Narrative Medicine Book Club: April 5, 2020

In our first meeting today (thank you again to all who joined!!) we spoke about how Camus’ book, written as an allegory, reads so eerily today as a realistic playbook. Today’s pages were astounding again in this light: here the narrator speaks of “exile,” the citizens of the town cut off from each other and from their loved ones elsewhere, “prisoners” in their quarantine. “…That unreasonable desire to go backwards or, on the contrary, to speed up the march of time, those burning arrows of memory – all this really did amount to a feeling of exile.” He writes of the strange sense of time we are all dealing with — hope for the future, without knowing when the future will arrive, creates despair, but then the lack of  imagination for the future is a different kind of prison. “Impatient with the present, hostile to the past and deprived of a future, we really did then resemble those whom justice or human hatred has forced to live behind bars…But, though this was exile, in most cases it was exile at home.” 

FOR TOMORROW: Read next 7 pages, up to, in dialogue, “‘Perhaps you don’t realize what a separation such as this means for two people who are fond of one another.'” 

Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EST April 5th 2020

Thank you to the 58 of you who joined us for this session!

Our text for this session was an excerpt from There, There by Tommy Orange. (2018) New York: Alfred A. Knopf (text posted below).

Our prompt for the session was: “Write about a rhythm.”

It was wonderful to see new and familiar faces today.  Our group of 58 people zoomed in from Athens, Jerusalem, Lisbon, the UK, many points in Canada and across the USA, from the South Bronx to Santa Monica, from Jacksonville to Shaker Heights.

The Tommy Orange excerpt brought up themes of journeying, dreams of the future, randomness, the inevitable, tempo and time, and being out of step.  And participants responded with clarity and precision to one another’s writing, to the  particularity of images: “an epigenetic storm of immigrant dreams and bereavement,” “a blue light,” “a red rooster clock,” with its tick tock that traveled from home to hospital and back, a balm to one and a bomb to the other.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Please see below for some examples of the kind of writing people produced in just four minutes!

Please join us for our next session: Monday, April 6th at 6pm EST, with more times to be announced shortly.

AND PLEASE NOTE: in an effort to make these sessions more secure, there will be an individual link for each session with a quick registration. Allow an extra minute to do this when logging in.

Please bookmark the Live Virtual Sessions page (or access directly from the navigation above) – this is where you should always come to find access instructions before each live session.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

Text Excerpt from There, There by Tommy Orange:

Before you were born you were a swimmer. You were a race, a dying off, a breaking through, an arrival. Before you were born, you were an egg in your mom who was an egg in her mom. Before you were born, you were the nested Russian grandmother doll of possibility in your mom’s ovaries. You were two halves of a thousand different kinds of possibilities, a million heads or tail, flip-shine on a spun coin. Before you were born, you were the idea to make it to California for gold or bust. You were white, you were brown, you were red, you were dust. You were hiding, you were seeking. Before you were born, you were chased, beaten, broken, trapped on a reservation in Oklahoma. Before you were born, you were an idea your mom got into her head in the seventies, to hitchhike across the country and become a dancer in New York. You were on your way when she did not make it across the country but sputtered and spiraled and wound up in Taos, New Mexico, at a peyote commune named Morning Star. Before you were born, you were your dad’s decision to move away from the reservation, up to northern New Mexico to learn about a Pueblo guy’s fireplace. You were the light in your parents’ eyes as they met across that fireplace in ceremony. Before you were born, your halves inside them moved to Oakland. Before you were born, before your body was much more than heart, spine, bone, brain, skin, blood, and vein, when you’d just started to build muscle with movement, before you showed, bulged in her belly, as her belly, before your dad’s pride could belly-swell from the sight of you, your parents were in a room listening to the sound your heart made. You had an arrhythmic heartbeat. The doctor said it was normal. Your arrhythmic heart was not abnormal.

“Maybe he’s a drummer,” your dad said.
“He doesn’t even know what a drum is,” your mom said.
“Heart,” your dad said.
“The man said arrhythmic. That means no rhythm.”
“Maybe it just means he knows the rhythm so good he doesn’t always hit it when you expect him to.”

Orange, Tommy. There, There. (2018) New York: Alfred A. Knopf