“we forget we / remember one history / to forget another,” writes poet Philip Metres.
These lines introduce Anna Badkhen’s essay, “In Memory of Memory,” part of Adi’s 11th issue, Contested Histories. Recounting her grandmother’s escape from Leningrad during the harrowing 1941 Nazi siege, Badkhen contemplates how memories of conflict wend their way through generations and inform how we distill stories of suffering into history. “Memory is a contested terrain,” she writes, a realm that is endlessly making and remaking us, resisting fixed ideas of truth and falsehood, shaping how we understand ourselves and each other. Badkhen asks, “Are we prepared to accommodate all of the stories?”
Across this issue, the mutability of memory is both a source of peril and potential. From a refugee family’s efforts to invent a new life to a pernicious myth about climate change, this collection of pieces reminds us that history is a creative act, forged in the heat of questions and doubts, desires and fears.
Vi Khi Nao revisits her family’s journey from war-ravaged Vietnam to the American midwest, considering how freedom and debt are fractured mirror-images. “My father doesn’t owe anyone or anything. He doesn’t have any credit card debts. No car payments. But this freedom from debt enslaves my father.”
Poet Enbah Nilah revises the meaning of “generational wealth,” casting displacement as a poignant family heirloom. “My father carves with a pen / with the patience / inherited from his father, / sculpting scissors-over-comb / in a sweltering barber shop.”
Ayuujk activist Yásnaya Elena Aguilar Gil critiques the identity category “Indigenous,” arguing that it reduces distinct histories and peoples into a tale of conqueror and conquered. “Systems of oppression dole out many notions of identity on platters, ready for consumption,” she writes. “The word Indigenous has been affixed so firmly to our faces that it becomes a mask that tries to pass itself off as skin.”
Annia Ciezadlo sets out to debunk the view that climate change was the primary catalyst of the 2011 Syrian uprising, situating this narrative in the context of hundreds of years of agricultural history and examining how its persistence entrenches inequality, fuels xenophobia, and exonerates the powerful. “The idea that growing too much food could result in hunger is so counterintuitive that it’s almost impossible for most of us to grasp,” writes Ciezadlo. “But strange though it may seem, what happened in Syria is exactly that.”
Chanelle Adams traces the journey of the camphor tree across continents and empires, exploring how this coveted resource became, in its various adopted homes, a symbol of both destruction and resilience, conquest and community. “Carving out a role in each new soil, this opportunistic tree is a place-maker,” she writes.
Craig Kenworthy, in a piece of short fiction, inhabits the mind of a political prisoner whose punishment involves being deprived of meaningful information. “Like everyone else suffering through the war, he would wait for it to end but, unlike them, he would not know how long he had waited. Never know the first sunrise of a ceasefire, or witness the turning of the page from conflict to peace.”
And there’s more. So much so that we’re publishing this issue, illustrated by the talented Osheen Siva, in two parts. In December, a new batch of pieces—featuring Meena Kandasamy, Madhi Chowdhury, Hawa Allan, Jori Lewis, and others—will take up questions of solidarity and citizenship, expanding upon the notion that all history is rooted in contestation.
—Meara Sharma, editor-in-chief
In this Issue