On liminal identities, exclusion, and othering

The general writerly wisdom is that one should never respond to a bad critique. Yet I want to use this one, which is not a critique of my work, to highlight casual othering and exclusion in our communities.

Amal El-Mohtar, who is known to some of you as the editor of Goblin Fruit, Rhysling Award winner, Nebula nominee, and the author of the Honey Month, sometimes volunteers to read for PodCastle. I have a lot of respect for PodCastle, even though I am not much of an audiobook person due to aural processing difficulties. I read for pleasure, but listening to stories is work. So what I am about to say is not a critique of PodCastle.

Enough disclaimers.

Amal has recently recorded Daniel Abraham’s “A Hunter in Arin-Qin” for PodCastle. At the PodCastle forums discussion thread for this story,  one of the comments read: “I’m not a fan of feigned ‘accents’ and this just felt so forced.”

The problem is, of course, that this is Amal’s real accent. Amal is Lebanese-Canadian living in the UK. Her accent is composite. This is how she speaks all the time.

This is, of course, of direct relevance to me: I am yet another person whose accent is composite; people have trouble placing me. It is also of direct relevance to Shweta Narayan, and to a number of other people here.

So yes, all you people with identifiable accents, please think about those of us with those composite, hyphenated identities, those who moved around, absorbed things, maybe lost their language(s) along the way to better fit into a world hostile to liminalities – please think about how it makes us feel to hear our accents – the very voices with which we speak – are feigned, are forced. Are not genuine. Are fake.

Are not real.

Our voices are not real enough, not recognizable enough to be ratified as real. Our voices do not exist. We do not exist.

You think I am taking this to far? Unfortunately I am not, as this not the only example of othering in this thread.

In the very next comment Amal comes in and says, “I’m sorry my reading didn’t hold your attention, but I’m not feigning an accent. That is how I speak.” At this moment, Amal is officially in the thread, present in the conversation.

Yet, a few comments below, she is referred to in the third person. Please peruse the conversation data yourself and see. One of the commenters says, “She is “A Canadian-born child of the Mediterranean….”” (emphasis mine, RL)

Referring to a person who is present in the conversation by the third person (especially the third person pronoun) during any conflict discourse is an exclusionary tactic. I have even written about this in my academic capacity. What it is doing, in sociolinguistic terms, is marking the person (in this case, Amal) as not a ratified participant in the conversation.

Amal herself calls the speakers out on this: “To everyone speculating about my accent — please, guys, stop. I’m right here! It’s weird to read about you trying to figure out my accent’s origins based on my bio as if I’m not participating in this conversation.”

Why does Amal even need to call people out on this? Why must a person’s native, composite accent be accused of falseness, fakery, forcedness? After the speaker comes in and corrects the accuser, why must the exact nature of her accent be questioned and discussed – between the ratified participants, as if Amal herself is not even here?

If you think this is the only occurrence of this, please think again. I have been on the receiving end of such questioning numerous times.  I have been on the receiving end of harassment because of my accent, in this community. We are not the only ones.

We are people. Just like you. Please think about this.

Stone Telling 8: Together, Apart

Together, Apart is an issue that we are especially proud of. It comes out at a personally difficult time for both of us, and it comes after three very focused themed issues. Frankly, I was apprehensive about having an open-themed issue follow these, but we feel that it works powerfully, building upon and elaborating on themes that are at the core of Stone Telling. I hope you enjoy this issue!




Special thanks, as always, go to our tireless assistant editor Jennifer Smith, and our indomitable interviewer Julia Rios, whom we also congratulate on her new role as a Strange Horizons fiction co-editor.

Poetry, and Sofia Samatar

My Birdverse poem, “I will show you a single treasure from the treasures of Shah Niyaz,” will appear in the Summer 2013 issue of Goblin Fruit.

In other news, “The Moment of Change has been reviewed by Belle DiMonté at Cabinet des Fées: “This anthology is, quite simply, beautiful and transcendent in every sense.” Hurray for us!

A highlight of four pieces by Sofia Samatar: Burnt Lyric, at Goblin Fruit; Honey Bear at Clarkesworld; A Brief History of Nonduality Studies at Expanded Horizons; and The Hunchback’s Mother, at inkscrawl 4. Sofia has also revealed the wonderful cover of her forthcoming book, A Stranger in Olondria, at her blog; to say that I am waiting for it is an understatement.

Poetry sale, +

My longish poem about real and fantastical immigrations, appropriately titled “The Three Immigrations,” will appear in Strange Horizons.

In other news, Weird Fiction Review reviewed The Moment of Change:

This is a stunning collection of poetry, of deeply felt, painstakingly crafted expressions of doubt, hope, fear, courage, transformation, transgression, and other emotions and experiences that beg to be given form. More than that, though, it’s also a strong, undeniable collection of voices, all of which make their own individual cases to be heard. As such, this isn’t the kind of collection a reader should try to rush through in the span of a day or two. They need to take their time to listen to those voices and understand why they need to listen to what they say.


In yet other news, the Clockwork Phoenix Kickstarter is now close to paying pro rates. I am promoting this project because I believe there should be more weird, daring, unclassifiable fiction in the world, and I know Mike Allen will deliver. I loved Mythic 1 and 2, and the Clockwork Phoenix series.

Between the Mountain and the Moon

My queer mythic poem in three acts and a coda, “Between the Mountain and the Moon,” is up at Strange Horizons!

It was written for Izlinda Hani Jamaluddin as a part of the Magick4Terri auction.

It contains one of my favorite-ever lines, ” Every girl […]
followed by suitors springing everywhere like moths from larvae”

Also relevant: “The Making of Between the Mountain and the Moon.”

Two New Reviews – HWC and MoC

A wonderful, thoughtful review of Here, We Cross by Brit Mandelo (Tor.com):

As a whole, I find Here, We Cross to be a vital book—thriving and full of life, putting to words intense emotion as well as the internal workings of identity and self. The focus on genderqueer and genderfluid poetry is a particular joy for me as a reader; these are voices still underrepresented in the larger literary conversation, but in this book they are a force, a majority, that must be considered and acknowledged. There’s also a real pleasure to be had in reading a book, cover-to-cover, that is filled with explicitly queer, trans*, neutrois, and asexual voices, all telling pieces of their stories and bringing to vivid life what it means to be them—and therefore, what it means for them to be, what steps must be taken to forge and protect a sense of identity.

Many poems are analyzed in depth, including Mary Alexandra Agner’s “Tertiary,” Nancy Sheng’s “Inner Workings”, Amal El-Mohtar’s “Asteres Planetai,” and Shira Lipkin’s “The Changeling’s Lament.”

Here, We Cross is available for purchase at Amazon.

A great review of the Moment of Change, by Francesca Forrest (Versification):

A champion of diversity, Lemberg has chosen poems that represent the unruly, ungeneralizable expanse of human female experience. There’s no one agenda here: there are angry poems, but also joyful ones; there are poems of childhood and old age, poems of hope and despair. There are poems in which gender is central and others in which it is peripheral. If there’s a unifying theme, it’s the importance of finding one’s voice and then using it.

Francesca praises my ordering of the poems, but accolades here are due to other members of Team Stone Telling, Shweta Narayan and Jennifer Smith, who helped me figure out the sequencing!

Moment is available from Aqueduct and from Amazon.

The Moment of Change reviewed at Tor.com

Brit Mandelo has reviewed the Moment of Change at Tor.com. I cannot but admire this review, and not because it is so positive.  I have long admired Brit’s ability to write lucidly and powerfully about speculative fiction (as can be evidenced in her series of Tor.com essays on Queering SFF and Reading Joanna Russ, as well as her recent Aqueduct book We Wuz Pushed: Joanna Russ and Radical Truth-Telling). In this review, Brit Mandelo beautifully articulates and analyzes my vision for the anthology:

First, I will say that there is a great deal of anguish in this book: the anguish of silenced voices, of the belittled and ignored, the anguish of suffering as well as the anguish of circumscribed success. However, there is also a sort of wild, free-wheeling determination bound up in and spurred on by that anguish—a desire for freedom, a desire for recognition, a desire for the moment in which the poem transcends mere text and speaks truths. This tonal resonance—the conflict between themes of anguish/containment and freedom/wildness—is struck by the opening poem, Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Werewomen,” and continues to resound throughout the entire collection, scaling up and down in intensity but always somehow present as a shapely concern within the poems and their organization.


Another thing that sets the tone for the text is the fact that the book opens with, and is titled from, an Adrienne Rich poem about the nature of poetry: the poet, poem, and the moment of change in which the poem exists are all tangled up together as one object, as one thing. This tri-natured sense of poetry informs and guides The Moment of Change, where poems are the poets writing them and vice versa, where the consciousness of feminism and intersectional identity blends with the written form to capture a moment of shifting—a moment of change. As such, most of these poems have a sense of movement; they are not simply lovely snapshots with an argument made via resonance, but have narrative, emotional pressure, and a sense of development or epiphany.

I am tempted to quote the whole review, but you should, if you are so inclined, head over to Tor.com and read it there instead.

Locus Podcast, and Review

Emily Jiang and I talk about speculative poetry, diversity, multilingualism, and music in the Locus Poetry podcast.

And Erik Amundsen reviews the seventh issue of Stone Telling at Versification.

Small sale, and Wiscon!

1. I wrote a small poem about bees yesterday, and sold it also yesterday to Mitchell Hart’s new magazine, Through the Gate. Through the Gate will launch in August. The poem has no title and probably does not need one; it will be known by its first line, “if all of her would turn into bees.”


-“Here, We Cross,” the first publication of Stone Bird Press, is in my grabby hands. It is beautiful. I do not say this lightly, for if you know me, you know that I am perfectionist and hard to please when it comes to my own work. It is a gorgeous book. It contains 94 pages full of powerful and beautiful LGBTQIA poetry from Stone Telling, issues 1-7. You will be able to buy it from me at Wiscon, and one copy of Here, We Cross will be given away during the Outer Alliance party on Friday.

The Moment of Change. People, this is, like, amazing. Ok? Ok. I do not lie. Get the book at Wiscon from the Aqueduct Press in the Dealers’ room, and the Room of One’s Own, as well as at the Moment of Change reading, which will happen on Friday, from 9:00–10:15 pm (though may last longer) at Michelangelo’s. There will be COOKIES and also BROWNIES and ICE TEA for free. In addition, one copy of the Moment of Change will be given away during the Outer Alliance party on Friday.

The Sign-out.  I will be signing both HWC and MoC during the Sign-out on Monday.

3. If you are a MoC contributor, and are at Wiscon, please come SIGN MY COPY, which will be auctioned during the Con or Bust auction next year.


Here, We Cross is Here, Indeed

The fabulous chapbook collecting 22 queer and genderfluid poems from Stone Telling 1-7, edited by yours truly and made possible by the tireless work of Jennifer Smith, is here! At least, it is available to purchase through Amazon. I have not yet seen a copy myself, but it is available to order, as if by magic!!! (we are using a printer which is an Amazon affiliate).

AND YAY, the first Stone Bird Press title!!! This is an ongoing adventure, I am telling you.

“Here, We Cross” is a glorious little book. The poems are heartbreaking, true, tremendous, lyrical, powerful. Go grab a copy – it’s 10$.

Table of Contents:

Alex Dally MacFarlane – Sung Around Alsar-Scented Fires
Nancy Sheng – Inner Workings
Michele Bannister – Seamstress
Jack H. Marr – Lunectomy
Shira Lipkin – The Changeling’s Lament
Dominik Parisien – In His Eighty-Second Year
Bogi Takács – The Handcrafted Motions of Flight
Hel Gurney – Hair
Mary Alexandra Agner – Tertiary
Amal El-Mohtar – Asteres Planetai
Jeannelle Ferreira – Ardat-Lilî
Mari Ness – Encantada
Lisa Bradley – we come together we fall apart
Samantha Henderson – The Gabriel Hound
Alexandra Seidel – A Masquerade in Four Voices
Sonya Taaffe – Persephone in Hel
Sergio Ortiz – Rain and Sound
Sonya Taaffe – The Clock House
Peter Milne Greiner – The Earth Has Rings
Adrienne J. Odasso – Parallax
Tori Truslow – Terrunform
Peer G. Dudda – Sister Dragons

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Rose Lemberg is a queer, bigender immigrant from Eastern Europe and Israel. Their work has appeared in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Unlikely Story, Uncanny, and other venues, and has been a finalist for the Nebula, Tiptree, Elgin, Rhysling, and Crawford awards.

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