Writer in Residence

17 for 2017: Casey Mecija recommends Tropical Renditions: Making Musical Scenes in Filipino America

By Chase Joynt


5. Tropical Renditions: Making Musical Scenes in Filipino America by Christine Bacareza Balance recommended by Casey Mecija.


Throughout my tenure as the December Writer-In-Residence, I will be assembling a list of 17 must-read-books for 2017. To accomplish this numerically satisfying task, I have asked 17 people whose work I adore to suggest one title for the list. Consult the end of each post for the growing list of recommendations!  

Long before I had the personal pleasure of Casey Mecija’s company, I had access to her music. As the long time lead-singer of the orchestral-pop band Ohbijou, Mecija has been a staple of the Toronto indy-music scene since the early 2000’s. In 2016, Casey launched her first solo-project, Psychic Materials, a stunning sonic meditation on queerness, diaspora and love. The album strategically employs affect and its ever-bending articulations, to create space for otherworldly encounters and intimacies. When I am feeling out-of-sorts, I often re-visit this performance video from 2012, and am reminded of the many communities emboldened by and through Mecija's inspired music making. Here is Casey’s latest public offering, a music video for Sounds That Mark Our Works from Psychic Materials, made in collaboration with May Truong and Hannah Dyer.

From Casey: 

The book that has left an irreversible mark on my thinking is Christine Bacareza Balance’s Tropical Renditions: Making Musical Scenes in Filipino America. This book fortuitously came into my life at a time where my academic research was struggling to find a language that fit with my personal experiences as a Filipino musician and performer. Balance’s book provides “disobedient” examples from music, film, literature and visual arts that test the confinement of Filipino/a performing bodies to expectations of cultural authenticity. I felt a sense of relief and hope in her words - she has helped me to imagine the possibilities of diasporic experience that oscillate somewhere between desire and incommensurability. Balance’s book uses performance theory and critical Filipino/a studies to make new meaning and futures from the histories of violence that have resulted from colonialism. She pushes her reader to consider what social conditions dictate how the Filipino/a performing body is consumed. Balance argues for a method of “disobedient listening” that “disavows a belief in the promises of assimilation by keeping one’s ears open to hidden and distant places not of this world” (p. 5). 

Other must haves: The Better Story: Queer Affects from the Middle East by Dina Georgis, The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimilation and Hidden Grief by Anne Anlin Cheng and Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin.

Stay tuned as we build the ultimate 2017 reading list! A new suggestion from an inspired thinker emerges every-other-day for the month of December on open-book.ca.

17 for 2017:

1. Mariko Tamaki recommends The Land of Forgotten Girls

2. Sheila Heti recommends The Normal Personality: A New Way of Thinking about People

3. Vivek Shraya recommends The Mothers

4. Kate Bornstein recommends Siddhartha



December Writer-In-Residence

Chase Joynt is a filmmaker and writer. His latest two films Genderize and Between You and Me are now streaming live online with CBC Digital Docs. His first book, You Only Live Twice (co-authored with Mike Hoolboom) was published by Coach House Books and just named one of the Best Books of 2016 by The Globe and Mail and CBC. His second book The Case of Agnes (co-authored with Kristen Schilt) is forthcoming from Duke University Press.




The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Chase Joynt is a Toronto-based moving-image artist and writer who has exhibited his work internationally. He recently received a Mellon Fellowship in Arts Practice and Scholarship at the University of Chicago.

You can write to Chase throughout the month of December at writer@open-book.ca