The peace literacy work to which Paul K. Chappell has dedicated his life [“The Best Defense,” interview by Leslee Goodman, November 2021] is important to those of us who are awakening to just how ubiquitous U.S. imperialist narratives are, whether sponsored by war profiteers in Hollywood, political think tanks, or the mainstream media.
Due to our faulty economic systems that reward violence and greed, I’ve never felt a sense of home in the U.S., nor loyalty to my nation’s leaders. I want to live in a place that acknowledges the sovereignty of other nations and peoples. I want the racism and sexism that are integral to war examined, healed, and transformed.
The growing number of people who are learning about peace from instructors like Chappell gives me a renewed sense of belonging and hope.
I wish I had read Emily Rinkema’s “Between Notes” [November 2021] fifteen years ago, when my father’s health was failing from Parkinson’s disease. I did not know how to sit with him or how to honor him and his declining condition. Every moment with him dragged on as I clumsily tried to connect in ways he no longer could. I’m sad I missed that opportunity, but reading about the beautiful relationship Rinkema had with her father comforted me.
As a dark-skinned African American raised in the 1950s, I never heard of anyone in my family leaving home to pass for white, as Caille Millner describes her ancestors doing in “Life, without Imitation” [November 2021]. My first memory of colorism was when my mother took me to see the 1959 film Imitation of Life when I was eleven years old. The movie portrays a single African American mother and her light-skinned daughter who wants to pass for white. I felt sorry for the mother, whose complexion was like mine. I was too young to imagine the story of the white father, who was not a character in the movie.
As a family historian, I collect beautiful black-and-white photos of my ancestors. In old censuses I find their race assigned as “black,” “mulatto,” “negro,” or “colored.” Millner’s story has prompted me to keep an open mind as I dig deeper into my genealogy. Whatever I find will broaden my awareness of our storied history.
Joseph Bathanti’s poem “Steady Daylight” [November 2021] perfectly evokes Pittsburgh back in its smoky glory days. As an elegy for long-gone relatives, it brought me to tears thinking about my elderly father, who is trudging through the gloom on his last few steps home, and the party he is missing.
I don’t believe in heaven, but Joseph Bathanti’s “Steady Daylight” gave me a lot to think about. In the poem, time doesn’t exist and the people around you are just as you want them to be — but everyone in your heaven also has a heaven of their own, where you are just as they want you to be. Most of us have simple desires; we don’t need streets paved with gold. I wonder what my heaven — or my father’s, or my mother’s — would be. It’s a great dinner-table conversation starter.
My family immigrated to the U.S. from Italy, and many of them worked in the steel mill in my hometown, close to Pittsburgh. My family had wonderful get-togethers with food as celestial as that in “Steady Daylight.” I’m grateful to Joseph Bathanti for bringing back my childhood, and the memories of all of those who now rest in the Catholic cemetery overlooking the Ohio River.
Rarely do I read a sentence so profound that I know I’ll always remember it, but in “On Time” [November 2021] Sparrow writes such a sentence: “Music is simply decorated time.”
As a music lover who listens for many hours a day, I found this both insightful and true.
In Sparrow’s thought-provoking essay “On Time,” he writes, “When I was a child, before the existence of digital clocks, time was circular. The hands of a clock spun in circles. . . . Now time is almost universally a number.”
I, too, prefer looking at circular clock faces, which tell me not only what time it is, but what time it isn’t.
Since I broke my leg, I’ve experienced, for the first time in seventy-five years, how it feels to be confined to a chair. While stretching out on the couch with my broken leg propped on a pillow, I enjoyed the humor, dignity, and compassion in Sandra Gail Lambert’s “Relationship Tips” [November 2021]. It contained much insight into humans, dogs, and the challenges of using a wheelchair. I was glad it had a happy ending but wished the essay didn’t have to end there.
With a few weeks to catch up on my reading, I’ll be looking for more of Lambert’s writing.
I am writing to thank Michelle Herman for her essay “Better” [October 2021]. I resonated with the childlike joy and abandon she felt upon beginning her first ballet class and her commitment to it. I had a similar experience with improvisational theater.
I appreciate Herman’s vulnerability and open-heartedness. She has inspired me to take my first ballet class at the age of fifty.
Because I have a complex and often conflicted relationship with my sister, I was interested in the October 2021 Readers Write on “Sisters.” The entries were largely loving. Have none of your readers suffered through sibling rivalry and its years of battle and subsequent therapy?
I’m looking forward to your November Readers Write on “Brothers” — I have two — to see if I find these stories more relatable.
Like Sarah Broussard Weaver’s grandmother Mary Rose [“Ungrown,” September 2021], my mother is a strong ninety-five-year-old. She’s been kicked out of hospice twice and is thriving today with in-home care. She’s not afraid to die, but my sister and I have to remind her that she doesn’t pick her time to depart. Each day she is here is a blessing, even if she can no longer taste the German chocolate cake she once loved but now tires of after two bites.
The short bios of your writers and photographers on the Contributors page are an unexpected delight. I often marvel at how much can be packed into a sentence or two. And the correspondence from readers makes me want to meet so many of you.
All of that, before I even get to the main course!
I don’t think too much about whether the people in my life are being emotionally honest — until I start reading The Sun. Then I remember: “Oh, yeah, that’s how honesty sounds.” The truth is spoken — openly and without shame — by nearly everyone who writes for you. It’s as if you’ve given the writers a test to ascertain that there will be no bullshit.
A few months ago I missed my subway stop because I was reading an essay in The Sun. I had to get off at the next station, climb the stairs to the other side of the tracks, and then take a train in the opposite direction.
The other day, engrossed in Readers Write, I missed my bus stop and had to walk an extra block — one of those huge New York City blocks that add many minutes to the journey, especially for people with bum knees.
The lesson is clear: never read The Sun while taking public transportation.
I doubt I will learn.