an echo chamber for transphobes, circumgender became parodied and believed by many different groups. A search of circumgender brings up TERF discourse about how this is “proof” that trans women are men. It brings up anti-SJ posts about ~those silly trans people~. It even sadly brings up trans people using it to deny the identities of other trans folk.

Unfortunately, the term did strike a chord with a few people who did legitimately have similar gender feelings. These people generally do not feel they are trans women when dfab or trans men when dmab. They generally identify strongly with the genders they were assigned at birth, but have some sort of “wrong body” narrative. Those who don’t follow that narrative still generally feel body dysmorphia despite not identifying with gender dysphoria.

Many of these issues arise because the person does not have access to adequate information. There is a problem within the trans community where we expect people who are just discovering their trans existence to already be completely knowledgable about the intricate details of being trans and discussing trans issues. Even the “most accepting” of us are guilty of shaming other trans or gender questioning/non-conforming folk for a simple mistake instead of helping said person understand their mistake.

For these people, the ones who legitimately have an experience with their gender where they identify as the gender assigned at birth but feel their body does not affirm their identity, there are options:(this is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s a good start for exploring your gender)

Demi{gender}: a commonly accepted trans gender identity where the person identifies with a gender, but not completely.

Magi{gender}- a less commonly acknoledged trans gender identity, where the person identifies mostly as a gender, but not completely. This one comes from the same place as nan0gender so proceed with caution.

Genderqueer {gender}- commonly accepted trans gender identity where the person identifies as a gender using “gender queer” as a qualifier. Gender queer can denote a non binary identity, a multiple gender experience, a fluid gender experience, and/or a non normative gender expression. It is also commonly used for people whose sex and gender identities are two distinct and important parts of their over all identity. It is a reclaimed slur.

Nonbinary {gender}- commonly accepted trans gender identity similar to genderqueer, but tends to focus more on the nonbinary aspect of the identity.

Gender nonconforming {gender}- a gender presentation similar to gender queer, but focusing more on the nonconformity and performative aspects. Not necessarily trans.

Cis {gender}- a gender identity where the person identifies as the gender assigned as birth. It’s perfectly fine to be cis but seek various forms of transition. Just understand that if you are cis, you are NOT empathetic to the trans experience.

{gender}- it’s completely fine to not assign a qualifier to your identity, especially when you are still questioning where it falls. Like using the cisgender label, be careful to understand where you do and do not empathize with the trans experience.

{gender} that happens to be trans- If you feel it is more accurate, you can tack “who happens to be trans” to the end, as long as you understand that you are not and cannot empathize with being a trans woman when dfab or a trans man when dmab.

Speaking of, you cannot identify as:

Trans woman/man (while dfab/dmab respectively): these are identities that are exclusive to people who’s binary aligned aspect of their gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned.

Trans feminine/masculine (while dfab/dmab respectively): these are identities that are exclusive to people who’s semi-binary aligned aspect of their gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned.

While I am an advocate for reclamation, circumgender isn’t exactly reclaimable. A few people tried by changing its definition to ~wanting to physically transition to a differently gendered body despite identifying as the gender assigned to said body~.

At its core, it’s definition harms our community. It also constrains it’s legitimate users into a very strict narrative which only harms. There are many different ways to experience your gender, but contributing to the continued oppression of the trans community by appropriation and fetishization should never be one.

things mad max: fury road have changed for me:

  • sharpened my critical eye for determining when the camera is forcibly sexualizing female bodies vs. when the narrative is subverting sexualization
  • reinforced my understanding that a movie can be sensational in some areas while still lacking and worth criticism in others (race representation, for instance)
  • deepened my appreciation for vehicles, especially customs
  • never been more aware of tom hardy’s lips
  • all trees are now “tree things”

Do people not realize Africa was rich just by existing? Diamonds, gold, silver, copper, salt, cocoa–and the list goes on. The continent was robbed by countries poorer than them so that their greedy asses could make millions and leave Africa to be treated like all it ever was since the beginning of time is flies, disease, starvation, and poverty.

Slavery alone, the exploitation of free labor, turned the United States into an economic force. I’m not talking about the indentured servitude of the Irish, or whatever moment in time you wish to denigrate the topic of this specific atrocity relevant to the black experience with by using another atrocity, because its only purpose would be to spew anti-black commentary instead of empathy. I’m talking about one thing here: the diaspora and enslavement of black bodies that provided the narrative for the continued discrimination against them today, as a race. The belief that black lives could be bought, sold, and mistreated like property turned into an enterprise that could be invested in, and I’m not referring to the actions of just slaveowners in the south, no. I’m talking WALL STREET. JPMorgan Chase, Brooks Brothers, Aetna, Wells Fargo… huge corporations that flourished off of the sweat and blood of many. Also, let’s not forget the ivy league schools whose students came from wealthy slave-owning families, paying for their tuition with the profit garnered from slave labor. That means Harvard, that means Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia…universities where the demographics are still predominantly white males.

This country (and specifically just this country, we’re not even talking about England, Spain, France, Netherlands, and Portugal’s paper trail) has seen trillions of dollars generated from slavery–plus interest–and not a penny returned. That means that money has only begot more money. It’s not gone. It’s not a thing of the past. It shaped this country into what it is now and so many whites (god bless the knowledgeable ones) act as if black people are supposed to see it as a good thing while simultaneously being told we should just “go back to Africa”, to the lands that have been ravaged by their forefathers, since we’re not always pleased with our environment. 

Those of us who are conscious of what went on and what’s still going on are not just crying over spilt milk. This shit goes too deep for that. And the worst part is, the only way to completely wipe the slate clean of the atrocities that POC in general have faced at the hands of European colonization is to wipe the face of the earth clean, then start over. But nobody wants to touch on the basis of these things. Not even in Jenga. It’s much easier to just keep going skyward because the consequence of getting too close to the foundation is watching everything you built come crashing down.


One important summer’s day I came across Qahera, the badass Muslim woman superhero, and felt a little more than good. Witty, empowering and politically perfect, Deena’s Webcomic has crucially been well received. I wanted to know more about the inspiration behind the Hijabi superhero that takes on misogynistic Muslim men and white-saviour-complex feminists.

Q. Who is Qahera and why is she important?

At this stage of her development, Qahera is a female, visibly Muslim superhero. She’s important (to me, I suppose) because I feel like there is a need for female Muslim superheroes who actually deal with the real-life issues we face instead of fictional supervillains (because let’s face it, half of the things Muslim women have to deal with feel like they’ve been concocted by supervillains.) But yeah, there’s a need for her. Both in comics and in real life.

Q. What does it mean for her to be a superhero?

I feel like it means she doesn’t have to be afraid. She can face the challenges all Muslim women face head-on and obliterate them. Superheroes have this remarkable ability of standing out in a crowd and getting their voices heard (admittedly, usually because they’re wearing skintight lycra and a cape) and I guess that’s what I want Qahera to do.

On an audience-receptive level, her being a superhero also means she can break past the barriers of constant arguing and the words we use over and over again, like “privilege” and “patriarchy” and “intersectional feminism” and just visually slap you with the reality of the words in simple, simple terms. People understand superheroes. Nothing is clearer than angry words in a speech bubble coming from a lady holding a sword.

Unfortunately this also has its drawbacks because angry words in a speech-bubble cannot fully describe or explain the intricacies behind the challenges we face. It can also lead to infantilising or over-simplifying an issue (particularly to those unfamiliar with them), but I guess that’s my own personal challenge to work on.

Q. How do you feel she challenges the stereotypes and tropes Muslim women face, particularly as they (and their bodies) are often spoken for, spoken at, and spoken against?

I guess she mostly challenges them just by existing. Even though there are already two veiled superheroes in the comic book world (Dust, Excalibur), the majority of the comments I’ve received have been “what a great concept!”

People are surprised by the idea of a Muslim woman as a superhero. Superheroes are Western concepts, even though every child in the world probably knows Superman. The idea that a Muslim woman would be a part of that (especially a Middle-Eastern based one, as Qahera is) is sort of different to them in itself. Apart from that I think she challenges the stereotypes head-on. Her entire existence is bent on being outspoken, independent and fierce.

The worst and most common stereotype Muslim women face is that of being helpless and controlled, lacking autonomy. A superhero is the opposite of that. Qahera is the opposite of that.

Q. Where did the concept come from for the comic?

My frustration with the world. Qahera came about because she was basically everything I longed to be. Additionally, I see so many strong and powerful women who constantly fight and strive for freedom, both politically and socially, and I feel like some of them are already superheroes. The two ideas - that I’d like superpowers, that women are superheroes - sort of collided into Qahera.

Q. Where can we get more of this badass superhero?

Ahhh my blog probably! I’ve received an incredible response, which makes me think I should probably make a separate place to post Qahera’s adventures, but until then she’s at Blog Like An Egyptian 

Deena is an Egyptian university student majoring in graphic design. She also works as a freelance illustrator. She currently resides in Egypt where she watches too many television shows. She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

Call for submissions: The Body Narratives

dearly beloveds,

currently on the hunt for more submissions/contributions for the The Body Narratives. looking more specifically for the following:

  • narratives on physical, sexual, emotional violence 
  • trans inclusive experiences 
  • re-imagining the body - what does freedom look like? what if we existed outside of these limits/social constructs/experiences - what would you imagine your body to be/do/stand for?
  • short video blogs about what your body means to you (up to 5 minutes long)
  • tips/ideas for what will be ‘self-care sundays’ (recipes, how-tos, book lists/recommendations, inspirations, things that make you feel good/improve your wellbeing, playlists, love notes etc)

if you are interested get in contact: 

all submissions should be emailed and accompanied by a short bio in third person with any social media links and images. written pieces must be no longer than 900 words. 


“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” ― Audre Lorde 

Aesthetics continues to be an essential basis by which we are judged, looked at, and ultimately defined as women. This space is an attempt to curate and document all the ways in which as Women of Colour we navigate, understand and own the embodiment of our narratives and experiences. At the heart of this journey, we seek to uncover how our bodies belong to ourselves.

In collecting a diverse range of women of colour’s voices (across race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, geographic location, able-bodiedness and gender queer identities) and mediums, we hope to create a restorative body of work spiritually, emotionally, physically, and intellectually that heals. 

Using articles, interviews, essays, love notes, poetry, prose, art, photography, film, and discussion both online and offline we attempt to map these journeys.

Follow us! Support us! Get in touch if you would like to get more involved or have something you’d like to share/contribute either by the Submission or Ask box or email us: 

P.S. check out Jay Katelansky’s work she’s contributed to make our banner and part of our logo  - doesn’t that get you excited?

[Personal Narrative] Unlearning the Phantom by Giselle Buchanan

Numerous studies show that by the age of six or seven, girls already dislike their bodies. This hate that is learned so early, so quickly renders so many of us at war with ourselves. The process and journey to finally unlearn what has been falsely taught about our inadequacy in being who we are is no easy feat. In this piece Giselle Buchanan bravely identifies the moments and memories that are rooted in her feelings of unworthiness, and the daily rituals she puts in place in the attempts to love and own herself. 

It didn’t take long for my body to swell into a thing beyond my control. I was 7 or 8 when it started. When I learned what ‘fat’ meant as it spat itself out of someones mouth and rolled its girth in my direction. I remember the Summer well. My mom and step father were arguing every day. My mom decided to send me to Palm Bay, Florida so she could focus her attention fully on the home in flames before her. It was then I experienced my first bout of depression and learned quickly how to gorge through that sadness. I arrived home at the end of August, plump with all my grief. By 11, I towered over all of my peers. Stood last on the girls’ line each morning. My skin erupted in angry signs of puberty across my forehead and cheeks. I learned what it meant to carry yourself in a body that had to be guarded. One people felt you should apologize for.

When you are young and people replace words like ‘beautiful’ and ‘enough’ with ‘potential’ and ‘good reader,’ it is a long trek towards learning what was not taught. You sit in front of many mirrors. You straighten your back. You take deep breaths and sigh and squeeze and tug and swell and poke. Afterwards, you are a hot air balloon post flight. The whole of you curled into yourself. Your body in need of a warmth you only ever had when someone gave it to you.

I spent many days in school bathroom stalls alone, my face burning with the cruelty of children. I came to expect the howls of laughter. The feet sticking out to trip me. I learned to mouth the words to their recess songs. Began singing them to myself. I learned how to become small in ways my body could not be for me while enclosed in my uniform of pleated skirts and wool sweaters. I slouched my shoulders. Bended my spine. Made my voice softer, smaller, higher pitched. Hoped like a dog whistle, humans would not hear it. I morphed into something subhuman. Here, but not quite. Sat so still, I felt like a phantom.

I carried these feelings of unworthiness everywhere. Fell into the arms of lesser men because they were open. Because I never thought arms would be there for me to pick from. The images of women found lovable or desirable did not look like me. Did not fill their dresses the way I filled mine. Did not tower up, sturdy in the way I was sturdy. I had never heard the words pretty and sexy in reference to bodies soft in the ways I was soft.

I remember my first boyfriend. His name was Khy. I remember him kissing me for the first time. I remember spitting into a flower pot afterwards when his head wad turned. I remember him cheating on me. I remember scattered experiences I mistook for intimacy. My body in a few beds. On a few couches. Against a few walls. Being touched by hands that would not hold me up even on my brightest day.I don’t think I began to believe I was beautiful until I left high school. Throughout the years I had days, of course. I would stretch my legs into the right pair of jeans or drape a silk dress over my head and see a glimmer of the kind of beautiful I could be. It was only when I retired the life long catholic school uniform for good and gained permanent autonomy over my body that things began to shift in my life. I started being able to decide what it was I wanted to put on my body. How I wanted to navigate through life. What I wanted the image reflecting my inner world to be. I claimed my body for good and in doing so, released the reins people once used to tether it into place.

It started slowly. Oxblood lipstick spread carefully over my pout. Spikes. Neon. Prints. Then one day I took the scissors and cut off the final bit of safety blanket I had left. In this freedom, I bloomed.

If we use units outside ourselves to quantify our worth, how will we ever be enough? Instead I learned to be compassionate. I did what felt good. Now, I wear lavender oil because it makes me feel beautiful. I cover my body in lush, printed fabrics. I avoid wearing anything that does not feel good beneath my hands. I soothe myself with spiced teas and fill my plate with vegetables in a myriad of colors. I light candles at night and burn nag champa in the morning. I wash my hair with mint and twist it with shea butter. I make it to yoga when I can. Extend and stretch the limbs I once cursed for being so long.

I will not say there aren’t days when I don’t wish myself something better. Sometimes, I fall into old patterns; Into the wrong arms. But this is no longer a default space to live in. Now, it is a crevice I know I can crawl out of. And I do. A few days ago my mom was at the lady’s house next door and when she came home said, “the neighbour’s daughter is so sweet. She sees you every morning and thinks you look so cool.” I laughed because this journey is one in which we are given many names, none of which matter but the ones we choose for ourselves.

Giselle is an artist and writer based in the Bronx, NY. She believes in adornment by way of printed fabrics and ornate jewellry, and indulgence in the form of lavender baths and rooibos chai tea. She has facilitated various workshops using poetry and art as tools for empowerment with Harlem Textile Works and has published poems in the magazine, Hanging Loose Press. Giselle is currently studying Textile and Surface design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and has been told she gives good hugs.

Follow her on Twitter  @vishuddhaa.

[Theme] Letter to My Younger Self by Amaal Said

How often do we look back at our adolescene and reflect on the things we wished we’d known, the things that would prepare us to cope, survive, overcome, or even love? Amaal Said writes a letter to her younger self.

One day you will sit in a politics class and the teacher will put up an article about a Somali boy and a woman will be quoted saying, ‘he is not stateless because he is a citizen of Somalia’. She will turn her face and feed him to the wolves. You will be in that classroom with a burning face, tears ready in their sockets. You will remember the time you were in a Danish airport and they pulled you out of a crowd to be questioned. They asked you why you came. You were going back trying to find home. It spat you out each time. Wiping away your tears in the classroom, the teacher will call you sensitive.

Walking through the park near your house, you will tug at the kids when you see the crowd of white children. You will remember the time you were eleven and the police were called to a park that resembles the one you are in. All you did was swing back and forth. The white girl yanked you by the headscarf until you fell to the floor. You do not want to tell your younger siblings that bad things will happen even if they are children.

Your mother came with a mouth full of spit to save you from them. Next thing you know, there are dogs. There are the white women who gather screaming, 'dirty Somalis; go back to where you came from.’ Others will nod in unison. You’ll want to run out of your skin, wanting no more of it. It will happen time and time again. The casual presence of white women and the way they come together, talking in low whispers. Whenever something happens, when there is fire, when there are police and broken windows, black boys in the backseat, there will be the white women whispering, 'get them before they blow us all up’. 

Stop counting the number of boys the neighbourhood has swallowed. The ones in your English class would want you to think about them. But do not romanticise the hurt they have caused. Do not give them a goodness they did not own. You will be touched and knocked over by boys you have made greater inside your head. Soon the shame will grow until you will not look your mother in the face. I want you to remember that the body comes back, even when you swear it’s dead now. God is not angry with you. It does not matter the time of night or where you were.

It is so easy to forget how there are wars in your own home when outside gets so loud. The women in your family have taken to their skin and it will not matter what you say, just how you love them. Do not cry when your aunt takes you to her home and you wander aimlessly into her bedroom to discover the creams. You will watch a programme about skin bleaching the next day, taking down the ingredients. When standing next to your mother’s beauty table you will bring your list, matching the chemicals. 'Hooyo’, you’ll say. 'Why do you want to be white?’ She’ll tell you it evens her out, makes her brighter, healthier. Do not grow up hating brown.

Kiss your baby brother when he comes home to say, 'the boys in class said that I’m black. Did God leave us in the oven too long?’ Do not let him see the tears. Hope to God that he becomes a loving man, a gentle one. Try to not draw blood when your other brother calls you a bitch. You will stay away from him for weeks, afraid of your anger. You will spend so much time trying to mould your brothers into the men that you want to love. It will be difficult. He will ask 'why are you so sensitive?’ when you grip your belly, wounded.

You will gather around the coffee table looking at old photographs with your family. The newswoman will say that after the massacre everybody was missing a relative. It will be talked about like losing possessions in a fire. You will be in classrooms where they talk about your women like possessions. They will say, 'well we’re not that bad to our women, look at Somalia!’ Don’t spend the next few school years trying to forget the language. Do not hate the guts of the girl who denies that she is Somali at all. You see the hushed tones as she talks to her mother. She does not want anybody to know.

Instead of forgetting where you came from, the memories will move in. At times, they will keep you warm in the classrooms with the white classmates and white teachers, who will try again and again to shush you. Ask, 'does the ghost hurt today? Are you living with the dead? How loud are they becoming?’ to the women in your family, who come together at times to watch a wedding tape.

When they tell you to go back, do not look behind you and utter, 'to where?’ It is what they want. You have many homes and you are many things. You will learn how easy it will be to choose death over shame. Shame will make the faces of those that love you into wolves. Your mother will guard her doors from it only to discover it in the body of her own daughter. When they spit in your face, love yourself deeper, reaching right beneath the bone. Sheikhs will pray for you and your siblings many times, do not chase them away. Hold each palm towards the ceiling. Pray for a forgiving heart, one that releases all the bad that has been done to it. Pray for a heart that melts the daggers that have been launched into its middle.

Always yours,


Amaal is a member of the Barbican Young Poets and Burn After Reading collectives. Her work explores the idea of home, identity and what war has meant for her family, among other things. She is an 18 year-old Danish-born Somali who currently resides in London, UK. She is working on her first poetry collection. you can find her on Tumblr and tweeting @amaalsaid.