FWF Q&A: Leah Jing McIntosh

News, Q&A

Each month, we interview an Australian writer about feminism, writing and the connections between the two. This month, we speak to Liminal founder and editor Leah Jing McIntosh.

What does feminism mean to you?

To me, feminism means an equality, which encompasses all intersections. As Flavia Dzodan writesmy feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit. 

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 writer?

It’s strange searching for a particular time. I don’t know if there was a crucial moment: I am lucky to have parents who did not let the gender of their children impede our dreams. I don’t know if either of them would overtly identify as a ‘feminist’ but they both hold a strong belief in equality, one enmeshed in strongly feminist sensibilities, which I think is so beautiful. What I mean by this is that I’d like to see a world where we all consider ‘feminist’ values to be baseline human rights. I think this context informs the way I approach, read, and write the world. I feel very grateful. 

Where did the idea for Liminal come from, and what are your aims with the interview series?

I formed Liminal due to a deep dissatisfaction with the state of Asian-Australian representation. This feeling of dismay, in conjunction with the distressing shifts of 2016 – for example: Brexit, Trump, the return of Hanson – generated a strong desire to find community: to talk to other Asian-Australians who might be feeling the same way. The Liminal conversations were built out of this feeling. 

So often, our stories are told about us, not by us; I wanted to ensure that we were represented the way we deserve to be seen. The aim of Liminal is to showcase the multitude of Asian-Australian excellence in all of its capacities and complexities.

How can photography and writing work in tandem to express or enhance feminist ideas?

There’s a line from Michelle Law’s interview with Liminal: ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ Writing and photography allow us to be seen in vastly different modes, and I think together they’re incredibly powerful. With Liminal, the photography has become a crucial element to the long-form interview, as an effort towards a kind of visual decolonisation. More generally, photography and writing allow us to present ourselves the way we desire to be seen. I think this power of representation, one outside of the oppressor’s gaze, both embodies and can work to express feminist ideals. 

How can the Australian literary and feminist communities be more inclusive for POC writers?

Read writers of colour. Buy our books, support our art. Pay us to speak on panels – about race, but also literature, feminism – everything! Fight tokenisation by hiring POC to work in your organisations, in your festivals: include us in the decision making as well as in your events.

(I took part in the 2018 Emerging Writers Festival Closed Forum for Women and Non-Binary Writers; I think the statement is very pertinent, which can be read here.) 

Which women or non-binary writers do you think everyone should read?

Lee Lai’s comics make a lot of sense to me, as do Tommi Parrish’s. 

Whilst writing essays this year, I’ve been re-reading Maggie Nelson’s Bluets.

As a mixed-race kid who never saw myself in fiction or film, I love Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You. Everyone I recommend it to keeps telling me it’s too sad, but it’s so good.

What piece of writing advice would you give to your younger self? 

I think a good writer is often a good reader. Read the writers who create the kind of fiction that feeds you – who make your heart hurt, soften and burst burst burst with a kind of unexpected joy.


Leah Jing McIntosh is a writer and photographer from Melbourne. She founded and edits Liminal magazine, a space for the exploration of the Asian-Australian identity. In 2018, she is a Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellow, and part of FCAC’s Emerging Cultural Leaders program.

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