Imagine being invited into someone’s mind. Wouldn’t that be an honour? Surely you’d be flattered by their hospitality – and all the more flattered if their mind had been carefully laid out for visitors. In reProgram, Soha El-Sabaawi is author, designer, and curator of her own experiences of trauma and healing. If you want to see a perfect use of Twine for interactive autobiography, this is it.
The subject matter is dark, as you’re warned from the first screen; the author reminds us touchingly to “please be safe.” She writes the mind as a gloomy, inescapable Tower, with a different experience on each floor. The reader can take part in her efforts to heal herself, accompanied by painful memories and nagging self-loathing. The floors, however, can only be accessed after the reader learns a little about the author’s experiences with abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder. And only after you’ve explored all three are you offered a glimpse into what is obviously a significant and meaningful new way of relating.
I have a well-documented love of candid, autobiographical pieces, Twine or otherwise. That love is doubled when it comes to the work of marginalized folks, whose lives are often misrepresented or outright ignored by the mainstream. I recommend reProgram, however, for its style as much as its substance. The writing is elegant and brutal; loaded subject matter stings like an unexpected paper cut. The imagery is evocative in its glitched-up illegibility, as if to remind the reader that they are not viewing things through their own eyes. Permission to share in someone’s personal, and often painful, memories is indeed a privilege, but it is Soha’s skill as a designer that makes reProgram really stand out.