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Talking with Chloe Amos

Chloe Amos is a dance and performance art maker based in her hometown of Mililani, Hawai‘i. Her only previous publication is a Community Voice article on the effects of RIMPAC in Hawai‘i, which you can find on Honolulu Civil Beat's website.

Chloe’s essay “Between the Gate and the Gloves” will appear in the Spring 2019 issue of Carve. Preorder to reserve your copy or subscribe with a discount by March 31.

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In your essay, you consider US militarism through the prisms of people and place—most centrally Hawaii. When did you start considering writing a story about militarism, and what were your concerns with taking on this topic?

I began writing this piece out of a kind of necessity. These things were happening in my life that were infuriating and all-consuming. I think I started writing this piece just to purge the thoughts swirling in my head so I could step back and process them.

A lot of my fury actually arose from the reality that so many mainstream conservationist groups never talk about how the military affects the environment, or environmental justice issues. So initially, making people consider the ecological injustices wreaked by our military was my most pressing concern. Later on, with more consideration of the possibility of an audience reading this piece, I wanted to also highlight the complexity of the issue of militarism, and lend some humanity to the folks serving our government.

The process of writing this piece brought up questions that left me feeling extremely conflicted, but the stakes are too high at this moment in time to shy away from taking on the really difficult ecological problems we face. I wanted to take a stab at starting some dialogue over a very nuanced issue even before I have any real solutions figured out.

One of the things we love about this essay is its desire to look honestly at the effects of militarism locally while at the same time juggling ideas or questions of necessity, purpose, and gender. How did you go about constructing the narrative, and what was that process like?

Everything I wrote about happened in the very short span of one month's time, so I couldn't help finding connecting themes between these seemingly disparate occurrences. My lived experience of it all felt like a rapid tumbling, and I wanted the structure of the narrative to reflect that sensation. I broke each event up into little pieces that I could collage together.

In my first iterations of this piece, the timeline of events was a lot more jumbled. It was an experiment in how much I could allow my reader to form her own connections between the events that were happening in my story, because I wanted to get people to think in that way: connecting their own lives to larger movements and issues. After sharing those drafts with trusted friends, I realized I was asking too much of my readers. Since I was writing about my own experiences, it was also my responsibility to outline more clearly the connections I was making from one scene to the next. I rearranged my puzzle pieces into multiple different configurations before resting on one that enhanced the themes I was wrestling with while maintaining just enough of that rapid tumbling feeling.

What books have you read recently that you would recommend to our readers, or what is on the list for the remainder of the year?

Thinking Like a Mall by Steven Vogel is not an entertaining read by any means, but it did play a part in shaping my perspective in this essay. Life of the Land by Dana Naone Hall is just inspiring and makes visible an important history. Her specific battles are interesting to consider through the lens of Vogel's theories about land use.

At this moment I am reading What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins by Jonathan Balcombe. I'm still unsure how I feel about his argument for our moral responsibility to fishes, but so far this book is packed with fish factoids that are thrillingly awesome!

Since I now work at a wonderful bookstore called Na Mea Hawai‘i, my reading list has become increasingly Hawai‘i-centric. It includes: Thinking Like an Island: Navigating a Sustainable Future in Hawai‘i by Jennifer Chirico, Hope at Sea: Possible Ecologies in Oceanic Literature by Teresa Shewry, Food and Power in Hawai‘i: Visions of Food Democracy by multiple contributors, Staking Claim: Settler Colonialism and Racialization in Hawai‘i by Judy Rohrer, The World and All the Things Upon It: Native Hawaiian Geographies of Exploration by David Chang, and Na Wahine Koa: Hawaiian Women for Sovereignty and Demilitarization by Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘opua.