Savannah Camastro

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Brooklyn-based artist and writer, Christine Sloan Stoddard, explores her personal history in her new book, “Desert Fox by the Sea,” which launches this Thursday.

“The book was heavily informed by my heritage and mythology,” Stoddard explained. The book, however, is not an autobiography, but rather a magical surrealist collection of poems and short stories. Though many of the stories take inspiration from the artist’s real life, they are told through a “diverse cast of fictional women” in which many can relate to. “By using  fiction, I’m able to explore the different cultural boundaries placed on women’s identities,” she said.

Stoddard is a Salvadoran-American born and raised in Virginia. Since she was a child, she expressed an interest in storytelling, embarking on everything from playwriting to comic book making. “I would sell my comic books to my little sisters,” Stoddard laughed.

Stoddard and newly published book.

As she got older, however, she started to become more aware of her identity of a non-white woman growing up in a more conservative part of the United States. “My mom was defying the social norms of her country by coming here,” Stoddard said. “I always think about how different my life would’ve been if I grew up in her position.”

“Desert Fox by the Sea” intertwines the sacredness surrounding the traditions of folklore with a modern voice. Many of the works incorporate both English and Spainsh. In her poem “These Are Not the Stories” she writes about how our personal histories shape us as we grow up. 

These are not the stories

your mother tells you

Growing up.

Tuabuelo eraunidio

Tuabuelo era unesclavo.

Another piece, “My Non-Existence Under a Trump Administration” is more personal; she reflects how she navigates her identity in the Trump Era. “I think of my parents and how they would not be together if he had been president during their courtship..” she writes. “..And me? I would’ve never been born.” 

“I’m interested in how our many identities influence our everyday life choices as women,” Stoddard told Bushwick Daily.

Painting and words by Christine Sloan Stoddard.

The book itself is a product of a literary contest submission, which Stoddard won in 2017. When the publishing house hosting the competition went on hiatus shortly after she won, “Desert Fox by The Sea” was picked up by the independent editor Hoot n’ Waddle

“I always knew I wanted to make this book,” Stoddard said. “When I  found out about the competition is when I really pushed myself to put it together.”

The book is largely based off of a culmination of journal entries that Stoddard strung together. Though she’s always been interested in how personal history plays a hand in identity, “Desert Foxy by the Sea” has made Stoddard “more mindful of why it’s important.”

Stoddard is also the founder of Quail Bell Magazine, a feminist publication that focuses on “real and unreal stories from around the world.” In conjunction with her book release, Stoddard and the members of Quail Bell will be hosting two events: a meditative journaling session and book reading at Unnameable Books on September 12, and a Projection Music show in Williamsburg on September 22. “I like to have interactive events, because I want everyone to get involved rather than just sit there,” Stoddard said.

Painting by Christine Sloan Stoddard

Though Stoddard is currently living in Bed-stuy, when she first came to New York she lived in Bushwick. “I love the diversity here. It was a great place to start a network and exchange work with other artists,” she said.

As Stoddard prepares for her events, she hopes to not only share excerpts from “Desert Fox by The Sea,” but also connect with other artists and expand her community. “All of Quail Bell contributors are artists,” she said. “We like to encourage each other to try new things and experiment. That’s why I wanted to have an interactive aspect.” 

“Desert Fox by the Sea” will be available on September 12. It can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or through your local bookstore upon request. You can find more information about the events here.

To keep up with Christine, check out her website or follow her on Instagram. You can also find Quail Bell magazine here

Images courtesy of Christine Sloan Stoddard.

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