In their debut poetry collection, Kama La Mackerel mythologizes a queer/trans narrative of and for their home island, Mauritius. Composed of expansive lyric poems, ZOM-FAM (meaning "man-woman" or "transgender" in Mauritian Kreol) is a voyage into the coming of age of a gender-creative child growing up in the 80s and 90s on the plantation island, as they seek vocabularies for loving and honouring their queer/trans self amidst the legacy of colonial silences. Multiply voiced and imbued with complex storytelling, ZOM-FAM showcases a fluid narrative that summons ancestral voices, femme tongues, broken colonial languages, and a tender queer subjectivity, all of which grapple with the legacy of plantation servitude.
Emerging from a creative process in spoken word and live performance, these poems transform the page into a stage where the queer femme body is written and mapped onto the colonial space of the home/island. Interwoven with Kreol, ZOM-FAM showcases a unique lyrical sensibility, a musicality influenced by the both unforgiving and soothing rhythms of the ocean, where the poet enunciates the complexity of their displaced Indo-African roots, "the lineage of silence / that we weave in-between our intimacies."
About the author
Kama La Mackerel is a multi-disciplinary artist, educator, writer, cultural mediator, and literary translator who hails from Mauritius and now lives in Montreal. Their work is grounded in the exploration of justice, love, healing, decoloniality, and self- and collective empowerment. Kama's artistic practice spans across textile, visual, digital, poetic, and performative work, and is at once narrative and theoretical, at once personal and political.
Kama's work has been published both online and in print, including pieces in the Lambda Literary Award-winning anthology Glitter & Grit: Queer Performance from the Heels on Wheels Femme Galaxy (2015) and We Mark Your Memory: writings from descendants of indenture (2018). Their translation of Kai Cheng Thom's From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea was published in French by Éditions Dent-de-lion in spring 2019 and their co-translation of Vivek Shraya's I'm Afraid of Men was published in French by Éditions du remue-ménage in winter 2020.
- Short-listed, Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ2S+ Emerging Writers
- Long-listed, League of Canadian Poets Gerald Lampert Memorial Award
- Short-listed, Quebec Writers' Federation Concordia University First Book Prize
Excerpt: ZOM-FAM (by (author) Kama La Mackerel)
he passed the peacocks perched on mango trees /roosting in the precinct of the temple /he entered the courtyard /removed his sandals /rinsed his feet /circled the temple three times /breathed deeply/ & finally stepped across the doorway /as the first light of the day /washed over the sculpted /eyes of a thousand & one gods /he bowed to each one of them /praying praying /praying praying /they'd protect me from the towers /of mofinn looming over my destiny/
"It is refreshing and nourishing to read that zom-fam have historically been acknowledged in Mauritian culture... The book recounts difficult experiences and feelings, yet the writing persists and uplifts, ending with a strong note of acceptance and celebration." - Quebec Writers' Federation Concordia University First Book Prize Jury
[ is] a work of art, it's experimental, it's daring. And it's also [La Mackerel's] memoir, rooted in the performance of authenticity and the authenticity of the performance. - saahil mehta, Brown Girl Magazine
This poetry collection tells a new story of Mauritius's history, one that includes and celebrates the queer and trans stories that helped shape the island's history. - from CBC Books "The best Canadian poetry of 2020"
As the first poetry collection by a self-identifying queer/trans Mauritian artist, ZOM-FAM is a milestone in Mauritian literature. Titled "Man-Woman" in Kama La Mackerel's native creole, the poetry collection explores what it means to craft life and love in the slippery spaces between diasporic, linguistic, and gender identities. - World Literature Today