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Esther Lee
Indiana Review

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Indiana Review

Ryan Piurek
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Monday, May 24, 2004

Literary journal showcases comics, art and writing between cultures

Above: the summer 2004 issue of Indiana Review. For the first time in its history, the student-edited journal will feature comics.

EDITORS: Media who are interested in receiving a copy of the summer 2004 issue of Indiana Review should contact 812-855-3439 or For more information about the magazine, visit

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- When Danit Brown, Esther Lee and Lea-Ann Bigelow took the helm of Indiana Review, a student-edited journal published biannually with support from the Department of English at Indiana University Bloomington, it seemed only natural that they would put together an issue devoted to writing between cultures.

"We're all between cultures ourselves," said Brown, who was born and lived part of her life in Israel. "Our parents emigrated from other countries, and so we all had experienced that feeling of not quite belonging to our parents' cultures or to mainstream American culture."

They decided to include comics in the summer 2004 issue as an intuitive extension of the issue's theme of "in-between-ness."

"Comic art has long been treated as a secondary art form," said Bigelow, who was born and raised in England and studies art history. "It is rarely considered fine art, or accorded respect as literature, yet it incorporates and builds on the innovations and traditions of both. Comics is a wildly inventive, expansive genre that is literally caught between several creative domains."

Now in its 27th year of publication, Indiana Review is a non-profit, nationally-distributed literary magazine dedicated to showcasing the talents of both new and established writers and visual artists from all over the globe. As a biannual, nationally-distributed literary review, IR considers previously unpublished essays, fiction, graphic arts, interviews, poetry and reviews. IR's editorial mission is to offer the highest-quality expression within a wide and inclusive aesthetic -- writing and art with consequence that resonates beyond the page and reveals unexpected worlds.

The special issue, "Between Cultures," which was published this month, features roughly 150 pages of work from over 50 contributors -- some emerging, such as Sejal Shah, and others well-established, such as Terese Svoboda and Marilyn Chin -- as well as approximately 30 pages of comics and a full-color visual art insert featuring five Indiana graphic artists.

The response to Indiana Review's call for submissions was overwhelming, with writers and artists from all over the world sending in work addressing different facets of growing up and living "in between."

"As racial and cultural categories become blurred, a new generation of artists is emerging that doesn't fit comfortably within the limits and definitions of the traditional canon," said Lee, a poet whose parents emigrated from Korea to Florida. "This issue is intended to give voice to this growing community, and it was fascinating to see how various artists and writers tackle the fault lines that define and divide national, religious, gender, race and class-based cultures."

The result is an issue packed with poems, art, essays and fiction. It also features comics that explore the humorous, heartbreaking and whimsical sides of various cultural clashes.

Brown, Lee and Bigelow believe that the positive response to the issue points to people's need to have their own stories reflected back to them. As an example, they point to the 2000 U.S. census, in which for the first time respondents were allowed to identify themselves as belonging to more than one racial category, an official nod toward the inadequacy of rigid categories to encompass the richness and cultural variety that is increasingly a part of American life.

"It is IR's mission to publish the very best in contemporary creative expression," Brown said. "Some of the most exciting writing and visual art is born on the fringes, where boundaries are tested and extended, and where assumptions about societal norms, the self and identity are exposed and called into question."