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Spotlight on Issue 3: Chinelo Okparanta

Chinelo Okparanta’s story, “Ife Adigo Market—1978” appears in Issue 3 of Apogee Journal. Her first story collection, Happiness, Like Water, was released in 2013, and was selected as one of The Guardian’s Best African Fiction of 2013. Chinelo and I corresponded about politics in writing, immigration, and the discomfort of labels. Zinzi Clemmons: Your story in Issue 3, “Ife Adigo Market—1978”, describes the changes that occur in a Nigerian town that coincide with the arrival of white people—ndi ochas. Can you describe the events that inspired this story? Chinelo Okparanta: The story was inspired by an event that happened to my mom when she was a girl. She, too, had fallen ill and had nearly gone blind when she was young. The story was also inspired by some of my time back home in Nigeria, periods in which there were questions surrounding the quality of medicines being sold there. Knock-off items exist everywhere, but the issue of counterfeit medicines was especially problematic during that time. “Ife Adigo Market” illustrates the battle between old world and new world and the confusion over the better way to go: the native doctors or the new medicines. There’s a sort of hopelessness but also...
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Ai Weiwei in New York City: An Interview with Kelly Tsai

Kelly Tsai is a spoken word poet, writer, performer and director, whose latest work AI WEI WEI: THE SEED is an exploration of Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei’s early life in New York City. The performance traces the years before Weiwei became internationally renowned for his provocative, political art. Apogee Editor-at-large Melody Nixon talked with Tsai about her upcoming show and whether art and politics can ever be separated. Melody Nixon (MN): How did you first come across Ai Weiwei’s work? Kelly Tsai (KT): Back in 2012 I was in Taipei, Taiwan, and I saw Ai Weiwei’s exhibit at the contemporary fine arts museum there. When I was walking through the exhibit I saw all these photos of street corners that I knew in Brooklyn and the East Village and I was like, “wait a second, what are these?” Then I realized that Ai Weiwei had actually spent much of his 20’s and 30’s (1981-1993) in NYC as a young artist, which I thought was really interesting. MN: That inspired you to investigate his life story? KT: Yes. With a little more research, I found out that his father was a political poet and he also was friends with many...
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Spotlight on Issue 3: James Yeh

James Yeh’s “Your Giant New Loft” appears in Apogee Issue III. The brief story tours the expensive home of a friend you didn’t know had money while exploring class anxiety along the way. I spoke with James about the piece, his writing, and more. Scott Dievendorf: Part of Apogee’s mission is to publish literature that interrogates the status quo and engages with issues of identity politics. Not all of your work is explicitly political and I wouldn’t necessarily classify you as a political author, though your piece in our current issue certainly speaks to class anxiety. Do you ever feel a personal urgency to explore issues of class, race, or other facets of identity through your fiction? In other words, what are your personal feelings about using literature as means of social inquiry? James Yeh: That’s a tough question to answer because on the one hand, of course I’m interested in class and race and issues of identity. As the son of Taiwanese immigrants to South Carolina, where I was born and grew up, there isn’t much choice. Questions of race and identity come to you—sometimes at you. That said, I’m less interested in work that strikes me as wholly or...
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