As we celebrate our fourth anniversary, the staff at The Grief Diaries reflects on the books, media, and art that have inspired us lately.
Sabrina & Corina: Stories, Kali Fajardo-Anstine
This debut collection of stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine centers on Latina women living in Colorado, where their work is endless—from clocking in at Macy’s to kneading masa for fresh tortillas to trying to survive the often cruel and violent men in their lives. These are stories of abandonment, addiction, and violence, but loss is the thread that connects each character to the last, as they reckon with the ghosts who have haunted their families for generations. Some of these stories will make you want to look away, but the stunning prose makes this book impossible to put down.
- Kristi DiLallo
Corsets, Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo has become something of a trend these days, an evolution I imagine wouldn’t sit well with a woman who moved through the world as a queer, gender fluid, disabled minoritized artist. I admit that even I, at this very moment, type this blurb as I wear a five dollar ring made of plastic with her face on it, while my pin-studded denim jacket slung over the chair where I sit is graced with a pin of her face (one I felt was one of the few I’d seen that represented her likeness in more complexity than so many others). Frida is the figure to whom I wrote my first ode as I was beginning to write poetry, and she’s one of the few artists who continues to provide new insight on how I attempt to remain as authentic as I can in this difficult time, to forge ahead as a queer, nonbinary artist and writer. This past Spring I made the trip from Texas to Brooklyn in order to see Brooklyn Museum’s Appearances Can Be Deceiving, an exhibit of Kahlo’s work which offered more of the objects from her well-known Blue House in Mexico than any other North American exhibition. The primary object I wanted to see up close, and which remained the most intriguing, were two of her painted orthopedic plaster corsets—one which was decorated with the Communist symbol and had a large hole cut out of the center and another which contained a painting of an unborn child as though in the womb. It’s been said by many that Kahlo had an abortion when she learned her body and health could not sustain a pregnancy, and she also had a miscarriage. I find these two objects to be profoundly moving depictions of grief around motherhood and pregnancy at a time in which the light of many states who are savagely restricting Americans’ reproductive rights. I find these works more timely than ever as the agency of American lives and bodies—those who elect (or are medically urged) to have abortions as well as those who experience miscarriages—is under attack.
Exhalation, Ted Chiang
I found my way to The Grief Diaries on a summer afternoon four years ago. Kristi, our founding editor, had just posted online about her anonymous ad on Craigslist asking people to share their grief in all forms: paintings, songs, films, poems, stories. I immediately asked her if I could be part of it somehow and began as the Photography and Art Editor. Kristi has extended The Grief Diaries beyond the confines of a website. Poring over countless stories and artwork and being someone who connects with so many people through some of the hardest if not defining moments of their lives has been a true privilege. I’m grateful to know Kristi and the rest of our amazing TGD team.
My staff pick for this issue is Ted Chiang’s second collection, Exhalation, consists of nine beautiful stories. He experiments with time travel, A.I., free will, parallel universes and extraordinary terrains. Chiang’s prose is direct and transparent, his stories range from “The Great Silence” about a parrot from a forest in Puerto Rico facing extinction to “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a scientist’s log that charts the development of a new species of virtual robots. Chiang imagines time travel as a gate through which we step into different dimensions and see our past and future selves without being able to change any circumstances. He writes, “Nothing erases the past. There is repentance, there is atonement, and there is forgiveness. That is all, but that is enough.” It is impossible not to make connections with the entire spectrum of human emotion, especially grief. But reading Chang makes it seem like things can feel brighter, calmer. The air crackles with new opportunities, new meanings.
Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridge
I found myself recommending Fleabag to absolutely everyone I'd ever met after watching it. I'd tell them it was hilarious, one of the best pieces of writing and television I'd ever seen. And then I found myself having to explain, when eyebrows would inevitably be incredulously raised, why a show about a woman coping with the death of her mother and the suicide of her best friend would ever be funny. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the show's creator and star, walks the incredibly fine line between true, gut-wrenching grief, and gallows humor, with such aplomb, that I personally think Fleabag transcends television and should be considered alongside classic literature, movies, and t.v. in the pantheon of necessary content to consume if you're trying to be a better, more well-rounded person. Fleabag's beautiful final episode has lingered with me for weeks, and I cannot recommend it enough.