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Book Review :: Bright Unbearable Reality by Anna Badkhen

Bright Unbearable Reality by Anna Badkhen book cover image

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

In her collection of essays, Bright Unbearable Reality, Anna Badkhen—a former war correspondent, now essayist—forces us to examine the reality of migration despite the desire to look away. As her title implies, she compels readers to see the true causes of the massive amounts of people—one in seven worldwide, she says—who relocate due to climate change or suffering related to new weather patterns and natural disasters. I had planned to write that those people are forced to relocate, but that would be a false passive, a sentence construction Badkhen points out that ignores the true action and actor in order to make ideas more palatable. Badkhen doesn’t allow the reader this comfort, as she continually highlights the systemic problems that those in the wealthier countries cause, while at the same time, those countries deny entry to those whom they have displaced. In her essay, “Ways of Seeing,” she points out that there is the surface reality that most of us who have the privilege of reading her book know and the reality of those whose lives enable us to have that privilege; the difference, to use one of her images, between the restaurants and hotels that line Waikiki and the hotel workers striking for a living wage.

Bright Unbearable Reality by Anna Badkhen. New York Review Books, October 2022.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.

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