Last year, Carissa Halston of Aforementioned Productions organized a marathon reading of the Sinclair Lewis anti-fascist classic It Can’t Happen Here.
The event was a success, with dozens channeling their anti-Trump outrage together through literature. But since it is still happening here after all, Halston and the Aforementioned team, along with a several other organizations, including PEN America, are returning with Writers Resist at the Boston Public Library this Saturday. The event will feature 10 authors and two student writers who will discuss their politicized poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.
“Many writers have committed years and pages to counteracting the work of those in power who would undermine equality, abolish diversity, and silence freedom of expression,” said Halston. “Their writing enriches our communities, and their voices represent the breadth of our city. Above all, their work sharpens our resolve to protect our right to an inclusive and free press.”
We asked Halston to share some of that work, specifically something that will be featured on Saturday, with us to excerpt.
How We Came to America (By Sam Cha)
Once (a lifetime or a decade ago, depending on how you measure time) it was mid-October, and I had just turned 29. I’d moved from Jersey to Boston at the end of the preceding year; had gotten divorced in January, and had subsequently careened into: A) a job as a legal assistant at a small (“boutique” they called themselves) patent law firm in the financial district, and B) a relationship with a 23-year-old from Alabama. The job was a bore, a full-body anaesthetic, but I had plenty of time to goof off and write while I was at work.
The relationship was three months old and obviously doomed, though I was trying not to acknowledge the warning signs. I liked her long vowels, the flush on her cheeks, her wait, wait just as she was about to come, and these things were sufficient as blindfolds—the texts she didn’t answer, the cancelled dinner plans, the way her conversation had turned monosyllabic—none of these things really meant anything, right? Still, I needed a break—both from the job that I wasn’t doing, and from what I thought of as a post-divorce paragnosis of loss.
So I went off to Jersey for the weekend. I’d lived there for four years, first for grad school at Rutgers, and then later (after Rutgers and I had our messy breakup) for inertia, and I still had a bunch of friends there. Not grad school friends—I was book-smart but socially moronic, and I’d burnt a lot of bridges, or felt like I had. My friends were autochthones, indigenes, townies, disaffected underemployed twentysomethings from East Brunswick and Metropark and Edison and Metuchen and Dunellen I’d met playing in video game tournaments.
My best friend was a skinny, loud, stubborn spiky-headed guy I’ll call Cam. Cam lived in a squat brick apartment building somewhere in the Amboys, with two other kids I’d met in passing at one tournament or another. Of these, one was a vast sarcastic Indian-descended man I’ll call Mat. Mat had been to Afghanistan as a Marine. Mat was consistently in between IT support jobs: he was unemployed roughly as much as he was employed, and when he was unemployed he spent a third of his time asleep, another third looking for the next IT support job, and the last third drunk. He was on the drunk part now.
We were all drunk, but Mat was drunker. He’d been drinking when we walked in, sitting at a big plastic card table with a handle of Jim and a half-full cut-glass tumbler, and he’d kept on drinking as we played Cards Against Humanity, and he kept on drinking as we moved on to Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies (my first time playing), and he kept on drinking as we moved further back into the history of video games—a level of Dynasty Warriors 6, a level of Dynasty Warriors 5 (this with the original save file that Cam and I had painstakingly filled, beer by beer, character by character, boss fight by boss fight, over the course of my last summer in Jersey), and a couple of dozen matches of Soulcalibur 2, which was the game that had brought us all together in the first place—and then Mat stopped drinking, got up off of the couch, and disappeared into his room.
Hey, Mat, where the fuck’d you go? we yelled.
Three-way with your moms, he yelled back.
Hold your tits, I’ll be right back!
Which was what passed for witty repartee with us. Kevin Smith used to be a thing back then, or at any rate had been a thing recently enough that he was still part of the parlance.
Then Mat came back out of his room, holding a matte black aluminum case.
Not this shit again, said Cam.
What is that? I said.
Monkey business, said Mat, sitting down.
What? I said.
Need my pipes cleaned, said Mat, wriggling around to settle himself in the chair.
Still not getting it, I said.
Cam stayed quiet.
Ma-caaaque, drawled Mat, interlocking his fingers, stretching his arms, turning his palms out, cracking his knuckles.
Needs grooming, said Mat.
Needs a rubdown, said Mat.
Needs oiling, said Mat.
Needs some love, said Mat. and opened the case.
The air smelled like dead beer and gamer sweat and stale cigarettes. I looked down at the thing inside the case, nestled in black foam rubber.
Oh, I said.
Here, said Mat. You wanna hold it?
It was the damnedest thing.
I didn’t, but I did.
And this, I believe, was how I became truly American.
Sam Cha was born in Korea. He earned an MFA from UMass Boston. A winner of two Academy of American Poets prizes and a St. Botolph’s Club Emerging Artists Grant, his work has appeared in apt, Best New Poets, Boston Review, DIAGRAM, Missouri Review, and elsewhere. He’s a poetry editor at Radius, and his collection, American Carnage, was recently published by Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs. He lives and writes in Cambridge.
GREATER BOSTON WRITERS RESIST. AT BPL, 700 BOYLSTON ST. SAT 6.23. 1-3PM. FREE.