Monday, January 8, 2024

The Essay in a Time of Genocide: Two Palestinian Writers and a Continuing Call

Maram Humaid's five-month-old baby
Maram Humaid’s five-month-old baby in Southern Gaza [Maram Humaid/Al Jazeera]

For the past five weeks, Essay Daily has regularly featured pieces on the essay in a time of genocide. 

When we extended the invitation to contribute to this feature on November 27th, approximately 1,200 Israelis and 14,854 Palestinians had been killed in the current conflict in Gaza. As of today, January 8th, at least 8,000 more Palestinians have been killed, including 249 in the last 24 hours. 

Right now, according to the United Nation’s World Food Programme, half of Gaza's 2.2 million people are suffering from extreme or severe hunger, and the World Health Organization reports that Gaza is “experiencing soaring rates of infectious disease.” People are suffering from upper respiratory infections, meningitis, skin rashes, scabies, lice, and chickenpox. Over 100,000 cases of diarrhea have been reported since mid-October. This horrific situation has been made worse by Gaza’s current lack of sanitation, clean water, and the collapse of its healthcare system. Approximately 1.9 million people in Gaza have been forced to flee their homes.

Essay Daily has currently published all of the work that's been submitted by our contributors. We are grateful for their essays and for how they’ve illuminated what it means to write as global citizens. Like we do with our other features, we will keep open the call for this feature as we continue to live and write in a time genocide. If you’re an essayist interested in contributing, contact Eric LeMay (

As this part of our feature ends, we would like to direct you to two essays by Palestinian writers. The first, “Don’t Look Away,” is by the London-based lawyer and fiction writer Selma Dabbag and was published on the London Review of Books' blog on December 13th. Dabbag begins her essay:

I wonder whether there is a right way to respond to grief, to loss, to a risk of genocide of one’s people. Whether one should go out or stay in, whether it is unseemly to visit cinemas and theatres, to eat out in restaurants, or to laugh. I know a young woman in London whose home was bombed in Gaza City on 10 October. Her family are (or were, the last time I spoke to her) in a tent in a school in Khan Younis. They have no walls, she says. No roof. Some days they eat nothing but a small tin of pineapple, or mushrooms. It is getting cold. Like thousands of others, they had no chance to pack anything from their home before it was bombed. On one occasion there was fighting outside the school, men fearful for the safety of their wives, their daughters, trying to get them inside the gates. The bombing is non-stop. ‘Some days I find everything very funny,’ she told me. Some evenings she spends in tears, but everything is unstable. ‘I feel I am going mad,’ she said. ‘I can’t stop laughing.’

The second essay is by Maram Humaid, a Palestinian journalist and storyteller who lives in Gaza. It’s entitled “Israel flattened my home, killed my family. I still lit a candle for 2024" and was published on January 1st by Al Jazeera. Humaid's essay ends:

Three weeks ago, my aunt, her family, and grandchildren were killed when their six-story home was bombed. Forty-five people were killed and their bodies remained trapped under the rubble for days.

My father and I mourned while offering condolences to my only surviving cousin, who was displaced with her husband to Deir el-Balah.

She told us that no one was able to get them out because of the presence of tanks and snipers around the place. Neighbours told them that they heard some of them alive screaming and pleading for help from under the rubble, but they could not help them. Then these voices eventually faded away after a few days.

This is how lives end in Gaza. This is how people are killed. They get bombed in homes, left to bleed to death under rubble, without rescue. Pain eats away at the hearts of their loved ones who watch their deaths helplessly.

The wider world’s inability to stop this highlights how little our lives are valued. Our death and killing, our spilled blood, have become permissible.

While the world was illuminated to celebrate the New Year last night, I lit a candle for my five-month-old child, amidst the darkness of continuous bombings around.

Our only wish is survival, an end to the war. Farewell to a sorrowful and painful year. Long live Gaza.


Monday, January 1, 2024

Zachary Ostraff on Glass Eyes


In London, England, I find myself looking at a display case of 16 glass eyes. These eyes show a variation of color. The darkest eye is dark brown, almost black. The lightest is sky blue. These eyes were used as part of a study of eye color, vision, and intelligence in immigrant Jewish children that looked at their eugenic “worth.” This case is a part of a larger exhibit at the Wellcome Collection about the inherent racism and antisemitism embedded in the practice of eugenics, an overlapping practice to phrenology and the creation of many life and death masks. 

The problem with statistics is that the numbers can dehumanize the individuals. The problem with the news is that it saturates our minds with distanced trauma while avoiding the harshness of reality. While I write this essay people in Gaza are dying. People aren’t just dying in Gaza; people are being massacred. And people are not just people but individuals. With names. Families. Goals. Problems. Likes. Dislikes. How do we humanize the dead? 

In a field, alkaline dusted tombstones are the only markers of Clarion, Utah: a Jewish settlement established in 1911. It “folded” four years later. Rabbi Krauskopf thought the local Mormon settlement of Gunnison, Utah ,would be their allies in returning to a lifestyle of farming. The Mormons, after all, were also historically a persecuted people. But no hope would come. The communities remained separated by their faith, by their differences. Records show that the Jews of Clarion didn’t know how to farm such an inhospitable land. The Mormons never really spent the time to help.

My eye color is between eyes six and seven: hazel brown with flecks of other colors. My son’s eyes would be a sixteen, as blue as a pale summer sky. 

With a light knock, the doctor walked into the examination room. With only slight hesitation she told my wife, Elise, that my daughter was obese. My daughter was there in the room too. Talked over, but not unaware. Later she would ask what “obese” meant. This all happened despite the earlier conversation Elise had with the doctor about our family history, despite the fact Elise had asked the doctor to be considerate of our daughter’s body image and her self-confidence; we didn’t feel like we needed to make our daughter feel othered because of her size. Particularly because both our families have a history of huskiness at a young age. The doctor went on to explain that exercise and dieting can help with weight. She didn’t listen when we told her that our daughter was very “active,” that she played tennis and basketball, that our daughter liked to hike and be outside more than anything else. The doctor didn’t listen when we told her that our daughter ate a healthy well-rounded diet. Instead, she handed our daughter a list of things she should eat and things she should avoid; for the doctor, our daughter was just an outlier in the statistics of normality. 

The Noel Phrenology collection at The University College of London has history that isn’t so dissimilar to other death mask collections. It was donated to the college by Noel’s descendants. It ended up in the eugenics lab for a while. It was decided that the masks weren’t necessary, so they were then donated to the art school at the college. For years the masks were used as props in still lifes. They were handled and turned and touched and drawn. You can see the years of grime from all the handling on each mask—a coat of hands grasping. Then when the art school tired of the masks, they were thrown away. Someone discovered them in some discard bins, recognized them as not trash, pulled them out and put them in the Object Based Learning Lab at UCL. 

It is in the Object Based Learning Lab that I first see the collection. I traveled across the ocean to see these masks, to think about the processes of phrenology. It is in the lab that the director points out that there is an exhibit about eugenics only a short distance away that contains some of the masks from the Noel collection. It is in this same exhibit that I see the glass eyes.  

The dark side of phrenology is the way the practice lent itself to bias confirmation; classism and racism are rampant in the evaluation of the head. In the Noel collection, Noel separated each mask into one of two categories: the intellectuals (usually life masks made of people already acknowledged for their brilliance) and the criminals (usually death masks made after the subject had been decapitated for their crimes). The curator of the Object Based learning lab tells me there were only two masks that didn’t fit snuggly in  one of the two categories: a woman considered an intellectual—Noel didn’t know where to place her because she was “smart for a woman” but he didn’t consider her on the same level as his other intellectuals; the other mask was a life mask of a known criminal who had spent time in jail, but then, upon release was reformed. He became a monk and served others for the remainder of his life. Neither of these individuals fit with his other conclusions about shapes and bumps and predictions of predilection. 

I am drawn to Clarion because of my ancestry. I am related to many people that immigrated across the great plains, often at great sacrifice, for their freedom of religion. And my grandfather is Jewish; his lineage stemmed from Russian Jewish immigrants that arrived in Baltimore near the turn of the 19th century. Because of my grandfather and my faith in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I have always felt connected to Judaism. So, in many ways, I view Clarion as what could’ve been a mecca, a blending of my ancestry. Yet, for whatever reason—whether it was that the Mormon’s wouldn’t accept or befriend the Jews, or if the Jews kept themselves apart because their ideologies—the settlement failed. 

It can be easy to forget the anger that accompanies discrimination, the anger at being othered, and the anger that leads to the othering.  It is easy to forget the history that leads to the action. When you are othered, it can be easy to feel like violence is your only defense, especially when your people have faced holocaust after holocaust; I can only trace my Jewish lineage so far before the records disappear from existence, wiped out by discrimination and violent measure. It is also easy to be blinded by anger. Blinded so much that you can’t see that your actions are just repeating the atrocities enacted earlier upon yourself. 

The abused can become the abuser. 

In September of 1857, a wagon train from Missouri traveled through Utah. It is said that some of those Missourians were part of the violent mobs that drove the Mormons from Missouri. Anger spilled over into violence. Mormon settlers from Cedar City masqueraded as Native Americans and massacred the men and women from Missouri. 

How do we break the cycle? How do we acknowledge the past without repeating it in the present. How do the abused heal? 

Thousands of miles away from Gaza I find myself conflicted. There is a history behind the violence. Both sides are guilty. But too many of the victims are innocent. Too many of the people being affected by the anger are just trying to live their lives. My distance is part of the problem. My lineage is Jewish, but I am not a Zionist. My people have been erased, but that does not mean we should erase others. But how do we protect ourselves, our beliefs when we are feeling attacked? 

All these miles away, I have the luxury of thinking that too often language is used to create emotional distance. Conflict is just a softened way of saying violence and anger are rampant. Even the word violence is a softened way of saying that someone is intentionally causing hurt, injury, and/or death to others. We are so practiced at using language to blur the blows that even now, as I turn toward the problem, I am part of the problem. 

Looking at a photograph of the glass eyes, it is easy to see only the color of the glass. The glass is just glass. But what does it mean when we attribute the color of an eye or the shape of a head to inherent qualities. What does it mean when we judge others by numbers and statistics instead of seeing them as a living person? 

“Let my people go!”

Moses says this. In The Ten Commandments, in the Bible, in The Prince of Egypt. Let my people go. Now, thousands of miles away from Israel, from Gaza, people are saying something similar to the Israelites about the Palestinians. But the issue isn’t about letting anyone go, or finding a home, really; it is about finding a way to come together, to listen and acknowledge the atrocities of the past, and finding peace for the future. But how do we do that with so much anger? How do we do that when all we see is the other; the colors of the glass eyes reflect only what we want to see and not what needs to be seen. 




Zachary Ostraff received his MFA in creative writing from Eastern Washington University (2016). He has work in Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, High Desert Journal, Longridge Review, Hippocampus Magazine and more. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Texas Tech University. This essay is part of manuscript Zachary is developing that uses life and death masks to explore memory and connection. You can follow him on X (Twitter) @ostraffz or view his joint website with his artist partner, Elise, at

This essay is part of the feature "The Essay in a Time of Genocide"

Monday, December 25, 2023

Andrew Maynard on Other People’s Children

When my wife, Ally, began to feel contractions last month, she tried to convince herself they weren’t real. With baby #1, her water broke on the due date, but these arrived nine days early, and it can be difficult to recognize a reality outside of your lived experience. Ally researched Braxton Hicks on her phone while I slept in the nursery (I’d been kicked out of bed in favor of a full-body pillow). The contractions drew closer together, more painful, until she could no longer pretend they weren’t real. She woke me up to take her to the hospital. I was struck by her calm. 

The first time Ally was in labor, she pushed for four and a half hours, had an epidural that didn’t spread to half of her body, experienced the frustration of some unfortunately-timed shift changes, and ended with an episiotomy. In the aftermath, she experienced sustained waves of crippling anxiety. We took our son home but had to return to the NICU the next day. About a week later, my mom called while I was out walking the dog. When she asked how I was doing, I started crying on the crowded sidewalk. I didn’t have the language to explain what I was feeling, so I hung up the phone. 

But this time the epidural distributed its magic with generosity, and we took a nap while we waited. When the doctor came in to check on the progress, Ally’s water broke and our second son was delivered fifteen minutes later. Ally looked at ease holding Sheppard. She’d done this before. Her body and mind had evolved to not only endure but to embrace building and delivering life. I cut the cord. The doctor stitched her up and then left. The nurses remained to do what they do: professionally care about other people’s children. We stared at our son, Sheppard, all day. I’d now witnessed two births up close and personal. I knew what it looked and sounded like. Yet I also knew I could witness a thousand more and never really understand the experience. I studied my son's tiny face and long toes and jet-black hair, and for the first time in weeks, I forgot to call my senators to advocate on behalf of the thousands of children who had been killed in Gaza. And the thousands more to come.  

I recently revisited Audre Lorde’s essay “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” and find myself in the precarious position of agreeing with Lorde’s sentiment that “Your silence will not protect you,” while also being weary (verging on cynical) of the way speaking truth has manifested in the contemporary landscape of social media. When everyone speaks every one of their truths to everyone in their curated circle, the effect rendered is the same as the white noise machine in my toddler’s room: the voices converge into a single static that muffles the outside world. 

I arrived at Lorde’s essay in a state of frustration. I was irritated how the rhetoric surrounding the atrocities in Gaza had started to diminish the atrocities themselves. I was aware of the irony—centering my frustration over the way people center their outrage—and thought Lorde’s words might discourage my pettiness, maybe even combat my hypocrisy. Or at the very least force me to think outside of my experience. Usually the role of the essay in my life is simple: I take pleasure in reading them. But sometimes, particularly in moments of chaos, there’s more intention. 


We moved from San Francisco to Richmond, Virginia, this past summer to be closer to Ally’s family. Moving is a pain in the ass, but it’s also transformative if you allow it to be. You have to make choices about what you value, where to invest your resources, which stuff is worth the haul, who you must say goodbye to. As independent school teachers, Ally and I have to consider whether we want to take advantage of discounted tuition with our employer schools or start thinking about public school districts. Do we prioritize a yard or a walkable neighborhood? We have to clarify what we actually mean when we say we value diversity.  Basically, we have to decide what air we want our children to breathe. Choice can feel daunting, but it’s always a privilege. Moving across the country, like writing an essay, asks you to hold both who and where you’ve been and who and where you want to be in tandem. 

Moving has also made me conscious of the provincial influences on how we tell stories about our own homes and the homes of others. When I tell people in Richmond I moved from San Francisco, I’ve been met with looks that say, I know why you left. They don’t. Yes, they know it’s expensive, and they’ve typically seen the videos of the car break-ins and tents on the sidewalk and people doing drugs on the street. Multiple people have specifically referenced how Walgreens now has to lock up the majority of their products and might have to shut down their city locations. And I find myself wondering if purchasing free-range deodorant from a Walgreens in San Francisco was really once the nostalgia-inducing experience they make it out to be, or if there’s something else going on. And if you’ve seen the headlines about San Francisco on major news outlets, it’s hard to blame anyone for believing the city is broken. But it’s also important to acknowledge that if you, like Ron Desantis, use maps that track human shit, you shouldn’t be surprised when that's what you step in. And I say this as someone who loves San Francisco and also hates the way San Franciscans so often talked about the South as if exempt from the bigotry. I say this as someone who is essentially still a tourist in Richmond but has realized that, depending on your slant and where you fall on the map, Richmond is either the former capital of the Confederacy that fetishizes its past, or the predominantly minority city that has demanded new monuments. And if the stories of San Francisco and Richmond can be told in ways that are unrecognizable to the people who live there, what might I be missing in the discourse about Gaza? And anyway, most people in Richmond with whom I discuss San Francisco simply respond, “Oh, I love San Francisco.” But those responses don’t help me say what I’m trying to say. Do you see what I’m saying? 

And this all rests under the umbrella of the question: What can the essay do in a time of genocide? I don’t think I have (nor am I particularly interested in) a prescriptive answer. It’s easier to answer what the essay can’t do in a time of genocide. Essays will not feed or clothe or shelter or shield the people whose roots have been tattered and ripped from Gaza. Essays will not pull the shrapnel from the flesh of children. Essays will not breathe life into the cold bodies of dead babies. 

But essays do encourage digression in a time that feels more privy to debate and definition. Essays tend to avoid the delicate jostling of semantics that send the internet into a tizzy over the parameters and application of the word genocide. Essays reject the Jenga-styled, veneered arguments that pretend to be offended by the manufactured hypocrisy of both valuing land acknowledgements and believing Palestinians have the right to exist. 

Within Lorde’s essay, there are entire worlds to explore, but I keep coming back to this passage: “In the transformation of silence into language and action, it is vitally necessary for each one of us to establish or examine her function in that transformation and to recognize her role as vital within that transformation.” It’s here in the essay where I suspect Lorde would urge me to call my reps and donate to aid funds and encourage my community to follow suit, but she would caution me against taking up space in an increasingly crowded discussion where it can already be a challenge to interpret the words let alone make meaning from them. I don’t believe it’s this white American guy’s function in the transformation to be heard, but rather to listen to those whose function and experience make them, as speakers, vital to the transformation. 

And history and policy are important, and they are lanes that require drivers with credentials of knowledge and experience. And there are essays to be written that I can’t and will not write but will devour if you write them and encourage others to do the same. So I’m trying to stay in my lane here, to keep it simple. Because there is simplicity within this complexity. People are dying in droves. Civilians are dying in droves. Children are dying in droves. And Lorde says: 

For those of us who write, it is necessary to scrutinize not only the truth we speak, but the truth of that language by which we speak it. For others, it is to share and spread also those words that are meaningful to us. But primarily for us all, it is necessary to teach by living and speaking those truths which we believe and know beyond understanding. Because in this way alone we can survive, by taking part in a process of life that is creative and continuing, that is growth. 

And here is what I know beyond understanding. On our first night in the hospital, Sheppard, as is common for babies who undergo a quick labor, had a belly full of amniotic fluid that he kept spitting up while asleep on his back. The nurses assured us that babies can tilt their heads to the side and will not choke on their own bile. But we still couldn’t sleep. Maybe it was because we’d recently binged Breaking Bad and had too recently watched what happened to Jesse’s girlfriend, Jane. So every couple minutes when Sheppard would gag, we’d flock to his bassinet and wipe away the mess and hover, a hand on his chest and an ear by his mouth waiting to feel his breath. And we did that all night—out of instinct, not choice. A choice is whether you look at the sensitive content. Maybe you insist on spending three days sifting through investigative reports that warn you it’s going to hurt. And maybe you find a detail so brutal that you can barely bear to consider it. There's much to be gleaned from reading other people’s essays, but I’ve also been thinking about the role of writing the essay and teasing out the banality of my own experience in the time when the World Health Organization has reported that a child is killed every 10 minutes in Gaza, which means that dozens of children have died in the time I’ve spent recounting the birth of my own. And when you measure anything in the lives of children, it’s fair to ask what’s the point? And it’s tempting to borrow a sentence from Lorde, perhaps, “The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us.” But that would feel contrived, like total bullshit coming from me. Because Lorde’s essay was written to be spoken and shared with an audience, and I’m writing this for myself. I’m writing this because I want to think exhaustively about something I feel in my body but don’t fully understand. To remember that after Ally gave birth to our first child it was the stories of women that made her realize she wasn’t alone. I want to question why it’s impossible to sleep when my child is gagging, but I can sleep while children die in Gaza. I once cried in the middle of the street because my body and mind were still acclimating to the weight of being explicitly responsible for another life. And while our bodies and minds might be built to evolve and protect ourselves, we must reject hardening to the deaths of other people’s children. And when Lorde says “teach by living,” I think of the nurses who showed me how to fold a diaper beneath the stump of an umbilical cord and how you have to swaddle a baby tighter than you might feel comfortable with to make them feel secure. And at the time I thought they were modeling how to keep your child alive, but maybe they were modeling what it looks like to care for someone else’s children as if they were your own. Maybe when they told me not to worry about Sheppard spitting up what to me looked like poison, it’s because they understood that amniotic fluid was what nourished him for months, and sometimes we have to reject the very thing that used to keep us safe, that once sustained us, in order to live and grow and transform in a new world. 




Andrew Maynard is a teacher and writer based in Richmond, Virginia. His prose has appeared in HAD, Rejection Letters, True Story, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and two sons, Clyde and Sheppard.

This essay is part of the feature "The Essay in a Time of Genocide"

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Patrick Madden on Exactitude in Translation (feat. Eduardo Galeano with a Christmas Eve pun)

I have just finished reading Eduardo Galeano's last book, Hunter of Stories, in English translation, against Karina's advice, and I admit that she was utterly correct to question my judgment. I know Spanish well enough, and I do own the book in its original language, but that copy is miles away at my office, and I am sick, and I'd been waiting so long to say goodbye to Eduardo, who died many years ago, and I've been rereading my favorites of his books but avoiding this one, I suppose because the act felt too final, but this long weekend seemed like the right time to finally do it, "it" being to read, but also to bid farewell, which is not really farewell, as Eduardo himself learned as a young man in the old cafes of Montevideo:

I discovered that the past could become the present, and that memories could be recounted in such a way that they would stop being yesterday and become right now.

So maybe I was just missing my old friend and I wanted him present again, and Karina was right that I should have listened to his voice unfiltered through a translator. This point came home to me most clearly near the end of the book, in a scene from years ago in Montevideo's Parque Rodó, which the translator renders (in part) thusly:

suddenly I found myself surrounded by an uproarious crowd of children, dressed in their school uniforms, the girls with big blue ribbons in their hair.

As I've mentioned, Cazador de Historias is ensconced on a shelf in my university office. I will write the next bit before I get the book.

Reading that line, I knew it was mistranslated. I felt curious, a bit miffed, a bit betrayed, a bit territorial, a bit elitist. I wondered why Mark Fried, who'd translated eight of Galeano's books, who'd worked with him for twenty-five years, would have interpreted the idea this way into English, knowingly or unwittingly. My cavil was with the ribbons. While it's possible that some girls wore blue ribbons in their hair, I'm certain that Galeano was noting the big blue bows on the front of every Uruguayan schoolchild's uniform, boys and girls alike. I imagine the translator, encountering a strange detail that didn't map onto his experience, deciding that Galeano must have meant ribbons in the girls' hair, a logical place for such things. Who ever heard of a school uniform featuring giant blue bows, or, for that matter, flowing knee-length white smocks buttoned up in back? Who would design such a cruel outfit, not for private school students, whose risible getups are an expected part of their hazing, but for every child in the public schools of a country that led the Americas in establishing free, obligatory, laical education for all (1876)?

I guess I'm surprised that Fried seems either never to have visited Uruguay, or never to have noticed the ubiquitous schoolchildren in their silly uniforms, or maybe he visited only in the summer, or he didn't think to check on what must have seemed an odd phrasing in Galeano's Spanish (Galeano would have been dead by the time Fried got to this part of the book, I believe, so he couldn't have consulted). Or perhaps he decided not to "go there" in describing the reality Galeano had written, knowing that most of his English-speaking readers would be confused by an accurate depiction of the scene. But not this reader.

I have just found the Spanish edition of the book and checked the original phrasing. I was right (of course; I wouldn't complete this essay, or release it into the world, if I were wrong). Here it is:

me encontré súbitamente rodeado por una alborotada multitud de niños, vestidos con sus túnicas escolares y sus grandes moños azules.

I like "uproarious" for "alborotada"; "crowd" is better than the cognate "multitude." Same for "uniform" instead of "tunic," though the latter term gets us much closer to an accurate visual. Syntactically, "suddenly I found myself" is the expected rendering of what reads as "myself [I] encountered suddenly" in word-for-word translation. Nearly everything feels pleasing, both accurate and artful, but maybe even the non-Spanish speaker can see that there are absolutely no "girls" and no "hair" here. Just "grandes moños azules" = "grand moños azures" = "big blue bows" ("moño" is supposed to have entered Latin from Etruscan, where "muhn" meant "knot").

I don't know why this bothers me so much, but I imagine it has something to do with the unavoidable imperfections of translation, or even the imprecisions of writing generally. For instance, I have been to Parque Rodó, numerous times, so I can locate Galeano's scene in a kind of general scenery/geography. In fact, I do locate it (unconsciously) just outside the Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales, where I once ran into the novelist Mario Delgado Aparaín. Obviously, the happenstantial similarities deepen the topographical. In this transposition of memories, I guess I am the rowdy schoolchildren and Delgado is Galeano (note the near anagram: 5 of 7 letters). But I am certain that my image is "wrong," not only because what are the chances, but also because Galeano used to always walk along the riverfront, which intersects the park several blocks from the museum, nearer to the amusement park, which seems like a more likely place for kids to (want to) be. Of course, a reader doesn't have to visualize the scene with any measure of specificity (and even my sharpest experiential memory of the park is only hazy and vague) to get the point of the vignette, which is that the children were excited to see an author they'd read in school; that they hailed him as "lord of the flames," misattributing to him a story he'd recounted from an unnamed man from Neguá, Colombia; and that, as Galeano points out to end his piece, this was "the only title of nobility [he'd] ever received." There's a lot here, but mostly the inversion of our expectations about value, about whom we ought to impress. Not only does the piece celebrate children; it undermines the whole system of back-patting honorifics. It's typical Galeano, in a good way.

So why should it matter if the translator transplanted the blue bows to the girls' hair?

I guess I could ask you how you would read "an uproarious crowd of children, dressed in their school uniforms and their big blue bows." Would you breeze by the description? Pause to consider it? Wonder what those bows were doing? Where they were located? Might you place them in girls' hair anyway? And does knowing that they’re on every child, dangling just below the neck, on a dresslike white smock, advance the plot? Does it help you understand anything about any message? Or does it give you another kind of pause? Are you heading to your search engine right now to see this sight?

Here. I'll save you the trouble:

For me, who didn't grow up in Uruguay and who's never worn the uniform, but whose children have (betimes, when we have lived in Montevideo long term), the sight of those comical dandy-painter costumes always elicits a smile, sometimes even a chuckle. Karina repeats the party line about how the uniforms equalize rich and poor, because nobody sees whether your clothes are ratty or fashionable, but I'm not so sure. For one thing, you can see pants legs and shoes; for another, maybe your smock is not in the best condition. A related justification she gives is that kids never have to worry about what clothes they'll wear to school because they're covered up with the uniform anyway. I mean, yes, those are possible interpretations of the tunic-and-bow, but couldn't we also be perpetuating a minor humiliation on our children, or, better said, a humbling, to good purpose? Enforcing a kind of uniformity as a means of, well, uniting them, us, not just spatially-socioeconomically but temporally-historically? Children wear the same uniform their parents wore, same as their grandparents and great-grandparents wore, same as those kids who thronged Eduardo Galeano that day. Dress (as redress) is yet another way past becomes present. Everybody does it. Has done it. See? We all survived. We're still here.

And while we're still here, extrapolating ad nauseam from such a trifling mistranslation, I should clarify that I'm resolutely against the idea that writing is purely secondary to what we commonly call "reality." Galeano first taught me this:

We begin with the moment an act happens in reality, outside an author's head, and then the author reproduces in himself what happened outside himself. Then this idea, this reproduction of the act inside the author's head, also becomes part of reality. The original act, which comes directly or indirectly from reality, is transfigured in the process of creation.

You would be right, given all we've been through, to wonder what this statement sounded like when Galeano spoke it through the air to my ears two decades ago in Cafe Brasilero in Montevideo's Old City. For the benefit of Spanish speakers or Google translators, I'll share a transcription here, noting, with a humbled smile, how my own translation smoothed over quite a few extemporaneously rough edges:

...y de algún modo siempre a partir del momento en el que un hecho que proviene directa- o indirectamente de la realidad, o sea un hecho ocurrido en la realidad que está fuera del autor, o un hecho nacido en la cabeza del autor, que al fin y al cabo es un ser en sociedad, por lo tanto reproduce dentro de sí lo que acontece afuera, por lo tanto eso también es parte de la realidad. Ese hecho que viene directa- o indirectamente de la realidad se transfigura en el proceso de creación.

When he said it, amidst hours of jovial conversation, it struck me as something utterly new and vitally important to understand. I comprehended, epiphanically, the power behind the motto Galeano printed on all his books: "la creación literaria": literary creation: the idea that the written word not only derived from but created reality. Reality expanded infinitely, immediately, it seemed.

Before we move on, allow me a brief additional consideration of transfigurations. All this reminds me of another Galeano piece, one of the "Walls Speak" segments in Walking Words, where an unknown graffitist has written

Las vírgenes tienen muchas navidades, pero ninguna noche buena

which was translated as

Virgins have many Christmases but no christenings

The grace of the Spanish joke is that Christmas Eve is called "Nochebuena," or "Good Night." So the sentiment of the graffiti is that virgins (recalling Mary, the Virgin mother of Jesus, of course) may celebrate many Christmases, but they don't have any good nights. Ever. Because...well, you get it. The problem with the translation is that, while it's technically true (or is it? a virgin could attend the christening of a friend's child), it's not funny. Yes, there's the alliterative wordplay, but there's no pun. So I tried my own translation:

For virgins Christmas comes but once a year, but every night's a silent night

While the rhythm stutters at the outset (that pesky "for"), it settles into a pleasing, regular trochaic nonameter. And what's more, it finds a pun in the same last position, and with the same literal Christmas-Eve connection, and with a very similar double meaning, as the original. In order to pull off that feat, it has to revise the initial premise (from "many Christmases" to rare Christmases), but this feels like a more forgivable revision than ditching the joke altogether.

Which reminds me of yet another nitpick I've had with a Galeano translation, but I'll spare the backstory and simply let Eduardo remind us that

every single one of us has something to say to the others, something that deserves to be celebrated, or forgiven.


Patrick Madden, author of Disparates (2020), Sublime Physick (2016), and Quotidiana (2010), teaches at Brigham Young University and curates the online anthology of classical essays

Monday, December 18, 2023

Dave Griffith on Thinking About Looking or The Essay as Ally

Screen shot from Instagram: Warning for Sensitive Content

In the summer of 2017 I met Shaun King at the Chautauqua Institution–yes, that Chautauqua, where Salman Rusdhie was attacked and subsequently lost sight in his right eye. 

I was onboarding that summer. I had just been hired to the executive team of the Institution and, though my start date was later in the fall, they wanted me to see what the lovely and venerable grounds were like in-season.

King, an activist and organizer, was unknown to me. All I knew was that his visit was controversial. The audience at Chautauqua, while known for being deeply curious and full of well-educated folk committed to life-long education, are also known for being majority white and politically center-right. All I was hearing about King was that he was a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, an affiliation that led most of the Chautauquans I spoke with to cock an eyebrow.

King’s lecture was in the newly rebuilt 4,400 seat amphitheater, or simply, “Amp,” as it is known on the grounds, and it was standing room only. I stood at the back of the Amp and listened, but mainly I was watching the crowd. I was curious to see how they would react to the news that this young man–still not quite forty-years-old–was there to share with them; that racism is systemic and structural; that it is endemic, baked in, so to speak, to most American institutions, especially law enforcement. 

While the crowd was gracious, clearly what King was saying was a direct challenge to the way most audience members, myself included, experienced everyday life. One audience member, an older gentleman wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with the name of the military vessel he presumably served aboard during World War II, turned to me and said, “Love it or leave it.” 

King got his start blogging and writing as a justice reporter for the New York Daily News, but these days he’s most known for raising funds for families victimized by police violence, and for the long, impassioned explanatory captions he writes in the space below his numerous Instagram posts, many of which are reposts of videos sent to him in order to help boost the visibility and awareness of events that would otherwise be lost in the daily glut of fitness and lifestyle influencers. If you follow reports of police brutality, then chances are good that you have seen some of his posts. His words illustrate and illuminate: “Let me tell you what you’re seeing,” he often begins, providing context for the often jumpy or grainy cell phone footage taken by bystanders.

Since the October terrorist attacks on Israel by Hamas militants, King’s Instagram feed has become focused almost exclusively on the IDF’s retaliatory counterattack, which has led to the death of thousands of civilians. Collaborating with journalists inside of Gaza, King has been reposting dozens of videos per day, many of them depicting the lifeless bodies of children. 

Many of the posts are flagged by Instagram as “Sensitive Content,” indicated by a white eye icon with a warning slash through it, as well as a brief message: “This video may contain graphic or violent content” and beneath it a small box containing the words “See why.” Clicking on the box reveals a boilerplate statement explaining that though the post “doesn’t go against our Community Standards, [it] may contain images that some people might find upsetting.” And then: “We cover graphic content so people can choose whether to see it.” 

The unintentional poetry of this statement–choosing whether or not to see–is profound.

King has many detractors for a variety of reasons–see Wikipedia–and I’m not here to defend him against those criticisms, but one thing that I think needs to be said is that what he is doing here and now goes beyond mere “outrage journalism.” He is forcing us to confront the choice itself. Do we opt for blissful ignorance and avoidance of what is being done in the name of justice and peace out of fear of being allied to, or complicit in, the cause, or do we engage in the difficult work of looking and thinking for ourselves.

King’s Instagram posts are, in a way, reminiscent of the work of essayists and thinkers like James Baldwin, Thomas Merton, Wendell Berry, and Susan Sontag, writers who look(ed) at the world around them and, as Henry Giroux writes, told stories about what they saw in a way that has “the potential to unsettle common sense, challenge the commonplace, and move communities to invest in their own sense of civic and collective agency.” In this way, essays and essaying “make knowledge meaningful, in order to make it critical and transformative and provide a different sense of how the world is narrated.”  

I am thinking here of many essays at once, but top of mind is Thomas Merton’s “Letter to an Innocent Bystander,” which I wrote about 11 years ago this month for this very forum on the occasion of the school shooting in Newtown, CT.

As odd as it feels, I will quote myself: 

Reading Merton's essay now in the full, glaring light of the the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut--27 dead, 20 of them children between the ages of five and ten--I am reminded how an essay, a preoccupation relentlessly chased, an attempt to articulate--to assail--the unspeakable, written decades ago with no thought of Newtown, Connecticut or gun control laws, can implicate us and charge us--and here I mean "everyone"--with a mission: "Our duty," Merton writes, "is to refuse to believe that their way is inevitable." 

I know that I (and we) must be careful how we choose our words and our analogies. And so let me say that I do not mean to equate the murdering of American school children with assault-style rifles with the IDF’s current bombardment (much of it with munitions whose flight cannot be controlled) of innocent Palestinians. Nor would I call the unrelenting spate of school shootings the genocide of American school-age children. 

This is not what the essay, as I am currently imagining it, intends. Merton might say it best. Writing in the prologue to his collection of essays Raids on the Unspeakable he directly addresses his essays:

You are not so much concerned with ethical principles and traditional answers, for many men have decided no longer to ask themselves those questions. Your main interest is not in formal answers or accurate definitions, but in difficult insights at a moment of human crisis.  

In other words, the essay, in the face of a crisis like the murder of revelers at a party in the name of freedom or the indiscriminate bombing–”total war,” as it called–of a civilian population, moves away from the safe pedantry of articulating ethical principles, and detours into the history of warfare to underscore the fact that we have been here before, and, don’t you know, that we have treaties and conventions abolishing such conduct, to focus on what we can say of ourselves at this precise moment in time. And, in so doing, enter the timeless and the prophetic.

I am thinking now of Wendell Berry who begins his essay collection What Are People For? with “Damage,” a poem about the building of a pond on his property to water his livestock.

The trouble was the familiar one: too much power, too little knowledge. The fault was mine.

I am thinking of the closing paragraph of Susan Sontag’s book-length essay Regarding the Pain of Others. Writing about a photo depicting dead soldiers from the Russian/Afghan war, she takes on the perspective of the dead:

What would they have to say to us? “We”--this “we” is everyone who has never experienced anything like what they went through–don’t understand. We don’t get it. We truly can’t imagine what it was like. We can’t imagine how dreadful, how terrifying war is; and how normal it becomes. Can’t understand, can’t imagine. That’s what every soldier, and every journalist and aid worker and independent observer who has put in time under fire, and had the luck to elude the death that struck down others nearby, stubbornly feels. And they are right.

What we can say of ourselves–we, us–at this moment? I look to a post on Shaun King’s Instagram for assistance. The post is dated 12/5. It has received 317,890 likes, if that matters. It bears the “Sensitive Content” warning, so the screen is blurry in that 2 am scrambled cable channel pornography way. The caption reads “Forgive me for what you will see and what I have to say.”

The caption continues:

 What you are witnessing is the Massacre of Deir Al-Balah in Gaza–RIGHT NOW.

This is being filmed by our dear brother @motaz_azaiza [a photographer living in Gaza whose own Instagram feed has 17.1 million followers] - this is HIS NEIGHBORHOOD. He soon realizes that he has lost many family members, friends, and neighbors.

The entire videos are some of the worst I’ve ever seen. It looks like 6 ENTIRE BLOCKS of LARGE APARTMENT BUILDINGS were just completely destroyed. Kids, elders, women, men. Everybody - either blown to literal bits or so badly mangled that survival is unlikely.

I saw torsos without heads of limbs.

Hands with no arms.

Heads with no bodies.

Skin with no bone.

It’s been a lie since 1948.  

When I saw this post on the 5th of December, I chose to click on the “See Reel” link at the bottom of the blurred window. I did not bother with clicking the “See Why” button. I knew that what I was likely to see would be graphic. I told myself that I needed to see it. I had been avoiding such accounts. I had been taking other people’s word for it–thousands of innocent dead; whole neighborhoods bombed to rubble–so now I needed to see it with my own eyes.

What I see is this:

Cell phone footage from Motaz Azaiza. His camera is facing the street–not at him. He is running so the camera lurches up and down, up and down, with his footfalls. I am reminded of standing over my youngest brothers’ shoulder, watching him play the first-person shooter game DOOM. It is the 90s. He is maybe 10. All I see are the player’s hands as he runs through the maze of rooms. If I listen closely, I can hear the panting of this digital person as he runs. This is not Gaza, but some subterranean hellscape, but the movement and the sounds are eerily the same. The bobbing, lurching action simulates desperate, life or death running. I am concerned about my brother because I have heard the warnings about these first-person shooter games; worries that they can desensitize you, make you into a violent person.

Azaiza’s camera does not pause until he encounters bodies, and even then he runs past the first body he sees, fixing his camera instead on the large apartment building–or what had been an apartment building–shrouded in dust, a dark plume of smoke rising above it. Then, he doubles back a few yards to capture the body in the street–a man, covered in dust, above his head is a halo of blood, spreading itself on the asphalt of the street.

The camera turns and he is running again towards the wrecked building. People are running into the rubble and returning with small, limp, dust-covered bodies in their arms. All the bodies that he passes are covered in this dust. We must not come from the same dust, I think to myself. It is the only answer to how such destruction and death could be tolerated, could be countenanced.

I keep coming back to the formal apology of King’s caption: “Forgive me for what you will see and what I have to say.”

I am thinking now of John Hersey’s Hiroshima. I am thinking of the Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, a Methodist minister who survived the initial blast on August 6, 1945. I am thinking of him running through the streets in the aftermath and saying to the wounded who walk burned, bloodied, dazed, and covered in dust past him: “Forgive me for having no burden like yours.” 

I am thinking of what we are told is a quintessentially Japanese attitude, the guilt of having survived while so many others perished. 

I am thinking now of James Baldwin who begins his essay “The Discovery of What it Means to Be an American” with a Henry James quote:

“It is a complex fate to be an American.”

I am thinking of my students from this past semester. We had just begun reading Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others when Hamas militants attacked and massacred young people their age at an outdoor rave. 

I am thinking of the looks on their faces when what we were reading became practical, if that is even the word for it. I am thinking of Sontag, quoting Simone Weil’s “The Iliad, of the Poem of Force” (another book-length essay) how “violence turns anybody subjected to it into a thing.” I remember looking out at my classroom, this ring of students in their desks and allowing for just a moment to think of them as things. I am thinking of the horror, the shudder that went through me at the thought; that I had even allowed myself to have it in the first place.

After Shaun King’s appearance on the amphitheater stage, he was to lead a workshop for a much smaller group of people who had paid extra, I believe, for this more intimate experience. I asked if I could sit in on the workshop. This, too, was standing room only. 

Held in a high ceilinged ballroom on the third floor of Alumni Hall, a beautiful old manse with a wrap around porch, I stood at the back of the room and, again, as in the amphitheater, listened and watched the audience. The focus of King’s remarks to this small group of maybe fifty people–mostly white–was allyship: How can we be allies to the oppressed? 

His message, and I quote (as best as my memory serves): To be an ally don’t show up expecting to provide the answer. Being an ally means asking what you can do. It means bringing food, setting up chairs. It means standing back and listening, waiting, watching, and being ready to help. But don’t expect that anything you have to say will help solve the problem. 

From the looks on the faces of those present, this was a hard, deflating message to hear–it was definitely not what I expected to hear–as it burst the growing bubble of hubris; that fantasy that we alone can make a difference. 

I am thinking about looking. I am thinking about thinking about looking, and about how looking causes us to think. 

But, I am thinking: Is looking required, or is requiring photographic proof of atrocity a concession to the cynics among us? No, I am thinking, I suppose not–the freedom to choose to look or not must be protected. 

But I will say this: an essay is a different sort of looking, a different sort of proof, a different kind of choice. It is an allying. 

The essay asks, If this is true, then what? 


DAVE GRIFFITH is the author of A Good War is Hard to Find: The Art of Violence in America (Soft Skull Press). His essays have appeared in print and online at the Paris Review, New England Review, Belt Magazine, Image, and Another Chicago Magazine, among others. 


This essay is part of the feature "The Essay in a Time of Genocide"


Monday, December 11, 2023

Nicole Walker on the Insistence of the Essay

I subscribe to The New York Times, The Washington Post, and my local paper, The Arizona Daily Sun. Unless you’re talking about how families receive $7,000 vouchers to remove their children from the public school system with no regulation for where and how they use that $7,000, the Daily Sun is a relatively safe space with stories about rim to rim to rim Grand Canyon hikes and when the new In and Out burger joint will open. But The Times and The Post offer less safety. Last week, I spent three rough days delving into investigative reports that warned each time that these stories were not for the faint of heart. That I had to prepare myself. That, for the first time, they were going to show images that papers usually don’t show.
The first article I read was a no-holds-barred article in The Washington Post, “Terror on Repeat: A Rare Look at the Devastation Caused by AR-15 Shooting.” A police officer, entering the elementary school after the massacre said, “I thought at first it was an art room because I saw a lot of red paint all over the walls and in the far left corner I thought I observed a pile of dirty laundry.” And then he realized those were not clothes. Or not only clothes. The clothes held the bodies of dead children who had huddled together to try to protect themselves from the shooter. Other images of blood streaking down the school hallway. And there were other photos from the Las Vegas massacre with another pile, this time of spent bullets, pyramiding in an empty room.
Next, I read in The Times the article, “They Started Playing Football When They Were Six,” about children who had played football as young kids and had killed themselves in their teens and early twenties. One element to this multimedia article showed a video of a young boy, as clean cut and together-looking as a kid could be, as he recorded himself saying that his brain had become increasingly uncontrollable. He could not stop his depression, his anxiety. He said, “Dad, I know you’re capable of doing this,” then he asked his dad to, after his open-casket funeral, donate his brain to science. He wanted them to see proof of what he believed: the many concussions he received while playing football caused his mental illness. Then, he turned the camera off and shot himself.
The third article was about children dying in Gaza. Another warning reminded me that these images might be too difficult to bear. In the article itself, an image of a mother holding her shrouded child in her arms was deemed the safe one. But if I clicked below, I could see the unbearable image. I clicked. Seven children lie under a blanket, their bodies covered to their necks, their faces exposed. Five of the faces looked dead, their heads bent in unlikely positions. But two of the youngest kids, maybe four and five, looked like they were sleeping. I could look at those faces a second longer than the others. One second.

What can the essay do in the face of these tragedies? The articles have been written. The photos finally revealed to make the horror plain. Can my words provide more horror? Can I say better what The Times and The Post have said? They say, usually, we don’t show photos or videos like these, but now is the time.
I usually write braided essays, pairing a personal story with something research-based and informative. My hope is that by toggling back and forth between two kinds of stories, elements of likeness appear between the two, articulating that the personal story streaks through the bigger world and that the larger world reveals its nuances in the personal story.
But the Israel-Gaza war does not call for a braid. The war doesn’t need our opinion. It doesn’t need a political history lesson. What the essay can do is insist. Essays require a different kind of time and space. In fact, they make time and they make space. To read an essay is to give yourself over to the possibilities. They recount survivor’s stories. They describe the photos of bodies. They imagine the author signing up to work for the Red Cross. They image the four-year-old hostage whose parents were killed in the October 7th attack and wonder to what home that child might return. They think of the seven bodies and wonder what if those children had just been allowed to sleep. They imagine what peace might look like. They imagine water running freely from the taps of faucets like it never had before with Israeli-restricted water rations. They imagine that good story of a mother from Israel and a mother from Gaza bringing hummus and lentils and baba ghanoush and pita to each other at the border and sitting resolutely as the bullets fly overhead and feeding each other with their hands until suddenly, hummus looked better than bullets to the soldiers.
The essay, as has become cliché to say, means to try. It tries to see something others can’t see. It tries to believe something others don’t yet believe. The essay says, Look at what’s happening. It says, Do not look away until you see the things you didn’t want to see. Then the essay says, Look until you figure out how to make it better. 


NICOLE WALKER is the author of Processed Meats: Essays on Food, Flesh and Navigating Disaster; The After-Normal: Brief, Alphabetical Essays on a Changing Planet; Sustainability: A Love Story; Where the Tiny Things Are; Egg; Micrograms, and Quench Your Thirst with Salt. You can find her at Twitter: @nikwalkotter and website: and TikTok @nicolewalker263


This essay is part of the feature "The Essay in a Time of Genocide"


Monday, December 4, 2023

Eric LeMay on Unbearable Thoughts and the Bombing of Children

Embed from Getty Images

Palestinians evacuate the area following an Israeli airstrike
on the Sousi mosque in Gaza City on October 9, 2023

“Writing my children’s names on their bodies is the solution, so that the world will know them.” 

- Mohammed Abu Odeh

On October 22, over two weeks into the bombardment of Gaza, I learned that parents are writing the names of their children on their children’s arms and legs. The parents hope their names will identify them if their bodies or parts of their bodies are found at bomb sites.
      Before I learned this, I’d read the reports of children being dismembered by Israeli missiles and found in the wreckage. I’d also read the reports of the thousands of children who’d had to flee their homes, who’d been orphaned, who’d been killed. At least 6,600 dead as of today, December 4, fifty-nine days into the fighting.
      Yet when I read about these parents inscribing their children’s names on their children’s limbs—names they gave them at their births, names they say every day of their lives—I broke.
      I am a parent and a writer. I can’t imagine writing any words more devastating than my child’s name on my child flesh, meant to be read when he is dead, when pieces of him are found.

“When my children ask me why I’m doing this,” says Mohammed Abu Odeh. “I tell them that it is for their safety and protection.”
      Abu Odeh is from the Al-Shati refugee camp in Northern Gaza. He has two children. He is explaining to reporters from Al Jazeera that no child should have to live hearing bombs explode above them, needing to worry about whether they’ll be buried under rubble.
      “Can anyone in the world bear the thought of what our children are going through?”

As the days continue and the bombings continue and the deaths continue, I see ever more clearly that the answer to Abu Odeh’s question is yes.
      There are many people in the world, many in my own country, who are not only bearing the horrors that Palestinian children are going through, but who are also supporting this attack on the civilians of Gaza.
      I see ever more clearly how they—how we—have hardened our hearts even to the mass killing of children. We who are parents. We who cannot bear the thought of such horrors happening to our own children.
      When I learn about these parents writing their children’s names on their children’s limbs, I try to share this news with my spouse. It’s morning, before school, and our own child is in the next room, playing with his electric toothbrush.
      As I tell her, she begins to cry and says, “Stop it.”
      I stop and, later, I think to myself that this is exactly what has to happen: it has to stop.
      It hasn’t stopped. 

“At that moment, I thought that if the house was hit by a severe bombing, my children would die, and no one would be able to identify them.”
      The moment Sara al-Khalidi is describing happened in her living room in Gaza City, where she huddled with her four children during an Israeli bombardment that lasted the entire night. She goes on to describe fleeing south to Khan Younis, where she hoped she and her family would be safer.
      Once there, al-Khalidi saw her relatives writing the names of their children on their bodies and, later, saw a doctor at al-Shifa Hospital doing the same to the children there. Until then, al-Khalidi had resisted doing this with her own daughters. The thought of it, she said, made her cry. She worried it would bring bad luck.   
      “The world should know about these children who were murdered by Israel,” al-Khalid says, “because they are not numbers, but names, stories and dreams killed by the Israeli occupation in Gaza.”

Yes. They are not numbers. They are children, as full of stories and dreams, as fully named, as our own children. As my own child.
      It’s knowing this, it’s knowing and loving my own child, that makes the thought of what these children are going through unbearable.
      My child’s name is Roland Sean LeMay.
      I write these words here, as a parent and a witness to the parents in Gaza, to the love they bear for their children in the midst of what’s unbearable. 

Note: One of my aims in this essay is to amplify the voices of Palestinian parents. I’m grateful to Linah Alsaafin and Ruwaida Amer, journalists at Al Jeezera, for their reporting on the people of Gaza and for this report from which I’ve drawn the accounts about and quotations from Mohammed Abu Odeh and Sara al-Khalidi.




Eric LeMay is an essayist and a parent. He lives in Athens, Ohio. One of his most recent essays, "Hole," appears in RiverTeeth.

This essay is part of the feature "The Essay in a Time of Genocide"