A Short Interview with Elizabeth Ruth Deyro, Founder of The Brown Orient

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The Brown Orient

Enjoy a short interview with our beloved affiliate The Brown Orient‘s founder Elizabeth Ruth Deyro and spread the word about this fabulous publication. 

terseeditor: When did you become interested in writing publicly?

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: My professor in Creative Writing class, which I took in 2014, was the first to introduce me to publishing with independent literary journals. As he himself was fond of submitting poetry and known for having an admirable number of publications under his belt, he also encouraged our class to do the same. Often, he’d require us to submit to calls for submissions, and give incentives to those whose work get accepted for publication. It was in this semester that I got my very first publication – a poem written in Filipino that was published by {m}aganda Magazine as part of their 28th issue. Since then, I grew more interested in submitting more to other journals, and I did a couple of times, but the succeeding semesters as a writing major were pretty tough and I almost gave up on creative writing. I did not submit to literary journals again until late last year, when I finally got over the anxiety that those terrible semesters brought about. Now, I have a respectable number of publications, but there is always room for improvement, in terms of both quality and quantity.

terseeditor: Who are your major influences for writing?

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: Contemporary writers such as Rainbow Rowell, Jennifer E. Smith, Madeleine Roux, and Tahereh Mafi helped me greatly in finding my voice in writing. Chuck Palahniuk’s style has always intrigued me, and I aspire to adapt his tone in my writing as well. Neil Gaiman is also someone that I really look up to.

terseeditor: At what point did you come up with the idea for The Brown Orient? Was there a certain event that was the catalyst?

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: Yes. I have long noticed how people seldom acknowledge the fact that “Brown Asians” are underrepresented in the global narrative – especially in Western mainstream media, which has massive influence over so many cultures and individuals from all over the globe. All they seem to know and mind about Asia is East Asian culture, and that says a lot about the deficit in proper representation for other regions of Asia. But what triggered me the most was this one conversation I had with my sister, when she just could not believe that we Filipinos are actually Asian. The side of the Internet that she has grown to become fond of apparently only ever acknowledge East Asians as the “legitimate Asians”, which is ridiculous considering that there is a lot more to Asia than that one region. This is why I created The Brown Orient, which is a project made to show the world that the “Orient” that they have always associated with just one region is in fact multi-sided – and these other sides have always been Brown.

terseeditor: You do a lot! Can you tell readers all the cool projects you’re working on at the moment?

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: Oh, I am so blessed and grateful that I get to be part of a handful of projects. Firstly, I am the Fiction Editor of Rag Queen Periodical and we will be releasing our first issue soon, which I’m truly excited about. I also got selected recently as the new editor of /tap/ lit mag, and we’re currently reading submissions for our forthcoming issue. Aside from these two, I also have other engagements with other journals, both for editing and writing, which I think is really amazing.

I am also currently directing a theatre production called “Miss Dulce Extranjera” as final requisite for my undergraduate degree.

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: In between these commitments, I sometimes do advocacy work, with particular focus on mental health by participating in projects spearheaded by local youth organizations. I act as Sponsorship and Partnership Head of Silakbo PH, a collective that primarily promotes art as means of coping with mental illnesses. I am also a member of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Inc.

terseeditor: What are some of your ideas for the future?

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: This mid-year, I will start to work on my first chapbook, which will be a flash fiction chap about different narratives that reveal the parallels of one’s struggle with mental illness and the societal issues presently dealt with by Filipinos. This is definitely the first priority.

After graduation, I hope to get a day job as editorial assistant for a local publishing house or magazine, which is my goal ever since I started to pursue writing and editing. I also plan to study again for a Master’s degree in Journalism.

Of course, I have so much plans for The Brown Orient: a huge collaborative project with our sister publications including TERSE., possibly (hopefully!) going print, and finally being able to provide monetary compensation for our contributors and staff members.

 

 

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Meaning-making in Literature and Life: an Introduction to Existentialism by Elizabeth Ruth Deyro

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In literature, it is the reader who gives meaning to a text.

The process of creating this meaning is in the dialogue between the reader and the text itself. Giving it meaning is their way of understanding it. We should recognize that the text, once birthed, becomes a separate entity apart from its writer, much like a newborn from their mother. The writer’s significance should remain unquestioned, as it is they who has created the text, but they do not hold the power to set a standard meaning for their work. The text speaks for itself; it is no longer the writer’s words, but rather of its own. Should the writer attempt to put meaning on the text, they become a reader. We can assume that the text would encounter several readers, and consequently, have dialogues with several minds; therefore, a plurality of meanings would be created. Some of these meanings may be deemed as the common interpretation of the text, but none could claim to be the right meaning. In fact, there is no right meaning, as it would always be a variation of interpretations created by different people with different experiences.

What we can say, however, is that, without these interpretations and the readers that created them, the text is meaningless. It is but a compilation of words that follow the basic rules of grammar, but it has no essence. Nevertheless, a reader can give meaning to a text without fully acknowledging that the text is meaningless without them.

This is almost similar to finding the meaning of life in spite of its apparent meaninglessness.

The famous poet Francois Rabelais mentioned, in his last words, a “great perhaps” he shall go seek. In my opinion, most of us, if not all, go to seek a great perhaps, for our own set of reasons. This is why we find or create our own meanings of life. Humans seek for meaning because we want so badly to make sense of all things around us.

This desire to understand even encompasses things that are beyond our intellectual capacities. We obsess over reason, which result to numerous theories that remain hypothetical because, in actuality, there are things that we cannot provide definite answers to. Immanuel Kant’s concept of mind-independent external world, which he defines to comprise things that we cannot know, must be deemed relevant. Kant claimed that humans “cannot make a cognition of things in themselves, but only as they appear to us.” Rene Descartes agreed by saying that “the mind-independent external world is mediated only through the ideas of it” and thus, we can only ever know it indirectly. John Locke further suggested that human beings only understand things as how we perceive them to be, and never as they are. Therefore, we can only hypothesize about things that fall under the mind-independent external world, but we can never be able to pin an exact definition to such. An example of which is the origin of everything. How the world came to be has been a lingering question in the fields of science, philosophy, and religion. We understand that, no matter how many theories we propose, we can never truly verify whether or not it is right, and yet, the curiosity among us remains, though we are aware that knowing more about it would not be beneficial in our personal lives. This obsession with finding explanation is less of an effect of innate curiosity than a product of fear to fully embrace the reality that everything is in fact meaningless. This fear may be something we experience either consciously or unconsciously. We fill the void of meaninglessness by interpreting life as such in relation to our existence.

Using the lens of existentialism, we can view life as having no inherent meaning, just as human beings have no inherent purpose. It is us that give life essence; further, it is us that set our purpose as beings. How we create this meaning depends on the dialogue between us and life itself, in the form of our experiences. Jean-Paul Sartre abridged this thought when he coined the statement “existence precedes essence”, the central idea of existentialism. The statement suggests that the mere existence of an individual is more fundamental than his essence, and that his essence is dependent on his existence. Man is not born with a purpose nor value; it is something he creates for himself, whether or not he is aware of the process.

Richard Taylor’s interpretation of Albert Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus gave two ways in approaching the problem of discontent in life: The first one is finding meaning “from the outside,” or in the significance of the product of what one is doing with his life. The second, and the more favored, is finding meaning “from within oneself,” or simply conditioning oneself to enjoy whatever he currently has in life. By giving meaning in life as such in relation to one’s existence, we subscribe to Taylor’s latter suggestion. Taylor even wrote: “The meaning of life is from within us, it is not bestowed from without, and it far exceeds in its beauty and permanence any heaven of which men have ever dreamed or yearned for.”

In essence, to give life definition is not solely to absolve one’s self of its meaninglessness, but rather, also a way of making life matter, which R.M. Hare defined as a word that “isn’t intended to describe something that things do, but to express our concern about what they do.” It is a way to show that life as such is our concern.

However, coming to grips with life’s meaninglessness is not a requisite for an individual in order for him to give meaning to his life. The fear that drives us to find reason can either be a conscious thought or something wired within our unconscious. In most cases, the latter is the more realistic scenario. Furthermore, very few would even entertain the thought of life’s meaninglessness; it is not an idea suited for everyone. Just as a reader does not have to acknowledge the fact that a text’s meaning is entirely up to him and, without his interpretation, the book is meaningless, people can give meaning to their lives even without recognizing life’s apparent meaninglessness.

 

*Previously published in The Cerurove, October 2017 under the title: “On finding what never was”

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro is the founding editor-in-chief and creative director of The Brown Orient; prose editor at |tap|, Rag Queen Periodical, and The Ceruroveand tweets at @notjanedeyro.