There is no good way to open this. I can only try to make sense of the summer of 2017 when my mother lost her mind and the country seemed to lose its. And the stories we told ourselves to find our way through.
“I think everyone’s really sad and feeling weird because of Trump. Like everyone I talk to is weird.” The argument was sound, but a little strange for my mom. She was worried, afraid. Not like herself.
I said, “Describe weird.” Her description was paranoid, dark, apocalyptic. Something was off.
When I had to remind her that the dear friend she said she was having lunch with the following week had died a year before, I knew something bigger was wrong. There was clacking on the other end of the phone and I knew she was sitting in her office in front of her computer, likely dealing with correspondence about the upcoming publication of her latest, near thirtieth novel. I told her Tommy had died a year ago. She insisted he was alive and meeting her in the city. I had to argue the details of his memorial service, which I had attended on her behalf. She said in a warning tone, as if she knew a secret, “You’d be surprised.” One little sentence changed a fact, a friend’s death into an alternate possibility. Resurrection? Switched bodies? A giant hoax?
I immediately begged her not to drive anymore and placed a deluge of phone calls to friends, doctors, the insurance company, and by remote, set up appointments which led to the MRI that sent my whole world sideways. Mom, the narrative center of my life, the holder of all the family and literary stories had glioblastoma, evidenced by a tumor the size of a walnut growing in her corpus callosum.
Dad had Alzheimer’s. He was diagnosed five years earlier and I had traveled the emotions with Mom: grief, anger, acceptance, how can we help? We were lucky he had the variety where he still knew us, he was kind and relatively happy. But he was now in a full-time care facility in Connecticut and Mom was his advocate. What could we do now?
We had assembled in Skira Martinez’s Cielo Galleries, a live/work space in South Central Los Angeles. A motley handful of us sat on sofas in a sunny white room noshing on snacks with Chiwan Choi and Peter Woods while their Writ Large partner Judeth Oden Choi managed a vast graph documenting 90 days, starting in July, that were to be filled with cultural events as Writ Large Press entered its second iteration of 90x90LA. A consortium on disability was planned, as were conversations around gentrification within the city, cultural erasure, immigration, as well as readings, writing workshops for kids from various neighborhoods, nights of music, and poetry events.
Representatives from different Los Angeles communities spit-balled ideas as Judy wrote them all in. It was to be called 90x90LA: Resist. Marching, writing letters, making phone calls weren’t enough. Trump had galvanized and mobilized racial hatred, ableism, sexism, homophobia. He had made the country dangerous for anyone not a cisgendered hetero white male. This response of creating safe spaces for folks not in that category was something I wanted to be a part of.
At least it got me out from behind my computer where the world spun out of control. This one sunny afternoon sitting amidst chips and watermelon, sharing ideas with twelve other people from different viewpoints, backgrounds, and artistic disciplines created a new kind of energy. It was an energy I hadn’t felt since before the election. It was movement and creativity during a time we felt paralyzed.
Mom said, “We’re leading the resistance, David and I.”
Her sense of reality had gone so sideways I had to ask, “Which resistance?” She could be talking about a different time period, a different planet. David, one of my oldest writing friends, would be tickled, I thought, excepting for the terrifying part where Mom was losing touch with reality.
“You know, against Trump.”
“I just saw David. He didn’t mention this.” I felt I needed to keep her in reality, to keep her with us.
“Oh,” she said, shifting in her seat and straightening her spine, pointing her chin in the air, a prideful move that, she imagined, raised her above her 5’2” stature, “You’d be surprised.” Maybe the world inside her head was better than the real one.
In most people’s personal narratives, my mom was loud and vibrant. She had the energy of a windup mouse, going, spinning, going, while the cogs turned inside and connected widely disparate ideas which sparked in her eyes, turning them into a new energy before they found their way out in words. She was a constant, energetic supporter of her friends, of the literary community, and putting people together was her specialty: “Oh, you should really know each other.” This was the truth whenever she said it and countless publications, partnerships, or new creative pieces always emerged from these meetings.
She was a fierce advocate for anyone marginalized within the literary or academic communities in which she lived. She had come up in the 1950s in all-male newsrooms and recognized folks who had to hustle more and fight harder to be heard, let alone get work. A mentor, a support, she was central to many people’s daily lives with her emails and words of encouragement, her support of their work or causes on social media. She was always ready in person as well, with a meal, advice. And she was always, always, at the other end of the phone any time I had a question, problem, or funny story to share.
And then she wasn’t.
We moved her out to Los Angeles for treatment. The hope was that the tumor would shrink enough for her to come clear again, for her to be able to say goodbye properly. She already had a plane ticket because she was going to promote her new novel which was published the week of her diagnosis. I had lined up readings for her months before.
So swiftly did this tumor change her that when she finally arrived, I had to do that first reading for her, with her sitting next to me. I made sure to dress her in a fabulous orange and fuchsia shirt, got some decent lipstick on her. She put on a good show, that chin jutting high, appearing present. As long as she didn’t talk much, you wouldn’t know anything was wrong. The second reading, only a week later, took place in the evening when her delusions were stronger, and I couldn’t count on her not to wander off in the middle. I left her home with my family and read for her. Her work lends itself easily to reading, the characters are evident on the page, I just had to say something to the crowd about her absence that wouldn’t make me fall to pieces at the microphone. I think I said she was “under the weather.”
This joyful celebration of a new book rapidly morphed into a frantic dance around the knowledge that it was her last book, as her cognitive mechanics misfired and finally ran down.
She sat at my kitchen table accompanied by my cats–whom she was determined were plotting against her—as I frog-marched her through an online interview for the book. I tried to guide her answers toward a correct response. She found it hard to parse sentences and sometimes didn’t understand the question. I refused to speak for her. This was her last interview, these would be her words. I employed teaching techniques I used in trying to coax sentences and ideas out of first graders, re-explaining the question, asking questions I knew would lead her toward the right answer. Over the course of an hour, we strung together only a few sentences about a complex, intricate, multiple point of view novel she had finished editing not four months before.
Nothing made sense anymore.
By the time 90x90LA began in July, my head was reeling. The logistics and medical paperwork around my parents had become dizzying over two months as I dealt with my regular life as well; my teenagers wrapped up their school year, and I closed out my writing workshops from spring. In the meantime, we had moved my dad, whom Alzheimer’s had put in a wheelchair, out to Los Angeles as well. We set him up in the same care facility as my mom, which involved as many phone calls, medical referrals and logistics as Mom’s move had.
My dad had been out of it for a few years now. We could talk to him, he knew us, he was funny, but any semblance of being able to do things for himself—getting dressed, toileting, making decisions—that was all gone. When my Dad had an interview upon entering the facility to gauge his cognitive level, asked what year it was, he gave the same answer as my mom had the week before in the hospital. 1981: I wondered if the missing parts of them were meeting each other somewhere in this time period, when they were both 49. The prime of their lives. My high school years. The hope of a new decade open to them.
A few more questions from the staff at the facility revealed that Dad was now the more together parent of the two. Mom had all of Dad’s stories. Now everyone was gone.
Despite canceling everything else, I kept 90x90LA on the schedule. These were spaces where words, prose, poetry, and conversation were aired, music was playing, and people of color, women, non-binary folk, Muslim folk, people with disabilities—people from so many different groups attacked daily by a new president, felt safe to speak and express strength and rage, and the knowledge that this country that had never protected them was lashing out in a more aggressive way.
Among white friends on social media, there was an onslaught of posts of end times: “welcome to the apocalypse”—hand-wringing despair that was not useful or helpful and relied heavily on the false narrative that our country had always looked after its people before Trump. Most POC knew better. I was surprised by the number of white women who didn’t know better of a country that had only ever, since its inception, looked after rich white men.
The narrative that 90x90LA pushed forward was: no matter what, artists were still creating art, people were pushing back as they always had with powerful words, and people who know people, who have the hard conversations, and work to make things better on a local level, create strong communities.
One Thursday a month, Peter Woods from Writ Large ran Read Beats at the LA Theater Company during LA’s Art Walk; a perfect example about how different organizations working together form community. On a stage that shared space with artists and their work, poets collaborated with musicians for a heartening respite of poetry and rhythm. The Drunken Masters Series brought out masters in a genre: poetry, fiction, songwriting and liquored them up so they could offer hilarious, but always kind feedback to new artists. On Wednesdays Traci Akemi ran a Wellness Writing workshop, where in the quiet of the Aratani Theater in Little Tokyo people gathered for writing exercises and conversation. Workshops were offered on grantwriting, there were gatherings for Korean adoptees to share their experiences, and Soul Together provided a safe space for POC to gather and support and share. In this time of shifting paradigms and narratives, community was everything and stepping into the spaces where I was welcome, always popping and humming with new people and ideas, with old friends and hugs, nourished me in a way I needed badly. Every event I attended sent me home filled with gratitude for friends, inspiring words, and new ways of looking at things. Every night sent me home with the energy to go on.
The day before my mother started radiation, I was having a semi-normal day (my first in two months) driving to work in Culver City, when I got a phone call that my father had been sent into the hospital for pneumonia.
I drove the hour and a half back across town to the ER in our neighborhood where my Dad lay, flushed under a pink blanket, in and out of consciousness, and didn’t seem to recognize me. Even with Alzheimer’s, he always knew who I was. The doctor in the ER told me that maybe it was just his time, sometimes pneumonia could be a blessing. I accepted this story that my father was going to die. I mean, it made sense; this was just another terrible truth.
Turns out, it was just a terrible doctor. After 24 hours of antiobiotics, Dad was sitting up, eating pudding and cheerfully coughing and chatting. The narrative of Dad is dying had flipped in the course of one night. I now thought, “I need to trim his fingernails and get him a haircut.” I wondered how that night would have gone differently if I had told myself he was going to live.
We were told by doctors, warm, intelligent, kind doctors, that my mother’s type of tumor reacts well to radiation. It was 60% possible that they’d shrink the tumor and she’d come back to us mentally and we could say goodbye properly. She would know that we loved her. It was hard to tell what she knew at this point, as she was no longer speaking. She was a writer who had lost her thread. I was left to narrate what I thought her needs were, at that moment. To try to understand how she felt. This was a daily guessing game and I felt that, more often than not, I was getting it entirely wrong.
I had dropped the out-and-about LA field trips I usually took with my kids in the summers. This was due to everyday radiation appointments I split with my brother. They took four hours: driving to and from Duarte, getting Mom into a wheelchair, getting her checked into radiation, making a bathroom pitstop, changing Mom’s diaper, getting lunch, feeding her lunch, getting her back into the car, back to her facility. By the time I returned home from this every day, I had nothing left to give, to feel, to think with. I was an empty, black shell and curled up with my daughter on my bed where we watched Gilmore Girls, we watched movies. We chose plotlines that did not contain cancer, fear, or despair. We watched too many episodes of Separated at Birth. Our summer became: fight the cancer, stay afloat in the paperwork, and rest enough to do more of that. I was failing at everything. Failing at understanding my mom’s needs. Failing at making her last months a poetically satisfying ending—my vision of friends visiting, telling her they loved her, saying goodbye, these ideas faded as she faded. I was failing at day-to-day parenting; my kids had gotten themselves through final exams on their own while I was back east packing up madness.
All of this trauma, for I knew this was trauma, had made me super foggy and couldn’t remember when the kids told me something. I couldn’t hold a proper conversation or give them as many rides places. I was there, but mostly my body on a bed or sofa they could spend time with. One day, curled up in front of an episode of Separated at Birth, my daughter asked me a question I didn’t hear. I asked her to repeat it and she fell silent. A few moments passed and she had tears in her eyes. She asked, “Is brain cancer contagious?” She was certain I had caught it. I had lost my mother and she was losing hers and knowing both of those things dug a pit in me I was helpless to fight.
Traci Akemi Kato Kiriyama set up The Cultural Spine for 90x90LA so that people could “take their shoes off,” come into the Little Tokyo and learn about its history. That evening was a walking tour. It was so nice to see faces I knew, to finally get my kids out of the house walking around on a golden summer evening in downtown LA, the buildings glowing in red brick, the sky a saturated blue.
I pushed the black cloud of my mother’s illness to the back of my head and learned from Traci, Scott Oshima from Sustainable Little Tokyo and LA historian and poet Mike Sonksen how the Japanese community had been on First Street in Little Tokyo for over a hundred years. How, despite mass deportation and incarceration, gentrification, this city’s every trick toward erasure, the community pushed back, pooling money and resources to protect each other with jobs and housing, promoting local pride and reclaiming space where they could. While eating mochi, we learned that the owners of Fugetsudo, the shop where it was made, buried their equipment in the basement when they were incarcerated in concentration camps during World War II. They didn’t know if they’d return, but now their business is among the longest running in LA at 100 years. We learned about resilience and, at this point in the summer, it was something we sorely needed to hear. It wasn’t a narrative of hope exactly, but proof that hanging on might just be a way to get through. That there might be an after. If we could reframe this summer from apocalyptic to temporary, maybe that would be something.
I thought about the story of Los Angeles I had learned before I moved here. Basically: There was nothing but farmland and a few white folks came out and created the amazing and all-consuming film industry, that had in turn created the “sprawling” metropolis it is today. This was the story I had had bought when I first moved here in 1992, and heard retold even today. This was the city of dreams, a transient, inconstant place where people came for only a short time. Hard to find your place in.
In my twenty-five years here, that narrative has been proven a complete falsehood. Here we were, feet to the ground in Little Tokyo, in a clear, location-specific hundred-year long narrative. I started thinking about how deeply false and dangerous the white story of Los Angeles was, and I knew white people in the city who still subscribed to it. I knew now that early Los Angeles was a thriving agricultural city where Japanese, Chinese and Mexican people as well as freed slaves worked worked in each other’s businesses and on each other’s land; how the city, the farms, the businesses were comfortably multicultural at the turn of the 19th to 20th century. I knew how a few white people started coming out after oil and how they flooded after for film and gold. Racist housing practices only started in the 1920s when there were enough white people to start declaring what was theirs. They co-opted Chinatown. They took land from Little Tokyo. The Cultural Spine tour filled in an important part of this history.
Traci was always careful to remind us that we were standing on Tongva land, that erasure began centuries before. Knowing the complicated nature of our history, good and bad, is the only way to avoid repeating it.
The black cloud hadn’t gone, my mother’s illness was real. Still, I was buoyed, near elated by this tour. And, feet to the ground, my kids were connecting with their city and its history. The worried looks I had seen every time they looked at me that summer, the extra hugs and quiet assurances that made me feel even more like I was failing them, were replaced for a single evening by a light in their eyes and a sense of belonging. This was something.
The thank yous started coming for my Mom, whose life was full of friends. I had a small group of only sixty of her friends on a group email. My mom’s greatest skill was that, reporter trained, she asked questions and listened. She kept up with her friends’ stories, their lives, fretted when they were going through something, worried about whether or not they were writing. She was involved and helped them wherever she could.
But her friends weren’t only writers. In my travels, I spoke to her mechanic, who tearfully recounted how she helped his son with his application to Harvard, and helped his grandson with the faculty at a posh boarding school. I spoke with a recent cleaning lady whose son my mom had gotten into rehab. I knew the story of her prior once a week for forty years cleaning lady, Janie, whom she helped through hospital and court after her husband shot her. For whom she paid retirement when she was too old to work anymore. How pissed off Mom was that none of the other white ladies Janie worked for over decades would do this for her. My mom’s life wove through those around her in a way about which she never bragged. If asked about these deeds she’d shrug and say, “It’s just what you do.”
I looked around at my own friends in Los Angeles. My days were filled with as much gratitude as darkness.
The attendants at the valet at City of Hope are not allowed to handle patients for reason of lawsuits. It was my job to get Mom from the car into the wheelchair, wheelchair into car, and her body was not cooperating, as I hoisted her under the armpits and backed her into the car. She had an immense fear of sinking any time we sat her down and would go stiff as a board and yell. We had to actually fold her to get her into the car, as she fought all the way. Think of an uncooperative toddler, only five times the size. This time she slipped from my grip and I moved forward wedging her between the car and the ground and hollered for help. Despite fear of lawsuits, or perhaps because if she fell, I would sue, an attendant helped me with the last lift into the car as I shoved her resistant, leaning body upright to the point where I could get a seatbelt on her. I was exhausted, wrung out. This evidence of my mother’s failing body was all consuming and inescapable. It was the only time I cried in front of her on the way home. I tried to do it quietly.
She could not at this point turn her head.
Her friends sent her emails as if she were really there. you’ll be happy to hear, and I know you’ll find this hilarious, or you probably already know, but I was surprised to learn. There were also so many Get well soon. keep fighting. They were filled with good news about various writer friends that I hoped she would glean in some way as I read them, believing there was understanding in her eyes. Or was that what I was telling myself? Her eyes were the only thing left emoting, and I sometimes wondered whether it was only me projecting emotion into them.
I sent hopeful emails back, we are going to radiation, we are fighting cancer, we are hoping.
As a human race, we have always told ourselves stories to stay afloat, to get through. I realize even here, that is what I’m doing. Shaping a narrative.
I wished there was someone around to lie to me, to hold this three-months-ago version of her alive. Someone around to tell me she was all there, at the other end of the phone, ready with advice, with her super problem-solving abilities; that she would swear and crack my kids up. But there she sat right in front of me, eyes unfocused, unable to speak, and I couldn’t get her on the damn phone.
Poet, artist and activist Tanzila Ahmed had put together a reading for Ramadan. We sat in the gallery space of Skira’s Cielo Galleries in chairs surrounded by a beautifully lit installation of sculptures of women’s torsos, each painted in a different style. The gallery served its local community in South Central. It was important to Writ Large that their events incorporate community and Cielo Galleries was a living, breathing part of its South Central community.
Before the reading began, I sat in the darkened gallery, the painted torsos glowing in their key lights along the walls. I was talking with my friends, Art and Rocìo, both poets. For the first time aloud, I said, “My mother is dying.” It felt like pressure escaping a can, it had been let out into this space, and made me quiet enough to listen.
The Muslim community was reeling from the Muslim Ban and the dangerous, rabble-rousing toxicity of our new president. Thirty to forty people from different communities had shown up to this space to hear these poems. Each poem was a journey. They were stunning, sad, fierce, beautiful, and sometimes hilarious. They were all real and carried the listener into the poet’s experience of being Muslim in an anti-Muslim country. I thought of Little Tokyo’s trauma from mass incarceration in WWII and this new and present reality, where the fear of that sort of mass transport, attempted erasure was very real. There was a great deal for us to process from the news every day, all of it outrageous, incendiary. But in these smaller spaces and dark rooms was clarity amidst the binary argumentative narratives of the daily media. I wished people filled with unconscious hate could hear these stories, these poems. I wonder how roused the rabble could remain in the face of real human stories. How could we stop all of this mounting hate and tribalism in this country?
And what is losing one parent, an aged parent, against everything going on?
When I was at home, I tried to peel back the fog of this misery to be there for my kids as much as I could. They kept how hard this was on them from me. My mom had always seen them for the people they were, and was the first to congratulate them on accomplishments, post their artwork or words on social media, to laugh with them. There was no generational gap between my kids and their grandmother; they saw each other plain and enjoyed the hell out of each other.
My kids’ grandmother was dying, but, thanks to 90x90LA they were finally learning what it was to be citizens of their city.
My son was working on a photography project about the city for school, so I took him down to the meeting on gentrification, again, in Skira’s space. On this morning, my son and I sat in a circle in the gallery, now sunlit bright white, full of people from various neighborhoods all over Los Angeles. We were there in witness only, listening as people from dozens of different communities spoke of rising rents, displaced elders, and powerlessness in the face of a city that did not care about erasure, displacement; that did not seem to care about its residents. It was a local echo of what was going on nationally. This fit into the Little Tokyo narrative so well. This history was not new to the city, it had been going on since white people had arrived, and before that, when the Tongva were first displaced.
We heard two things that day that struck us both hard. One woman who grew up near USC said that the neighborhood knows if you need an ambulance or police response, the only way to get it is to call 911 and say you’re a USC student. Otherwise help will not come. We also learned that a developer had plans for an enormous mall in the center of South Central. Its mere existence would displace a few thousand people immediately, tens of thousands as rents rose around them. South Central had already been cut off by Los Angeles by the 10 Freeway. It was now threatened with erasure. Skira was holding another gentrification meeting the next day for locals to discuss and strategize. Only people of color were welcome. I thought of the history of white people in this city, how the colonization that occurred well after its founding created such damaging narratives. Skira said that if she had to, she would close the doors of her gallery to white people. I understood and felt this now. There was not an event that summer I didn’t learn from.
Because I could not say my mom was dying every time I spoke to someone, the story of everything that had happened since May became small. “I moved my parents out here to live with us,” was met with a, “how nice.” I stopped talking to most but the closest of friends and that was usually by email. I didn’t want to hear my voice crack. Any time I went to 90x90LA, my closest friends there knew what was going on. They sat with me in it and I didn’t have to explain or talk. I got a simple “how are you doing?” that didn’t pry and was enough to let me know they knew. My answer was either, “Okay.” Or “I’m happy to be here with you.”
Radiation finished, the hope for a few weeks left with a clear version of Mom to say goodbye to had evaporated on us, brought home when the radiation doctor told us “the tumor has outgrown the treatment.” Her oncologist said we didn’t need to bring her anymore. That daily battle to get her body from wheelchair to car to wheelchair had ended.
I was helpless with the idea that maybe it didn’t have to have happened in the first place.
We were sent to hospice and were told we had only a week or two. I went through paperwork to order her a direct cremation. She always said she wanted to be “baked and shaked.” Mom, determined as ever, ended up sticking around for five weeks. Hell no, she wouldn’t go.
I thought of the family stories that disappeared with my father’s Alzheimer’s that I was able to triangulate with my mother; his family’s move from Indiana to Florida with the team that founded the St. Petersburg Times. An Uncle (direct or great uncle?) who murdered his wife with a clothesline. Now they were just gone. Mom took a generation of literary stories with her as well. She had come up with Brian Aldiss, Octavia Butler, Tom Disch, Harlan Ellison and many more. Aldiss died just a month before her, Ellison a year after. Octavia Butler was enjoying posthumous renaissance, but the people who remembered the details of that era in speculative fiction were disappearing. This loss of narrative is its own grief.
Thursday mornings became about going to Little Tokyo for PUBLISH! the name of the first event Writ Large ever held and the most specific example of the good work they do. The idea is to get folks to write, wherever they are, wherever it’s set up (Union Station, metro stops, book fairs), going back to the root of the word publish, meaning making words “public.” This iteration of PUBLISH was a space created under tents in the middle of the broad, red-bricked JACCC plaza in Little Tokyo. For three weeks running on Thursday mornings there was a prompt, “What was home then? What is home now?” written out in English, Japanese, and Spanish in the hopes of the area’s locals getting out and telling their stories. The pressing hope was to capture some stories from the older generation, those who had lived through incarceration, through the damage to pursuant generations, who had seen Little Tokyo to where it was today. Every Thursday, Traci, Chiwan, Rocìo and I showed up.
It was extremely hot, being September, and we sat in the shade and talked over green tea pastries from Café Dulce. This lifeline, these quiet mornings were a space I could talk openly about the stuff that was going on, as distressing as it was. Everyone had their own shit going on and that was perspective itself. These friends made the unmanageable seem manageable.
We showed up every Thursday, but the people didn’t. When we wrapped the last day and turnout was not what we expected, rather than deeming the event a failure, Traci said, “this is good.” People not showing up became its own talking point to open new channels of communication for the various groups in little Tokyo; it had given her a new entry into opening up organization within the community. Something as simple as changing the narrative from, “this didn’t work,” to “this is good,” was a lesson in grace in narrative. And I needed this grace now on a personal and national level. This summer would not stop teaching me how the way in which we shape our stories is sometimes more important than what actually happens.
In this era of oppression and erasure, the clarity of fighting voices that grew over that summer, the way everyone was forced to articulate things that had been dismissed for years past—this felt like possibility in a time of helplessness in face of the news. The emotions of the summer had whipped me around so many times, I knew the only choice was to take whatever mood was in front of me and roll with it. I couldn’t try to shape a larger story, it would destroy me.
I am here two years later still trying to parse it. I’m not sure if I’ve found the grace in it yet.
Two weeks later Mom died on September 24th.
The following weekend, still numb, I went to the 90x90LA wrap-up at Skira’s gallery, by now a second home. I listened to people talk about their experiences of the summer, the larger narrative, the safe spaces 90x90LA had created all over the city. There were thank yous and tears. I thanked everyone for creating an education for my kids. I did not say that what I was mostly grateful for was their creating a story that summer for my kids outside of “Our grandmother is dying and our mom has gone off the rails.” My son was going to do his senior project on photographs of the city, with the guidance of Mike Sonksen. My daughter wanted to be Traci Akemi, who was about the most beautiful role model I could think of for her. Both kids had seen their native city, learned its history, good and bad, had their feet on the ground and pointed forward in it, and saw the communities that would need their help in the future. This became part of the fiber of who they are. I was mostly grateful that these events kept my heart beating through a time I thought it would break or stop.
There were several among us with larger things going on that summer, like big, life-altering narrative-altering things. But here, Judeth, Chiwan, Peter, Traci, and Skira had pulled together communities in the face of erasure, free speech in the face of fascism, and they empowered stories of strength and persistence that would help this city through the times ahead. They got people together from whom amazing projects have and will come. It became apparent that the only way through the political maelstrom was in community, in pushing forward, in helping each other where we can.
And when the dust has settled and we have moved on to this country’s next iteration, I hope the memories will be like this. That we came through a dark time, but we were surrounded by people who cared and worked together to push back, who reached out of their own circles to take care of each other. And that, along the way, people found the power of changing their own place in the national story.
Instead of decrying the failures, I hope that we can look at the change, find the opportunities and say, “this is good” and move forward. That we can flip the narrative toward hope and action.
My mother’s fingerprints are all over two generations of genre writing, from acknowledgement sections in books to stories, she got people together and made things happen. Her fingerprints are all over two continuing generations of family, and a legion of friends made better for her having been here. I’m so lucky for the time I had with her. I’m having trouble going on without her. These things are both true.
I keep writing, hoping to make sense of this story. I keep looking around me to find ways to help. That’s all I can do for now.
Kate Maruyama‘s novel HARROWGATE was published by 47North and her short work has appeared in Arcadia Mag, Stoneboat, Controlled Burn and on The Rumpus, Entropy, Salon, among other journals as well as in numerous anthologies. She writes, teaches, cooks, and eats in Los Angeles where she lives with her family.