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"misnomered": A chapter from Brown Is Redacted

An excerpt from Brown Is Redacted, a new book published by Ethos Books.

Today's special issue, open and emailed to everyone, is a chapter from Brown Is Redacted, now available for pre-orders from Ethos Books.

Inspired by Brown Is Haram , a performance-lecture on minority-race narratives staged at The Substation in 2021, Brown Is Redacted is an anthology that seeks to reflect on how brownness is constructed, sidelined, but also celebrated in Singapore. Through a combination of essays, academic works, poems, and stories by brown individuals, Brown is Redacted both attempts to and fails to create a singular brown experience. What this anthology does produce instead, is a moving and expressive work of solidarity and vulnerability.


by Durva Gautam Kamdar

CALL ME ISHMAEL. actually, no, don’t. even that name, biblical and bisyllabic, brash in the way it rolls off the tongue, broken syllables diverging in the mouth, is probably too hard for you to pronounce. instead, call me something else. given many names, you can call me any one, each with a different rhythm, different metre.

my names are many things but, first and foremost, they are an apology. an object of hesitance, characterised by a telltale pause, stiletto stutters breaking awkward silence. i always know when someone is about to say my names because they are preceded by what often feels like a long breath, a preeminent precursor to a sigh. it’s always succeeded by an apology — i apologise for butchering your name. like my names are meat, dead flesh dressed to be consumed by a stranger’s mouth, cut open by their teeth.

in a way they are right — my names are dead. they are dead because, three years ago, i killed them. i began to butcher my own name, introduce myself with cleaved syllables, mince words to grace english tongues. i left the bodies of my names behind, buried my own cultural identity. because on the first day of secondary school, a friend, unable to pronounce my name, decided to call me dory. and the name stuck, christening me forever as the forgetful fish from finding nemo.

and i have been forgetful — i have forgotten what my name even sounds like. did the vowels always sound so dissonant? were these consonants constantly coarse? was the taste of my name always so foreign, like spices mixed with bile, accented with flecks of parmesan? i wish someone would teach me what it means to remember for all i have ever learnt—again and again — is how to forget.

Durva Gautam Kamdar is a part-time secondary school student and full-time musical enthusiast. She cannot spell.