Issue 574 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


I am very sensitive to noise. I have asked bands in bars to turn their volume down. I’ve left stores because the background music was too distracting. I’ve refused to return to noisy restaurants. I used to think this was abnormal, that I was somehow socially or physically defective, or that, as an introvert, I just couldn’t process more than one sound at a time. Leslee Goodman’s interview with Gordon Hempton [“Quiet, Please,” The Dog-Eared Page, August 2023] reminded me that I’m not alone in this. I’m not the only one who doesn’t fill their home with noise and who wonders why people wear earbuds that block sounds like geese — and vehicles — honking.

Lee Darling Eugene, Oregon

Every month when The Sun arrives, I hurriedly skim the Contents hoping for an Alison Luterman poem. This month? Wham! A new (to me) poem that combines humor and heartbreak [“Saddam Hussein Is Writing Poetry in Solitary Confinement,” The Dog-Eared Page, July 2023]. It is dynamite!

Pat Owen Louisville, Kentucky

In her essay “Care Warning” [June 2023] Brenda Miller blithely suggests we need to be on alert for such mundane threats as bad hair days and excessive late-night eating. But she also tackles the heavy sorrow of dying dogs and dying mothers. I love how the writer stands tall against the sadness and reality of life and then leaves readers with a spot-on cliché that carries new meaning: “Take care, take care.” Who doesn’t need to heed that these days?

Marsha Owens Richmond, Virginia

I know a piece of writing reaches me deeply when I feel a combination of envy (I wish I had written that!) and profound gratitude (Thank you for writing this!). Brenda Miller’s “Care Warning” hit me on both fronts. Framing a story of grief — of many grievings in fact — within a series of “care warnings” was brilliant and cracked my heart open.

Steve Goldberg Oakland, California

I probably don’t need to mention that I read “Care Warning” outside on my patio, as I’m wont to do on a summer day. I also needn’t say how, if I had sat there twelve months earlier, my mom would’ve been busy in her garden, and my cat would’ve been resting in the chair beside me. And I really don’t want to tell you that, despite neither of them having any obvious health concerns a year ago, my mom and my cat are not here today. And there is no way I’m going to admit how that essay choked me up so much that I hid my face for a few minutes, in case any neighbors may have been looking out their windows. I only want to tell Brenda Miller, “Thanks for the warning.”

Jim Koppensteiner Niles, Illinois

Jonathan Gleason’s essay “Field Guide to Falling Ill” [May 2023] offers a valuable look at the distress patients often feel as they navigate the U.S. healthcare system. His unique position as a hospital interpreter, patient, student, and instructor helps him see that there are no easy answers on how best to address the emotional struggles that accompany illness.

I am a medical doctor and have often thought about the difficulty of bringing empathy to healthcare. We are taught in medical school that patients are not their diseases. That, though, is how most practitioners eventually see them — not from lack of empathy, but as an unconscious act of self-preservation against emotional burnout. Gleason’s essay reminds me of my early days in training and the complexity of trying to be a good doctor.

Mark W. Simon Winchester, Kentucky

Ross Gay’s essay “Some Thoughts on Mercy” [The Dog-Eared Page, June 2023] was an eye-opener for me. I’ve lived for a long time and still have much to learn about racism and the fear that lies behind it.

Sahajananda Saraswati Lenox, Massachusetts

Ross Gay’s essay reminded me of a moment I witnessed on a New Orleans bus in the 1980s. A Black boy and a white boy were sitting together, talking and laughing. By their speech, you couldn’t tell which one was white and which was Black. Suddenly an old white man stood up and yelled at the white kid to “Stop acting like a [N-word]!” Being from Upstate New York, I was in shock. I was used to a more subtle form of racism.

In my small town there were few Black families. Once, my sister’s boyfriend said that Roger, a person who we all loved, was a “coconut” because he was dark on the outside but white on the inside. It was supposed to be a compliment.

As a white woman who often has panic attacks, I can’t imagine having to endure the subtle and blatant racism that Black people experience in this country. For many years I thought the worst was behind us, but since 2016 I realize I was wrong. When will “liberty and justice for all” be a reality?

Sherrie Miranda Chula Vista, California

Busy with grandchildren, a large home project, and an adult daughter who has special needs, I told myself I didn’t have enough time for reading, and I planned to let my Sun subscription lapse — until I read “Observations on Ice,” by Synne Borgen [June 2023]. Her awe-inspiring descriptions of the frigid, stark landscape of Svalbard, combined with her personal struggles, captivated me. I had to read the essay more than once. I can’t wait for next month’s issue.

David Reed San Diego, California

Chera Hammons’s poem “Curve-Billed Thrasher” [June 2023] displays the author’s gift for language and affinity for the natural world. It also displays our hubris as a species: Who are we to “forgive the bird” who accepts the world’s offerings?

Gary Granger Birkenfeld, Oregon

Mark O’Brien’s essay “On Seeing a Sex Surrogate” [The Dog-Eared Page, April 2023] made me feel compassion for people who experience the self-loathing, dread, curiosity, and doubt that the author bravely describes. My sister suffered a catastrophic stroke at the age of forty-one, and afterward I became aware of all the people around me who had disabilities, especially those who walked with a limp or stumbled over their words, like my sister did. I felt bad for not noticing them before. It wasn’t that I was uncaring. I just didn’t stop my internal chatter and open my eyes. O’Brien’s essay reminded me — again — to pay attention and actually see people.

J.G. Santa Cruz, California

I have been incarcerated for the past twenty years. My aunt Paulette, whom I’ve never met in person, has been communicating with me through phone calls and letters. After finding out about my love of literature, she told me how much she enjoys reading The Sun and about how it is free for incarcerated readers. Because my aunt Paulette is an author, her opinion carried a lot of weight with me, and I asked her to help me get a subscription.

I live in an environment filled with negativity and isolation. Each issue of The Sun feels like a breath of fresh air and an invitation into the lives of others: sharing their joys, sorrows, hopes, and concerns.

James Binkley Arcadia, Florida

My aunt recently celebrated her eightieth birthday by sending me eighty dollars to give away for her. It was a fun assignment, but it wasn’t easy. There are so many worthy causes, and I was determined to choose something impactful. My mission was accomplished this morning with a donation to The Sun to support gift subscriptions for people in prison. I’m always moved when people who are incarcerated share how much they value their free Sun subscriptions and how each issue is passed around from person to person. It’s a satisfying bang for my aunt’s birthday buck.

Margie Boler Saint Paul, Minnesota

When I open my mailbox and catch a glimpse of The Sun wedged between the bills and the junk mail, my heart flutters. It’s like looking in the freezer for fish sticks and finding a carton of ice cream I didn’t know was there.

Mike Loomis Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
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