GC Reads – 1

Well now for something completely different.

Hamilton, Ontario, early 2019

This has nothing to do with fibre arts, but rather my main gig, which is genetic counseling. And the teaching of GC students. Why here? Well, I own the domain, and given all the problems with Medium and Substack and whatnot, I thought I might as use this site that is currently (honestly) not being used for much else. So here we go.

This is a series of recommended readings for GCs and students, and aspiring GCs, and anyone else interested in the intersection of genetics and literature. It’s going to be an unorthodox collection–you won’t find Middlesex, or the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, or anything by Jodi Picoult (who ends up on these reading lists with My Sister’s Keeper, usually). It will reflect my own taste in fiction and essay writing, and therefore is likely to be a bit weird at times. I’d also encourage you to purchase these recommendations from your local indie bookseller, or read them via your local library.

Are you ready?

The first piece in this series is Danielle Evans‘ “Happily Ever After,” which opens her new short story collection The Office of Historical Corrections. Lyssa, the main character, works in a Titanic-themed party venue and is grieving the loss of her mother, who died from what seems to be an HBOC-related cancer. Don’t get too hung up on the details, or trying to figure out exactly what syndrome she had–this is the kind of thing that it makes it impossible to teach The Death of Ivan Ilyich to physicians, who are wont to ignore the literary aspects in favour of arguing about whether the symptoms are more suggestive of stomach or pancreatic cancer.

Evans is a skilled writer. The absurdity of the Titanic-themed venue isn’t played for laughs but is another part of Lyssa’s reality, which also includes the absurdity–and desperation, and unfairness–of what she as a young Black woman must do to advocate for medical care for her mother. After the story ended, this paragraph stuck with me, and has for weeks:

“There was always something they wouldn’t tell everybody, and she wanted to be told, which meant she had to look like a real person to them, like a person whose mother deserved to live, like someone who loved somebody. Whatever information they weren’t going to give her, whatever medicine they didn’t bother trying on Black women, she would have to ask to get, would have to ask for directly so that it went in the file if they refused, but ask for without seeming stupid or possessive or cold. She would have to be poised and polite through her frustration, which, thankfully, retail had prepared her for. Tell me what you would tell a white woman, her face said. A white woman with money, her clothes said.”

The whole collection is worth reading. If you want a taste of Evans’ brilliance, check out the devastating “Anything Could Disappear” available for free at Electric Lit.

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