Excerpts from Aja Couchois Duncan’s cross-genre manuscript, Vestigial, a finalist for the 2015 TS Book Prize.




Drawing by Goose Gutierrez. Aja reading at Voz sin Tinta in the Mission District of San Francisco.


Aja Couchois Duncan is a Bay Area educator, writer and coach of Ojibwe, French and Scottish descent. Her writing has been anthologized in Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative (Coach House Press,) Bay Poetics (Faux Press) and Love Shook My Heart 2 (Alyson Press). Her most recent chapbook, Nomenclature, Miigaadiwin, a Forked Tongue was published by CC Marimbo press. A fictional writer of non-fiction, she has published essays in the North American Review and Chain. She occasionally blogs new work at http://ajacouchoisduncan.blogspot.com

In 2005, Aja was a recipient of the Marin Arts Council Award Grant for Literary Arts, and, in 2013, she received a James D. Phelan Literary Award. Her first published book, Mysterious Ligature, is forthcoming in 2016 from Litmus Press. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and a variety of other degrees and credentials to certify her as human. The great spirit knew it all along.


Vestigial was written at a time when I was coming out of a traumatic experience and was struggling with PTSD and a number of related autoimmune disorders. As I began to recover, I was able to see how my experience mirrored that of turtle island, of mother earth, who has been subjected to such blunt force trauma that it is hard to imagine her ever being able to recover. But life is change and there is resilience in our cycles of destruction and creation. Weaving together evolutionary biology, anthropology, global warming, medical technology, and lust, Vestigial is a love song to her.