Brief Reviews

Jackie Wang – Alien Daughters Walk into the Sun [Review]

Alien DaughtersYou is me and me is you

An Epistolary Review of

Alien Daughters Walk into the Sun: An Almanac of Extreme Girlhood
Jackie Wang

Paperback: Semiotext(e), 2023
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Reviewed by Luna Kim Yeh (Joshua E. Livingston)

“This is going to be a funny review. It’s not really a synopsis at all—it’s a response … the associations and ideas that were aroused (hehe) by your work” (193).

“This book is a threat” (189).


Dear Jackie,

I once had a dream as a teenager where my body, in supine position, levitated into the air parallel to the bed that I was sleeping in, and slowly began to rotate one hundred and eighty degrees, and then gently descended back onto the bed. I woke up with my head where my feet had been.

“Is this levitation a defensive mysticism that overtakes the oceanic subject in times of great distress?” (354)

I first encountered you while surfing online, doing a deep dive into Freudian notions of “oceanic feeling.” I’ve been writing sentences privately, a blue memoir for no one, if you will, that I’ve been calling “The Sea Sections.” It’s about how a Chinese-Korean American kid from Atlantic City, New Jersey dissociates into a makeshift life of a whitewashed Christian fantasy. He employs a psychoanalytic frame, a “self-analysis of myself,” to account for the phantoms that have been conjured into what he has experienced so far to be the performance of a life.

All that to say, for reasons way beyond the scope of this brief epistolary review, I deeply resonate with your musings, your lexical traces, on illegitimacy and unworthiness. There is a proverbial white man inside of me, however much I may resist his penetration. Like you, I must train myself in writing otherwise and edgewise: Come on You, don’t phallus now!

But you’ve provided a welcome threat to the white, male, heteronormative gaze. After all, I’m a man who gets off on “well-reasoned and finely crafted sentences” (184).

One reason I’ve chosen to write a letter is because of how I’m taken by the second person. How you are talking to myself. “You? You is me and me is you. For a second I felt proud” (291). Why are we so obsessed with first things? Blessed are the second.

Another thing I am fascinated about is how you describe your publisher, Semiotext(e), as a community. Not just a community in the generic sense that serves to further commodify communion, but one that serves you in the realm of the real. You wrote about living in Albuquerque for two months in a ramshackle apartment supplied by your editors. What strange and hopeful life writing is this? Publication that performs the private? Can you please tell me more about these people?

You mentioned that you love meaning a lot to strangers. I hope you still feel this, because this has meant a lot to me. With Jack Halberstam, I’ve also lived “self-destructive behavior as a valid emotional response to the world we are confronted with” (123). I too have turned to psychoanalysis and writing as an occasion for the metabolizing of speech and thought—“managing the oceanic,” as you say elsewhere—a “writing [that] is not separate from life. Insistence on being in the world, I can only speak from a place, and to a person, imagined or otherwise” (246).

You’ve spoken from your place “…as a poet,” elaborating how “it is not my job to win you over with a persuasive argument, but to impart on you a vibrational experience that is capable of awakening your desire for another world” (369). And then, “When you meet someone, space is created in your mind. Your world grows a little larger. Every encounter puts you on a new path. You can’t even know what is made possible by each encounter” (381).

All of this I feel. Maybe one day in the future, we’ll be able to look back and say it will have been a miracle that we have met. 

Take care,

Luna

Joshua E. Livingston

Joshua E. Livingston is a writer and community developer currently residing in Indianapolis. He is the director of Cultivating Communities and the author of Sunrays on the Beachhead of the New Creation (Wipf & Stock, 2021).

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