Dedicated to the People of Darfur
Writings on Fear, Risk, and Hope
Publication Year: 2009
Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, a gallery of O.Henry award recipients, and many best-selling authors come together to share personal and compelling challenges and experiences. From contemplations on past drug use to reflections on gun control, social justice, passion and its sacrifices, and adventures such as skydiving, mountain climbing, and golfing, the topics vary greatly. This kaleidoscopic anthology is a commentary on the lives of prominent literary artists and ordinary citizens who have made simple, yet powerful choices that provoked change in one's self and for humanityùmuch the same way that Luke and Jennifer Reynolds do by building this invaluable collection for readers and the world of human rights.
Not too long ago, as struggling graduate students, Luke and Jennifer Reynolds conceived this uniquely themed volume as a way to raise funds to support ending the genocide in Darfur. Some people carry signs, others make speeches, many take action. What is most special about this book is that it extends beyond words and ideas, into a tangible effort to effect change. To this end, all royalties from the sales of Dedicated to the People of Darfur:Writings on Fear, Risk, and Hope will benefit The Save Darfur Coalition, an organization that seeks to end the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.
Published by: Rutgers University Press
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Why not? Some have suggested racism. They say: Remember Rwanda? You were indifferent when one group of black people butchered another for months on end. To which I respond: Ha ha, yes, but remember Bosnia? We were indifferent there too, for years on end, when one group of white people butchered another. ...
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The first time we read about the genocide in Darfur we were sitting in our warm apartment drinking tea. That day, the New York Times reported on the wide-scale injustices that were occurring in Sudan, specifically the massive numbers of soldiers who were raping women: mothers, daughters, sisters. ...
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Part I. The Fears Within
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Weeping Unfamiliar Tears
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Long ago, when there was no day or night, when the wind was only felt and not heard, there lived a people who walked and flew. They didn’t have sight and it wasn’t out of blindness. They chose to tie their eyelids with soft ropes as soon as their innocence was washed away with age, which happened before a child could talk. ...
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The sticking point being that I’ve never taken a risk in my life. But that doesn’t stop me from assenting to the request. Saying “no” is its own risk: don’t want to appear ungenerous and don’t want to miss an opportunity. A friend once suggested that my general caution might have to do with my sister Cynthia and her death, at 26, of breast cancer. ...
The Risk of (Not) Communicating
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We all know some of them. The in-your-face risk takers who climb mountains, jump out of airplanes (Who came up with that idea, anyway?!), travel to remote and little known destinations, always seeking the next thrill. Ooh-ing and ah-ing at the stories of novelty and danger recounted by our fear-nothing friends, ...
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Every time I momentarily lose a sense of orientation, like asking myself in the midst of some domestic family squabble what am I doing here or who am I (such moments of vagueness do not decrease with aging), I think back to the last piece I wrote and tell myself, “Aha, I am the author of—” it could be a lengthy tome, ...
Holding a Little Girl’s Hand
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Our lives had fallen into a new but now familiar routine. Once again morning meant the bustle of getting kids to school, packing lunches, finding hairbrushes and matching socks. I was still fragile enough to find these ordinary things extraordinary. Sometimes I stood in the basement, my hands pulling warm clothes from the dryer, ...
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I am not afraid. And then suddenly I am afraid. The sky is cloudy with white that wants to be grey, clouds that at present innocent, want to be more powerful than they are. Innocent becomes sinister in an instant. Transformation, transition— whatever you wish to call it. That is the risk you take in living. ...
Rescuing Fire from the Flood
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Part II. Writing Risk
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I read in an article, long ago, that Bernard Malamud’s daughter was upset because she saw her toes in one of his short stories. Her toes? Okay, that one we can dismiss. She must have been way too sensitive, a prima donna—unless her toes were deformed, unless he put them on the feet of a whore—so I’ll be charitable. ...
Writing Toward the Center
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The day is spectacular in that Oregon way—August sky an almost painful, clear blue as if made up of tiny crystals. Sun-shatters light the Douglass fir and ponderosa pine. We are slow gathering the last items for the car, wanting to luxuriate in our vacation space a little longer before heading into the rhythm of the nine-hour car ride home. ...
Like a Syrupy Sweet
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The opposite of risk is security. Peace of mind and comfort. Safety and stability, shelter and snug harbor. Risk is sailing into the storm, all flags flying. It’s allowing for the possibility, even the likelihood, of suffering and harm. So why would I do something so foolish? Risk is an invitation to failure, isn’t it? ...
An Apostate in Academe
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I’m an apostate in academe, a professor of creative writing who comes to the profession equipped only with faith that in the early twenty-first century universities are America’s latter day Medicis, our patrons of the arts, making it viable to make a life in words. ...
Risks in Writing the Novel: The Rape of Sita
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Over the three years or so that I was writing The Rape of Sita its title was always already there in my head. I was held in awe of the double meaning of the word “rape,” as both “abduction” of the Goddess, Sita, and as “physical violation” of my modern-day fictional character, Sita, who unlike long-ago goddesses was not protected by any manner of divine prophecy. ...
One Man’s Risk
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A few years ago, on an island off the coast of Norway, in the course of a casual hike, first my wife and then my son stepped from one bank of a narrow stream onto a concrete footing (what it was doing there, we never figured out), and from there to the far bank. ...
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Writing sucks. Writing for anthologies that will benefit worthy causes sucks. Walking to work and seeing a flock of birds take flight and thinking “The Birds” and hoping you don’t get splat on sucks. And wondering all the while what it is people want anyway. Immortality? Fame! ...
On the Line
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When I was sixteen and considering writing as a career, I was told that becoming an author was just about the hardest thing one could try to do. That didn’t bother me, though it should have. My only real concern was whether it would be adventure enough. ...
Politics and the Imagination: How to Get Away with Just about Anything (in Ten Not-So-Easy Lessons)
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“I’m not interested in political fiction” seems at first like a completely baffling remark, not less so because it’s a stance adopted by large numbers of people. Not interested in the ways people use their power over each other? Not interested in the ways we can, fatally, succumb to greed or the wide devastation that greed can cause? ...
Part III. Where I Come From
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That Other World That Was the World
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More than three hundred years of the colonization of modem times (as distinct from the colonization of antiquity) have come to an end. This is the positive achievement of our twentieth century, in which so much has been negative, so much suffering and destruction has taken place. ...
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Now that Rachel, my daughter, has taken up residence in Barcelona, Spain as a teacher, I have begun to use her old bedroom in this house as an extension of my own living quarters. Each evening I sit on the edge of her bed and watch the evening news. No matter how tragic the news is (bombings in the Middle East, ...
Rescued by Junkies
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I was maybe sixteen and out with my stoned, amoral, largely lackluster friends, looking for a party, riding in a Dodge Dart so old as to have pushbutton transmission and yet so soothingly quiet as to be a slight embarrassment: “Engine by Singer,” we used to say. ...
The Prozac Variations
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In Susan Sontag’s essay on Roland Barthes she writes that “his late writing . . . was organized in serial rather than linear form. Straight essay writing was reserved for the literary good deed.” So I’ve decided to take a risk. Rather than writing an essay, I’ve arranged in serial form, and edited, the journal I kept when I wasn’t able to write, between the years 1995–1996. ...
Our Side of the Tracks
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The House Fire
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Living in Memphis, as in most large cities, leads to choices that balance safety against other concerns. For the poor, you can bake in a 120-degree house with no air conditioning in the summer or leave your windows open and risk an attack from an intruder. With money, you might move to the suburbs where you can at least hope ...
The Risk of Deadness
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We have the finest athletes in the world streaming into Beijing and as they train for the Olympics, they complain their lungs and heart hurt. Too much pollution, too much black smoke, and I’d venture to say much more than that— all kinds of nameless toxic-merging of poisons in the air, water and soil, passed on to foods, ...
The Risk of Consciousness
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The ocean in this place was dark and not a place you would want to enter or swim or even wade. I stayed as the only guest. It wasn’t a hotel, so much as cabins without doors, only shutters. It was Jamaica during political turmoil. I didn’t know it. I didn’t even know the location. ...
High Noon at Midnight
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My marriage had collapsed and I was adrift and alone. I tried alcohol but that was the curse of my family and better avoided. At midnight I planted a chair in the middle of the kitchen and dared the demons to come. In various forms they came: priests, teachers, old girlfriends. They howled. ...
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My father taught us to love a snack. One of his favorites was crackers with peanut butter and horseradish, slice of sweet bread-and-butter pickle optional, about twelve crackers at a time, stacked precariously six-by-six on your palm on the way to the TV room. ...
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I find golf so metaphorical about all aspects of life that when thoughts about risk-taking arise it’s natural that I focus first on risk as it applies to the game. And I’m reminded of those times when I hit the ball awry, and instead of a fairway found the woods. ...
Part IV. Creating Change
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It is almost laughable to compare the risks I have taken to those taken by hundreds and hundreds of refugees and war survivors I have met while living and working in Africa over the last quarter century. I think of it more as taking less traveled roads throughout my life, creating paths marked by adventure, danger, tragedy, and—ultimately—meaning. ...
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I have these world globes on top of my bookcase. I started collecting them years ago, when I bought a wobbly tin cast-off in a yard sale. The dented sphere reminded me of a game I played when I was a little girl. I had a similar globe—a cheap educational model. I’d spin the globe hard, close my eyes, and stop it with my index finger. ...
Girls and Guns
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I am afraid a man will shoot me. This fear has nothing to do with my personality, psyche, or romantic history. The man who might shoot me has no face, no name, and no motive. His desire to shoot me will come from someplace other than the hidden room of resentments we all carry within us. ...
From Individual Despair to Collective Risk Taking: Stopping the Corporate Bullies
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I don’t remember the day I took my first risk, but I am pretty sure it was before I was five, when I stood up to my abusive father by refusing to cry as he repeatedly slapped me hard across the face. He wanted to see tears, but I knew somewhere inside my soul, that if I gave him what he wanted, it was all over for me. ...
Angels or Apes? An Inquiry into the Nature of Modern Sadism and the Optional Extinction of Our Species
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Back in 1986, when the Reagan Revolution was still in full swing, an Arizona Senator by the name of John McCain decided to uncork a little of that famous conservative wit. Addressing a crowd in our nation’s capital, he allegedly told the following joke: ...
Reclaiming the Self: Pain and Risk in the Pursuit of Our Best
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These questions have come to define much of my experience as a parent, teacher, academic historian, and voter. Lately, they recur with increasing urgency. Maybe we have arrived at a moment when they matter especially. When my friend Luke Reynolds asked me to write on “creative risk taking,” ...
Skateboarding the Third Rail The Risk of the Middle
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Kathleen and I used to love camping. Hiking through pine-cooled air, romantic trysts by rushing streams, leaves lightly raining on our nylon ceiling. Now, with four young kids, not so much. Camping, like much of parenthood, is a struggle to keep the kids alive. Here’s my “Ways the Kids Could Die” list from a recent adventure: ...
Choices on a Runaway Train
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Imagine you are on a train that for many years has been barreling ahead at full speed, always with ample fuel to power the engines. You are seated at the front of the train, in the club car, where there is plenty of food, lots of beverages, and adequate entertainment on board. The pollution generated by the engine passes by your window pretty quickly. ...
A Kinder, Gentler Patriotism
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At some point soon the United States will declare a military victory in Iraq. As a patriot, I will not celebrate. I will mourn the dead—the American GIs, and also the Iraqi dead, of which there will be many, many more. I will mourn the Iraqi children who may not die, but who will be blinded, crippled, disfigured, or traumatized, ...
Part V. Leaving Safety
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Sunday Morning in Oakland
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This morning while reading the Sunday paper, we hear shouting in the street, look out the window, and see the naked guy from the house two doors down. The naked guy is cut. Not bleeding. Chiseled. Ranting man, tight butt, muscled thighs, sculpted pecs: our neighbor has a body that screams institutionalization. ...
Island Journal: November with Hog’s Blood
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The stone steps leading to the village of Falatados are pooled with blood. Though the walk has been hosed down, leaving anemic puddles, their scarlet is unmistakable. Andonis’s dog, Kika, grows vampirically excited. Andonis, our friend and guide, grabs her collar, shouts gruffly, and runs her to the top of the path, past the vanished source of the blood and into the village. ...
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Sometimes a new job promises the same thrill of possibility as falling in love again, with someone even better, sweeter, and more suitable than your ex. Pammy Gomez’s rented kitchen was on the ground floor of an old mansion. A massage school occupied the top floors. ...
Camping out of the Comfort Zone
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One evening twenty years ago I sat on a Karrimat below the Baltoro glacier in Upper Baltistan, waiting for the dusk-blue light to die. I was with my friend and Himalayan mentor Mal Duff; we were on our way home to Scotland after an expedition to climb the Mustagh Tower in the Karakoram Himalayas. ...
Males and Risk
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How stupid were my friends and I, growing up in Lordship? It goes without saying that we were unsupervised (in the early sixties, most parents—at least mine—expected their kids, once past the age of say, seven, to disappear, on nice Connecticut Saturdays, and not return until dinner time) and, in that unsupervised state, it fell to us to keep ourselves entertained. ...
The Politics of Hope
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Somewhere toward the end of a fall semester class in public speaking at a junior college in New Hampshire, I learned that an attractive female student of mine was homeless. Her mother, a schizophrenic, tossed her out of their home shortly after a traumatic event in her daughter’s life. ...
Everyday Courage and the “How” of Our Work
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Never one to shy away from the big, existential questions, I spend a lot of time thinking about the contributions I am compelled to make with this one, unique life. I find myself alternately invigorated and daunted by the enormity of responsibility for the footprints—from carbon to moral—I will leave in my time on the planet. ...
Mutually Assured Destruction and Jumping Horses
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I might be the only woman I know my age who is still jumping horses. I didn’t realize this until recently, when I looked up and noticed that in the riding arena I was surrounded by teen-aged girls and that my trainers—those who are still jumping—are all ten to twenty years younger than I am. ...
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The first time I was ever in an airplane, I jumped out. I was nineteen, skydiving with friends on a lark, on a dare, with a sense of immortality that must be the province of youth. The moment I remember most is standing in the open doorway of the plane at 2,500 feet. ...
The Only Word I Heard Was “Abeeda.” That Means Slave
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Abuk told her story of abduction, enslavement, liberation, and resettlement while drinking tea in her den in suburban Boston. It was clear that she is well-practiced at this: she often speaks at churches and community centers on behalf of anti-slavery campaigns. ...
About the Editors and Contributors
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Luke and Jennifer Reynolds are both passionate about human rights causes and literature. Currently they live in Massachusetts with their son, Tyler. Luke is a teacher and freelance writer. Jennifer is a freelance writer and a full-time mother. ...
Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2009