Enter the Navel: For the Love of Creative Nonfiction (Chapbook)

“Unexpected, but riveting.”

—Subir Roy, retired Medical Doctor and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Master of Science in Public Health in Biostatistics, Reproductive Endocrinologist, and the author’s father

“Funny, gross, informative, and a fun read.”

—Dotti Roy, Master of Science in Nursing, Registered Nurse, Public Health Nurse, Certified Case Manager, and the author’s mother

“They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. Anjoli Roy enters mine through scars, in fact, our very first wound. In Enter the Navel, Roy delivers rhythm & inquiry. From the cutting of kinship to the consumption of placenta to filling innies with blueberries, Enter the Navel does more than list belly button trivia; it awakens connections between us, and with delight & focus, grapples with the ethics of ‘sticking things together that aren’t supposed to be stuck together.’ Shot glasses up with grandma’s orange juice! Read this with ancestors and slip slowly.”

—Noʻu Revilla, author of Permission to Make Digging Sounds and Say Throne, Assistant Professor of English at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

“I was delighted and fascinated by [Enter the Navel] and the many new things I learned about the navel. I felt honored to be part of the inspiration for this wonderful little book.”

—Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic & Desire and The Truth of the Matter, editor of Brevity

Enter the Navel builds a brilliant premise into an intriguing and delightful book that deftly combines jaw-dropping facts about the navel (Belly Button Biodiversity?!) with so much more: linguistics, reflections on writing, family stories. Narrated in a voice that is warm, funny, and open, this is the perfect cozy read for pandemic times.”

—Shawna Yang Ryan, American Book Award winner and author of Water Ghosts and Green Island

“[Enter the Navel is] a lively, funny, and playful fast read that elicits great discussion, and the range of material about the belly button (personal anecdotes, myth, scientific analysis) had me like OMG, then YOU ARE KIDDING ME, or WEIRD! … Roy follows in the long tradition of women creative nonfiction writers as demonstrated by Sei Shonagon (960 AD) and her recording of court life. (She was accused of navel gazing.) Creative nonfiction can be traced to 10th century Japan—to an Asian woman writer … Roy writes, adds, and subverts within this tradition. Storytelling, narrative, description, the details of how we live and the beauty and wonder of our lives–women have forever engaged in this process. A wonderful book. Read it!”

Stephanie Han, author of Swimming in Hong Kong

“The movement and mixture of all of these interesting tidbits, combined with the personal and mythological/cosmological elements (and the author’s playfully intelligent voice), creates a really stunning effect. Enter the Navel read so effortlessly while stretching my mind and imagination in so many enjoyable and pleasurable ways. What an enjoyable literary catalogue. This chapbook made me think of all the other potential navels of meaning that inhabit our universe, and how exciting it is to be alive and be able to contemplate them.

—Ryan Oishi, poet, in-house author and editor of FAT ULU, coeditor of Routes, teacher at Kamehameha Schoo

This playful abecedarian offers a new perspective on the term “navel-gazer” by looking both figuratively and literally at the navel. Inside, readers will find antiquated and current dictionary definitions of “navel” woven in with scientific information on the curious state of lint and bacteria located there, including what humans have been known, disgustingly, to do with them (hello, navel cheese!). Also in appearance are Hawaiian and Hindu origin stories rooted in the navel that connect us, with urgency, to the divine; the role of the navel, our first wound, in and after human birth; a story of the author’s own regrettable 90s-era teenage navel piercing along with the plastic surgery that removed her mother’s navel, and more.

Styled as a self-referencing cabinet of curiosities, this chapbook is also a Rorschach for the genre of creative nonfiction, many of whose stalwart writers have been written off as “navel-gazers.” This text demands the reader be swayed to see what, in fact, is so good about looking at one’s own navel after all.


This text is published by The Operating System and is part of the 2020 Digital Chapbook Series, coedited and curated by OS collaborators Curtis Emery and Orchid Tierney.

Release date: September 23, 2020

60 pages

The text of the whole chapbook is free online (yay for free distribution via the Open Access Library!) and, if you prefer to turn physical pages, hard copies are available for purchase via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, and here directly through Anjoli while author copies last.