MEET THE 2017 class OF BITCH WRITING FELLOWS
As the year comes to a close, we say goodbye to the 2017 class of Bitch Writing Fellows: Vanessa Borjon, Reproductive Rights and Justice; Mailee Hung, Technology; Bemnet Gebrechirstos, Pop-culture Criticism; and Aqdas Aftab, Global Feminism. You’ve read their work online and in Bitch magazine, but we couldn’t let them go without letting you get to know them a little bit better first.
What’s been your favorite show or movie of 2017?
Vanessa Borjon: Definitely Girls Trip.
It spoke so much truth about dealing with toxic relationships and the importance of healthy female friendships. It was also refreshing to have an all-black, female-led cast in a comedy.
Mailee Hung: Twin Peaks: The Return! David Lynch definitely has some issues with women, but I think loving a show in spite of its misogyny is a skill we’ve all had to cultivate. Sigh.
Bemnet gebrechirstos: I had high hopes following The Get Down’s strong start in 2016, but Part Two went above and beyond all my expectations.
aqdas aftab: I am still in awe of last year’s Moonlight, which carried over for me in 2017. I have seen it around five times now.
What song or album did you obsess over this year?
VB: Totally been obsessed with Ayo, the latest album by Bomba Estéreo!
MH: “Axolotl” by the Veils from their album Total Depravity. The band played the song on a Twin Peaks episode, and I fell in love with it.
Bg: Is it okay if I list two? I’m going to list two. Solange’s A Seat at the Table and SZA’S Ctrl. aa: The Pakistani song “Phool Khil Jayien.” The singer, Abida Parveen, inspires me with how she has defined her androgyny and transgression of the gender binary as inherent to Sufism.
What’s the last book or article you read and loved?
VB: The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. I wasn’t expecting to be so moved, but the realness of falling in love as a young person, and the delicate yet honest way it handled immigration, really struck a chord with me. MH: “The First Social Media Suicide” by Rana Dasgupta. It’s an extract from their longer article in Granta magazine, which I subscribed to right after I finished reading it. Laurie Penny’s article “Life-hacks of the Poor and Aimless” is also required reading. Bg: Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition by Cedric Robinson. A well-woven collection of texts on the legacies of Black radical Marxists, this book was exactly what I was looking for last summer. aa: I read Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-violence Movement (edited by Jennifer Patterson) this year, and felt like I had been waiting for this book my whole life.
A classic Bitch check-in question: If one of your hands was a sandwich that was always there, available to eat at any time and in any weather, what would it be?? VB: Wow, the possibilities! I’d have to go with any kind of sandwich that would taste good with Takis crumbled on the inside. If I’m going to take advantage of a neverending hand sandwich, I wanna make sure I find a way to also include infinite Takis.
MH: Jambon-beurre with cornichons and horseradish. I know, it sounds wacky, but I assure you it’s not!
Bg: A classic grilled cheese with a bit of raw honey on brioche bread.
aa: It would be a sandwich packed with french fries, so I could eat the fries in any weather and ignore the bread.
What are you proudest of as a writer? What’s been something unexpectedly difficult or challenging?
VB: Honestly, I’m most proud I committed myself to this fellowship and found a way to incorporate the things I’m passionate about into the writing I produced.
MH: I think I’m just proud that I’m still writing. Writing is often hard and uncomfortable for me. I [can] get caught up thinking that if I don’t feel like doing it all the time or if it doesn’t always come easily, then I must not really love it or be very good at it. The challenge is accepting that creative work can’t be output 100 percent of the time.
Bg: Endlessly creating and growing into myself has been a difficult but sacred process. I’m proud of this exploration of self, and the strength of the communities that guide me, as well as the ancestral relationship I hold to narratives of resistance.
aa: I am proudest of, and most terrified of, the fact that I never feel like my writing is complete or done. I have been thinking more about some of the ideas that I argued for in my pieces, and I have been pushing myself to rethink and revise some of my frameworks.
Read the full version of this interview at bitchmedia.org.