Reading Yvonne Owuor II

I needed Ajany so that I could “return” to Akai. This is, perhaps, appropriate, as Ajany is the one who “returns to” Akai (returns Odidi and, in a sense, returns Akai to “herself”). Akai understands the exhaustion of bleeding life one love at a time, of trying to keep a step ahead of threat, dread,... Continue Reading →

Reading Yvonne Owuor III

While I continue to gather my thoughts about Akai (the missing II of this series), let me turn to the difficulty of imagining Ajany. Dust hinges on one sentence: “I’m . . . uh . . . looking for Odidi.” By this point in the novel, Ajany has accompanied her father to Wuoth Ogik to... Continue Reading →

Black Gay Livability

An encounter from Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders. Shit and Eric meet Mr. Johnston, a white conservative who wants to shut down the porn movie theater they manage. Mr. Johnston, it turns out, once debated Robert Kyle, the black gay founder of the Dump. A brief exchange ensues between Eric and Mr.... Continue Reading →

“Benign Perversion”

I was convinced that Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders uses “benign perversion.” A quick search on kindle (e-books are good for this) reveals that I made this up. The closest the novel comes to this formulation is when it describes Eric and Shit’s shared snot-eating as “a lazy, even a gentle perversion.”... Continue Reading →

Rough Notes on Delany

There’s nothing “fabulous” about Samuel Delany’s Through the Nest of the Valley of Spiders. Its fictional rural setting removes it from the urban gloss celebrated in so much gay cultural production; its dirt-encrusted, dirt-loving, teeth-missing, semi-literate and illiterate characters remove it from a lot of gay body aesthetics, be they muscle clones, bears, twinks, or... Continue Reading →

Reading Yvonne Owuor I

Akai-ma “wards off ghouls and bad night entities, wrestles God, casts ancient devils into hell before their time, and kicks aside sea waves.” Akai-ma feeds hungers that cannot know themselves, “retrieves those who belong to her,” holds secrets in barely-there scars. And, here, a child died. And, here, a child could not learn how to... Continue Reading →

“too dangerous a thing”

I am arrested by this: That evening, I was hunched over, sweeping my apartment with a broom, the native kind, made from the raw, dry stems of palm leaves, tide together at the thick end of with a bamboo string. How is “native” supposed to be read? What is the function of “native” in this... Continue Reading →

Flavors (draft)

Perhaps, later, under the weight of collective memory, I name mango and passion fruit and sugar cane as the flavors of home. Later. Only later. I remember, better, texture and blandness: salt, hydrogenated fat, fiber. The boiled food of my grandmother’s pot: cabbage, water, meat, carrots, potatoes, boiled to an acceptable state with lots of... Continue Reading →

“We are not terrible people”

I return to blogging about the Caine Prize late, later than I’d have liked. Just as I return to reading late, later than I’d have liked. I’m still reading Mark Rifkin’s When Did Indians Become Straight? and have added Katherine Luongo’s Witchcraft and Colonial Rule in Kenya, 1900-1955 and Iris Marion Young’s On Female Body... Continue Reading →

& with ordinariness

The blandness of my mind frightened me to the point of screaming. - “Whispering Trees” “Whispering Trees” builds as a series of repetitions: I did not wake up in heaven as I had anticipated (for I certainly had not thought I was bound for hell, even though I had not been a saint). Instead, I... Continue Reading →

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