I always love reading books that are set in my current home of Seattle. This book in particular captured the progressive power that permeates this city. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is set in Seattle during the WTO (World Trade Organization) protests in 1999. The WTO protests lasted five days, the police became violent, and many people were injured. The picture above is one I found from University of Washington's digital collection of the WTO protests; find it here. After more research, I found that the title is derived from a woodcut crafted by Dalia Sapon-Shevin, pictured below. This was a popular slogan at the time among punk and activist communities.
The novel captures a single afternoon of the protests, spanning across 7 different characters. The story weaves together the experiences of activists and police, an estranged son and his Chief of Police father, and the story of a WTO delegate from the third world.
This book was absolutely beautiful, I recommend it to all. Sunil Yapa skillfully entwines the different worldviews of his characters in the most fascinating and human way.
“What we require of others so that we may live our lives of easy convenience. Dad, there are people who work all day every day for thirty years assembling the three wires that make a microwave timer beep. What are we supposed to think of this? How do they survive it? Why do we ask them to?”
“Tiresome people, but he knew it was only human nature to believe it best to ignore suffering, to focus on your own good fortune. The human survival mechanism: to say your prayers, thank your gods, and hold your breath when you passed the slums. The sweet poison of privilege, wasn't it? To think blindness a preferable condition.”
“Did they not find a connection between their obscene wealth and the obscene poverty all around them? Perhaps it was too much to suggest the fault was theirs alone. The upper class was too goddamn stupid to be blamed, frankly. But how could they do nothing? How could they look upon their fellow creatures suffering and do absolutely nothing?”
"We seek a world in which there is room for many worlds."
“Because how deep the darkness of the heart which longs for control.”
"...but as if he understood in some way, the sometime knowledge of what this is, the knowledge of the whole ugly beautiful thing, the knowledge of the courage it takes to move into fear and to fuck up and to go on living, knowing that sometimes it is two people alone and some small kindness between them that is not even called family, or forgiveness, but might be what some, on the good days, call love.”