KAILEE PEDERSEN

Contributor Interview: Kailee Pedersen

What’s your connection to the Midwest?

My family settled in Nebraska in the early 1900s. We own a rural farm in Fremont and my parents are from the region. They eventually moved to North Carolina and adopted me from China. When I was thirteen, we moved back to Nebraska and I attended high school there. I also used to spend the occasional summer on the family farm.

Favorite places or features of the region?

I suffer from extremely bad allergies, so unfortunately, the picturesque, pollen-filled plains are not for me! I stay close to Lincoln or Omaha. Some of my favorite places to go in Nebraska include the Henry Doorly Zoo and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, where my dad used to work.

What is your favorite season of the year?

Late spring.

Has the Midwest been an influence or inspiration for your work, and if so, how?

Unlike many writers who identify as Midwestern, I would say the Midwest has influenced my work in a negative way. I’m pretty young (turning 23 in October), so a lot of my writing is still strongly shaped by my experiences in high school and college. As a queer woman of color, much of my adolescence was marked with violence and humiliation, themes that pervade my work. While these issues are present throughout America, I’ve found that misogyny, homophobia, racism, and anti-semitism remain persistent problems in Nebraska. I appreciate my family’s legacy and the long history of the region, but I can’t separate it from the emotional violence I experienced there. When I inherit part of my family’s farm, I don’t know what I’ll do with it, since I will never move back to Nebraska.

I’ve explored this ambivalence of space and inheritance repeatedly in essays like “Diptyque” (Midwest Review 6) and “The Cordeliad” (Atlas and Alice). I think there is value publishing Midwestern literature that is a critical response to the Midwest rather than a celebration. People of color are still not accepted everywhere in the United States, and I think it does a disservice to Midwestern literature to elide those stories rather than grapple with them in a nuanced way. I really appreciate Midwest Review for giving me the opportunity to share my perspective.

Pencil, pen, typewriter, computer?

Computer. If I’m away from my house and a good idea comes to me, the Notes app in my iPhone.

What’s the best job you’ve ever had?

In college, I volunteered for a program that taught adult students to pass the GED (high school equivalency) exam. I lectured every week on basic academic writing to students from every conceivable background. Some were immigrants and English was their third or fourth language. Others had not even finished middle school. It was a challenging job, but very rewarding.

What’s the worst job you ever had?

One of my old bosses was really mean. The job was long hours and totally not worth it. I hopped to another position and career field ASAP.

What do you do in your free time?

Answer surveys in a marginally witty manner in the hopes that people will check out my author website and read my work. I also sing opera.

Favorite music or musician?

Minimalism, opera, indie pop.

Favorite food or beverage?

Filet mignon, rare.

Do you have a pet?

No, much to my dismay. If I ever get massively rich, I plan to buy a gigantic aquarium, many exotic fish, and a cat.

What’s on your radar now? Current projects?

I’m writing a novel about an Asian-American adoptee.