Meet Our New Intern: Iqra Abid

When I was younger, I would follow my older sisters around all day, copying everything they did. Part of this was watching all the same shows they did, reading their books, listening to the music they listened to. In many ways, this formed my taste in media. Shows and books where the main characters worked at magazines or dedicated their entire lives to writing books or were starting their careers as journalists— those were my favourite stories to watch or read. They kept diaries so I did, too. I started writing stories in them, usually horror for some reason. My best ones would have crazy twist endings like the protagonist waking up from a nightmare. Of course, I thought I was a genius.

Then, in middle school, I joined a club where one of the perks was getting free magazines and reading stacks of them during our lunch breaks. My friends and I would often argue over the free posters that came out of them. Years later, my oldest sister would give me a giant pile of magazines to throw away for her before we moved out of our childhood home. I would spend hours scouring each one before I finally threw them away, ripping my favourite pages out of them to make collages with one day. I still have some of those pages saved today, waiting to be cut up and stuck somewhere.

In high school, I started to art journal and write poetry. I made friends who loved all the nerdy, artsy things I did. We went through all the same phases together, hung out after school to make collages out of those old magazine pages, shared and read books together like an informal book club. I edited everybody’s English essays and creative writing pieces. I thought it was fun and it made me happy. It sounds totally lame but I still enjoy it now. What does that say about me?

In the summer after my first year of university, I felt deprived of art and the freedom to creatively express myself. I didn’t get to see my friends as much anymore, so we had less time to create things together. I was also fed up with the lack of mainstream representation that artists from marginalized identities received. When I want to consume art that speaks to my experiences, why do I have to dig so deep for a morsel of relatable or accurate content? I thought that there needed to be more platforms dedicated to uplifting marginalized artists, to foster a safe space that allows them to create content with other artists from similar backgrounds. I thought, why not do it myself?

So, I started Kiwi Collective Magazine, a digital arts publication for marginalized creators of all mediums. I was able to combine my passion for writing, art, and editing to give something back to the creative communities I love. It wasn’t until I started the magazine that I looked back at my childhood and noticed everything that led me to this point. I realized that I have always wanted to be an editor, I just didn’t always know it. Now, I am lucky enough to be with Sundress Publications, expanding my horizons and honing my skills so I can continue to give back to underrepresented creators in the art and literary scenes.


Iqra Abid (she/her) is a young, Pakistani, Muslim writer based in Canada. She is currently a student at McMaster University studying Psychology Neuroscience, and Behaviour. She is also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Kiwi Collective Magazine. Her work can be found in various publications such as Stone Fruit Magazine, Tiny Spoon Lit Magazine, Scorpion Magazine, and more. You can find her on Instagram at @iqraabidpoetry.

Project Bookshelf: Iqra Abid

I cleaned out my bookshelf last summer, donating and gifting books I’ve had for years. It’s now half the size it used to be with the stories I have outgrown sitting warmly in new homes.

In an attempt to save money though, I have not refilled my shelves. This year, I hope to rebuild my collection and explore new genres. In the past, I mostly read poetry and young adult novels. More recently, I have been more interested in memoirs and essay collections. But I am still reading a lot of poetry—that I can’t let go of.

To me, a good book is lyrical and the storytelling is creative and passionate. Part of this may be why I have been so drawn to memoirs lately. If you care about these characteristics when picking out a book, you might be interested in some of my recommendations. Here are some of my favourite titles from my bookshelf.

Memoirs and Poetry Books

Girl in Need of a Tourniquet: Memoir of a Borderline Personality by Merri Lisa Johnson

Girl in Need of a Tourniquet by Merri Lisa Johnson is a fantastically written memoir of the author’s experiences living with borderline personality disorder. It is written in the form of lyrical essays, each one more thought-provoking than the last. We follow Johnson as she untangles herself from the mess that her diagnosis worsens as she strives for clarity. Johnson’s writing captures the immensity of her emotions and accurately reflects the thought process of someone with borderline personality disorder. I was drawn to the book because of Johnson’s writing style, something most readers struggle with because it jumps from place to place, but I can say it did not disappoint.

We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir by Samra Habib

This memoir was one of my most anticipated reads. Queer Muslim representation is rare and while this is changing now, Samra Habib’s We Have Always Been Here will always be a revolutionary staple for queer Muslim representation. The book begins with Habib’s childhood in Pakistan and her experiences as an Ahamdi Muslim (a persecuted Muslim minority) from which she learned that some parts of her identity must be hidden to survive. As a refugee, she arrives in Canada, where she faces bullying, racism, an arranged marriage, and more. Eventually, she begins to explore her queerness and rekindles her faith at an LGBTQ+ friendly mosque in the face of all her struggles. Habib’s story is an inspiring and resilient one. We Have Always Been Here is the grown-up, queer, Muslim, coming-of-age story that so many queer Muslims around the world have needed.

Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Night Sky With Exit Wounds is Ocean Vuong’s first full-length poetry collection. The book won the T.S Eliot Prize in 2017 and continues to have a significant impact on the literary scene today. With powerful imagery and haunting metaphors, Vuong depicts stories of war and immigration, captures intergenerational trauma, and grounds itself in the human experience. Night Sky With Exit Wounds examines themes of family, gender, sexuality, war, violence, and even self-actualization. This collection is an emotional and memorable exploration of humanity, practically a perfect encapsulation of it. Even if you are not someone who enjoys poetry, all of Ocean Vuong’s books are a must-read.

Other pictured books:

Homie by Danez Smith: To-be-read poetry collection about friendship

Beyond The Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon: Nonfiction, educational book about gender and deconstructing the gender binary to imagine a world without it

The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison: A collection of speeches, essays and reflections on music, life, and society

Glass, Irony & God by Anne Carson: A collection of personal essays written in verse, commenting on life and depicting a journey of self-understanding

Red Doc by Anne Carson: A sequel to Carson’s Autobiography of Red, a novel in verse reimagining the myth of Geryon from Herkles’s ten labours

Chapbooks

Chapbooks are short collections of poetry, typically 40 pages. They’re excellent for introducing yourself to poetry or a poet or if you don’t have all that much time to read. The following title is my most favourite addition to my poetry collection.

Lonelieness and Other Bodies of Water by N. K. Said

Loneliness and Other Bodies of Water is hands-down the best chapbook I have ever read. N. K. Said has a strong and well-developed narrative voice, something that can be rare to see in chapbooks. Her poems delve into the healing process with careful precision. Said effectively recreates the loneliness of learning to understand yourself, pulling on your heartstrings and truly giving meaning to the phrase “feeling blue”. It is beautiful, it is delicate, and it is profound. N. K. Said is most definitely a poet to watch.

Other pictured chapbooks:

Shurma by L. Akhter: Recently released, and only just received in the mail but a very anticipated read

dead girl walking by Dez Levier: Out of print, explicit reflections of trauma and living with bipolar disorder

Magazines

I love magazines, specifically those that are art-focused. These are the magazines I have bought this year.

Reconstructed Magazine – Volume 2: Bodies

Reconstructed Magazine is a creative magazine that highlights Muslim creators, particularly those marginalized within and outside of Islam. It is filled with gorgeous art and writing of all different mediums (textiles, sculptures, photography, paintings, essays, interviews, etc.). I am absolutely obsessed with the issue and love the questions it explores regarding bodies (human, divine, etc.).

Pitch Magazine – Issue two

Pitch Magazine is a publication by and for Black creators. Their work is a celebration of Black creativity and expression and their second issue emphasizes unfiltered Blackness. It is beautifully designed and curated, filled with art and writing that resonates deeply with its readers.

Asahmed Magazine – BLCK PWER

Ashamed Magazine is a pioneer in the world of publications that uplift marginalized voices. BLCK PWER is their first print issue, now out of print. It covers a wide range of topics including Black liberation and prison abolition, Black beauty and feminism, navigating white spaces while Black, and the Black Lives Matter movement. In the form of art, poetry, essays, articles, and interviews, BLCK PWR is a revolutionary collection of Black stories and perspectives.


Iqra Abid (she/her) is a young, Pakistani, Muslim writer based in Canada. She is currently a student at McMaster University studying Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour. She is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Kiwi Collective Magazine. Her work can be found in various publications such as Stone Fruit Magazine, Tiny Spoon Lit Magazine, Scorpion Magazine, and more. You can find her on Instagram at @iqraabidpoetry.