Hi. I'm Jenna McGuiggan.
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What to Read When the World is Weeping

A few weeks ago, in the face of the many tragedies and attacks happening in the world, I published a long post on my personal Facebook page. The post dealt with racial inequality and injustice, and it also touched on other issues of violence and injustice here in the U.S. and abroad. 

I posted it even though I knew it might lead to arguments, angry challenges, and trolls in the comments section. After all, that kind of thing has happened to me before. But I risked it because it felt wrong to stay silent.

 Then the most lovely thing happened: More than 150 people clicked "like" or shared the post or left a supportive comment. There wasn't one hateful word in the mix. I was floored by the solidarity and support people shared. 

If you're interested, you can read the full post here, but the gist of it is this: I'm white. My husband James is black. We've been married for almost 15 years, and I'm still working to understand the ways in which we experience the world differently due to race. I wrote out of sadness, fear, and frustration. I wrote about how it's difficult for those of us who have not experienced racism or violence to understand how those things shape our society. I wrote about the awful deaths of innocent black people, of innocent cops, of innocent citizens around the world. But more than anything, I was writing about love. 

I wrote about how love is the thing we all have in common:  

"There is horror and killing happening everywhere we look. ... Different people, different places, different details. The one constant: These were people who loved and were loved. They were someone's child, lover, parent, friend, co-worker, partner, neighbor. Each one of these hundreds of people were someone's world. Each one leaves behind multiple people who are grieving, who will always grieve."

Here's the thing: Racial injustice isn't the only atrocity breaking so many of our hearts these days. We could talk and weep for days about violence against women, against the LGBTQ+ community, against police, against people of various faiths or political groups. Sadly, the intersections are practically endless. Some of this violence manifests in physical acts of terror. Some of it manifests as hateful rhetoric and fear-mongering. Some of it tries to hide as bad jokes and microagressions, those small slights that go unnoticed except by those who feel their sting. 

It's tempting to think that all we need is love. But we need a love that drives us to be more than simply kind. Those of us who have the privilege of being part of the dominant culture need a love that drives us to educate ourselves, to listen to marginalized voices, to speak up against violence and oppression and those "jokes" that mask hatred, fear, or misunderstanding. 

To the people of color in this community, I say: You are welcome here.
Your life matters. Your words matter.

To everyone here (regardless of your race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, economic situation, illness, disability, sexual orientation, gender expression, or other factors), I say: You are welcome here. Your life matters. Your words matter.

For months I've wrestled with whether (and where) to address these kinds of issues with my writing. I've worried that sharing my thoughts here might come off as annoying, naive, or even hurtful in some way. I also know that many of you come to my website for information about writing, not about social justice and hot-button issues.

But to remain silent in the face of so much pain is wrong. 

Besides, we are writers. And what else do we do but write (and read) about the world around us? 

So I want to tell you this: Although I don't know the stories or experiences of every single person reading this, I know you are readers and writers. I know you are people who care about the world of ideas, words, connection, and creativity.

In the interest of those shared values, I've linked to a few resources that meet at the intersection of writing and racial justice. 

My hope is that the words of these black writers and poets will bring you some small level of comfort, understanding, or both.

"If You Are Over Staying Woke" (a poem by Morgan Parker)

"17 Poems to Read When The World Is Too Much" (compiled by BuzzFeed staff)

"Read These 23 Books & Authors When the Injustice Is Overwhelming" (compiled by Huffington Post staff)

"What It's Like to Write Crime Fiction in the Era of Black Lives Matter" (a roundtable discussion on LitHub.com that goes far beyond the genre of crime fiction) 

"Young Black Writers: After Michael Brown" (an essay and round-up of work by black writers from Zinzi Clemmons on LitHub.com)

I have not read every book or poem on this list, but I'm working on it. May we all strive for the kind of love that pushes us to learn, to speak, to act, to write, to share.  

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