“Organic Chemistry Taught Me to Fully Inhabit My Mixed Identities”

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The Story

“Organic Chemistry Taught Me to Fully Inhabit My Mixed Identities”
by Ariana Remmel
Catapult, April 23, 2021

The Pitch

SCIENCE ESSAY PITCH: How organic chemistry taught me to fully inhabit my mixed identities

Dear Angela Chen,

I am a science journalist based in Little Rock, Arkansas primarily covering chemistry and science policy. Though I mostly write news stories in my day job, my favorite way to tell stories about science is through essays. You can see previous examples of my essays here in addition to a full list of my published work on my website.

The essay I would like to submit for your consideration is about how I’ve used chemistry to reclaim my own mixed identities as a nonbinary, mixed race human, which were previously split between different cultures. (I’ve attached the full draft to this email.) On the one hand, I’ve had to reconcile my lived experience as a woman with my authentic identity as a nonbinary person. On the other hand, I am actively working to unpack the whiteness of my childhood with my growing awareness of my Latinx heritage. There are times when my race and gender feel in conflict with themselves and each other, which has led me to feel fractured and broken. This essay uses a concept in organic chemistry called resonance—a way of understanding how multiple, partial illustrations of a molecule contribute to a fully integrated perspective of its properties—to explore how I’ve come to hold these disparate identities together. The essay is told using vignettes from throughout my life and hand drawn illustrations of molecules. Though the concept of resonance does feature prominently in the essay by Joya Ahmad that you linked on Twitter, it is used very differently in my piece.

This essay was originally conceived through a Catapult class with Sabrina Imbler. I originally pitched it as part of a column when Catapult put out a call last fall, but I heard nothing back. I think this essay has the potential to provide the Catapult audience with a new way of thinking about what it means to be a human with multiple facets. Thank you for your time and your consideration of my work. I hope you and yours are well in the continued nightmare that is 2021.

Best regards,

Ariana Remmel


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