Paracosm by Dita Toska

A detailed, prolonged imaginary world constructed by one’s mind.

Definition of Paracosm

The first time I heard about Paracosm, was when poems started showing up on my Instagram stories and I couldn’t help but love each one of them. In April 28, 2019 I reached out to the writer Dita Toska, wondering if I would be able to purchase it. At that time, Dita was on the editing process of Paracosm and everything was getting to be finalized. Dita would post new poems monthly and when the book available for preorder I was one of the first people to do so.

Ordering Paracosm

You can order Paracosm on a simple and safe google docs. I was sketched out at first also because it was my first time ordering through a google docs, but there was an easy process to follow. Dita was also quick to reply to any questions that I had, such as: “How can I use my paypal if the book price is in euros, how long it will take until I receive the book etc. “

Answers to my questions: Paypal has a conversion rate when you check out and the book will take 5 business day not including custom delays.

What You’ll See When Ordering


Receiving Paracosm

When getting a hold of the book I couldn’t stop to admire the color and the thickness of the cover and pages, you could definitely see that it wasn’t a rushed job, but a well thought out book and design. Then when you start reading the book just melts with you, so beautifully written.

Interviewing Dita Toska the Author of Paracosm

Hi, Dita tell us a little about the woman behind Paracosm. (how old, where are you from/where do you live)

Dita Toska

I’m a 22-year-old (turning 23 on December 22nd, actually, so I guess it depends on when this is posted) Albanian from Kosovo, born and raised in Brussels, Belgium. Currently a Corporate and Financial Law major due to graduate university this academic year, I spend my (rare) spare time indulging in poetry and fiction – be it someone else’s or my own.

In the beginning of the book you mention the reason why you wrote Paracosm, for those who haven’t gotten the chance to read it, can you explain why and how the idea of Paracosm came to be?The earliest recollection I have of myself writing a poem is when I was around seven years old, so writing has been something I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember – be it poetry, prose or music. As for many people, writing was a coping mechanism, a form of escapism, but at the same time it was also something I wholeheartedly enjoyed doing. I realized pretty early on that a career in writing would be very unlikely, so I penned down a bucket list sometime during my teenage hood with all the things I wanted to do before I turned twenty – a list I ended up finding at the beginning of this year. One of the things mentioned was publishing my own book. With graduation around the corner, I figured that publishing a poetry collection was a now-or-never thing: before I ventured into the world and found myself a full-time job. But at the same time, it felt like a promise I had to keep. To my younger self, who had always dreamed of holding her own book – and to my dad, also, who had always been so incredibly supportive of the idea of me becoming a writer. That’s how Paracosm came to be: a collection of poetry that signifies both who I was and who I’ve become, and all the things I’m still learning how to let go of.

The first thing I noticed when receiving the book was of course the quality/thick pages, but I couldn’t get out of my head the table of contents; it goes 5,4,3,2,1. Why is that? I’m happy you noticed the quality! Paracosm is a self-published book, meaning I did everything myself: from writing to editing to the cover design to picking out the kind of paper I would use. A lot of effort has gone into it, so I’m happy that doesn’t go fully unnoticed.
As for the table of contents: it’s a countdown. More specifically, it’s a countdown of who I used to be to who I am now. The book is divided into five chapters: the first chapter is on love, but the rather negative kind – the kind that had me depending on people I shouldn’t, that left me heartbroken and longing. The second chapter is about myself and a lot of the things I struggled with throughout my life (some things I still do and maybe will forever struggle with). It’s a very fragile self-portrait; it lays bare the weakest and most insecure parts of myself. And while writing it has not been easy, I acknowledge it’s a necessary part of the process. I can’t portray my growth if I am not willing to show the pits I came from. Otherwise you take away the essence of the healing process: to see yourself for what you used to be and come to terms with it. That’s what happens in the third chapter: it’s a chapter of newfound strength and confidence.  It’s me realizing I should go easier on myself, because no one else will. It’s me learning how to say no. Then, the fourth chapter is what I call my “feminist” chapter: a big part of me has always been my love and my willingness to fight for other women. To reject submissiveness and gender roles. To strive for female emancipation. It’s something I pride myself in: the feminist movement has been a huge part of my puberty and taught me how to speak for my own. This chapter is me giving back to that.
The countdown ends with the fifth chapter, which to me is also a chapter on love—be it a completely different kind that the first one. This part addresses my heritage, my culture, my parents: big aspects of my life that have shown me the meaning of love, but also hardship, loss and sacrifice. It felt fitting to end Paracosm with this: I can only know who I am to others and where I stand in this maze of clashing cultures and blood ties if I first know who I am myself. In so, the fifth chapter is me acknowledging myself and acknowledging what relationships and cultural aspects have contributed to shaping me—be it in a good or bad way. 

Some of the poems I want to talk about is “Talk, Self-Destruction, Fast Fashion” From my understanding “Talk” talks about body image, the struggle with an eating disorder and a big event, that I quote “…the way they found her passed out on cold bathroom tiles…” What’s the story behind “Talk” (if you’re comfortable sharing)
There’s not necessarily a big event behind Talk—at least, not an event more significant that others. Talk addresses the way we have normalized eating disorders amongst our young women, but at the same time we refuse to speak of them. Eating disorders are the elephant in the room in many households: we pressure our women from a very early age on to look a certain way, but turn a blind eye on the means they resort to in order to live up to those expectations. Our girls and women shrink and pass out on bathroom floors because of lack of nutrition or start missing their periods – and we just stay quiet. I am guilty of that, too. That’s why Talk is a piece of both guilt and shame: I see young girls, even within my own family, struggle with what I have gone through and I say nothing. Partly because I am ashamed, partly because I don’t want to relapse. And it’s a selfish thing, to not help others because I fear they might drag me down with them. But my shame comes not from being sick, I am not ashamed to talk about what I’ve been through: my shame comes from proclaiming myself to be a fighter for women’s rights and then refusing to help the women in my own environment. My shame comes from helplessness in realizing that I still can’t help myself.

Self-Destruction and Fast Fashion continue to talk about the struggle of self-love due to body image. The last sentence of Fast Fashion struck me “There was nothing fast fashion about the way I tried to kill myself; if anything, it never ended.” Give us the backstory of this poem.
Fast Fashion builds up on Talk: the pieces Talk, Self-Destruction, Fast Fashion and Fairy Floss all address the topic of eating disorders, but from a different point of the process. Opposite to Talk, there’s no more shame or helplessness in Fast Fashion: only anger.  Anger because my eating disorder was not taken seriously while growing up. Anger because it is seen as another aspect of teenage hood most women go through – which it isn’t, and it’s a disgusting mindset to think puberty should come with the spiraling of insecurities and fears into eating disorders, but that’s what eating disorders are treated as. Fast fashion – something you wear and discard. Something that grows out of style. “There was nothing fast fashion about the way I tried to kill myself: if anything, it never ended.” is a line that goes directly against that mindset. Because you don’t “grow out” of an eating disorder: if left untreated, you take them with you into adulthood—until it takes you to the grave. But our “fast fashion” mindset leaves young women without support when it comes to treating these disorders and with shame for still being “caught in those teenage tendencies” as they grow up, and so they don’t seek help. Yet the women who don’t seek help either die or spend their whole lives in sorrow. And it breaks my heart.

Let’s jump to page 71, Happy New Years. This poem mentions the violence and mistreatment and the inequality that Albanian women face. You gave us the story of an Albanian woman that was beaten by her own father and buried in his back yard because she was in love with an Afghan man. You also mention what Albanian man and woman pass down “Because while men pass down their family names, all women pass down is their family shame. His university degree is his gateway to frolicking with another ethnicity while my highest distinction will be the ring on my finger.” Just WOW! You nailed some of the most important cultural problems Albanians have. What made you include this in your writing and what advice do you give to Albanian women struggling around the world.
Happy New Year’s is actually the piece that made me decide to come out with a poetry collection. When I read the news article about the murdered woman in Greece, I resorted to writing to channel my anger. I posted it online because I felt a lot of people could relate, and it ended up getting a lot more attention than I thought it would. It only served as a confirmation of how many women within our culture – but even in other cultures – relate to the struggle of not being allowed to freely love who they wish to love and are victim the double standards our culture holds for men and women. The line specifically addresses that double standard. Within Albanian culture, we pressure both men and women to marry within our ethnicity. However, men who go against those expectations receive far less backlash than women who do. And a lot of it comes from pure disrespect towards our own women: if a man is an intellectual with a “foreign” wife, then such can be “justified” by the argument that he found someone of equal intellect – implying Albanian women would not be able to reach up to his level. However, the same argument is rarely ever applied to women marrying outside of their ethnicity. Quite the opposite, actually: her academic success or career loses its worth if she marries a non-Albanian. Suddenly it doesn’t matter anymore how well-educated or how successful she is: all that matters is who she shares a bed with.
But to be fair, I don’t have any advice. I don’t think I am in the position to give advice, either. I can only offer my sympathy and understanding. I will not tell women to risk their lives for love; neither will I tell them to submit to these standards. I just want everyone to know that their struggle is not only theirs, in the hope it offers them just the smallest bit of comfort.

“I do not put my father to shame” another well written poem. You wrote and I quote “I do not put my father to shame when I speak up… I do not put my father to shame when I act up… I do not put my father to shame when I dress up.” This is topic that is so spoken about in our community how what we do/anything that we do is judged and if we disagree and stand up for ourselves is considered shameful. Has your father read this poem and what has he said about it? Also, how are his views about independent women?
My father hasn’t read the poem, actually. He started reading the collection but never go to it. But my father’s views on independent women are clearly reflected in the piece; my father is a big part of my emancipation process. Every day, I realize how thankful I should be to have grown up in his household because in some ways, my father grants me even greater freedoms than my mother. My father has never in his life commented on an outfit, or told me not to move abroad for my studies, or not attend a protest, or told me I could not go out or travel. Of course, my father’s a boomer, so we don’t always see eye to eye. But even then, I argue back – whether he wants me to or not. That too, comes with the price of raising a daughter to be independent. And while he might not be happy in the moment, I know he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. And I realize all of this is not a given thing for a lot of young women, but that it often also not expected (by other men that my father is so supportive). Men often try to shame women into a corner by bringing up what a disgrace they are to their fathers. Joke’s on them—my father made me the woman I am today. He only finds pride in that.

“Feel free to ask anything” words that I’ve played over and over my head because it is not my place to ask or know. On page 126, Monday, April 5th, 1999 you write about the war in Kosovo. Do you think that the terror your mother lived has affected the way she raised you?
I asked my mother once about the impact of her experiences on her current mindset, but all my mother could say is that she considers herself lucky because she didn’t experience the heat of the war and did not lose family members like others did. I think it’s hard for her – and for many people – to acknowledge the terrors of war as terrors, maybe out of survival’s guilt, maybe because they simply don’t want to be reminded of it. And I think experiences as such will always have an impact on all aspects of your life – not only on the way you raise your kid. But I don’t think I can trace back any aspect of my upbringing to being specifically terror-related: my mother is over-protective in nature. Maybe that feeling was strengthened by her past experiences, maybe not. I can only speculate – the war isn’t something the people around me prefer to talk about, so we don’t.

I would love to mention more poems that left me speechless and maybe a little teary eyed with poems such as Monday April 5th, 1999, Oh Motherland and especially Strange Tongues. I thank you for sharing your story, speaking out for women around the world and sharing your parents’ story that many Albanians live to this day. I feel like I asked so many questions I shouldn’t have but there are conversations that need to be had and I thank you for allowing me to share this with others.

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