A Letter from Ruth
October 20, 2020
As we nervously count down to the election, watch Coronavirus cases around the world climb steadily higher, and settle into the rain and dark, we’re all holding a steady drumbeat of unease. I truly hope this letter finds you healthy and finding things that bring comfort amidst the seemingly never-endingness of, well, everything.
This fall, scary stories have been on my mind—why we read them, why tell them, and why they matter. Just this week, we were lucky to hear a conversation between two leaders in a genre of books about dark themes: crime fiction writers Tana French and Ruth Ware. French spoke directly to this, saying, “We write and read crime fiction . . . to better understand why bad things can happen.”
This fall, I also read Margaret Atwood’s dark and dystopian The Testaments, which delves into precisely how things could unravel into an authoritarian and violently repressive state. Her SAL conversation with Cheryl Strayed explored this question of what role such heavy stories play, and Atwood said, “There is no ‘the future’ that is set in stone. There’s not an inevitable future that will inevitably happen to us. There are possibilities . . . That’s why you tell [these stories].”
Both French’s and Atwood’s words have been swirling in my head as I’ve walked my dog past elaborate Halloween decorations—spiderwebs, skeletons, and witches. And they’ve reminded me that at scary times, sometimes there is a profound comfort in scary stories. Always, I find security in the pages of a book, and in listening to thinkers on the SAL stage (virtual though it may be). We are looking forward to a lot about this November: hearing from White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor in conversation with Florangela Davila, and Homegoing author Yaa Gyasi in conversation with Imbolo Mbue.
We’re also delighted to partner with Donna Moodie and the team at Marjorie Restaurant, a Capitol Hill gem with Jamaican roots, to offer a special meal you can order to enjoy along with Yaa Gyasi’s event. (Details and menu coming in our next newsletter!) While we can’t be physically together, we can still make the evening, and the conversation, special. And there’s comfort in that too.
SAL Executive Director