What can you say on a day like this?

It’s been a terrible week by anyone’s assessment. The people of Japan are suffering, and the governments of Bahrain and Libya are cracking down on (read: killing) protesters. On a far non-deadly–but by no means unworrying–scale, the US marches on toward complete decimation not only of workers’ rights, but also our cultural heritage itself. How do you even begin to address the issues in the world this week?

Today, I want to share with you this talk by Chris Abani. Mr. Abani is a writer published by (among others) Red Hen Press, which also publishes The Los Angeles Review. I had the honor of hearing Abani speak, in a different appearance than the one linked above, this past summer when I and a fellow LAR editor visited the press’s reading series. The experience of hearing him read his poems, which are hard-won indeed, made quite an impression on me. You see, Chris Abani’s struggles as a writer and as a human being go far beyond what most of us authors will ever endure with our petty dramas over rejection and inspiration. Abani was put on death row in Nigeria–twice–for his writings, where he suffered through unimaginable abuse and torture. The fact that he emerged from this kind of suffering with the kind of compassion and humanity you’ll hear in his talk? It’s enough to give me–and, I hope, you–a little hope on a dark day like this one.

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