Jaime Goh, a first-year MFA student in Creative Writing, has been named the recipient of this year’s Robert Raymond Scholarship, encouraging students who contribute to the MFA program’s diversity. The Robert Raymond Scholarship was established in 2018 by Roz Gann, a former Mason professor and former MFA student herself, in honor her late father, “who loved literature, marched with Martin Luther King, and would have loved this place that is George Mason University.”
Born and raised in Singapore, Goh earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Digital Animation, with a creative writing minor, at the School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University. She came to the United States for the first time when she entered graduate school at Mason.
Jaime answered a few questions for us, reflecting on her work and looking forward toward plans ahead—both in her writing and beyond!
How would you characterize your writing?
I was really into Aesop’s fables when I was a kid. As a result, my early sketchbooks were filled with illustrations of animals suffering through these twisted morality tales orchestrated by a five-year-old with a strong but incoherent sense of justice. There’s something intrinsically goofy and authoritarian about moral lessons in fiction, how each one condenses the myriad complexities of human experience into a smug little soundbite. But I peaked at five, which is why I continue to write and animate stories where characters navigate emotional and psychological labyrinths in order to learn (or not learn?) hyper-specific lessons that almost no one can relate to. I like to think of it as satirical commentary on the highly regimented educational and sociocultural systems that have shaped my values growing up, instilling in me the intense Singaporean need for everything to make sense, no matter the cost.
My writings often explore the dissonance between how people think, how they act, and how they wish to be perceived. It's impossible to not find both humour and sadness in this endeavour, so I straddle the line between comedy and tragedy, leaning into absurdity to show just how the two intersect. Style-wise I gravitate towards sedate, ornamented prose in the vein of Leslie Jamison and Ian McEwan, because it offers so many opportunities for subversion—it bamboozles the reader into expecting a straightforward English-class narrative, immerses them in a world of pure imagination, and before they know it, they have to sacrifice their frontal lobe just to appreciate the ending. It is the Saw trap of literary styles. However, since starting classes in the MFA program, I’ve been taking greater risks with voice and experimenting with form. Lately I've gotten into writing collage stories. It's been fun!
How do you anticipate that the Raymond Scholarship will particularly help you?
The Raymond Scholarship will likely go towards travel. To be honest I’ve never been much of a grass-toucher, but years in lockdown on a little red dot can give you some perspective, as well as some wanderlust. It never ceases to amaze me that folks in the United States can just hop on a plane and be in a whole other state within a few hours. I'm hoping to document some quintessentially American experiences (e.g. tailgating before the big game), visit cultural landmarks (e.g. Blucifer), meet new people (e.g. the president), suss out which behaviours are normal and which are uniquely Virginian (e.g. chatting with strangers in elevators). After all, a writer who lives only in their own skull can't grow beyond its confines.
November 28, 2022