Cover of book: Against Disappearance: Essays on Memory

Leah Jing McIntosh and Adolfo Aranjuez (eds)
Against Disappearance: Essays on Memory

Liminal’s latest anthology brings together 20 searing new essays by First Nations writers and writers of colour. What jumps out at me is the out-of-body text: footnotes appear liberally in several essays, including Kasumi Borczyk’s, which engineers a triptych out of nested citations. Subheadings zigzag backwards and forwards through time in essays by Mykaela Saunders and Brandon K. Liew. Elizabeth Flux’s homage to Hong Kong deploys inky bars of redacted text to show how the People’s Republic of China’s sedition laws are suffocating democracy and expression.

Together, these paratextual elements form a sort of map or manual. They direct you to look closer, unpick the fabric of the text and reconsider writing as a technology. Barry Corr writes that perhaps settlers “did not realise the entrapment caused by words” when they invented writing, while André Dao considers how an archive can be both panopticon and cemetery. Nearly every writer here seems wary of the risks of putting something on the record and into the crosshairs of the governable. The space between the lines is heavy with purposeful omissions as well as inherited silences.

This is an anthology that’s self-conscious about its conceit and its place in a market that tasks racialised writers with embodying diversity and revealing trauma. In the deliciously titled essay “You Either Die a Refugee or Live Long Enough to See Yourself Become the Diaspora Writer”, Lur Alghurabi quips that a memoir commission can be tricky when your supply of misery is running low. Suneeta Peres da Costa reflects on how the figure of the diasporic Indian writer can traffic in essentialism and legitimise the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ethnonationalism. Does Satyagraha today mean silence? Does coherent mean reductive? For Hasib Hourani, writing about testosterone, Palestine and digital replication, one truth cuts through: “... my voice is cracking like it’s slipping right out of my throat and still i do not care. i am just one thing: palestinian.”

Water is a recurring motif: drowning, dissolving, dissolute. Reconstituted meaning emerges from a rhythmic fog in Lou Garcia-Dolnik’s haunting, poetic essay. Jon Tjhia wonders “if nature is exempt from assembly: it is, in fact, what it is”. This anthology could be a stone in a creek – an interruption to the flow of discourse, or just a staunch presence that is part of both the river and its redirection.

Pantera Press, 296pp, $32.99

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on October 8, 2022 as "Against Disappearance: Essays on Memory, Leah Jing McIntosh and Adolfo Aranjuez (eds)".

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