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Mnookin: Writing Our Resistance

On Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday, the Brattleboro Literary Festival organized a Writers Resist event in solidarity with a nationwide effort spearheaded by PEN America to “re-inaugurate” democracy. Seventeen local authors spoke about their belief in “art and artists’ power and responsibility to resist.” My mother, Wendy Mnookin, and I attended.

Writing styles and genre varied - from fiction to epic fantasy, poetry to prose, and diaries to children’s stories. Content did too, ranging from the civil rights movement and the Great Pacific Trash Vortex to a brother in Iraq. Some readings made us laugh, others brought tears. And several authors said the November election had influenced not only the content of their writing, but also their ability to write - or not.

I, too, have struggled to write of late, and this afternoon provided inspiration; it was a gathering that nurtured hope. Joe Mazur’s poem offered reassurance that “We’ll get it right next time around.”

Stephanie Greene’s fictional letter to a preschooler’s parents observed that “Roland glued several of his blocks together, so that he could, with his allotted 20 blocks, build a tower taller than anyone else’s.”

Brian Stavely’s fictional character, remembering past demonstrations, declared that “We weren’t heroes, but at least we helped stop a war!” while Tim Weed pondered whether Facebook was a “tool for communal catharsis” or simply a “place to wallow in communal misery.”

Robin MacArthur, who, like myself, has young children, called herself a “mother in mourning” whose grief for the recent loss of her grandfather has become mingled with political disappointment. But she continues to work for climate justice, describing her two best tools as “action and love.”

I especially enjoyed Andrea Lawlor’s vision of when “Our modular cars will run on composted [desktops], predictor kits, rainbow barrettes, PalmPilots, and parts of station wagons” digested by bacteria.

And Chard deNiord closed by urging us all to “become writers today in our resistance, whether in the spirit or on the page.”

My mother, herself a poet, has taken these words to heart. Not a political writer per se, she’s long believed that writing is inherently political. “When words are debased,” she says, “and truth becomes elusive, the truth of our own individual stories is essential.”

My hope now is to have the courage and freedom to write my own resistance.