Perzine, Tony Luong, 24 pgs
Writer Tony Luong, who also refers to himself as T., uses words to capture, and care for, the messy weight and healing that characterize humanity. He uses poetry and prose, yes, but he writes, above all, letters to loved ones — communicating various feelings, sometimes conflicting or changing: sadness and joy, rejection and acceptance. Expressions of romantic love, familial love, and self-love are woven throughout Soft Amber, a zine that immediately transports you into the mind and heart of its author.
Luong plays with analogies and textual containers to gracefully explore his past relationships as lessons learned. He writes, “It’s true that I’m still in love with all my exes, but love is not static. It evolves. And I’d like to remember each love as a book of poems that metaphorically sits on my bookshelf.” What follows is a list of self-validating notes about what Luong has learned and what characteristics he looks for in his future partners. Throughout Soft Amber, we see evidence of his introspective self-love coming out after he’s taken the time to heal.
Luong writes about the importance of friendships, chosen family, and the platonic love he’s found in the queer community, especially during trying times. He tells us how his softness and femmeness have often been in contrast with the masculinity surrounding him, especially his brothers. He writes, “I watched the anger change you into a hard shell of a cliff that we named masculinity. Your anger, it erupts like a volcano and it swallows you up.”
Luong’s pointed writing is rather powerful, but it never lacks compassion. Soft Amber also contains letters written to Luong’s parents in which he asks questions, recounts shared traumas, and holds hope that old wounds will heal someday. The sadness in these letters is palpable. At the same time, he navigates these complicated familial relationships with poise, “Soft amber is a love letter: to my immigrant parents who are scared of my queerness but try their best to learn how to love me better.”
Luong teaches us that there is beauty in impermanence and vulnerability. Soft Amber is a lesson in patience, self-acceptance, but most importantly, self-love.