Feature: Author Ami J. Sanghvi
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
Ami J. Sanghvi (she/they) is an Indian-American, queer author, artist, boxer, Eric Hoffer Book Award finalist, and recent graduate from the CalArts Creative Writing M.F.A. program with a concentration in Image and Text.
Her work has recently appeared in So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, Inverted Syntax, Humana Obscura, and several other publications and exhibitions. Sanghvi's work is also forthcoming in Masalazine and the LGBTQIA+ South Asian Anthology: I Hope You'll Still Love Me.
Currently, she is living in Los Angeles with a focus on extraction, time, space, chaos, functionality, minimalism, and subliminality in her writing and visual art practices alike.
Sanghvi is also putting the finishing touches on her cross-genre, experimental, multimedia M.F.A. thesis manuscript (titled Into Oblivion), developing an existentially compromised world for her Sad, Lonely Alien through various methods, and deconstructing the literary criticism of J.R.R. Tolkien in order to develop a science of wraiths.
On the side, she is preparing to re-immerse herself in Elder Scrolls Online and spend her summer reading books outside in the sun, surrounded by cute desert lizards who may or may not actually be aliens.
In deconstructing the literary criticism of J.R.R. Tolkien, Ami has submitted the beginning of "Wraiths: The Theorists and the Physicists" from her Work In-Progress, The Science of Wraiths after J.R.R. Tolkien's Lecture, "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics," which can be found below.
When asked what this work means to them, Ami shares the following:
"There is no departure from my identity as a marginalized person -- nor would I ever want there to be. I am proud of who I am because it is a thorough manifestation of where I come from.
"Not only do I allow my South Asian brownness, sexuality/gender queerness, Jainism, bipolar disorder, C-PTSD, OCD, and ADHD leak into my work, but I also create with the intent of having these things determine it."
"Sometimes, this even means recreating or repurposing classical works that were written for the white, cishet man (by the white, cishet man) and trying to open up avenues for those of marginalized genders, as well as BIPOC, queer, and disabled people like myself.
"There is a light tendency towards finesse in my work, yes. However, there is also a major focus on embracing my inner chaos and authenticity.
"So much of this is about not bending myself to fit the standards of the oppressor."
"Erasure is such a major issue marginalized people deal with -- erasure of our histories, our voices, our ancestors, and various other things. Therefore, I am currently deconstructing Tolkien on multiple levels, justified by an alternative timeline where the likes of my speaker and Tolkien are instead [poet-]physicists.
"While this work has a strong textual foundation, there are also a number of visual elements to it as well— ones that require a challenging combination of the fantastical, the authentic, the technical, the creative, and the methodological. "The lecture/essay I'm working through presently is "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" in search for The Science of Wraiths (the latter being the title of the much larger project). This work currently has two minor aspects and two major ones.
"Among these is a prose section, the beginning of which I have included here today, where I am redacting, deconstructing, destroying, blending, and over-writing Tolkien's criticism into a deeply fictional semi-scientific report. His words are very much present here, as are enough of my own that I've completely transformed the essay.
"In my own insertions, I keep with his tone, but am sure to keep with mine as well. Both are essential to the success of this project.
"Something else that is important to note is the fact that modern fantasy and science fiction are, and have always existed as, predominantly white spaces — for readers, writers, artists, film lovers, etc. alike. As the brown, queer person, there is a certain empowerment in speaking over, silencing, and controlling the voice of the British white man in order to serve my own purposes."
"Usually, this situation is the other way around, and in reverence to an ages-old systemic oppression that has dominated this patriarchal, heteronormative, and deeply colonial world.
"In other words, The Science of Wraiths serves as a subtle [but certain] act of political resistance.
"This is also a project that is enjoyable for me, and serves as a unique, interesting, and challenging way to combine my creative practice, critical voice, and scientific inclinations with the goal of developing something that will be significant to my work for years to come. "Although it is hardly acknowledged (especially in the western sphere), the concept of the wraith is universal. It is one I have seen across cultures and religions, including my own.
"The wraith is a specific state of being. However, it is so often regarded in vagueness. It needs shape — and a topic and project both so ancient and queer needs shaping by someone who isn’t white, cishet, or neurotypical. They had their time. Now, it’s our turn."
You can support Ami and their work by visiting her website or following them on Instagram (@hotwraithbones)!
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