The Women of 'Future You' Talk Art, Love, and Other Themes of Their Illustrated Text
To examine Nada Alic and Andrea Nakhla's book of short, illustrated fiction Future You and Future You No. 2 is to also take at very least a fleeting glimpse in the mirror (or, if you're me, more of a deep gaze). Characters longing for closeness, exploring their own desires, and questioning their place in the universe — ya know, the light stuff — are well-drawn in their specificity yet totally relatable, mostly through language and illustrations that fluctuate evenly between hilarious and heartbreaking.
This endeavor was natural for the two long-time best friends, and was developed pen pal style as Alic sent off her stories and Nakhla translated them into whimsical images. Their first book was released two years ago and now the follow-up introduces readers to a new cast of characters, undoubtedly inspired to some degree by experiences including living and working in Los Angeles, struggling with creative blocks, and unexpected human connections made in line at the post office.
We had Nada and Andrea interview each other — the way only best friends can — to learn how each approaches her art, whether they believe in lifelong love, and how they'll deal if Nada gets gets deported. And after you've processed that, you can pick up Future You No. 2 as well as some of Nakhla's prints here; it might just be the perfect gift for your bestie/creative counterpart.
(questions by Nada, answers by Andrea)
Now that I’m going to be interviewing you, I would like to explore some Very Serious Issues with you: in the unfortunate event that I might perish (or) get deported, who would be your dream new best friend and why?
It’s too sad to think about this question! Maybe my first effort should be to help immigrants stay in the country? What can I do? Somebody pls DM me and let me know, thanks.
What are the overarching themes you hope to communicate through your work?
Currently: emotions, time, pleasure and immortality mostly.
Would you rather experience a modest degree of success (that allows you to live semi-comfortably as an artist) in your lifetime OR become extraordinarily famous posthumously?
Who cares what happens after I die? Today I just want to make enough money to buy a house in the desert or woods where I can live and make whatever art I want. (This answer is subject to change based on the day).
What are your thoughts on love? Do you believe that a person can love one person in their lifetime or do you think that it is a societal construct?
I think the problem with love is that one word is used to reference so many things. I would say the most fun version of it is the drug-like high you get from someone new and exciting, this is easy to get addicted to. As any good TED talk enthusiast knows by no, it inevitably wears off. On the other hand, I think the most meaningful love is the action version, where you have decided to put someone before yourself, to take care of them, see the best in them, give an unconditional selfless kind of love.
I think lifelong love depends on the people and the situation. I’ve seen it in my parents so I know it is possible, but I do think it is getting a lot more difficult these days.
(questions by Andrea, answers by Nada)
You’ve categorized people into two generalized groups: those who walk through life and only see mirrors, or those who only see windows. To put it in other terms: those who see every interaction as an opportunity to reflect/look inward/examine one’s self, vs. those who look for a sense of escapism: to escape one’s self. Can you speak to that a bit?
I don’t know how I first came up with that or maybe I stole it, but it’s sort of a loose theory I’ve held about people that has become more obvious to me now that I live in Los Angeles and I get to witness self aggrandizement on a whole other level. I think in the worst case scenario you could call the “mirror people” narcissists, but in the best case scenario they are just deeply introspective. I guess I identify more as a mirror person. I’ve sort of always looked at others in relation to myself as a way to better understand how I fit into everything. I’ve always been in awe of people who obsessively enjoy things outside of themselves so intensely: movies, sports, music, etc. There’s a sense of escapism in that desire to be elsewhere, to lose yourself to something. I’m fascinated by that ability (and sometimes envy it) but ultimately, I see both sides as a symptom of a collective fear of self: something we are always running away from or otherwise obsessively grooming because the real thing is not what we want it to be.
Your work examines gender roles from a female perspective, can you unpack your thoughts on that?
(Disclaimer: the following are a few sweeping generalizations about gender) I have a complicated relationship to being a woman and what it means to me. I’ve always rejected what I consider to be femininity for fear of not being respected or taken seriously, but my experience is so wholly female so I’m sort of caught in this confusing state. I think it manifests most obviously in my interactions with men: when I want to be taken seriously I will lower my voice and speak directly. I usually wear all black, I don’t wear a lot of makeup. If I’m going to be the subject of “male gaze,” I’m going to want to dictate that. Inherently, I value what are commonly “female” traits: softness, vulnerability, beauty, selflessness, but, I exist in a male-dominated society so I often have to contort myself unnaturally almost as a survival mechanism: become strong, powerful, logical, etc. My friend Stephanie and I often joke that it is not so much “Leaning In” as it is “Keeling the Fuck Over”.
I’ve also always been interested in topics that are overwhelmingly occupied by men: music, art, design, comedy, politics, philosophy. I find myself in spaces where there is not much room made for me, and I try to make room for myself. This can be exhausting, so I often enjoy these things alone or with other women. When it comes to dating, everything becomes even more confusing because all of a sudden you are the object of desire. How do you reconcile just being a person with being an object or fantasy to someone else? It feels like performance art.
How do you approach writing a story?
First, I clean my entire apartment. Then I sit down and realize that different parts of my body are moving around involuntarily, like all the anxiety is trying to get out of my body long enough for me to just sit still and write. This goes on for 20-30 minutes. Then I do like 5 other things. Then I zone out and start writing for an hour or two, then I get very, very sleepy and go to bed.
photos by Jonathan Chu