A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara


Some of the children on the motorcycles and the wheeled boards could speak, and he would toss, very gently, large foam balls to them and organize races around the courtyard.

The thing is, I drive to work every morning with NPR bringing me down. A refugee crisis, righteous government clerks, billions of dollars spent on presidential campaigns, disease and death in distant lands, education reforms that already feel like failure–this is the stuff of nightmares and news programs. Sometimes I switch to the pop music my middle child likes to program all the buttons to, but also I feel obligated to bear witness to the world around me. So usually I remain with the news, and it feels like punishment.

But, on Tuesdays and Fridays, I receive my antidote. Part of my job at Nomad is writing the blog. Mostly we cover the kinds of subjects a teacher might find helpful to bring up in a classroom. Sciencey things, or history things, or interesting current eventy things. And I go looking for these thingy things. And these bizarre, complicated, persistent stories of new species, water on Mars, news from the maker movement, the genius of octopi–these stories make me hopeful. These stories amaze me. These stories are thrilling.

I am guilty of vastly underestimating the power of nonfiction. I am a fiction lover–I read it and write it, I review it and recommend it. But these days it’s the nonfiction that’s making me happy. Real life fairy tales that have nothing to do with princesses and dragons and everything to do with the bizarre places bacteria ends up. This is what I find hopeful.

I think it’s because nonfiction is showing me how many new things still hover out of reach. I had no idea we were making so many discoveries. New things, never before known, are popping up every day. And that’s a significant change from the lament of novelists and short story writers: “Everything’s been done before!” Apparently, scientists don’t suffer the same feeling of ennui. Which is a damn good thing.

Just another reason to love my job: the side effect of hope.


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