"The Ship of Theseus is a philosophical paradox that questions if identity persists despite change. If a ship has one board replaced, is it still the original ship? What about twenty boards, or the whole deck? Through a combination of memoir and fiction, my Appel project will explore how the Ship of Theseus applies to personal identity, altering the past to determine how different human experiences influence identity in the present. I will revisit the circumstances behind three crucial “planks” of my identity and completely change them, then follow these three alternate versions of myself in order to examine if and how my identity and personhood would change. I will be exploring how birthplace, sexuality, and religion have shaped my life; respectively, these three planks will take me to three locations: New York, San Francisco, and Ireland. I hope to test the malleability of present identity by venturing into possibilities of the past."
"My project will examine the relationship between myself and the traditional culture that I have grown up with. My hometown is the birthplace of Kun Opera, an indigenous Chinese opera with more than 600-year history. However, fewer and fewer Generation Zs are willing to appreciate Kun Opera because of the “complicated” native language and slow-paced melody. It is an example of what has happened with many indigenous cultures, which have begun to curl up in the corner of the society. I want to explore where the indigenous part of myself could rest in my modern life by conducting a series of interviews with Kun Opera performers from all age groups. The interviews will serve to record their life stories with Kun Opera and their expectation of its future. The interviews can return the artists from the role of performers to the ordinary with their own happiness and worries, which I consider will inspire me to think about the relationship among Kun Opera itself, Kun Opera as a job, and our lives. Alongside these interviews, I would like to write a series of personal reflections, in which I will process my experiences of doing the interviews and reflect on the role this art form has played in my identity and self-understanding."
"My Appel Project is a reimagining, a retelling, and a reclaiming of the stories that my great-grandmother once told in her bookstore. During the Cultural Revolution of China, her bookstore was burned down, and even after that, when no books were left intact, she continued to tell her stories orally to the village children. Some of these stories were memorized from the books that she read before they were burned; others she simply conjured herself. By visiting the village that my great-grandmother spent her entire life in and interviewing the people who may have heard her stories, I hope to bridge the distance between my great-grandmother and I through excavating my own feminine oral lineage but also to learn about the possibilities that open up from intervening in a lineage. I am essentially trying to explore what it means to be a body, but to hold many breaths. Within my project, I also aim to represent how language is something that we embody and not just a technology of the self. Some of the questions that guide my Appel experience are: how much of my great-grandmother’s stories contained oral traditions as a codified survival mechanism for women, and how much of them wielded joy and playfulness and love? How is playfulness necessary as a subversive act in language? How can oral stories be liberated and reconstructed from a history of erasure and silencing?"
"The desire to love and to be loved is a fundamental human trait. But for many LGBTQ+ people, expressing their sexuality or gender identity meant social ostracization, incarceration, or even violence. Still, queer authors have used writing to explore – and accept – their identity and show it to the world. Across time and place, queer characters and storylines have demonstrated the resilience of a community unwilling to silence itself, with the theater often serving as a place of community for queer people young and old. As an Appel Fellow, I will explore how writing has functioned as a means of self-expression, reflection, and healing for LGBTQ+ authors and readers - especially when their writing is meant for the stage. During my fellowship, I will read queer playwrights and authors, learn about LGBTQ+ history, and write my own play exploring my identity and the challenges currently faced by the queer community. When possible, I hope to travel to Europe and North Africa to visit countries widely accepting of queerness and those with laws forbidding it, attend plays and shows, and learn about the places many of the authors I will read have called home."
"For my Appel project, I will consider the connection between Islamic philosophy and western philosophy to find common ideas between the two areas. To do so, I hope to delve deeply into the works of Rumi, ibn Arabi, Iqbal, Aristotle, and Socrates, particularly their works on finding happiness and living a satisfying and meaningful life. This summer, I am anticipating the majority of my work will be conducted through reading and self-reflection, culminating in a series of essays. However, if international travel becomes an option, I hope to supplement my research with first-hand experiences with “philosophy-in-action” in these different parts of the world, particularly in England, Greece, Turkey and Jordan. As I embark on this process, I hope that juxtaposing these ideas will help me to further my own journey of reconciling contradictions between these schools of thought, and therefore, continuing to develop my own personal beliefs on what is important in life."
"For my Appel project I will visit both current and former coal towns in Appalachia and the South. Through interviews with coal miners, interactions with people in these towns, and visits to coal mines and coal mining museums, I hope to understand what life was like back when coal was king in America. I also want to find out what the future holds for these towns, with the coal industry crumbling under economic, environmental, and regulatory pressures.
I will then condense these interviews and experiences into a collection of short stories exploring the complicated relationship between coal miners, their jobs, and the landscape they inhabit."
"In the most blunt way possible: since the decade began, the world has felt like it’s been stuck in a perpetual “doomsday.” Because it has become so constant, however, the apocalypse’s pandemonium has simply faded into the background of most of our lives; we are no longer shocked when reading absurd headlines––we just cross it off of our 2021 bingo card and move on with our day.
During this summer, I hope to write a poetry collection that follows the narrative of this “never-ending end-of-the-world.” In this narrative, the speaker will not be “the hero” or “the villain,” but will be something much more revealing: human. Because my project deals so heavily with “the end,” the goal of it is to bring a sense of peace where there shouldn’t be any, bring hope through desolation, and give life to death."
"This past year, the country was engulfed in racial issues, economic issues, a pandemic and I found myself back at home engulfed in poor internet, a shared room, and a lack of energy. Now, the path towards the future still remains unclear. I found myself affected in a variety of different ways, and as an Appel Fellow I hope to write about my experiences of the last year and the following summer. My goal is to self-publish a book that is composed of poetry and personal essays. The book will be divided into different sections that each have to do with my identity (Latinx, Senior/College Freshman, Broke, Privilege). Each section will talk about the occurrences of the past year and the following few months in conjunction with that identity. Finally, I hope that my account of these historic times will be useful when people look back to learn and talk about what happened."
"For my Appel project, I plan to develop an unorthodox second-person sci-fi psychological thriller fiction novel in which the reader is put in the role of a rapidly developing AI running a test alongside his programmer. My goal for the project is to break the boundaries of traditional fiction in a way that introduces the concept of interactive storytelling back into the public consciousness. I believe second person fiction is an underserved and historically limited section of fiction, and lives in the enormous shadow of its counterparts first and third person POV. Tropes and stereotypes brought down the genre in its prime, but I believe a fresh perspective on its style could revitalize this form of experimental writing. Placing the reader in the driver seat of the story and creating an interactive and engaging tale is the primary goal of my Appel project this year, to not only make a piece of writing that is just fun to read but forces the reader to make difficult decisions with significant outcomes."
"A lot has been written about colonialism in Africa, but I want to create an oral history of someone who helped to bridge and witnessed the transition from British ruled Northern Rhodesia to independent Zambia. This person is my grandfather, an Irishman working for the British colonial power in Northern Rhodesia- someone who has witnessed the consequences of European colonialism in Africa. He is filled with fascinating stories about his time in Northern Rhodesia/Zambia involving close encounters with man-hunting wild animals, the KGB and Sir David Attenborough. He also operated in counterespionage (in collaboration with MI5 and CIA) on both sides of independence and, after independence, worked closely with the first democratic leader, President Kenneth Kaunda, a close associate of Martin Luther King Jr. I want to be able to capture both his stories in Zambia and also research the broader ramifications of European colonialism in southern Africa including in the former Belgian Congo and Portuguese West Africa."
"As an Appel Fellow, I will explore the influence of spirituality on the Mexican-American community within two frameworks: historical and contemporary. Within a historical context, I will analyze how spirituality functioned as a sociopolitical tool for liberation during the Chicano Movement of the 60s. As part of my analysis, I will explore the spiritual impulse of Dolores Huerta and the influence of spirituality on Chicano manifestos, visual art, and literary forms. Through a contemporary framework, I will explore the influence of religion on the most important women in my life: my four sisters, mother, and Abuelita. Through interviews, I will seek to understand their relationship with spirituality and cultivate a greater understanding of what spirituality looks like for Mexican-American women like and unlike myself. As I learn, analyze, and expand my understanding of spirituality, I will write poetry that traces my ancestorial, corporal, and mystical connection to spirituality through time and space."
"With the help of the Appel fellowship, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of myself through the experience of drinking coffee. Throughout the pandemic, I never allowed myself space or time to slow down and comprehend what was happening in the world. Exploring the modern-day coffee scene and feeling the reflective properties of coffee will allow me to slow down, gain a deeper understanding of myself, and create writing that fully embodies my current state of being. I will gain this experience by traveling to Hawaii and exploring the modern-day coffee scene in a region that also grows coffee. Another aspect of my project will occur in my hometown, Chicago, where I will explore an extensive range of shops and feed off different coffeehouse environments to awaken my mind and create reflective content. By using coffee as the source of my outlet, my goal is that the writing I curate will help me understand my role in society, bring clarity to all the aspects of having been a teenager amidst a global pandemic, and examine my physiological responses to these uncertain times. As the world is moving online, I will manifest my writing into a tangible handmade coffee table book that I can keep for decades to come as it will later represent the person I was during a global pandemic."
"Growing up in Kentucky, I was always confused about the things that I was hearing about rural America compared to what I was actually experiencing. Apparently, we were uneducated, boring, rednecks. However, the Kentucky I knew was a different place. Though America may not know it yet, rural America is a much more politically diverse place than it is made out to be. After the 2020 election, it was common to hear Democrats around the country blaming southern and Midwestern states for ruining America and electing more conservative politicians. The party that was supposed to be aiding America’s middle-class workers was instead tearing them down. Many have yet to understand doing so is so elitist and unfair. These states are just as important as New York and California, and I want to make Americans aware of how their elitism further divides and harms American politics. My fellowship will consist of a series of podcast interviews where I give people of color, people from low income communities, and progressives from the Appalachian area a platform to share their stories and why they deserve to be heard by the rest of America all the time, not just during election time. From my podcasts, I want America to know these communities exist and deserve the rest of America’s attention."
What Lin Yutang said: “What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child.” Against the backdrop of longing, Midwestern musings, and wistful portraits of parents in my writing, food serves as the anchor to our Chinese-ness when language cannot. My Appel Project, then, is in some ways a love letter to my family, an impulse to untangle our psyches. Through a meditative, fragmented collection of creative non-fiction and poetry, I explore the act of being Chinese in America through a personal lens, taking on elements of my family history in the crucible of a quiet Sinophobia and the somatic implications of being a yellow body in a white world. In my project, I consider a number of questions: What to make of my paternal grandparents, who immigrated to the U.S. only three years after the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed? Of my father, who bears the burden of belonging to the only family of color in a small white town during the 1960s-70s, and my immigrant mother, who bears none? And of not feeling caught between my Chinese and American identities—in fact, feeling completely content with both sides, but yearning for one over the other? At the same time, in an attempt to preserve my family’s art of home-style cuisine, I will weave recipes I have learned with my maternal grandmother into my writing, which will correspond to the sections “Sweet,” “Salty,” “Sour,” “Bitter,” and “Savory.” After this summer, I hope to be able to pass down my family recipes, tethering my cultural heritage to my muscle memory in a way my father could not.
"I wish to write about my experiences studying Buddhist and Taoist Philosophy by reading the Chinese classics. Besides from reading on my own, I wish to visit accomplished Buddhist monks and Taoist masters and ask them questions about my readings. And finally, as many traditional practices like meditation, fasting, and Kungfu are integral to the Taoist and Buddhist Philosophy, I will experience those traditional practices, and connect the subjective experiences with the Philosophies."
"The notion of spirituality is a difficult one to define, yet the term is on the rise. In the last few decades, research has shown that younger adults around the world have become less likely to be religiously affiliated. I have personally seen this shift, and my departure from the church I was raised in has been an experience I share with many young people in my life. However, while increasing numbers of young adults describe themselves as non-religious, many still consider themselves spiritual. I am interested in the unique ways that individuals define, perceive, and experience spirituality. Through poetry and photography inspired by interviews, I plan to create an anthology to examine the diversity of how spirituality is experienced by people all over the world. By speaking to others and thinking deeply about these questions, I hope to consider and develop my own perspective on religion and spirituality, giving me the potential to experience my life in a deeper and more meaningful way."
"My Appel project will be titled "Women in Shanghai”. This summer, I will interview females in Shanghai about the daily obstacles they faced in both the workplace and in life, as well as the ways they try to overcome these challenges. I’m especially interested in knowing the life of two types of women—professional women in well-known companies, and the less educated working-class immigrants. To achieve this, I will design some meaningful questions that sparkle inspirations, and find an appropriate interview style that makes interviewees feel comfortable to reveal their thoughts. From my interview and further research, I will produce an oral history collection to shed light on the issues.
By undertaking the Appel Fellowship program, I hope to achieve two goals. Firstly, I want to have a deeper understanding of the gender inequality women faced in Shanghai, and learn from how they fight against it. In addition, I hope to learn more about my own identity as a woman and find my way to make an impact on the world."