This Spring’s One Book, One Chicago selection, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, is a collection of short stories by Yiyun Li where the author examines the concept of kindness - a theme echoed throughout the book - but most deliberately in the short story entitled “Kindness.” In this short story, Li tells a biographical account of Moyan, a Chinese woman in her forties, who experienced marginal forms of kindness as she was growing up. Although these forms of kindness appear as subtle gestures, such as her ill mother’s silence about her adoption, a neighbor reading to her, and an army lieutenant showing leniency, each leaves an imprint on her life and blossoms into a commitment to remember each gift of kindness.
No matter where one finds themselves today, growing up there was little control over family and community. However, like Moyan, throughout our lives we may have met people who have profoundly influenced us because in one way or another they have shown kindness. These gifts of kindness could be as tangible as sharing a meal, but also as immeasurable as love or friendship. And the theme of kindness examined in the story extends to the way one remembers each gift. With conviction, Moyan remembers her talented acquaintance from the military and explains what kindness is all about: "If I close my eyes I can hear again Nan’s beautiful voice, singing ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ at the shooting range, a random act of kindness that will continue living on in the memory of someone who is a stranger to her now.”
Li’s story raises a question: what does it mean to show and receive kindness? In three cross-cultural One Book, One Chicago discussions, three pairs of Chicago Cultural Alliance organizations will partner with WBEZ to explore Li’s short story “Kindness” published in Gold Boy, Emerald Girl. Each discussion – April 3rd at the WBEZ West Side Bureau, April 10th at the WBEZ South Side Bureau, and April 17th at the WBEZ North Side Bureau – will encourage exploration of the following questions:
· How are you kind to yourself and others?
· Has a stranger ever expressed a random act of kindness to you?
· Who are the important people in your life? Either role models or life teachers?
· How can families how kindness to each other?
· Are there substitutes for the kindness a family can provide?
· What acts of kindness happen within your family and community? How are they remembered?
Each discussion is an opportunity to pause in the chaos of the everyday, and reflect on how and where we each experience kindness in our lives. This event will be facilitated by staff from the DANK-HAUS German American Cultural Center and Irish American Heritage Center.