Viet Thanh Nguyen visited Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca to discuss The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives in conversation with Jack Wang of Ithaca College. I knew the talk would be thought-provoking and insightful, but I was surprised that I also laughed so much. Despite the moments of humor, I personally find it shameful how the U.S. treats refugees (and undocumented immigrants). If you haven’t read The Sympathizer which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2016, you should put that at the top of your to-read stack!
The event was co-sponsored by Ithaca Welcomes Refugees and Ithaca City of Asylum.
A portion of the proceeds of The Displaced are being donated to the International Rescue Committee to support their work aiding people whose lives are disrupted by conflict and disaster.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Originally published in 1974, sadly, If Beale Street Could Talk is just as timely today as it was then. Fonny and Tish, a young couple who have known each other since childhood are embarking on a romantic relationship when Fonny runs afoul of a white police officer. Shortly thereafter, Fonny is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. Fonny’s lawyer is sympathetic but expensive. Fonny’s mother and sisters disapprove of him, and his father is a troubled alcoholic. Impotent in prison, Fonny relies solely on pregnant Tish and her family and the limited help he can get from his father. While in jail, he, Tish, and their loved ones realize how institutionalized racism is and how difficult to overcome. The victim of the crime is also manipulated by police and is denied justice. This book made me feel sad and angry, even more so because racism in the United States hasn’t improved in almost fifty years. Yet, the love of Tish’s family and the hope embodied by the baby provided a slight solace in the face of so much unfairness and inequity.
My two favorite Maya Angelou quotations:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”
Have you read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?