I recently read Anna Quindlen’s Thinking Out Loud, her collection of NYT Public and Private columns from 1990-1993. On the flight from DC a few weeks ago, I found myself furiously typing about her powerful passages, many of the themes as relevant today as they were two decades ago.
I must have looked completely ridiculous. My iPad died, so I was using my wireless keyboard to write notes on my phone.
One column, The Nun’s Story stuck with me. I keep thinking about this anecdote, when one woman confesses a harrowing story to the nun in a poor Massachusetts parish:
“(The nun) was stunned. Finally she said, ‘Tell me about it.’ Tell me about it. Tell me about the thing I have never experienced and cannot begin to understand. Tell me about the lives I haven’t led, the demons I’ve never faced.”
This is what I loved about the book. In her columns, Quindlen listens to the stories of others, who live lives we rarely see, and through her writing, they tell us about it. She takes major national events of the time-the Shaivo case, the war in Iraq, HIV/AIDS-and illustrates them with stories of people who need to be heard.
At times, it was comforting to see how the country has progressed in 25 years. We have greater access to health care, greater LGBT equality, and better family leave policies. But it was deeply troubling to realize how little we’ve advanced in other areas, like inequality, racial justice, and end-of-life care.
There are several columns where it seems like she’s writing directly to 2015 USA, where she explicitly says “I wonder if 25 years from now…..will change.” It’s eerie.
I wish she was still a columnist. With the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments on Obergefell v. Hodges, and consolidated cases, on April 28, I would love to read an AQ column on why #LoveCantWait for a constitutional right to marriage.
Though, in her 1992 column, Evan’s Two Moms, she kind of already did:
“In 1967 the Supreme Court (in Loving v. Virginia) found such laws to be unconstitutional. Only 25 years ago and it was a crime for a black woman to marry a white man. Perhaps 25 years from now we will find it just as incredible that two people of the same sex were not entitled to legally commit themselves to one another. Love and commitment are rare enough; it seems absurd to thwart them in any guise.”
Tell me about it-it is absurd. Let’s hope her vision comes true.