Each month, we interview an Australian writer about feminism, writing and the connections between the two. This month, we speak to Jamie Marina Lau, author of Pink Mountain on Locust Island.
What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism is undoing inequality.
Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective on feminism, and what it means to be a woman writer?
I actually think reading and attempting to mimic cult ‘coming-of-age’ literature and films is what brought my attention to the micro-aggressions toward the modern female, and lack of intersectional female representations. These books and films were already supposed to push boundaries, but somehow genuine representation still lacked. My writing as a teenager mimicked the empty female characters, female tropes, lack of characters that were women of colour, lack of representation of LGBT, genderqueer and trans women. This made me extraordinarily sad all of a sudden, as late as 19, having started to be interested in writing at 15: I began to realise that even as a young female of colour, I was already subscribed and even contributing to a male gaze which stereotyped, fetishised and invalidated. Reading that writing now infuriates me and is evidence that there is still so much work to be done about the way we treat gender in writing, and in art.
The writing in Pink Mountain is fragmented and experimental – what’s your writing process and how did you arrive at this unconventional form? Why is it important for you to tell stories in this way?
Pink Mountain was probably one of the first honest pieces of writing I’d ever done, and certainly the first time I wrote a female character I felt was sincere. I literally and physically needed to force myself out of the confines of the literature I read and idolised for so long to be able to find a way to grasp and interpret Monk and her perception of the buzz around her. The bursts of her thoughts are the rhythms of contradictoriness, and almost indicates the same repressiveness that she, as a young female of colour in an entirely Westernised metropolis, experiences constantly.
It’s important for me to tell stories in this way because I want to renew the ingrained mode of writing I used to have. I guess also, the fragmented chapters would be good for people like me: not so good at reading longform, but still wanting to read and experience the fullness of a novel.
Can you tell us more about your Gothic/noir inspirations?
Around the time of Pink Mountain I was reading this writer called Michael Bible who wrote a book called Sophia. I also was obsessed with Toni Morrison for a really long time before and during. Both authors use elements influenced by the Southern gothic form. I just really liked this new genre to me where everything was, and is and then everything else moved around it – randomly or mechanically and whether it was one or the other, was subliminal.
You are a first-time author – what advice do you have for other young women who are pursuing a career in writing or publishing, and what have you learned that’s surprised you?
Trust the process of growing your writing and voice, even if it doesn’t sound like you at first – every piece of writing is a step toward stripping back everything you consume, are influenced by and imitating. The reward is either finding a voice that fits, or finding a reason why you are writing in the first place. I am so new to publishing but I’d say it’s the same thing. All the people around me working in publishing seem to be so open-minded, and constantly allow themselves to learn and be influenced.
Which women/non-binary writers do you think everyone should read?
I am so into Claudia Rankine and Han Kang right now.
What piece of writing advice would you give to your younger self?
Probably to question more about what I was reading.
Jamie Marina Lau (劉劍冰) is a 21-year-old writer and musician from Melbourne. Her work can be found in Cordite, ROOKIE magazine, Voiceworks, the Art Hoe Collective and in Monash University’s 2016 anthology Futures. She is currently studying film and literature, producing music, and working on more fiction.