Review: Peril Edition Eight

I’ve finally sat down and read ‘Why are people so unkind?’, Peril’s latest issue. For those of you who haven’t heard of the journal, Peril is an Asian Australian online journal on arts and culture run by the likes of Hoa Pham, Lian Low, and Tom Cho. It’s a bit patchy at times with editors choosing pieces that reflect the Asian-Australian experience over more polished prose. With the eighth issue, however, it seems that they’re finally finding a balance between the two. ‘Teh Halia’, a prose piece about an Indian daughter’s regret over cups of her father’s ginger tea, is touching and carefully observed, moving beyond ethnic literature into something more universal.

The non-fiction was particularly strong in this issue with many pieces focusing on gender identity: Owen Leong interviews two Japanese artists who both explore gender in differing ways, while Lian Low speaks to The Ladies of Colour Agency about sexuality, whiteness in political movements, and genderfucking. Benjamin Law’s article on Asian-American conservative Michelle Malkin is perversely entertaining:

…Malkin seems quite attractive. Even as a homosexual myself, I cannot take my eyes off her, partly because Malkin’s pretty, and partly because there’s some gland inside me that reacts to seeing an Asian—any Asian—with a broadcast media platform. It’s this same gland in me that’s triggered off whenever I see Penny Wong on The 7.30 Report, or old footage of John So cutting a ribbon in Melbourne, or watching Poh being interviewed on Masterchef.

There’s also a couple of opinion pieces on Indian-Australian relations from Amrita Dasvarma and Angela Dewan, discussing the ubiquitous exploitation of overseas students, and the pressure to assimilate as a migrant, as well as an interview with Kamal.

It’s hard to choose a favourite from such a strong collection, but Lily Chan’s poem resonated with me the most: ‘in my head i was scout finch / elizabeth bennet / nancy drew / stepped back, startled / from my own reflection’. In a few lines, Chan encapsulates an Asian-Australian girl’s experience: feeling white, being attracted to white boys, experiencing ambivalence to Pauline Hanson and guilt for having it ‘good’ compared to her brother. I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.

Peril’s next endeavour will be about ‘creatures’, and I’m curious to see how this theme will be interpreted in an Asian-Australian context. For those of you who feel like submitting to Issue Nine, check out the journal’s submission page, here.

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15 Minutes of Fame

I was supposed to go to yoga and pilates tonight but ended up at the Emerging Writers’ Festival’s ’15 Minutes of Fame’ instead. Hosted by Angela Meyer from Literary Minded, ’15 Minutes of Fame’ has been running for the last few nights, introducing various local emerging writers and publications. Tonight’s lineup included Tiggy Johnson (editor of Page Seventeen), Hoa Pham (editor of Peril), children’s writer Helen Ross, and Jenny Blackford (one of the judges for the World Fantasy Awards).

After grabbing a glass of wine ($5/glass? why not?), I sat down and listened to these writers talk about their inspirations and motivations. Helen Ross was also feeling flushed from her wine, but it was interesting to hear her speak about her decision to self-publish children’s poems. Jenny Blackford was much more authoritative, talking about her love of Ancient Greek history and her work as a judge for Aurealis and the World Fantasy Awards. Tiggy Johnson seemed a bit nervous, and so was Hoa Pham, her gaze downcast for most of her interview.

What was great to know was that writing short stories does pay off: Blackford was approached by Hadley Rille Books after getting one of her pieces accepted for their anthology.

However, the best part of the night for me was talking to other emerging writers. As well as catching up with the very busy Angela Meyer, I finally got to meet Hoa Pham. Issue Seven of her journal, Peril, has just gone up on the web and I’ve managed to read most of it. There’s a higher quality of articles this issue round, probably due in part to recent art funding—the magazine is able to pay for contributions now—and I was particularly drawn to Komi Sellathurai’s ‘Skin’, which discusses the skin-bleeching ‘Fair & Lovely’. (After reading ‘Skin’, I noticed my Chinese flatmate has a tube of ‘Olay Milky Fair’; I suspect it’s used for the same reasons.

15 Minutes of Fame has finished for 2009, but the Emerging Writers’ Festival is still on until 31 May 2009. I might see you peeps there.

Angela Meyer interviews Hoa Pham about her magazine

Angela Meyer interviews Hoa Pham about her magazine