Tag Archives: Anthony Bourdain

Sky’s the Limit: On Bourdain, Memoir, and the Pitfalls and Potential of Travel Lit

Hey People,

Happy Pride! I’m here, I’m queer, let’s get into this new update.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 6.55.30 PM

Bustle is running a series called Have Books, Will Travel, featuring essays by non-normative travel writers on the genre, so of course you know I had some things to say. I wanted to focus on how this genre is crafted in such a way to weed out commentary that isn’t 100% sunny, as in, of a leisurely or commercial nature, and how that can suppress certain necessary stories and voices. Writing memoir should seemingly rectify that, since it’s all about being vulnerable, having perspective, and being reflective of one’s actions. But let’s be real—we can do better.

Travel writers lie to themselves and their readers when they front like visiting a place makes them authorities on it, because the average white American doesn’t know many people from that place, but does have a few friends who went there once. They lie when they add a touch of self-deprecation to their stories, because humility seems smart in hindsight, and because all those people who witnessed them being annoying tourists are still in that place far away and can’t attest that these tourists haven’t learned sh*t. And too often, travel writers lie when they write like race, gender, and class are foreign concepts that exist outside of the scope of travel writing when they’re actually located at the heart of it.

I originally wrote the paragraph above using “we” instead of “they” but it was changed, and now I wonder if the hate I’ve gotten for writing this would be less so if those who are allergic to conversations about race and travel had read the original. But I immediately know the answer is no. Race is just one aspect of this dialogue and this essay isn’t even about whiteness or racism so if for some reason you feel personally attacked, figure it out I guess.

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 7.56.22 PM

So I was on the radio the other day and was asked about Anthony Bourdain, may he rest in peace. I thought about him in relation to this essay because it’s about honesty, about being real about your positionality in a place and as a person writing about it, even when you’re unsure about what that is, or feel uncomfortable about it. I feel that as travelers and travel writers, people who are always foreign somewhere, what we do is all about getting comfortable with the unknown. Bourdain didn’t always have easy answers or perfect politics, but he did always seem—to me, at least, and I started watching from the very beginning—to be honest about this. To ask questions he didn’t have the answers to, and to tread into other people’s homelands and homes ready to be schooled, to learn. We need more of that. And that’s all I’m tryna say here.

I try to identify the colonizer in my writing in an attempt to reach a deeper truth about how I move about the world, because from a different perspective, I have the normative voice, and I’d be a liar, and thus, a sh*tty writer, if I didn’t acknowledge that.

There’s so much revolutionary potential in writing stories about what is lost and gained in the process of migration to adhere to outdated story structures that deny the depth and complexity of our experiences. I think the way to write decolonized travel narratives is to pursue our truths, the truth, so doggedly that it leads us off the path of tradition and into terra incognita. From there, the sky’s the limit.

So what travel writers or books do you think get this right, or close to it? What do your manuscripts look like? Have you thought about any of this stuff while writing or reading travel? Do tell in the comments. You can read the essay in full here.

 

Advertisements

Anthony Bourdain and the Lunar Eclipse

guess who finished a zine? thank you, lunar eclipse: through your little window of mantic possibility i slipped in a project millions of years (it seemed) in the making. of course, i’ve left on a trip today so it may be another week before it mails out, but i’m bringing the mother copy with me in the hopes of finding a copyshop and post office in the little fishing villages of the ecuadorian coast i’m heading to. sounds pretty impossible but i’m stubborn and bringing that shit with me, reality can eat it! or something.

8849162698_505ed74824_z
shout out to vellum

mailing costs from here are pretty wack, so now’s the best time to order the zine. again, i’m open to discounts, trades, whatevs. it isn’t perfect, but i’m so relieved it’s over so that i can get started with the second issue. if you’re into travel writing, photography and zines, you’ll like it, trust. by the way, if you’re an illustrator or designer or otherwise-inclined embellish-er of things, get in touch! i wanna work with you (re: i suck at sketching.)

i will be documenting some grassroots community projects here (ecuadorian coast) as well as writing about my time in yoga camps and whatnot, so if you’re around and know of any news of that sort; are an editor and want to publish my sage scribbles; or just a traveler wanting to say hi, holla! you can do that at heyitsbani at gmail dot com.

that time i wore a turban
that time i wore a turban

i just got through with interviewing a really awesome person (RAP?) and am stoked to tell you all about it once the story’s out. also also also, keep checking the fb page ’cause i’m updating it a lot more now with traveling/POC/feminist/outdoorsy/queer/zine matter, which, if you haven’t discerned yet, is what i’m all about.

in other news, last night i dreamt that anthony bourdain was singing that gogol bordello song ‘start wearing purple’ to me somewhere in subterranean macau. ambien is most likely to blame.

chao!