Multitudes: What Is a Haunting?


We are pleased to announce Multitudes, a new column at The Rumpus, which will feature the work of writers of color, actively seeking underrepresented voices and perspectives. We hope that the writers who appear in this column can count this among their earliest publications, and that they will find an engaged and thoughtful readership here. 

Multitudes was created through a partnership with VONA/Voices of Our Nations Arts, the only multi-genre summer workshop for writers of color in the US. Founded by Elmaz Abinader, Junot Díaz, Victor Díaz, and Diem Jones in 1999, VONA/Voices brings writers of color from the margins to a community where their work is centralized and honored. We are grateful to Faith Adiele, who first proposed this collaboration, and to the VONA/Voices Board of Directors for offering a model for future partnerships with organizations who serve people of color and other underrepresented artists and writers. Elmaz Abinader will serve as the editor for VONA.

–Mary-Kim Arnold, Series Editor


Q: Why am I telling these stories?
A: Because they won’t leave me alone.

What is a haunting? (Erased texts and epigenetics)

noun: epigenetics

  1. the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.

Otherwise known as: cellular adaptation in response to events. Changes to gene behavior; cellular alterations in response to environment.


Erased texts include:
Oral history interviews with my father (part of an ongoing project to record family history). My dad’s quotes also in the body of the text.

Works cited (for erasure poetry):
Essay: “Treatment Resistance and the Transmission of Trauma,” by M. Gerard Fromm. From Lost in Transmission: Studies of Trauma Across Generations edited by M. Gerard Fromm.


This is a story from my dad’s childhood.

This is a story of the Japanese occupation of Malaya (now two countries, Singapore and Malaysia). My dad was six–nine years old during the war.



What is absent or present?


What lives in positive space/negative space?



“You guys have all the opportunities in the world; you don’t know what it’s like to have malnutrition!”



What is known/unknown?




Why am I lucky?


Why am I the lucky generation?




(From text: “what human beings cannot contain of their experience […]” gets transferred “on to and into the next generation as an affective sensitivity or chaotic urgency.”)


What cannot be forgotten/cannot be remembered?



The war across Southeast Asia killed 6­–10 million people, depending on which source you consult. “This is the holocaust no one talks about.”


WTF do I have to complain about, anyway?


Images provided courtesy of author.

Celeste Chan is a writer schooled by Do-It-Yourself culture and immigrant parents from Malaysia and the Bronx, NY. Co-founder of Queer Rebels and Sister Spit tour alumna, she serves on the board of Foglifter Journal. She’s published in AWAY, cream city review, The Rumpus, and other literary journals. She's currently writing a memoir. More from this author →