Why Do We Read Plague Stories?
They suggest that we can get through adversity, that things could always be worse. And sometimes, the best of these stories are genuinely full of love.
This isa column by Gabrielle Bellot about books, the body, memory, and more.
The Plague A Journal of the Plague Year
Love in the Time of Cholera
dengue, malaria, Zikabeware the ones with white bands on their legsAedes aegypti
At night, green mosquito coils burned in our home, the citronella that was supposed to repel the insects filled the air, and my aunties drew shut the vast white mosquito nets that covered their beds like drapes. I didn’t like to kill animals, but there was a curious satisfaction in using our yellow electric mosquito racket to fry them, burning them until their little bodies began to blacken and smoke.
The literature of disease reveals the ghostly ballet we live in, ever so close to the grave. But it shows, too, those surprising, serendipitous moments of joy, love, and beauty we can find during disasters, even just briefly.
Gabrielle Bellot is a staff writer for Literary Hub and the Head Instructor at Catapult. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Cut, Gay Magazine, Tin House, Guernica, The Paris Review Daily, them, and many other places. Her essays have been anthologized in Indelible in the Hippocampus (2019), Can We All Be Feminists? (2018), and elsewhere. She holds both an MFA and PhD in Creative Writing from Florida State University. She lives in Queens.
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For all the pain, there is also beauty in the margins those outside of them may never understand.