INTERVIEW FOR CATALOGUE MAGAZINE.
Muslim-Australian writer Fariha Róisín will probably inspire you to be a better person. Now living in New York, Róisín spends her time writing — she’s currently working on her first poetry book — and standing up for the causes she believes in: race, islamophobia and transgender rights to name a few. Róisín describes her work as “thoughtful” but says she’d rather not be defined by what she “does”, preferring instead to declare that she’s alive and living. Ditto! Her life motto? “Fight the power!” Also ditto.
Róisín co-hosts the excellent podcast Two Brown Girls and writes for places like Teen Vogue and Broadly. Inspired yet? We hung out with her in New York recently to take some photos and talk about surviving in the creative industry and Trump’s America. Get some important advice below.
Who are you and what do you “do”?
I’m Fariha Róisín and I survive. I’m a writer by trade, can’t turn it off, but I wonder sometimes if it’s best to define myself by the vocation I’ve found myself in — even though I live and breathe it — instead of just declaring: I’m alive! That’s what I do. I live 😀.
How did you first get into writing?
I started writing as a very young person to sublimate the depression I was diagnosed with as a kid. It became a form of catharsis for me around my tween period, which is when I started writing the novel I’m working on. Later in my adult life, I dropped out of school and started working in film and fashion criticism and that’s how I think my “career” was really launched.
How would you describe your work in a sentence?
Do you have any tips for young girls hoping to get into that field?
You gotta strengthen yourself. There’s a lot of upheaval: rejection, straight up “Nos”, lots of weird toe-stepping and back-stabbing, lots of idea-taking. Writers aren’t always nice to each other, and it’s a lesson to learn early on where you stand and how you’re going to define your craft, but also yourself as a writer; Are you gonna be like Michelle Obama and just carry on? Or nah? There’s a lot of surveillance online which I can’t stand, and that seems to be a part of the culture that we exist in. But don’t just get used to it, fight it!
Who is in your creative support network?
My partner, Shaka King; Lots of brown and black queer/trans and non-binary folks; Messy Moslems — a group chat of muslim friends who are all doing dope shit. Also all of my besties in Montréal who are the definition of white accomplices.
Do you find female friendships particularly important within the New York art/fashion scene?
I think femme friendships for sure. I think what I’m realising is, in a city like New York, you have to make the effort to work on your own prejudices against women/femmes, which take a lot of unlearning. It takes wanting to be better with your femme friends and not perpetuating stereotypes of women… I think a lot of femmes are suspicious of other femmes because of patriarchal ideas of what we’ve been fed about women. So it takes being open to them, letting them fuck up, and making space for them to be better; It means taking care of them.
What causes are important to you?
Race. Australia has a long way to go and it disappoints me. I’ve lost most of my friends from back in Australia because most of them thought I was too intense when I would call out racism and now, it’s like, can you ignore it anymore? With Trump in office and the KKK and Neo-Nazis around the world banding together? I’m also very invested in shedding light on islamophobia, and queer/trans and non-binary folks and issues.
How would you describe your personal feminism at the moment?
I struggle with the word feminism, always have. I just think it doesn’t encapsulate all that I am. In all honesty I think it’s skewed very white and doesn’t take into consideration how race and gender fall into that description. But I hope we’re breaking that definition to make room for more. Having said that, my personal feminism is that I’m fighting for black and brown femme folks.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t take it personally” because I’m a baby that can take everything personally!
What do women really want?
To be loved. To be respected.
What’s the best thing on the internet?
Tumblr, memes, and vine-related comedians.
What would your last meal be?
Pesto spaghetti and a glass of a sparkling Pet-Nat rosé.
What’s it like to be a young person in America at the moment?
Both exciting and nerve wracking… To be a queer muslim woman in America is terrifying at times. I’m cautious of everything, all the time. And this’ll sound a little too antsy, but I know I’m being watched, and I wonder often how to deal with that as a person who believes in their civil liberties… TBD.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
A poetry book!
Words to live by: Fight the power! We’ve got to fight the powers that be.