How the Literature of Empire Shaped My View of the Natural World
It took me years before I realized that I’d built my notions of beauty from the stories of a distant land.
Jessica J. Lee is a British-Canadian-Taiwanese author and environmental historian, and winner of the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Author Award. She received a doctorate in environmental history and aesthetics in 2016, and her first book, Turning: A Year in the Water, was published in 2017. Jessica is the founding editor of The Willowherb Review. Her second book, Two Trees Make a Forest, was published in the UK in 2019 and was published by Catapult in the US in 2020.
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Through myth-making and symbolism, the natural world comes to stand in for potent human ideals.
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The idea of exploitation seemed to me fraught with assumptions about what a blind person is supposed to do and be—assumptions that insist blind people be poets and prophets, saints or beggars, not lowbrow entertainers.
I added it to the list of things off-limits: questions about the past, the wars, why my grandparents had fled China for Taiwan. Why eventually they left that place too.