Q&A with Miah Jeffra – The Observer
Meet Miah Jeffra, a CWU lecturer in the English department and co-founder of the award-winning literary journal Foglifter Press, a queer collaboration focused on publishing multimarginalized writers. Miah studied English, Theater and Music at Oglethorpe University and went on to earn an MFA in Critical Studies and an MA in English. Their research interests include anti-racist and decolonial studies, global aesthetics, psychogeography, and queer theories.
Q: What was the process like for you and your co-founder to create Foglifter?
A: At the time (2015), there weren’t many, if any, American literary magazines dedicated solely to queer and trans voices. The lack of complex representation is what inspired us to found the magazine. Many literary magazines, even if they publish LGBTQ+ voices, by default cater to straight and cis audiences who might not find complex queer/trans issues and identities particularly readable. We wanted to provide a platform for these more nuanced stories and ideas. To complicate the representation. We reached out to writers we liked, came up with a design aesthetic for the magazine, and published our first issue in the spring of 2016. Since then, it’s been a collaborative work with a wonderful team of writers/editors. He has evolved a lot. I am so grateful to the team I work with.
Q: Do you have a favorite piece that you have published or written? What was it and what was the inspiration?
A: I’m not allowed to say I have a favorite! It’s like a parent favoring a child, isn’t it? Some of my favorite writing experiences have been with poetry, but I will never publish that work. These babies are for me, only.
I am excited when I feel that I have clearly achieved an intention in my work. In this vein, I wrote a short story called “Ain’t No Thing”. It was meant to be a cautionary tale, a story written to expose the cultural racism we all possess. The protagonist is rendered as a sympathetic character, but one who exhibits a racism that I think the most conscientious of white folxes – including readers of literature – will gradually recognize in themselves as they read the story. If we writers want to challenge the reader’s notion of who they are by reading a work of literature, then I think this story served to achieve that. It is published in HistoryQuarterlyas well as in my collection of stories, The Almanac of Violence.
Q: When did you know writing was your calling?
A: I still don’t know if that’s the case. Haha! At one point I thought dancing was my calling, then I thought music was my calling. Photography, sculpture. I guess they all revolve around the arts.
If anything, I think teaching is more of a vocation. Writing for me, however, is necessary – to make sense of the world, to discover my particular understanding of it. Which I hope informs my teaching.
Q: If you could be an animal, what would it be?
A: An octopus, for its adaptability, but which lives more than two years! An otter, for their versatility. A porpoise, for their fierce and playful life.
Q: Favorite movie or movie genre?
A: I love satire and black comedy—Celestial Creatures, War of the Roses. But a more recent film that I loved is that of Denis Villenueve Arrival, for his hopeful treatise on humanity and language. I cried for an hour after watching this movie, and it wasn’t because I was sad.