Acclaimed author Leslie Jamison visits St. Thomas – TommieMedia
The Luann Dummer Center for Women in St. Thomas hosted Leslie Jamison, an acclaimed author and novelist, on March 8.
Jamison led a writing workshop with a small number of St. Thomas students and gave a talk to community members titled “Caring: Nostalgia, Care, and Women After the Pandemic,” which focused on COVID- 19 and its impact on women.
“When I think of women and the pandemic, I think of how gender roles and the unequal distribution of domestic work have become more visible during the pandemic,” Jamison said. “It’s not a problem we’ve solved, it’s something we take with us. It’s something we continue to reckon with.
Jamison is the director of the nonfiction writing concentration at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. His writing has been praised by The New York Times, NPR and Publishers Weekly. As the pandemic changed the way Jamison worked, it helped her realize the disparate burden of childcare on women.
“Women are shouldering more of the burden of childcare when schools and daycares are closed, feeling again as they did long before the pandemic hit, the pressure to be the line background,” Jamison said. “Solving the impossible equation of being there for their dependents and showing up for their job, when they were lucky enough to have work.”
Jamison wanted to learn more about the lives of the students who attended his workshop and how the pandemic has impacted them and their writing.
“I’m going to share a few thoughts, but I really want this to feel like a conversation. So I’m going to ask you questions, and even when I don’t ask a question, feel free to say something and jump in anyway,” Jamison said.
In his talk, Jamison reflected on the systemic inequality the pandemic has manifested and discussed what “normalcy” should look like as the pandemic appears to be coming to an end.
Jamison shared personal stories of contracting COVID-19 in early 2020 while simultaneously caring for her 2-year-old daughter and teaching remotely as a professor at Columbia.
“Once I realized I would be spending several weeks alone at home with my daughter, I made us a daily schedule with awkward illustrations,” Jamison said. “But once I fell ill, even the limited life depicted in our rainbow program, its cheerful colors radiating with compensatory and forced optimism, now seemed naive in its aspirations. Grounded by walks I could no longer take, meals I could no longer taste, and activities that required staying upright longer than I could.
Jamison thinks society’s desire to return to pre-COVID-19 “normal” raises questions about the state of equality in the first place.
Jamison used the wave of Black Lives Matter protests after the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020 as an example.
“Pushing back the syntax of wanting things ‘back to normal’, the protests instead demanded a questioning of normality itself, tracing the ‘before’ times to a much longer history of violence. .”
St. Thomas sophomore Emily Reed gained clarity from Jamison’s lecture.
“I read his book ‘The Empathy Exams’ in my English class. It was super helpful to hear him speak in person,” Reed said. “I feel like I understand the context of what I’m reading now.”
Abby Keilty can be reached at [email protected]