For The Washington Post, I reviewed Azar Nafisi’s new book Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times: “Her observations implicate both adherents of Make America Great Again and their political foes. She sounds alarms about the alienating effects of technology as well as ideology, conjoined twins in preventing us from seeing the full humanity of those we disagree with.”
Arrested at the age of fifteen, and interrogated without an attorney present, Prakash Churaman spent six years locked up, four of them while waiting to be tried. Prosecutors argued that he orchestrated a fatal attempted armed robbery at a friend’s home in Queens in 2014. A New York State appeals court overturned his conviction in June 2020, ordering a new trial, and bail was granted six months later. For the past year, he’s been on house arrest, monitored through an ankle bracelet.
Even as he prepares for his new trial, expected to take place this spring, he’s been campaigning for the charges against him to be dropped. Single-minded in his pursuit of that goal, his determination a magnet, he has attracted a diverse coalition of supporters and activists, from socialist party members to fellow Indo-Caribbean immigrants.
Here’s my long-form profile of him in two parts, published in The Margins, the literary magazine of The Asian American Writers Workshop. It’s about race and criminal justice, the long arc of Caribbean indenture and the political education of a working-class immigrant kid from Queens.
“The persistent low boom from planes departing from an airport nearby mock his own inability to take off. Underscoring the irony, the sheriff’s office called to warn that he was in danger of violating bond whenever his ride home from the doctor’s office or courthouse approached exits to the airport.”
For The New York Times Book Review, I write on Code Switch co-founding editor Kat Chow’s memoir of grief and family, immigration and ancestors. Guided by the work of scholars in Asian American studies who have developed a theory of “racial melancholia,” elaborating on Freud, Chow links her own life and species of grief to their explanation of how identities are formed in immigrant families who try to preserve the memory of the places they left — in a sense to taxidermy the past. Seeing Ghosts gives flesh to this theory, the idea that loss of country and loss of loved ones can hook us with similar perpetual sorrow, through storytelling that brings alive both Chow’s mother and father, drawing their characters tenderly but with unflinching honesty.
For The Nation, I write about Karla Cornejo Villavicencio’s experiment with magical realism in The Undocumented Americans. She goes beyond conventional reportage to mirror the surreal ways in which the undocumented experience their lives. Her work exposes the unsustainable fiction built into the economic and political systems that invite the labor of the undocumented into the country but fail to protect them once here. The pandemic has only sharpened this structural fabulism.
To commemorate the late poet Meena Alexander’s life and legacy, Feminist Press has reissued her brilliant and gutting memoir Fault Lines. This new edition includes an afterword by me, “A House Filled with Women,” paying tribute to Meena. Here’s the Asian American Writers Workshop on the afterword and the reissue.