This has been a tough year politically and emotionally. I have been absolutely drained of any optimism that a Trump presidency would be anything other than a complete shitshow, and it really, really has been. It’s inescapable — you cannot turn on the television, radio, or smartphone without learning about today’s political horrorshow. It’s soul-crushing for even the most ardent of optimists.
I was browsing in a bookstore recently when I came across Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times, edited by Carolina de Robertis. I paused to look it over and ultimately decided that it couldn’t hurt to give it a read, given that I desperately needed a bit of hope.
I’m so glad I bought this book.
Radical Hope is a collection of letters addressing the political climate in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. The letters are written to loved ones, great-grandparents (including Harriet Beecher Stowe — a cold reminder that it hasn’t been THAT long since the days of slavery), and strangers. It is a truly diverse collection of readings, drawing from authors of all ethnic, cultural, religious, and sexual backgrounds. Its diversity is both heartening and shows exactly what type of impact the Trump presidency has had on everyone. Divided into three sections, Radical Hope is organized by roots (“histories that bring us to this moment”), branches (“present-day people or communities”), and seeds (“speaking to new generations”).
Below are a few of my favorite passages from the book, ranging from hopeful to sardonic to sobering.
“Human rights are fragile in the face of a full-on assault by capitalist demagogues and white men afraid of losing power; but any of us with memories knows how many horrible things we’ve survived. We remember the images of those who refused to give up on human rights: people being dragged from stools at lunch counters or standing in front of a line of Chinese tanks or lying down in body outlines in front of the capital or chained to the fence of the White House or being force-fed by officials who didn’t believe women should vote.” – Not a Moment but a Movement, Jewelle Gomez to her maternal great-grandmother
“America is yours. Your prayers conceived her, your dreams for your children brought her into being, and your children make her what she is meant to be. They build her. Fashion her bones, sturdy her structures, make her beautiful and strong. America belongs to you, to all mothers who dream of her…..Hold steady, walk forth, and burn with truth, with love, with compassion, burn brightly because soon, the dawn will come.” – America, Parnaz Foroutan to her mother, who fled the Middle East with her children for safety
“Keep your chin up. You’re not going back underground, but there are times you’ll have to tread water. This is just another one of them. And you know how to swim.” Dear Chebon, Chip Livingston to his grandson
“One last thing: less than half the voting population voted. And just under half of that number voted Trump; as you know, the popular vote was for the not-openly-racist candidate. That means, hey, really only about a fourth of the country hates us and/or hates Black people, LGBTQ folk, Latinex peoples, Indigenous peoples, and immigrants. And we already knew that, right?” Human Rights is the Handhold, Pass it on, Mohja Kahf
“Here’s what I have to say to American liberals and leftists: instead of listening to the strategists, who don’t believe it’s possible to dramatically change our society, can we finally be bold and listen to the artists and the outsiders and the radicals and the freaks and the avant-garde and the base and the youth and the anarchists and all those who don’t want to do business as usual with the limousine liberalism of both the elite Democrats and Republicans? Can we listen to the dreamers instead of the doubters? Can we dare to demand the impossible?” A Time to Demand the Impossible, Viet Thanh Nguyen
This is a book for people who want to have hope again — for family members who don’t understand why these are dark and dangerous times to live in, for new parents who are afraid to raise their children in an oppressive world, for youth who want to believe that the future can be a positive one, for the disillusioned who need a sliver of hope. This is a book for you and me, to remind us that we’re not alone and that we will make it through this if we only have hope and take heart.
Radical Hope is available for purchase on Amazon and at your local book stores.