Excrement of the Highest Order

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At a sabbatical presentation in the Tap Room last week, Assistant Professor of Literary Arts + Studies Joon Oluchi Lee read from two distinctly different texts he worked on last year: Lace Sick Bag (Publication Studio) – his recently published collection of short stories ­– and a book of feminist theory tentatively titled Artificial Menstruation. Both books were inspired by his dual obsessions: “living like an object and writing like a girl.”

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Lace Sick Bag centers around the “surprisingly pleasant” experience of throwing up strawberry ice cream, offering readers “little chunks of sugar and rot.” The 13 “tidy stories about messy things” traverse gender, time and physical space and allow the self-described “feminist text and body maker” to express his dual identities.

Artificial Menstruation expands upon work Lee created for his LAS class Thingamajigirl: Objects, Humans, Femininity, which examines links between “woman” and “thing” and rethinks the idea of the object. The essay Lee read from examines our culture’s response to a girl’s first menstruation as both a warning (about her new ability to get pregnant) and a ritual celebrating “excrement of the highest order.” Why, he wonders, does our culture not similarly celebrate a boy’s first ejaculation?

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The Iowa-raised Korean-American said that his next big project will be a novel told from his mother’s perspective and joked about the “similarities” between his own work and that of celebrated Chinese-American author Amy Tan. The only difference, Lee quipped, is that his primary goal is to “shock [his] mother or at least gross her out.” 

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