Heather Diamond’s beautifully written essay in the (Her)oics Anthology, Starry Night, explores familial relationships in quarantine, as well as illness, health, and the nature of our interactions when time slows down. Heather is the author of Rabbit in the Moon: a Memoir, to be released Spring 2021 by Camphor Press and we are thrilled to have her excellent thoughtful prose in our anthology.
See her full essay by pre-ordering the (Her)oics Anthology, out March 11, 2021 with Pact Press, Regal House Publishing.
Reminder: Many of our writers will be reading from their work at these events. Please check them out and register to join us. There are many dates and themes to choose from! The first in launch day, March 11. All are free and virtual.
Hi Heather! I’m so happy you sent us your essay- it really is a jewel. What made you decide to write this piece and submit it to (Her)oics?
I wrote “Starry Night” while I was staying in Washington State with my sister, who was going through chemo for ovarian cancer, and my elderly mother. I’d flown home to help out, and my visit extended from two to five months due to the pandemic and cancer treatments. I had lots of time to think while I did puzzles with my sister, and that led to the discoveries about our differences as well as the reflections on our connections. At first I hesitated to send the essay to the anthology because my pandemic experience seemed so tame and interior compared to what we were seeing on the news, but I thought other people hunkering down with family might be having similar epiphanies.
Did you feel your pandemic experience was very different than others due to where you live? How?
Unlike people living in crowded cities or worrying about making ends meet, I had the luxury of staying in my mother’s comfortable house on an island in the Pacific Northwest. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the trees and harbor, it was hard to believe what we were seeing on the news. We did jigsaw puzzles and watched wildlife to pass the time and on most days, my sister’s cancer seemed a bigger threat than the pandemic. But every trip to the hospital reminded me that those could not be separated, and a sense of dread underlay our daily routines and attempts to stay cheerful.
What are three things that got you through the pandemic?
Three things that have gotten me through the pandemic so far are my international perspective, caretaking, and writing. I traveled to Washington from Hong Kong, where pandemic restrictions had been in place for over a month. Everyone there was masked. I arrived in the US just as the pandemic exploded there, and I was appalled by the lack of information and the resistance to precautions (I still am). I already knew the safety drills, so I was comfortable taking on the role of buffer for my mother and sister although at sixty-seven, I was technically in the high-risk category. I think I was the least stir-crazy of the three of us, because I was the busiest. Plus I was writing, which always helps me to get honest and real, and to make sense of what happens.
What would you say is the theme in your piece and how does it come through? Is that an ongoing theme in your work?
The theme of “Starry Night,” the way fear sharpens love, emerged from my role in protecting my sister as well as from our isolation. My sister’s cancer heightened my fear of her getting Covid, and my fear of losing my sister showed me how much I love and depend on her. My sister recovered, and I returned to Hong Kong one day before re-entry restrictions became more stringent and with a new sense of connection to my family. I saw my time there as another lesson on the themes of longing to belong and rediscovering family that permeate much of my writing and are central to both Rabbit in the Moon:a Memoir (Spring 2021, Camphor Press) and a second memoir I’ve begun writing (updates on my website).
I am really looking forward to reading your full memoir. I’ve read other essays of yours, and your experiences in Asia are fascinating.
Readers, look below for more information on Heather’s writing. And don’t forget to check out the “Untold Stories” of other (Her)oics Writers (see my blog button above) and the (Her)oics Anthology pre-order page here.
Heather Diamond is an American writer living in Hong Kong. She earned a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Hawaii and has worked as a bookseller, community college English instructor, and museum curator. Her essays have been published or are forthcoming in Memoir Magazine, Sky Island Journal, Rappahannock Review, Waterwheel Review, and New South Journal. She is the author of Rabbit in the Moon: a Memoir, to be released Spring 2021 by Camphor Press.