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‘Kindness is a passage too’: new writing by Merlinda Bobis

Merlinda Bobis is a writer whose work transcends. ‘Transcendent’ as a choice of adjective risks sounding rapturous or breathless, but speaks to the visionary and startling qualities of the work of this Filipino-Australian author, as well as her work’s range.  An award-winning transnational, cross-disciplinary writer and scholar, Bobis is the author of prose fiction and poetry, academic discourse, and dramatic works for radio and stage. She writes in Bikol, Filipino and English, demonstrating what the critic Dolores Herrero has described as a ‘defiant willingness’ to engage with her ‘rich bicultural heritage’.

This sets Bobis apart from many other Filipino women authors, who have tended to write in only one language: English or their mother tongue. Herrero goes on to suggest that Bobis’s ‘poetical work in English … can be seen as part, and inheritor, of a rich tradition of Filipino poetry in English’, which ‘could be dated back to the early days of the twentieth century’ and has ‘taught her how to decolonize the English language, that is, to use it in a specifically Filipino way.’ This also makes Bobis an unusual Australian writer, in that most Australian writers work in one language. My necessary focus on Bobis’s English-language work signals an important aspect of the situation of the bilingual migrant writer in Australia.

This essay centres on Bobis’s English language titles, situating readings of her recent works in prose fiction and poetry in the broader sweep of her career as a kind of corrective, in view of the scant attention paid to her oeuvre. Across genre and form Bobis’s writing is attentive to the current global zeitgeist and its various (and often intersecting) hierarchies of power and subjugation. In this way her writing’s transcendence operates to negate boundaries not only generic but imposed by forces and interests that span the sociocultural and political: indeed, much of her work is keenly interested in ‘borders’ both physical and figurative.

Bobis grew up in the Albay province of the Philippines at the foot of an active volcano, and apparently loved to paint – but ‘painting with words’, her author website tells us, ‘was cheaper’, so she started writing poetry when she was ten years old. This dynamism and pragmatism has also developed as an adult writer, in the context of the publishing sphere – which is to say, out of necessity with regards to her writing and publishing career. In an essay titled ‘The Asian Conspiracy: Deploying Voice/Deploying Story’ (2010), Bobis writes:

In the nineties I had difficulty publishing my poems, so I had to sing and dance them. I had to perform: to publish in space. To put my body on the line and literally “contaminate” the body of the audience. This performing body as de facto text slipped the official text, the literature, through the gate.

Bobis both read and sang excerpts from Locust Girl. A Love Song at the book’s 2015 launch at Melbourne’s Collected Works bookshop. The result was a stunning, warm celebration and introduction to the novel, launched by Bruce Pascoe. Her interdisciplinary practice, then, is purposeful: practical and political.

It’s neither fashionable nor always sound to call on an author’s own comments about their work or praxis. However, Bobis’s essays on literature situate her writing in relation to an Australian and global context in important ways. In ‘The Asian Conspiracy’, Bobis calls attention to the demands of the market, describing an Australian hierarchy of ‘story and story-making’ as follows:

1. Globally established Australian literature, or that which has been assimilated by the British and American market;

2. Australian literature at home:
          a. Mainstream Australian literature, predominantly white;
          b. Aboriginal literature, a recent addition to the nation’s 
               frame of 
reference;
          c. Migrant literature (b. and c. are interchangeable, 
               depending on the cultural position of the reader):
                       i.  European-Australian writing;
                       ii. Asian-Australian writing:
                               1. Literature from those who have grown up in 
                                     Australia, and thus write stories in a 
                                     manner more familiar to the Australian 
                                     sensibility, even if they write about Asia;
                               2. Literature from those whose sensibilities might 
                                     be considered ‘un-Australian’ because
                                     transplanted here already fully shaped by their 
                                     original culture and language, often other than 
                                     English.

‘Australian literature’, replete with its trends and preferences, is a fraught market space. Initiatives such as the Stella Count and Stella Prize are building vital discourses about gender. There’s a real need to extend these discourses and to question the effects of cultural bias on our shared conversations about literature. Dialogues on what Michelle Cahill calls interceptionality continue to call attention to the challenges culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) writers face; to structural inequalities, tokenising impulses and exclusion. As the Filipino-Australian writer and curator Andy Butler has recently written, ‘[w]hiteness isn’t just measured by numbers, even though they do help to show the extent of the issue. Whiteness is also about what’s considered normal.’

Bobis herself writes in another essay, ‘Passion to Pasyon: Playing Militarism’ (2011): ‘story-making as a migrant writer in the West is a continuous struggle, a serenading/wooing of the guardians of the industry’s gate.’ Elsewhere she reflects on the implications of adapting an epic poem idea for dance:

You might say I have pandered to my foreign audience. Because I realized that they would not accept me in printed form, I tried to find another way to reach them through something more easily recognizable: the body. I put my body on the line. There are two sides to this approach. One: I was the dancing native woman in full ethnic regalia, abetting the West’s love for the exotic. On the other hand, yes, I was the dancing native, but dancing to a text that questions how they looked at me.

Bobis writes: ‘I now understand that my forays into various disciplines, genres and languages are a survival technique for the migrant artist—a technique which is not just of the word, but of the body.’

In this way the sensual qualities and physicality of Bobis’s cross-disciplinary work are complicated by the West’s tendency to exoticise and commodify Southeast Asian women writers: a writer’s identity is often imbricated in the work and its reception (particularly for marketing purposes), yet this can impose a particularly limited narrative on the work of a CALD author.

The mediation of bilingual migrant writers extends past the challenges of securing publication. Bobis’s two most recent titles, the 2017 poetry collection Accidents of Composition and the 2015 novel Locust Girl, have received surprisingly little attention from critics writing for a non-academic readership. More has been written on the earlier novels Fish-Hair Woman (2012), The Solemn Lantern Maker (2008), and Banana Heart Summer (2005). Bobis’s 1999 short story collection White Turtle was recognised by national and international prizes and received considerable critical attention, and her 1998 poetry collection Summer Was A Fast Train Without Terminals also garnered substantial reviews.

Her recent work has also been widely awarded, with Locust Girl, for instance, the winner of the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction in the 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, and the Juan C. Laya Philippine National Book Award in the same year. Fish-Hair Woman also won the Juan C. Laya Philippine National Book Award in 2014, and the 2013 Small Press Network (SPN) Most Underrated Book Award.

What this might suggest is that the reduction in spaces for discussion of literature, widely bemoaned, has particular implications for migrant writers – as evidenced by the steady decline in attention to an accomplished writer such as Bobis. As Bobis’s own accounts of cultural gatekeeping indicate, migrant writers have to work doubly hard to attract attention in a much more competitive review environment.

This essay begins with Bobis’s most recent work: her sixth book of poems, Accidents of Composition, is a collection expansive and transitory in its various vantage points. The poems traverse diverse times and spaces: global and intimate, historical and mythical. They elicit – and are imbued with –  humour, compassion and moments of disquietude.

At close to 170 pages (including appendices and front matter) the collection is long for a book of new poems. Its junctures call attention to the ways in which these poems are imaginatively generative. The book is comprised of three sections: ‘Not Quite Still’, ‘How to Spin’, and ‘Passage’, titles that frame its concerns. The poems are lyrical and spare, transformative; they are often quiet but the mood they establish is compelling. The opening poem, for example, observes how: ‘Against the grey / soft and sinister, / anything is possible’.

In a note at the end of Accidents of Composition, Bobis recalls what prompted the title: the act of taking a photograph through the window of a tour bus after visiting the Grand Canyon. This act would thereafter frame and generate the book as a whole:

Seeing was like a beautiful accident. A flash behind the eyes, a quick poem. Something else was happening.

This sense of ‘something else’ radiates through the collection. If Bobis is a lyric poet she is also a witty and skilful satirist, as many of the works in this collection reveal. Numerous poems parody (or caution) those who benefit from the status quo. ‘How to Spin’, for example, moves between natural and familial spaces before extending into the sphere of politics:

The Minister also spins
conspiracies-battles-
visions-epics
streamlined into Truth
that holds us
at the edge
of our seats 24/7
before the telly.

O Mesmer extraordinaire,
suddenly we’re lifted
like Chagall’s lovers
flown out of our lounge rooms
over roofs and birds
into some secret
cubicle called
the polling booth
where we tick your name
affirm your Truth.

This is no accident of composition:
how we keep you
in your seat ensconced and still
spinning.

Bobis is alert to the ambiguities of language and its shifts. Key words such as ‘composition’ (and likewise ‘accident’ or ‘accidental’) become refrains that are interrogated and resituated across the collection. Indeed, the multivalency of ‘composition’, both as a word and as a concept, is key to Bobis’s poetics: most immediately and prevalently ‘composition’ here suggests artful organisation – the ‘putting together’ of elements in design, structure or order as an essential part of the creative process. Yet there are manifold possibilities; a shift to something ‘composed’, for example, also suggests something resolved or settled (language that might shift into euphemism in the case of ‘settled’, a term used routinely to gloss or conceal colonial brutality). There is also Bobis’s musicality, in both her prose and in her lyric poetry, via which she might take the role of composer.

We see the titular composition’s initial attentiveness to the image, to the concrete world’s visual and other sensory details, in ‘Musings of a Calf with a Mountain’, in which the poem’s speaker draws attention to an immediate scene or view: ‘See, I’m nothing less / than postcard pretty, / an accident of composition’. However, the voice and perspective in this poem soon offer a shift in vantage point that works to implicate the reader in uncomfortable ways:

I happen to have turned
around these banana trees
for a lustier feed,
and there you are
freezing me
with such intent,
even if I’m not yet ready
for the slaughter or the yoke.

The use of the second-person involves the reader in the touristic gaze the poem affects: the calf, the mountain (personified as ‘she’), and the human presences at the fringes of society are ‘ogled at and taken / again and again.’ The poem closes: ‘Take us, then, / for we are postcard pretty.’

Many poems confront the reader in this way. ‘In Our Arms’, for example, begins with a swift recollection of the global news images of the Syrian toddler, Alan Kurdi:

It is a composition:
our arms holding
a boy retrieved
from the Mediterranean.

The details are spare and the poem relies on the reader’s recollection of the widely circulated photograph of the three-year-old’s body, and its context: that Kurdi was discovered on a beach in Turkey after he and his five-year-old brother, along with the children’s mother, drowned trying to reach the Greek island of Kos. Bobis doesn’t attempt (nor need) to amplify its subject’s depiction.

The poem describes ‘the weight // of a three-year-old body / or its absence’ – but it enacts more than an elegy in its ultimate focus on those who subsequently received, ‘consumed’ or appropriated the image:

And so heroic

in our grief,
we rush to write
the latest news

or blog
or song
or poem.

Bobis calls into question the shock impact of such images on the public consciousness and challenges the ethics and effectiveness of art and journalism in response to traumatic and painful events. This is a self-conscious charge that does not exclude the poet, whose complicity is signalled by the inclusive pronouns ‘our’ and ‘we’. This speaks to what Susan Sontag, in Regarding the Pain of Others, describes as ‘a culture in which shock has become a leading stimulus of consumption and source of value.’

Read as a whole, Accidents of Composition is global in its concerns: ‘When Globe Turns Verb’ comprises a filmic sequence of detail and dialogue as a child turns a globe looking for an unmarked place:

Teresa said she lived
under a tall, tall
volcano in Busay,
but it isn’t here!

Teresa who, sweetie?
Oh, Daddy, Mummy’s new
maid Teresa — her house
went whoosh, she said,

under hot mud and
burning rocks — whoosh
and gone, Daddy!
Gone where, Cheryl?

The globe slows down
to a halt. Busay, Daddy,
Teresa’s home —
it’s not on your globe.

Daddy finally looks up
from the awaited tweet
from China: Deal sealed.
He lifts his daughter

from his desk,
spins her around
in his Manhattan study.

How about a gelato,

sweetheart, to celebrate?

The poem closes wryly, ‘knowing: / when globe turns globalised, / some can celebrate.’ This acute view extends beyond the contemporary; a number of poems revisit colonial encounters and mentalities, inhabiting the voices and perspectives of figures such as Antonio Pigafetta and James Cook. ‘Music: Between Pigafetta and Cook’ opens:

A remarkable find:
they’re musical and tunable
in the backwaters.
There a naked shoulder
close to what shoulders are
a home—when we chance
on them by accident.

A later section continues:

they should cover up,
these beautiful heathens
as large as our girls:
a remarkable find.

The poem concludes with a beautifully subversive re-imagining of imperialist interactions. Here, as in other poems, there is a swift shift in focalisation or voice:

Say, bird — b-b-b-errr-d.
Say, fish — f-f-f-i-shhh.
Yes, food — f-f-f-ooo-d.

The old man with the agreeable
face stares at another Captain
(gesticulating to the sky,
the river, then his stomach),
and thinks: this white fella
is almost musical,
but pity that slight stammer.

Bobis achieves notable tonal shifts in other poems that draw on similar material. ‘Pigafetta Weeps’ includes an epigraph of archival notes on colonial brutality. In the poem, Pigafetta watches ‘the keening widows / their men wrenching out / shaft after shaft / of crossbows’, as Ferdinand Magellan’s crews slaughter the Chamorro people who reached their ships from what Magellan called Islas de Los Ladrones: the Islands of Thieves.

‘Auguries of a Fish’ is likewise more subdued and affecting, centring on a brief scene with a young slave woman, Adelma, whose mistress is ‘Queen Leonora’, the Portuguese queen Eleanor of Viseu. Bobis writes, in lines of keenly charged enjambment:

Again, her belly kicks.
Again, she hears it howl
all the way to her home in Cape Verde

and the memory of metal
around her ankles,
and a hand checking her teeth, breasts,
between her legs, lingering there
before the price was paid.

The options in a selection of olive oil Adelma faces in the kitchen – ‘The virgin one, / the fruity one, / the lighter one?’ – resonate anew as we learn she ‘was chosen // because she was a little lighter than her sisters / and she can cook’; the choices (virgin, fruity, lighter) are repeated later in the poem in ways that speak to the selection of women. In the poem’s interplay of memory and immediacy, Adelma recalls how:

Traders make good choices,
so did the Portuguese
captain who herded her
and fifty others to his ship—
then the endless Atlantic.

The poem is alternately focalised through Adelma and the fish she is about to kill in preparation for the queen’s meal. In this way it enacts a continuum of violence, from Adelma’s enslavement and displacement to the immediate scene in the kitchen, in which the reader will witness ‘the swerve, / the splatter of blood, / the final thrash of tail, / the petrifying of the eye … ’

Often, as ‘Auguries of a Fish’ illustrates, Bobis’s poems provide testimony and depict or call for witnessing. This is on display in ‘Crow Turning’, in which ‘two women wait for any car / any tenderness’; the poem establishes a narrative context in which Gloria, the ‘hopeful bride from the Philippines, two years ago’ is fleeing her violent husband, aided by her neighbour, Betty: ‘They’ve done this / too many times: the urgent call, the rescue, the long drive.’

Though Gloria may be enduring domestic violence, in Bobis’s lyrics, women are consistently resilient and powerful; survivors in solidarity with one another. Bobis writes: ‘But with Betty here now, Gloria is as dry-eyed / as the land. They chuckle: let that crow do the crying’; then, ‘The swollen lips break into a smile, radiant through the bruises. / But sometimes it is enough that someone knows.

‘The Perfect Orchid’, dedicated ‘To the women of the volcano’, also focuses on women within a community. Opening with a reference to the 2006 tropical cyclone known in the Philippines as Typhoon Reming, it describes:

A year after Reming pushed
the ash, the boulders down,
they’re back at their stalls:
Marlene, Gloria, Phoebe
who dug up their
buried houses.
Maricel who lost
her children
to the mudflow.

The poem attends to the orchids: ‘perfect petals, perfect heart / so still, so still / as if from a factory of silk flowers.’ Panning further, it focuses on ‘Hands that dug up a house, / sure and survivor / perfect.’

Throughout, Bobis’s women have agency: their vulnerability and position as chattel in marriage is subverted in the currents that shape ‘Dragon Bride’, with its notes of anthropomorphism and myth:

Tonight, her groom will be oblivious.
In the bridal chamber, she will turn
and her lace will shimmer into scales,
her train will flick into a tail, and he
will taste salt: it is he who will bleed.

In ‘Star, Note, Tree’, one of the poems in Accidents of Composition, Bobis recalls the genesis of the novel Locust Girl:

It was 2004
when the stars went out
when I began

my long walk
with Amedea.
I kept walking,

kept spinning
light, song, life:
a star, a note, a tree

as compass
like the locust in her brow
taking her beyond the border

where I was made
strange to what I’ve spun
taken by two girls

(I’ve met only
in a dream)
by the hand.

Locust Girl is located in the generic and ideological contexts of dystopian, post-apocalyptic fiction – a genre invariably about its culture’s own milieu. Indeed, in an interview with Emily Yu Zong for Mascara Literary Review, Bobis describes writing Locust Girl out of a sense of worry following George Bush’s 2004 declaration of a global ‘War on Terror’:

At the height of Bush’s global war on terror, we were worrying about that external explosion—but what about the internal corrosion or even implosion? We were so engrossed in looking out at the other that we forgot the internal impact of the fear, hatred, and the judgment of the other that we nurtured within.

More than a decade on, these concerns remain prescient. I read and returned again to Accidents of Composition and Locust Girl as the Turnbull Government rejected the Uluru Statement from the Heart; as the humanitarian crisis continued to unfold on Manus Island – where, without food, water or security, men began collecting rainwater in bins, and were beaten with metal poles by camp guards in response to their peaceful protest; during the marriage equality postal survey and its infliction of considerable pain and distress on the LGBTIQ+ community. This is a fleeting list of stark reminders of our human propensity for cruelty; of a tendency to ignore the past and what it might teach us.

Locust Girl opens with the stars going out: ‘When the sky was taught a lesson: no one should shine or outshine anyone.’ We learn that the narrator, Amedea, has been living in a refugee camp with her father, where they have survived on a diet of sand and locusts, with Amedea’s father feigning satiety each night so that his daughter will finish his meal as well as her own. The stars are extinguished because the refugee camp has been bombed in an act of reprisal after men from the village attempted to cross the border – though Amedea’s perspective as a child (she is nine years old when the novel opens) often works, alongside the otherworldly, allegorical setting, to defamiliarise the action taking place.

Of her refugee camp’s staple food Amedea explains:

The grey locusts had bulging blue eyes and blue whiskers. Like strange prawns, my father said. He knew prawns from long ago but not me. I had never seen prawns or the water where they were found. Water which he called riverrrr, with a delicate roar in his mouth, or ocean, with a ssshh that hushed me to sleep.

This passage’s attention to the sensory, sensual and onomatopoeic is present throughout the narrative, and often poignant: the word ‘home’ is a ‘tender hum’; elsewhere the details have synaesthesia-like qualities: when the character Beenabe digs in desert sand in search of the source of a song, she feels the sound in a visceral way and considers that ‘[i]n the morning maybe she would see song under her nails, like brown dirt when she scavenged for food underground.’

Images and details also become interlinked refrains. There are the blue tents, the locusts, and the sand porridge: ‘Our tents were also blue like water and rationed’; ‘The sun and wind rippled the blue cloth and we thought, water! And drank up the thought.’ Blue is also the colour of a radio, a ‘blue box’ that spouts warnings; it is the colour of ‘rationed blue vials of light’, and of Amedea’s dress, ‘also rationed like the number and letter inscribed just beneath [her] right ear: 425a in blue ink.’ The colour’s usual cool and watery associations are defamiliarised.

During the bomb attack, Amedea perceives:

Lights, lights! A shower of them dropped on our tents, our mats, our bowls, our spoons. They afflicted our eyes, our ears, our tongues, our noses, our skin with their song. Lights, roaring lights. Blinding lights. Not rationed for once. We had our fill.

If the prose is lyrical – as in the lyricism exhibited in Accidents of Composition – its incongruity with the reality of what’s unfolding is a startling reminder of the power of euphemism; the way trauma and violence are obfuscated by dominant discourses. Its loveliness, in this way, is ironised. Other passages narrate horrific events and situations in a deadpan tone:

Planes fly with winking lights and drop ochre rain on your home, so you lose your bright colours and your children lose their hair and their stomachs shrink.

After her refugee camp home is destroyed Amedea ‘sleeps’ for ten years, and wakes to find herself buried and with a locust embedded in her brow: she finds herself a nine-year-old inside a nineteen-year-old body, suffering from a traumatic amnesia that renders her history out of reach. She becomes plague-like herself, persistently ‘not beautiful’ to those she later encounters, in a metamorphic condition as both or part locust, part girl.

The novel lends itself to critical readings from a feminist, postcolonial, ecological and posthuman perspective; at the intersections of its generic and ideological elements, as a dystopian ‘cli-fi’ text in which women navigate systems or spaces of subjugation and corruption. It is also a trauma narrative, both in its depiction of the violent and traumatic and its attention to trauma’s difficult relationship to language, narrative and representation, as a phenomenon broadly theorised in terms of its ‘unspeakable’ qualities. As Amedea notes in relation to her father, Abarama: ‘There were “no-go-no-story zones” between us. There were silences.’

Locust Girl is allegorical, removed from this world even as it explicitly attends to the status quo and its ecological, environmental and human rights disasters. Bobis’s preceding novel Fish-Hair Woman, by contrast, is located in historical and contemporary spaces. Fish-Hair Woman is an historically grounded magical realist text, wherein the realistic narrative is framed and disrupted by clear flights into the fantastic or supernatural. The novel is bordered by an epistolary narrative ostensibly authored by the titular fish-hair woman, Estrella, whose supernaturally long hair is used to trawl her village’s river for the forgotten corpses of the Philippine government’s ‘Total War’ (1987-1989), waged by the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos against communist insurgency in Bobis’s home region of Bikol.

The fantasy elements provide conspicuous moments of excess, with the ‘magic’ often comprising markers of trauma – or, more specifically, calling attention to traumatic symptoms that produce elements of blankness, silence or lacuna. The traumatically occluded, in other words, is given shape or recognition via the magical realist strategy of including unexpected flights into magic or fantasy within a realistic context, often in markedly political ways.

Feminist and postcolonial interventions into the field of trauma studies have called attention to how the social invalidation of certain traumatic experiences render them doubly ‘unspeakable’; occluded by trauma’s effects and shock impact, as well as by a society unwilling or unable to bear witness. Judith Herman, for example, describes that: ‘[w]hen the victim is already devalued (a woman, a child), she may find that the most traumatic events of her life take place outside the realm of socially validated reality. Her experiences become unspeakable.’ Jenny Edkins, accordingly, suggests that ‘[w]hat survivors have witnessed has long been recognized as “unimaginable” and “unspeakable”, although these epithets have often served as an excuse for neither imagining it nor speaking about it.’

Bobis herself, in the essay ‘Passion to Payson’, describes the notion of trauma from a perspective in which violence is ‘normal’ and expected:

Poverty is a violent phenomenon, and yet it is hard to say one is traumatized by this violence, because it seems the concept of trauma is something that happens suddenly, disrupting normal life. But for most of the militarized communities in my region, poverty was (and still is) normal life. Natural calamities like tropical cyclones and volcanic eruptions are part of this ‘normalcy,’ hence this local saying about resilience: nabubuhay sa tagilid na daga – surviving on tilted earth.

Her early novels, Banana Heart Summer and The Solemn Lantern Maker, are equally invested in creating space for compassion; in these books her protagonists also lead marginal and colonised lives within patriarchal and imperialist frameworks: Banana Heart Summer centres of the experiences of a twelve-year-old Filipina girl, Nenita’s navigation of poverty and violence, while in The Solemn Lantern Maker a mute ten-year-old boy sells handmade coloured paper lanterns on the streets of Manila.

To circle back to – and conclude with – Accidents of Composition, let us note the hopeful tones that underscore the poems. In ‘Between Cook and Amira’: ‘there could be accidents / of kindness here’; in ‘Passage’, ‘kindness is a passage too’. Though they often offer grim and discomforting portraits, these are not wholly despairing works. Indeed, the collection closes with the line ‘there is hope for us’. In these ways, Bobis’s writing, in both her poetry and her prose fiction, is at once reassuring and uncomfortable; it quietly sears as it sings. Her music affirms the power of art and language, offering a portrait of our world which is as unflinching as it is, sincerely, a love song.

Works cited:

Merlinda Bobis, interview, Mascara Literary Review, October 2015.
— ‘Passion to Pasyon: Playing Militarism’, The Splintered Glass: Facets of Trauma in the Post-colony and Beyond, edited by Dolores Herrero and Sonia Baelo-Allué, Amsterdam; New York: Rodopi, 2011.
The Asian Conspiracy: Deploying Voice/Deploying Story’, Australian Literary Studies, 25.3, 2010, 1-19.
Andy Butler, ‘Safe White Spaces’, Runway: Australian Experimental Art, December 2017.
Jenny Edkins, Trauma and the Memory of Politics, Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery: from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror, Pandora, London, 2001 (1992).
Dolores Herrero, ‘Merlinda Bobis’s Fish-Hair Woman: Showcasing Asian Australianness, putting the question of justice in its place’, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 52.5, 2016, 610-621.
— ‘Merlinda Bobis’ Poem-Plays’, PORTAL: Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, 4.1, 2007.
— ‘Post-Apocalypse Literature in the Age of Unrelenting Borders and Refugee Crises’, Interventions, 19.7, 2017, 948-961.
Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2003.