Searching for identity in diaspora, a family tradition of lobster-hunting, offering rides to refugees, and the haunting of houses...
Welcome back to Memoir Monday—a weekly newsletter and a quarterly reading series, brought to you by Narratively, The Rumpus, Catapult, Granta, Guernica, and Literary Hub. Each personal essay in this newsletter has been selected by the editors at the above publications as the best of the week, delivered to you all in one place.
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What Does It Mean to Be 'Made' Somewhere?
by Julie Chen (Photograph by Gabriella Clare Marino/Unsplash)
"I didn’t belong to the Chinese Italian community, and I belong to a global diasporic community in the basic sense that I, like one in five people in the world, am ethnically Chinese. But in Prato, I learned to stop searching for an authentic, fixed self, or an automatic kinship with those who might share my identity—especially in a globalized and capitalist world. Asian American suburbs feature European pastiche as Chinese migrants make “Made in Italy” garments; markers of identity are mixed and remixed in order to sell things, imagine a better future, and survive. And I am proud of the connections I made in Prato. Across power dynamics that implicated class and nationality, my friends and I did what we could."
This is Not a Metaphor
by Kristen Millares Young (Rumpus original art by Elly Lonon.)
"We are always down to fight. Disagreements flare and stay burning on old slights. It is hard to love us, though we shine. Ever ready to be antagonized, we seek conflict through our professions. But as a family, we’ve forestalled conversations for decades, fearful of realities we have already lived. On the far side of silence, I suspect, is joy."
When Denmark Criminalised Kindness
by Lisbeth Zornig Andersen (Photograph © Markus Spiske)
"Violence and trauma have a smell. Whether it’s sweat or blood or stress or a mixture of those things or others, I’m not sure, but it was myself I was smelling, too. The most important thing was to be there with her. It’s an intimate, bodily experience to be beside someone during something like that. We talked when there was time—during the moments in-between doctors and exams and questions—in a hospital room, on a hallway bench, leaning over paperwork in a foyer. We would plan for what came next. Many times these plans were imperfect and temporary.In judicial terms our crime consisted of aiding, transporting and harbouring persons without valid travel documents. That’s the lift and the coffee. I had to ask what ‘valid travel documents’ meant. They explained that it is a valid passport and a valid visa. I was not aware of the law, and the idea of asking the family for valid travel documents never entered my mind. I have never asked anybody for valid travel documents before when offering them a lift."
What the Dead Leave Behind: On the Way a Life Can Inhabit a House
by Emily Austin
"Depression and grief are sometimes described as dark clouds that hang over us and distort how we see things. When you are a depressed, grief-stricken person, however, it does not feel like your perspective has been distorted. It feels like you see things more clearly than other people do. It is true that we will all die. It is true that the objects we touch and the garbage we create will exist in landfills long after our own bodies decompose."
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