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‘An Ordinary Misfortune’ by Emily Jungmin Yoon

— Nix Thérèse

‘An Ordinary Misfortune’ offers a straightforward narration that almost reads as detached, yet the accumulation and repetition of certain details makes it impossible to completely rest easy. The house is barricaded, but remains vulnerable to those who are more concerned with plunder than honor: “My grandmother’s father closes the gates. Against American soldiers, though they jump over stone walls. To a girl that is not my grandmother. The girl is gravel grabbed.” It’s horrifying to consider that the soldiers maintain the integrity of the home over that of the girl, as if her presence bears nothing. Their ease is beyond discomforting: even the small, possible snag on their uniforms is no match for the violent wrench they’ve made. She’s a blown out wall that shatters to gravel in their hands, yet the house doesn’t wobble as air passes through the void she’s left. Despite it’s consistent status as filler, the girl as gravel can’t be smoothed back to cover the gaping hole. How does the family pace around her dusty absence? When do the soldier’s footprints get erased? This whole chronicle is marked by and exists simply in the feet; when her language “is gravel” that “means nothing”, it’s easy to imagine a lost road rising from her throat & winding towards no real arrival, words like gravel kicked up in the soldiers’ ears with shards nestled until they’re forced out. Her being stripped of lineage and ancestor status in one fell swoop haunts the story: “Girl is girl and she will never be a grandmother… history will skip her like stone over water.” She’s now property, so she’ll unfortunately never be given deference or priority. She’s discarded as easily as stone into waves.

Only part of her story can be translated in the barest of journalistic details: a clip becomes her whole being, and her archive will never be complete. The “ordinary” quality of this misfortune only allows us to mind the gap, feeling the emotional weight more in what’s missing than what’s encompassed, while the narrative sifts like rain through gravel.