Jisuk Cho has released the completed novel rendition of her comic Fishbones. The book is beautiful, polished over the last few years with Jisuk’s love and care. I was so pleased to be able to work with her to create its cover.
Jisuk’s book was realized with the support of 289 fans, raising over $10,000 to stand as a testament to viability of self-authored works and the power of crowdsourcing.
Excerpt from Fishbones:
Back down on the first floor, Ferris was flipping through a Better Homes and Gardens magazine, stifling a yawn. It was either that, or Highlights. People occasionally came and went, and the receptionist had gotten a phone call or two. But for now, the lobby was silent. Ferris turned a page, eyeing an article about curtains in a hopeless attempt to find something interesting. Ah, a recipe for fish.
It was then that a large, blunt object whistled past the window. The body slammed into a small hotdog cart on the sidewalk, shattering the glass display and throwing the vendor onto his back. The umbrella had crumpled from the impact and the pavement was littered with pieces of beef and blood. Cars slammed on their brakes to avoid the debris, skidding over the tarmac clumsily. Ferris looked up from his magazine.
Even after she died, I had her watching me, through the grainy haze of the locket. The hinge broke before she was born. And that gave it history, she said, and pressed it into my palm like a promise. The photo was a younger her, milder eyed, before motherhood revealed her fierce like fire and just as playful. I cut it from her graduation yearbook. It was the only photo I had.
She taught me to be fierce, once.
I don’t remember the feeling though. Just the fact.
The locket seemed warm like her. Against the beating of my chest it seemed to echo my heart back. Continual.
What was dead.
Mother use to draw. She remembered everything by drawing it seemed, and I tried to mimic her, to have the same eyes. But I couldn’t find the lens that colored her world. Everything was words to me, spilling out of my mouth and into the air, lost and forgotten the second it caught the wind and drifted. She laughed as they flew away, and showed me letters.
Now it spills all over paper instead. Messier, cluttering floors and desks and back porches where they wrinkle in the dew because she’s not here to pick them up for me when I go in for tea.
The locket was old. Older than the memories my mother didn’t have of her great grandmother, and her mother before. The ribbon tended to fray at the ends. Each year we’d have to retie it, and it grew another finger width shorter. Afterwards, I tied it the same way, up, over and around. I tied it til it choked up around my neck, my pulse clinging to it.
Then one day I visited the woods she drew so much. And her favorite tree had overgrown the others, a withered sampling she swore would make it and I never believed for a second it would.
I swallowed the feeling in my throat. I found it easy, free of constraints, and panicked.
No matter how many leaves I kicked, rocks I peered under, how much I cried and dirtied my hands and feet and knees, hoping to feel it underfoot, the locket never reappeared.
And I didn’t see her again. Not for years and years and years.
Without Roses is a collected wealth of sex and gender research material: A composite of anthropology, feminist theory, philosophy, biology, psychology, and sociology, tied with autobiography. These fields are logistically separated in academics, but each represent facets of human existence. Without Roses seeks to create a base of knowledge for the reader: an enlightened understanding of sex and gender roots, contrasted with the socialized notions of normalcy, dissected under the misconception of Truth.
All the boys were pruned, clipped of their soft edges and blooms; the thorns were left, like teeth, and the leaves grew thick around the abrupt scars until they were forgotten. The girls, their leaves were stripped, torn off, relieving them of their aptitude, until they were thin elegant stems of furled petals. They were placed, in a vase, and watched to die in the slow way of beauty.
My memory is like any: a condensation of information, forever rewriting itself with each recall. What I can recall, what I can remember, is the most frequently used neural pathways, marking a memory which is often consciousness recalled, desired or not, or marking a large event which the brain interpreted as important.
When certain parts of memory aren’t access, the brain clips these unused neuron pathways from resources overtime, favoring the more high traffic pathways of thoughts.
Since neuronal pathways are physical connections, like-material is grouped accordingly. The brain also recognizes the necessity of a narrative, as system, to create a logistically understandable history of the Self, and will seek the fill in the gaps of this narrative with any resources still accessible. This is the reason why people sometimes mistake stories they’ve heard, photographs they’ve seen but weren’t present for, for their own narrative.
Failure to realize this phenomenon - that is, the frailty of human memory, and the fictionalization of it - can collapse the possibility of connecting mental truth to a contradictory reality. Just because you it remember, doesn’t mean it happened. Just because you do not remember, doesn’t mean it did not happen. This is important for all forms of testimonial narrative, from the writing in this book, to a person’s own life experience in their consumption of new information.
Torn is an autobiographical project in two books: one for myself, and the other for my departed father. The books are printed and packaged as one. Torn can only be read when ripped apart.
A notch is cut at the top center of the book, to provide both a hint and a means to open the book. The notch allows an even tear when pulled steadily, following the paper’s grain. But the reader’s own hands shape the final product — Uncertainty, eagerness, is recorded in the tear, remaining as the book’s final form. The reader’s own hands realize Torn as a set of books, completing the design as a collaboration.
Excerpt from Torn:
How to Say
My father was suppose to be cremated. Eventually, he was. But not before the viewing. People wanted a chance to say goodbye.
They sewed up all his holes. They filled him with perservatives and put in a soft lined box - comfort.
It was a parade; they’d doll’d him up for it. He was pastey pink, like bubblegum. Someone said it made him look younger. He was a stranger. He’d been a ghost last time I’d seen him. I thought it was the trip that wore him out.
But it was just dying.
She stood across the fence, trying to be fierce.
“You can’t make me afraid.”
Everyone already was. That wasn’t hard.
A rock crushed the fence post. She pretended not to flinch.
“I’m only asking for your help.”
The fence flew into the sky and twisted. Wide eyes didn’t dare look up.
“Please, just once. I know you can.”
The apple tree beside us shook and the roots gave way.
“It would be easy to you, just a second.”
The orchard was next. Part of the hayfield went with it.
She was on the other side of the fence. When had she moved? Time was hazy sometimes.
Your chest was still warm when I reached inside. The skin split easily, sternum shifting and ribs unbuckling all their joints. I opened you like pulling a zipper. My fingers wormed past your lung and curled around your heart. The heart was warm.
There’s a bag in the corner of the room. Writhing like snakes in a womb, ready to burst. My vengeance.
I tried to put the pieces of you back together. I tried to start your heart. There’s a warmth in my hands from it, burning, a phantom pulse.
Hey brother dear, I can see you in the mirror — our noses are the same. I can’t smile, but if I did, I’m sure our eyes would’ve crinkled the same way. The ghost of you clings in strands around my face. It’s white like bones and I hate it almost as much as you.