Doors. Borders. Thresholds. Who holds the keys, letting some in and leaving others out?
These questions, and the idea for Trespass, were inspired by Harsha Walia’s Undoing Border Imperialism. As I planned the issue over the past year, the title of her book seemed at once current and timeless. It came to mind when Vancouver marked the one-hundredth anniversary of the Komagata Maru. The phrase “border imperialism” made a perfect alternative headline for recent news stories about Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers Program, and a chillingly accurate caption for pictures of refugees in ports around the world—Tamils in Canada, Eritreans in southern Europe, Rohingya in Southeast Asia.
Walia posits that deeming a human “illegal” is a logical impossibility. Instead, she suggests in the book, borders—and the countries they define—are illegally created. In my interview with Walia, she describes how capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy collude to draw arbitrary borders that are maintained through violence.
Trespass is a tribute by and to humans who assert their legality in the face of a world order that seeks to exclude them.
In Nigit’stil Norbert’s cover art, Red Destiny, the weed affirms its place on the threshold, growing despite concrete surroundings and a closed door.
Doretta Lau’s story, “Best Practices for Time Travel,” stands on several thresholds of its own. Her subject matter crosses pop music, porn, scatology, philosophy, and literature. The genre is a mash-up of literary fiction and academic pondering, with a touch of science fiction. Thematically, she explores the double-bind of racism and sexism.
These three contributors set the tone for the fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and art in this issue. Step over the threshold with them.
Doretta Lau is an arts and culture journalist. She completed an MFA at Columbia University. She splits her time between Vancouver and Hong Kong. In 2013, she was a finalist for the Writers’ Trust of Canada / McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize. How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun? (Nightwood Editions, 2014), her debut short story collection, was shortlisted for the City of Vancouver Book Award, and named by The Atlantic as one of the best books of 2014.
Nigit’stil Norbert is a photo-based artist originally from and based out of Yellowknife, N.T. She has exhibited in Canada and the U.S., and in June 2012 completed her BFA in Photography at the Ontario College of Art & Design University in Toronto, Ontario.
Helen Polychronakos lives in Vancouver. She’s been published in Joyland, Filling Station, Plenitude, The Tyee.ca, and others. @HelenEleni.