Fariha Róisín on Learning to Care Less About the Publishing World’s Rules
From the Thresholds Podcast, Hosted by Jordan Kisner
This is Thresholds, a series of conversations with writers about experiences that completely turned them upside down, disoriented them in their lives, changed them, and changed how and why they wanted to write. Hosted by Jordan Kisner, author of the new essay collection, Thin Places, and brought to you by Lit Hub Radio.
On this episode, Jordan talks to Fariha Róisín, author of Like a Bird, about her discovery of ayahuasca, the political obligations of the artist, learning not to care so much about how her writing is perceived by the publishing world, and her own journey toward healing.
From the interview:
Jordan Kisner: I relate to this concern about when you write about the spiritual, feeling worried that you’re not going to be taken seriously as a smart person if you are trying to engage earnestly and sincerely with some of the questions. How do you work through that? How do you think about that?
Fariha Róisín: Oh, I love this question. Thank you. Well, firstly, it took me a long time to be like, these standards were made by cis-hetero white men. Why am I trying to be a part of the canon that literally does not even understand me? I think that’s when I also began to understand, for me specifically, that I couldn’t play into the rules. Firstly, I hate rules. Don’t tell me what to do. I don’t like that. Perhaps understanding that firstly I don’t have to assimilate. A lot of my life unlearning is how to really step outside of the imposition of all of the gazes that have been applied on to me.
I think accepting that I don’t want to play into what the writing world wants of me and also what they’ve determined is successful—because I don’t make a lot of money, right? That’s always the struggle with being a writer in a lot of ways, especially a writer that is doing things her own way. It’s incredibly challenging to feel as much as I don’t want these institutions to care, of course I do, because they determine success in a lot of ways, too.
So I think I’m always oscillating between these different viewpoints of being really righteous in terms of what I want to write about now. And that happened, I think, just through acceptance of the fact that I don’t need somebody else to tell me that I’m smart. I don’t need somebody else to tell me that I’m good enough. I can tell myself that. Again, I think it’s just surrendering to the divine and knowing that I will be taken where I need to be taken. And I have to just focus on the work and the quality of the work and ensure that I can really stand behind what I’m saying.
Fariha Róisín is an Australian-Canadian writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Vice, Fusion, Village Voice, and elsewhere. Her work often explores Muslim identity, race, pop culture, and film. It also examines the intersection of queerness and being a femme of color while navigating a white world. She is the author of the poetry collection, How to Cure a Ghost, and the guided journal, Being in Your Body.