Hilary Leichter on the False Promises of National ‘Unity’
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
Hilary Leichter is the guest. Her new novel, Temporary, is available from Coffee House Press.
From the episode:
Hilary Leichter: I’m always a little bit suspicious of these big unifying moments because any time people are talking about unity, there’s always someone who’s left out of that. I mean, I was in high school when 9/11 happened and definitely old enough to know what was going on. I grew up in north New Jersey, so a lot of parents commuted into the city for work. Our community was pretty affected by what happened. And there was a minute where everyone kind of rallied together. And, you know, there were a lot of assemblies. There were a lot of memorials. There were a lot of, you know, moments of being together.
But, you know, the underbelly of that was Islamophobia. And this thing that had existed, this kind of insidious hatred that was already a part of our country, but now had an excuse to come forward and come into public and likewise right now. I think that there is this “we’re all in it together” vibe, except for the people that we’re expecting to risk their lives. And these are people who are often underpaid without health insurance. Who’s coming together for them?
So coming together is always a process of culling, I think, and I’m very suspicious of it. And I think that, yes, there is hope right now that this generation, having been through this, will consider certain things differently that maybe they would have otherwise. But I worry again about the pressure and the expectation that we put on our most underserved communities as a way of coming together. There’s always a cost. And maybe that’s a little pessimistic. But I just don’t know… I always raise an eyebrow at that kind of language. It feels hollow to me.
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Hilary Leichter is author of the novel Temporary. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the New Yorker, Harper’s, n+1, Bookforum, Conjunctions, the Cut, and American Short Fiction. She teaches at Columbia University.