Works by Two Faculty Included in State Book Award Winner

September 14, 2021

Sonora Jha, PhD, professor of Communication and associate dean for academic community in the College of Arts and Sciences, wrote an essay titled, “Alone and Awash in Desire.” Serena Chopra, PhD, assistant professor of Creative Writing and English Literature, wrote a poem titled, “Seduction, After Fruit & Mercy.”

The literary collection, edited by Jennifer Haupt, took the general nonfiction award for books published in 2020. “Bestselling authors and poets come together to contribute essays, poetry and interviews about love, grief and comfort during the coronavirus pandemic, with proceeds to benefit the independent booksellers who play an integral role in literature,” notes the distributor, IPG. 

Following are excerpts from both pieces:

Sonora Jha, PhD“Alone and Awash in Desire”
By Sonora Jha

Her fifty-second birthday comes and goes. On her fiftieth, she’d told her son that she had lived all her dreams and had nothing, really, on her bucket list. I have traveled, I have been married twice, been loved and loved back. I have been a professional and a mother. I have survived disease and displacement. So, if I die now, just know that I lived a fulfilled life, she’d said to her child.

Okay, cool, but it would be nice if you didn’t die, he’d said.

More people die. She lives more days, for no reason at all. A New York Times news alert appears on her phone: “Like someone injected you with straight up fire.” A teen’s heart failure is a stark example of a new affliction in children tied to the coronavirus.

She longs for her students. She longs for their language. Straight up fire.

And slowly she is awash in a desire for her own life, some of it lived and some yet unlived. More, she whispers to her slippers. More.

She is hungry. She smells of cake from lust. She screams out song after song. She prays into scented smoke for the best love of her life to come along. Ten weeks and a hundred thousand deaths later, she opens her front door to a virtual stranger and falls into his arms.

On the morning of that day, though, she puts the kettle on. She watches the tea darken the water in her favorite china cup. She tortures her index finger with the steam. She raises the gold rim of the cup to her lips, sniffs the sweet bergamot, and kisses what may be the last thing she can control.


Serena Chopra, PhD“Seduction, After Fruit & Mercy”
By Serena Chopra

Isn’t there enough pain, Love,
in the world for you
not to be paining too?

Isn’t there enough that a body can do –

Won’t stop

even torn flesh muted even
I don’t scar torn
quotidian swell flushing with battery
blushing each bruise
like condensation, lifted

What tears me is father
land man
hood citizen
ship war
like tender
foot mother
tongues scar
tissues in the weather
of two inaccurate suicides, wrists
steady as a painting –

to breathe these oxygens
to mend in cells

like history, Love
like forests, Love
like children, Love
like wantless, love -