reprinted from Boulevard, Vol. 36 №1, Fall 2020

Amba Sen, Rani of Jhansi Regiment, circa 1944

Every family has a prevailing mythos about the role they played in history. It becomes a kind of origin story — anything that happened before that moment falls away. On my mother’s side, that story begins with my grandmother’s enthusiasm for the rebel army to which she sent her two teenaged daughters. My grandparents were Bengali ex-pats living in Burma, my grandfather serving as a physician to the Burmese prime minister’s family. In 1943, their paths crossed with the nationalist leader Subhas Chandra Bose when he came to Burma after a failed…

I got a writing prompt in my inbox to make a list of 100 things I’m observing, doing, feeling, or thinking during the pandemic. Here are 20.

  1. I can’t stand this world the way it is. I don’t want an apocalypse.
  2. When was it bearable to see toddler face down in water, child all skin & bones & fragile as a bird; boy posing with hands in his pockets before he died in a concentration camp?
  3. All the artists are losing their gigs. Artists can stay in, even if they can’t eat. Plenty of art still to go around on…

Trump Tower, New York City, 10/19/19 People marched from Union Square to Trump Tower to announce the beginning of a movement to demand the Trump Pence regime get #OutNow.

On Saturday, October 19th, the #OutNow movement was born, beginning with “five weeks of protest to launch, spread, and grow an unrelenting non-violent mass movement of protests that continue week after week to demand that the Trump/Pence Regime Must Go — NOW! From there, we will continue to grow and not stop until the Trump/Pence Regime has been removed from power.”

The day was full of informative, provocative, inspiring speeches, excerpted here.

Cornel West spoke at the opening rally in Union Square, and was part of leading the march to Trump Tower:

We live in an age of catastrophe…

I’m not a historian or an academic. I’m a writer and reader who wants a better future for humanity.

Girls from Nazi-occupied Austria cheer on Hitler

I remember a moment when I looked up and caught my first glimpse of a protracted and slow dawning of reality. It was late at night, sometime in August of 2016, and I couldn’t sleep. As I was scrolling through Facebook (bad idea when you can’t sleep), I saw a photograph of a protester being attacked at a Trump rally, with a caption that I couldn’t forget. It said, The time to stop this is now, not November. All night, I thought about the few brave protesters willing to confront hostile mobs of Trump supporters and Trump’s celebration of violence…

Indigenous elder Nathan Phillips and MAGA youth Nick Sandmann on January 18, 2019.

When the footage of the teen boys in MAGA hats surrounding a Native American elder first started circulating, I was finishing revisions on my novel and getting ready for a writing conference. I glanced at the photos and the memes comparing the smirking, raucous white youth to the sneering white mobs of the past. I found the images alarming but was too busy to watch the footage or follow the story closely. As I found out after my conference, a counter-narrative had spread through the media after the initial outrage. …

Are You More than a Voter?

October 30, 2018

This morning I woke up to news that Trump has threatened to end birthright citizenship for children born in this country to non-citizen parents. When it comes to immigration, the trajectory of this regime toward all out ethnic cleansing has been clear. Rhetoric around MS13 and “criminal” undocumented immigrants on the campaign trail was right out of Hitler’s playbook, a dress rehearsal for the next thing, and the next, and the next. The attacks on immigrants have been steadily ramped up as soon as a previous outrage becomes normalized. Where will this end?

In response to the threat to end…

June 14, 2018

This was a headline in my Facebook newsfeed this morning.

What’s Going on at the Border is Numbing, but Going Numb is a Luxury We Can’t Afford — Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

A crying Honduran toddler is sandwiched between her mother and a large white border patrol vehicle. Her mother is being searched with her hands against the vehicle, her arms stretched stiffly above her daughter. The gloved hands of a border patrol agent appear to be pinching the waist of the mother. Mother and child can’t touch each other. …

I just finished watching all four parts of the CNN documentary series 1968: The Year that Changed America. It takes viewers through each season of that pivotal year, the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, the assassinations of MLK and Bobby Kennedy, the Vietnam War and the anti-war protests, a tumultuous election, and in its most electrifying episode, “Summer,” the “police riot” and rebellion outside of the Democratic Convention in Chicago.

This article in the New York Times, about the uprisings in Paris in May of 1968, similarly makes the case that generations of societal change came about as a result of…

Chaitali Sen

Author of The Pathless Sky. (novel, Europa Editions, 2015)

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