If you’re looking for something to read that departs from the literature written about white folk by white men, you need to pick up a copy of the latest issue of Apogee. Rife with culture and social commentary and a myriad of international authors both male and female, Apogee delivers a collection of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art that I simply did not want to end.
The very first piece, Chido Muchemwa’s nonfiction piece “The Rotting of the Sun,” sets the tone for the magazine. Muchemwa tells the story of her witnessing of the eclipse of the sun as an 11-year-old Zimbabwean. Emphasizing on elements of hierarchy, wealth, and class, the reflection shows how status and the perception of white versus black exists even at such a young age, even when born “a full ten years after the white minority surrendered its hold.” The writing is exact with astute observations.
Gemini Wahhaj’s fiction piece “First Snow” is written so full-heartedly and with such fine detail that I could easily be convinced it were nonfiction instead. In it, the main character, an international student from Bangladesh, struggles to connect with and understand the culture and attitudes of South Asians born in America. The story is a lot of internal reflection by the main character, and the pull on the reader is the way she observes the world.
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s writing in “Rebuke the Wind” is so revealing that I felt I knew main character Skipper’s father before he even enters the scene just from the descriptions of his house:
My father’s apartment looked as it did every Saturday. Cookies were arrayed on a blue plate in a butter-petalled daisy. The curtains were open, and the light fell in the slanted rectangle that, over decades, had bleached the carpet from beige to shortbread-yellow. The computer was wearing the pillowcase-shroud that my father claimed protected it from dust. He was really protecting himself from it.
In the story, Skipper seems to be going through a bit of an identity crisis as she is being left by her wife, travels home to visit her father, and finds that she has been replaced by a Junior Pastor Enoch (whom she quickly grows to dislike). Buchanan’s writing is an excellent example of “show not tell” as her descriptions truly carry the piece and allow readers to draw their own conclusions.
And while there is certainly an emphasis in this collection on issues of race and diversity, there are also pieces related to gender, such as Cathy Linh Che’s poem “I still cannot dress attractively without feeling that I am endangering myself.” The following lines stuck with me, causing me to write in the margins in response: “Which is to say, is his tongue / the root cause of why / you don’t like your oysters raw?”
In “Nice Girl and Small Man,” Victoria Brown approaches the issues of perception and expectations versus reality and the names assigned to women versus who they really are. The nonfiction piece is honest about the struggle as Brown travels for a summer with her children from the United States to Tobago, hoping to connect her children with her own childhood in Trinidad. But as she starts to see the culture surrounding being female, she starts to question what she is getting out of these trips. This piece is definitely a must-read. As is, really, the entire issue.
If this issue is any indication of the larger context of the magazine, Apogee is without a doubt complex, diverse, stimulating, and important. It is absolutely a journal to be watching.