We Will Emerge: Imagining the Future

Courtesy of freestocks, Unsplash

“ We will emerge with a better vision.

“Not until this moment are we seeing the people who make this world work: the myriad invisibles, the anonymous, the undocumented, the overworked and underpaid professionals—some of whom we don’t even grace with the status of ‘professionals’ or pay them a living wage or take care of their health.” Julia Alvarez, We Will Emerge: Awareness

PEN America launched We Will Emerge, a collection of 111 short essays from writers and actors, politicians and reporters, artists and poets, together urging readers to imagine a future beyond the current crises. Sparked by a conversation between Wajahat Ali and Dave Eggers, the project asked participants to briefly respond to the prompt “We will emerge…and find a better way.” Participants include Chelsea Clinton, Roxane Gay, Julia Alvarez, Min Jin Lee, Lynn Nottage, Peter Sagal, Ishmael Reed, Jelani Cobb, Reza Aslan, Alyssa Milano, Mayor Michael Tubbs, Maya Wiley, and dozens more.
“There is no one way to understand how the multiple crises of our current moment will forge the future of this country,” said Wajahat Ali, curator of the We Will Emerge project. “We designed this project with a sense of hope, or perhaps a delusion, that somehow we will emerge from this chaos. We gave no set motives or restrictions on how to respond. Some entries are bleak, some are fueled by righteous rage, others are humbled, and few imagine and prescribe how we can achieve a freer and more equitable future. But all the contributions are grounded in the reality that there will be a day after our current crises, and we all need to prepare and grapple with the once-in-a-century lessons of a deadly pandemic, our overdue reckoning over white supremacy, and the deliberate attacks on our democracy.”We Will Emerge immerses readers in the thoughts and stirrings of some of the greatest thinkers of our current moment. The digital experience is broken into chapters, where the 111 contributions are categorized into five thematic categories that capture the connective threads among the dozens of contributions.

  • Julia Ioffe, in the chapter of essays centered on awareness, writes that we will emerge “humbled and more respectful of science.”
  • In the section on community and unity, Rep. Val Demings quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, “In a real sense, all life is interrelated.”
  • Another section of essays focuses on the themes of gratitude and empathy, where Gary Shteyngart muses on culinary ambition: “We will emerge…and be yummier.”
  • Challenging economic inequality, Mehdi Hasan in the section on liberation writes, “We will emerge and be less forgiving.”
  • Imam Abdullah Antepli, in the section on action, calls for a more engaged democracy: “What if we all renew and significantly increase our ownership of our democracy and act accordingly a result of it?”

“We Will Emerge is an effort to think beyond our cascading crises and elevate insights that can point us toward a healthier, more equal, just, and sustainable future,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America and author of Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All. “These micro-essays throw down gauntlets, unmask truths, and issue calls to action to take responsibility for the ways we’ve failed one another. Recognizing that there is no panacea for all that ails our society, these contributions collectively offer ideas, pathways, and building blocks aimed to spark new thinking and action, all in a direction forward.”

Throughout the coming weeks, PEN America and contributors from the project will be sharing their essays across social platforms under the hashtag #WeWillEmerge. Visit pen.org/we-will-emerge to read and share.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

CELEBRATING AMERICAN SHE-POETS (24): Julia Alvarez, The Woman I Kept to Myself

Dominican-American Julia Alvarez (b. 1950), novelist, essayist, poet, educator, a prominent critically and commercially successful literary Latina
Dominican-American Julia Alvarez (b. 1950), novelist, essayist, poet, educator, a prominent critically and commercially successful Latina

“Even I, childless one, intend to write
New Yorker fiction in the Cheever style
but all my stories tell where I came from.”
Family Tree

It’s always a special pleasure to explore the work of those who dance on the hyphen, who don’t quite fit here or there and have to make something new out of their life circumstance. Unique qualities of clarity and color seem to come from the richness inspired by bilingual skills and from that uncomfortable hyphenated place with its singular view. It leads as it must for any observant person to the rigorous exploration of the human condition and of cultural and gender-based stereotypes.

” … definitely, still, there is a glass ceiling in terms of female novelists. If we have a female character, she might be engaging in something monumental but she’s also changing the diapers and doing the cooking, still doing things which get it called a woman’s novel. You know, a man’s novel is universal; a woman’s novel is for women.”

UnknownFrom the hyphen the Dominican-American Julia Alvarez birthed her first gift to us, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (Algonquin Books, 1991), a semi-autobiographical young adult work followed three years later with In the Time of  the Butterflies (Algonquin Books, 1994). The first book gave us the immigrant experience. The second established Julia as a writer who wanted to go a step beyond to bring to light and bare witness to the events – tragic, liberating and inspiring – of las hermanas Mirabal (the sisters Mirabal), known as Las Miraposas, the Butterflies. They were four sisters at the heart of the fight against the rule of the Dominican despot, Rafael Leonidas Truillo. He had three of the four sisters murdered along with some 50,000 other Dominicans and Haitians.



It’s not surprising that Julia Alvarez chose to write about Las Mariposas. She was born in New York in 1950 when her parents first attempted to establish themselves in the U.S., but she lived her early years in the Dominican Republic. She lived there until she was ten years old when her family was forced to leave the country after Julia’s father participated in a failed attempt to overthrow Truillo.


I think that one of the reasons I began as a poet, and poetry was my first love, in English, was because … I especially like cadenced, rhymed poetry, and poetry in English was a way of still speaking Spanish. Because it made language more musical, more cadenced…rhyme, of course, because every other word in Spanish rhymes with an “a” or an “o” ending, so there was a way in which, to me, English poetry was a way to speak Spanish in English.

Over the past twenty-five years, Julia Alvarez prolific pen has poured out fiction for adults and young adults, collections of essays and, of course, poetry.  The Woman I Kept to Myself (Algonquin, 2004) is a collection in which she explores her life from the perspective of middle age …

We learn through what we love to love the world —
which might be all that we are here to do.

There are seventy-five poems, each composed of three ten-line stanzas, a consistency that has inspired some mixed reviews. I find this style rather sophisticated and it lends cohesiveness to the work, which is certainly a celebration of the quotidian. Sometimes the conclusions are what is to be expected … nothing exciting, just life as usual; something accepted, not fought against. There’s a certain virtue in that.

We make our art
out of ourselves and what we make makes us.

© 2016, Jamie Dedes; portrait is from Julia’s Amazon page.

%d bloggers like this: