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Volume 19

The Other Side - Spring 2018

About the Issue

Written by
Torsa Ghosal

Torsa Ghosal is the Associate Editor of Papercuts magazine. She is the author of the novel, Open Couplets (2017), published by Yoda Press in India. Her poems and short stories have appeared in venues such as The Hindu BLink, Aaduna, Poydras Review, Unsplendid, Himal Southasian, and Muse India. She is also a researcher, specializing in narrative theories–-that is, the systematic study of the aesthetic experiences offered by stories across media–-and 20th-/21st- century experimental literary forms. Her critical and scholarly writings can be found in Storyworlds: A Journal of Narrative Studies, South Asian Review, Media-N: Journal of the New Media Caucus, Post Script, and Latinos and Narrative Media. In the past, she has assisted the editors of the journal, Prose Studies: History, Theory, Criticism. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of post-1945 English literature at California State University, Sacramento.


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Volume 19 Theme and Cover Story


The American author Ursula Le Guin, who passed away earlier this year, published a short essay back in November 1975 lamenting the Science Fiction genre’s failure to represent the cultural or racial “Other.” In fact, American SF of the time manifested a deep-rooted fear of the “Other” by constructing “aliens” as either thoroughly evil or god-like, she observed. Le Guin’s essay followed Joanna Russ’s article, published in 1970, that criticised SF’s unimaginative representation of women.

What Le Guin and Russ said about SF pertains to other genres of literature as well. Of course, between the 1970s and now, many publishers, editors, critics, and literary scholars have tried to tackle the inequities in representation by foregrounding works of authors from historically marginalised communities; that is, writers of colour, women, and gender non-conforming authors, authors from oppressed class and caste backgrounds, who embody the “Other” in a literary industry that upper class white (mostly male) authors still dominate. Within South Asia, independent publishers, including Seagull, Yoda, and Blaft, have been instrumental in such endeavours. However, Le Guin’s and Russ’s critiques also rue the fundamental unimaginativeness of writers who either refuse to see or are incapable of seeing the world—even a fictional world—through the eyes of those who radically differ from their own selves. Papercuts Vol. 19: The Other Side attempts to redress this limitation in literary imagination.

During a brainstorming session last year, our editorial board began to wonder why we rarely encounter interesting South Asian characters in the writings of authors who are not from South Asia and, similarly, why we do not come across memorable characters who are not South Asians in fictions of South Asian-origin authors. Even beyond the question of race, there are few instances of vivid and complex narratives in which authors have let consciousnesses that are distinct from their own class or caste backgrounds take center stage. It is with this desire to see the “Other” being imagined and represented that we called on authors to submit to Vol. 19 of Papercuts. The brilliant Pakistani author Rafia Zakaria guided us as we sifted the submissions. We are grateful to her for her support and feedback through the editorial process.

Our collective efforts have produced an issue that interweaves a tapestry of realities. Susan Dale’s short story, “Time Remembered,” published in Papercuts Vol. 19, opens up an “Other” dimension to the experience of time. Clocks and calendars cannot measure time that passes “the mermaids of fables and the fins of prehistoric creatures: gills and fins curling into the currents that had been splashing in and out since Zeus, but before Cain.” A translation of poet Sara Shagufta’s journals by Asad Alvi exposes the tyranny of order and sanity when seen from the “other side.” Current and former Papercuts editors who are based in the US write a series of essays— “Women’s Time,” “I, of the Beholder,” “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf,” and “Brown Girl Goes to Teach English in America”—chronicling their everyday in the aftermath of the 2016 US Presidential election that intensified anti-immigrant rhetoric and sentiments in the country.

When we chose the theme “The Other Side,” we knew that writing the “Other” remains a contentious issue because it can also lead to stereotyping and cultural appropriation. However, as the British author Hari Kunzru says, “trespassing into otherness” is a vital undertaking for literature, but good writers “transgress without transgressing, in part because they are humble about what they do not know…They respect people, not by leaving them alone in the inviolability of their cultural authenticity, but by becoming involved with them. They research. They engage in reciprocal relationships.” Neera Kashyap’s “Leave, Gentle Spirit” presents such a reciprocal relationship. In the story, an American ethnographer lives with and learns from a community of women in a small Himalayan town. Anosh Malekar’s well-researched article, “African Warriors of India,” sheds light on the interracial alliances among the Abyssinians, the Mughals, and the Deccani Sultanates in South Asia.

Minaa Mohsin’s mixed media artwork, “Down the Rabbit Hole,” captures the variegated threads that entangle selves with others. The human subject in the image is visually de-centered. The recurrent colors and motifs—the stripes, for instance—blend objects and animals. What this image draws our attention to is the interface of form and formlessness, a network of connections. We hope that you will find the vibrant world of Mohsin’s canvas, on the cover of Vol. 19, realised in the issue’s short stories, poems, and essays. Papercuts’s managing editor has also put together a playlist for you, should you need some musical accompaniment to your reading.


“Down the Rabbit Hole” by Minaa Mohsin. 2013. Mixed Media on Canvas. 6 x 6 feet (72 x 72 inches).






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