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.
“Suddenly bearing down, in the precinct room with Prakash, was the piled weight of his father, of the detectives, of both systems with centuries-long afterlives that have scarred him.”
“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.”
In this short essay for The Guardian, I tell the story of the British overthrow of the democratically elected government in Guiana, its sole colony in South America, in 1953. The piece engages with the conversation in the United Kingdom around attempts to rehabilitate and revise the history of empire and imperialism.
“The parable of the misconstrued red flag was as true for 1953 as for 1964, when it was fact. It imparts a lesson about the tragic consequences of outsiders misunderstanding Guyana’s landscape. That year, there was a shining moment of utopian possibility in the colony, and the emergency fractured its politics in ways sadly still evident. The most recent election was resolved in August after five months of impasse, with racialised violence a spectre throughout. Significant reserves of oil, discovered by Exxon five years ago, have created stakes for the rest of the world. Guyana still amounts to its resources for some. For those of us who carry the wounds of 1953 within us, as the heirs of divide-and-rule, the stakes have always been clear and heartbreaking.”
With support from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, I produced a package of stories on the long-lasting effects of U.S. Cold War intervention on politics in Guyana, a former British colony on the northeastern shoulder of South America.
My profile of Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi runs on the cover of Ms. Magazine’s Winter 2012 issue. The woman who has long personified the fight for democracy and human rights in Burma has finally decided to engage with one of the world’s most repressive regimes. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is running for a seat in a parliament created by the military junta that put her under house arrest for almost two decades, after stealing an election from her. Read about the challenges facing her as she attempts a shift from moral icon to politician. As she told Congressman Bill Richardson in 1994, “I look upon myself as a politician, and that isn’t a dirty word, is it, Congressman?”