ANC064: DEAD NAMES by Nora Hikari Shao
Behind the glass / you fog into horror.
Consider a mirror: the lowly apparatus on your wall or in your hand, the tiny device nestled quietly in your television or fortunately found in a dentist’s toolkit, the massive lens of a telescope reflecting and making plain the sight of distant galactic doings. From bowls of water to polished stone or metal, from rudimentary glass bubbles to the luxurious though highly toxic lead and mercury contrivances of ancient China and the Renaissance, mirrors kept pace with the technological advances of their day. Since the Industrial Revolution, they have been affordable to the masses and increasingly present in new applications. While this simple object has evolved and grown in its ubiquity, it has yet to fully overcome its inherent shortcomings. Distortions are common, and the slightest flaws in a mirror’s manufacture only add to the potential aberrations of its image. The very concept of its use is based on an illusion and heavily susceptible to subjective interpretation. What we see when we peer into a mirror is just as much a representation of our thoughts and feelings as it is the perception of light upon its surface.
Skewed and occasionally monstrous self-observations occupy Nora Hikari Shao’s DEAD NAMES, a collection exploring the course of gender transition, a dislocated space occupied by violent contradictions in which its narrator feels “homebuilt and haphazard . . . like six feet of target practice.” Hers is a path of acknowledgement, struggle, and eventual appreciation—stages marked by the everyday trauma of living in a transphobic society where she must learn to breathe one lung at a time to attempt passing as herself. It’s a private haunting where the shapes are wrong and the lines too hard. She ultimately makes peace with the possibilities of her future life, aspiring to support others become the people they were all along, "no more fairy tales," mirrors holding them for the first time.
For every copy sold, Another New Calligraphy will donate $1 to the National Center for Transgender Equality, an organization advocating to increase understanding and acceptance of the transgender community.