A family recipe, a childhood memory, a Depression-era handout
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Debbie Urbanski’s “Inheritance” [June 2021] surprised me. I, too, had a complete hysterectomy as a young mother, and I started her essay expecting to read a version of my own story — a slow descent into illness, coming out of surgery weak and scared, and elation as health returned. Instead Urbanski described physical, mental, and emotional experiences I had never imagined. She reminded me not to assume I know how it feels to live in someone else’s skin.
Today I will be quiet and listen, especially when I think I already know what someone is going to say.
I have been out of the classroom for five years now, but I still miss it every day. Not the job, nor the tyranny imposed upon children by the public school system, nor the administrators who did things the way they did because they’d “always done it this way,” but the young people themselves: their honesty, their compassion, their ability to forgive, again and again, the failings of a teacher who loved them fiercely but was unable to give them all they needed. In his essay “The Quiet Room,” [May 2021] M. Jones captures this exquisitely and reminds me once again why I subscribe to The Sun.
It happens rarely, but sometimes I find myself sitting alone in a restaurant, so overcome with emotion that it’s an effort to keep from crying. About 95 percent of the time, it’s after I’ve finished a piece in The Sun.
It just happened again, with M. Jones’s “The Quiet Room.” What an amazing piece of writing.
I don’t know if “The Quiet Room” should be described as an essay or an epic poem. “At a time when words are dumped like a chaff to saturate the airwaves . . .” Jones writes, “it is difficult to keep in mind how profane a misused word truly is.” There were no misused words in this heartfelt piece. He sees his students as individuals, and, because of his concern and empathy for them, he respects their varying needs.
In closing, Jones writes that he wants to say he’s sorry to his students. But he has no reason to apologize for the “peaceful hour” he’s given them in his quiet room.
Your last several issues seemed lackluster to me, so I was happy to find you back on track with the May 2021 edition. “The Chicken Equation” made me laugh and feel in tune with the essay’s author, Elaine Tosetti. And Anna Hartford’s “Small Animals” was a beautiful, funny essay that I could have written about my own experiences, if I had the talent. It’s gratifying to know there are still people in the world who try to save small, injured animals.
Jacob Aiello’s self-deprecating humor serves him well, and, yes, his wife is a saint [“Bowl, Large Cloth, Pair of Chopsticks,” May 2021]. As I laughed with Aiello about his neuroses, maybe I can laugh at my own, too, instead of feeling trapped by them.
Only a few minutes before I started reading Lara Bazelon’s fascinating critique of the U.S. justice system [“Unstacking the Deck,” interview by Feliz Moreno, March 2021], I read that the U.S. has more than 20 percent of the world’s incarcerated population but less than 5 percent of the world’s total population. I found the statistic even more shocking than Bazelon’s horrific revelations.
Either the U.S. is full of the most wicked people in the world, or it has the world’s wickedest justice system.
Feliz Moreno’s interview with Lara Bazelon was interesting — and upsetting. I am an advocate for due process and despise the wrongful convictions that happen every day in this country, but Bazelon lost me with her objection to the “Dear Colleague” letter from 2011, in which the Obama administration encouraged colleges to act on sexual-assault allegations. Moreno says, “The mere allegation of sexual assault — plus a shoddy investigation by one biased person — was enough to get someone expelled. Some of the people who got expelled were Black and brown, and their accusers were not.” I wish Moreno had pointed out how rarely false sexual-assault reports are made, as opposed to how often assaults go unreported or without prosecution.
I can see Bazelon’s point of view as a defense attorney and someone concerned about wrongful convictions, but her approach is exactly what turns people off to lawyers. The #MeToo movement was so widespread because perpetrators of sexual assaults, especially on college campuses, frequently face no consequences.
The preceding letter underscores the misunderstandings that surround Title IX cases. Name Withheld says they are an advocate for due process. In the Title IX context, due process means a hearing in front of a neutral factfinder, not a single-investigator system where one person serves as detective, prosecutor, judge, and jury. That foundational principle should not be remotely controversial or “what turns people off to lawyers.” Rather it should be something upon which we can all agree.
I kept setting down Al Kesselheim’s interview with biologist Doug Smith [“The Howling Wilderness,” January 2021] so I could think about Smith’s kinship with wolves, his respect for nature, and his engagement with those who disagree with him. Cheers to Kesselheim for his superb questions, and for not inserting himself too much, so that Smith could freely emerge.
Your January 2021 issue, with its themes of grief and appreciation of nonhuman animals, couldn’t have arrived at a better time. I had just lost my best friend of nearly a decade: a little orange hen named Rosie. I felt isolated in my sorrow and the darkness of overwintering in the pandemic.
I’m writing to you now, fully vaccinated and emerging into the bright sunshine of a new spring. In “The Loss,” Sparrow’s description of his grief following the death of his mother resonated with me. My own grief has forever changed the landscape, but I can still notice the wildflowers.
The thought-provoking articles and sensitive black-and-white photos you print are gems, but there’s something else I appreciate about your magazine, too: I like that the biographical notes about your authors and photographers come at the beginning, not the end, of each issue. This shows them deep respect. It allows contributors to be human first, just like the rest of us.
I also appreciate how The Sun makes me feel small. My feisty ego keeps telling me I deserve center stage, but your magazine shows me a wide world filled with intelligent, sensitive, remarkable people. This helps me see myself as a single, small member of society, not the most important or essential.
I’m on a pretty tight budget, but I recently paused to envision my life, and the world, without The Sun. It made my stomach hurt. I realized I could afford to up my monthly contribution.
Not long ago I read a profile of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his passion for colonizing space. His outlook seems to be that, now that humanity — particularly the rich and powerful — has nearly finished wiping its collective ass with the Earth, it’s time to find other planets where we can consume, lay waste, and multiply until we’ve wrung everything we can from them, too.
To me The Sun represents the opposite of Bezos’s hubris. Your magazine attends lovingly to what we have, who we are, and what we might become right here in this endangered, miraculous ecosphere. If the predominant human impulse were toward the sort of tenderness, humility, curiosity, and compassion that I see in The Sun, we’d have a chance against the rapaciousness of Bezos and others like him. In a world where his attitude too often prevails, The Sun reminds us where to look for the light.