April 19, 2007

Thoughts On a Reaction

I read an article today that was absolutely grim. It had to do with the terrible recent tragedy in Virginia, and the reaction of many of the Asian American students when the ethnicity of the gunman was announced. As soon as the commentators said "Korean-American," 18-and-19-year-old students jumped into cars and raced away from campus. They were running home -- not because of the threat of an insane and armed hateful student, which was by then, over, but because of the additional fear of angry and vengeful fellow students. The word they used is "backlash."

What really floored me was the reaction of many other Asian Americans who said, "Whew. At least the shooter wasn't ______-American." Fill in the blank with the ethnic group of your choice.

Was I surprised because I felt like the reactions were insensitive and beside the point of the real issue at hand? Yes. But, also, No. I was surprised because it was, once again, one of those reactions that you never articulate, but when you're an ethnic minority in this country, it's one of those reactions you have.

When we talk about writing and the right of representation that every child and young adult should have in the literature they read, it seems to me that we'd better be real when we write for these kids: really real.

Sometimes it is a strange, sad world.


NPR's National Poetry Month selections have been great! The other day they read what has become a new favorite. People always dream of lost cities and adventures. Maybe Irish poet Eavan Boland has the right idea.

Atlantis — A Lost Sonnet
Eavan Boland

How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
that a whole city — arches, pillars, colonnades,
not to mention vehicles and animals — had all
one fine day gone under?

I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then.
Surely a great city must have been missed?
I miss our old city —

white pepper, white pudding, you and I meeting
under fanlights and low skies to go home in it. Maybe
what really happened is

this: the old fable-makers searched hard for a word
to convey that what is gone is gone forever and
never found it. And so, in the best traditions of

where we come from, they gave their sorrow a name
and drowned it.

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