This past week, I received an email marking the one-year anniversary of the work from home order at my workplace. I remember the early days of the pandemic and how uncertain they felt — the concerns about supplies, the many people suddenly out of work, the massive confusion we all faced around mask-wearing — and the abandonment many of us felt from elected officials at the national level. I remember an online propitiation ritual that I participated in and how lovely the outcome of the group’s coordination and effort was. I wrote two pandemic-related prayers on KALLISTI (first, second). In Acts of Speech, the poems to Asklepios and Hygeia alluded in a less direct way to the current public health crisis.
In the United States, 541,000 people have died.
I spent most of my childhood in a town of 2,500 people. The closest large city had 40,000 people.
It’s an enormous number, with a lot of private tragedies and agonizing goodbyes hidden within it.
This year has also seen a rise in violence against Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the United States and around the world. This is generally the point at which a blogger or other writer would insert a list of books so a reader could do a “reading tour” of literature, history, and lives.
One of the things that has frequently made me nervous about such lists — and the reading challenges that usually accompany them — is a question in the back of my mind about why readers have to be pushed like that. I often ignore that feeling in favor of doing the librarian thing, especially since I went to high school in Missouri; the state overlooked many aspects of regional, national, and world history in its approved teaching materials, and I know that is not unique to me. Then, a piece in the Guardian about Black authors and white people reading their works as medicine (or because they feel they ought to for EDI performance evaluation goals at work) without actually caring about racism got me thinking about all of the reading lists I’ve seen over the week after what happened in Atlanta. It got me thinking about how, on Goodreads, I see some other white people I know add books by BIPOC authors to their reading lists in furious bursts — literally twenty or thirty books all at once right after a hate crime happens. Those books never shift from “want to read” to “currently reading” to “read.” They’re rarely in the (sub)genre(s) they like reading, which is probably (a) part of why that happens and (b) why they never read BIPOC authors habitually instead of tokenizingly. The same likely goes for music and other types of content lists. It left me thinking about the phrase “I don’t know how to teach you to care about other people” that I saw on Twitter two or three years ago.
I will leave off, then, simply with a link to this interview in the Atlantic with Cathy Park Hong.
Update: If you want to donate to a cause, I recommend the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, whose mission is “to build collective power with AAPI women and girls to gain full agency over our lives, our families, and our communities.” They are doing critical work for improving the lives of AAPI women.
Stay safe and get vaccinated.