A new anthology published by 5ever Books and edited by Jennifer Cheuk.
A new anthology published by 5ever Books and edited by Jennifer Cheuk.

BooksJuly 3, 2024

‘More is always more’: Everything That Moves, Moves Through Another, reviewed

A new anthology published by 5ever Books and edited by Jennifer Cheuk.
A new anthology published by 5ever Books and edited by Jennifer Cheuk.

A new anthology that gathers the experiences of mixed-heritage creatives in Aotearoa expands on what’s come before and stirs a hunger for more.

Everything That Moves, Moves Through Another is an anthology of work by mixed-heritage creatives across Aotearoa, edited by Rat World founder Jennifer Cheuk, and published by underground Te Whanganui-a-Tara-based  publishers, 5ever. It comes in the wake of a wave of recent anthologies that centre around identities that have been historically – and continually – marginalised in Aotearoa. There’s Out Here, a poetic anthology of queer New Zealand writers; A Clear Dawn, an anthology of Asian writers in New Zealand; Hiwa, an anthology of Māori short stories; and Ngā Kupu Wero and Te Awa o Kupu, anthologies of Māori non-fiction, and poetry and fiction in turn… and that’s just to name a few.

Somewhat strikingly, the anthologies I’ve listed have all come out in the last three years. Naturally, Everything is part of this movement – an intervention into an industry and society that are systematically unequal, where there are numerous barriers to entry and difficulties writers from certain communities face – like racism – even once their book is picked up by a publisher. Not to mention how difficult it is to be a writer at all, because basically no one will pay you to do it. 

When I saw that a collection of work by mixed-heritage people was coming out in New Zealand, I was excited and I was also nervous. You could say I felt mixed. But let’s start with excitement. 

As a Chinese and Pākehā New Zealander who spent my childhood across Hong Kong and Tāmaki Makaurau, I have spent much of my adult life yearning and searching for art that speaks to my experience. I remember reading for the first time last year, Albert Wendt’s Sons for the Return Home, a novel following the experience of a young Samoan man living in New Zealand. While the protagonist is not mixed race, much of his description of existing across multiple cultures and countries, in Pākehā and non-Pākehā dominated worlds, resonated with me. In some ways, it’s sad to think that it took me 25 years before I found a work that was set in New Zealand and spoke to me like that. It’s interesting to think about how coming across Everything at a formative younger age might have affected my life. Regardless of its content, I would’ve been glad for the recognition of mixed-heritage existence in New Zealand. 

Everything That Moves, Moves Through Another is an interesting and varied collection that contains work from a range of creatives, of differing backgrounds, as well as work across a range of forms. I was pleasantly surprised to find the collection contained poems, essays, photography, paintings, mixed-media art, comics, and pieces that reflected on works of art, like plays, that have already existed in some form in the world. This variety in form was a delight, and clearly allowed for a range of creatives – not strictly writers – to partake in the project. For this reason, it felt like the collection held the art of not just one, but many creative communities. It was inspiring to see that many of the works had clearly been made in active conversation and collaboration with people in the artists’ communities – mothers, friends, colleagues. This was particularly apparent in the pieces by Jill and Lindsey de Roos, Dr Meri Haami and Dr Carole Fernandez, Maraky Vowells, and Chye-Ling Huang, to name a few. 

On my mind, as I made my way through the collection, was the notion of diversity. In my view, the lack of diversity in publishing takes at least two forms. Firstly, it’s a question of who does and doesn’t get published. But secondly, it’s a question of what is getting published – do the stories that get told reflect the variety and expansiveness we award to Pākehā authors, for example? I find it particularly disappointing when the only art from marginalised communities that breaks into the mainstream is that which happens to conform to reductive ideas that are already in the mainstream. If I read another story about a good East Asian migrant family, for instance, I might scream. Not because I think there’s no truth in it or that the story shouldn’t exist, but because it must be so lonely up there, being the only kind of East Asian – or worse, Asian – representation we see. 

As many people of marginalised communities and identities know, representation is often a burden dressed up as a privilege. When representations are so few and far between, it is easy for things to become crystallised and stagnant. For instance, is there a “mixed-heritage experience” in New Zealand, that could ever be reduced to some kind of totalising narrative? Of course not. There are commonalities, but there are also countless differences. 

As I began the collection, I swung back and forth, worrying at times that the pieces were going to be, on the whole, consistently close to familiar archetypes. I reflected on the fact that “mixed-heritage” is an incredibly broad category, that houses people from vastly different places and backgrounds. In the first third of the collection I struggled with pieces that felt overly abstracted and vague, where the specificity of the narrator or writer was held at a distance, and instead what came across were sentiments that felt more like platitudes or personal affirmations. I worry that work at this level of abstraction can create the impression that all mixed-heritage people are having the same experience – of a particular kind of angst. When emotional assertions are hollowed out of their specificities and particularities, they fall flat, and it’s hard not to receive them as tropes. 

As I read on, however, I was relieved to see that the collection broadened to house a wide range of works, some that touched directly on a familiar mixed-heritage angst, some that drew on themes of ambivalence and multivalence, and others (and I wish there were more of these) that never explicitly approached the topic of being mixed-heritage at all. 

There were many standouts in the collection for me. Pieces by Jill and Lindsey de Roos, Evelina Loles, Chyna-Lily Tjauw Rawlinson, Damien Levi, and kī anthony were touching and enlightening for their specificity and sincerity. I was impressed by Yani Widjaja’s piece, ‘Oey黃 is for Widjaja’, which explores the history and meaning of their Chinese-Indonesian name, and reveals the non-essential, historicised nature of identities across time, culture and place. Eamonn Tee’s short story, romesh dissanyake’s poem/ prose piece,  and Cadence Chung’s poetry stood out to me for their meticulous crafting. 

Kátia Miche’s paintings, What Melts Into Air? felt impactful in their playful mix between discernibility and indiscernibility, and it was a joy to have them interspersed throughout the collection. 

The collection ends with possibly my favourite piece, Jake Tabata’s ‘Stop Fucking Asking Me To Watch Anime With You!’ – a hilarious and absurd playscript that leads to a violent crescendo and ends the collection with a cathartic expression of rage. I was so enthralled to see the absurdity and violence of bureaucracy and whiteness come across the page. 

Everything That Moves, Moves Through Another, is a thought-provoking, enlightening and entertaining collection. It’s a memorable moment for mixed-heritage writers in New Zealand, but it is not the beginning or the end. I’m hungry to see more works that build from here, and continue to skewer, decentralise, or avoid altogether the myths of homogeneous white culture. When it comes to diversity of expression nothing is final, identities are contextually situated, and more is more is always more. 

Everything That Moves, Moves Through Another, edited by Jennifer Cheuk ($65, 5ever Books) can be purchased directly from 5ever Books

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