How to Love the World

Elvi­ra Basevich

January 13, 2020

Poet­ry. Jew­ish Stud­ies. Wom­en’s Stud­ies. Set just before the col­lapse of the Berlin Wall, HOW TO LOVE THE WORLD is at once a con­dem­na­tion of the world, a day­dream of Amer­i­ca, and an unsent love let­ter — writ­ten and rewrit­ten over the course of ten years — to a dead fam­i­ly. A med­i­ta­tion on inter­gen­er­a­tional trau­ma, resilience, and hope, HOW TO LOVE THE WORLD is writ­ten in the tra­di­tion of epic poet­ry and fol­lows the author as she retraces her moth­er’s jour­ney to New York City in the sum­mer of 89. A Jew­ish-Uyghur refugee, the author is born along the way, mark­ing the unclear bound­ary when the mem­o­ry of a fam­i­ly becomes his­tor­i­cal mem­o­ry, loss the con­di­tion of a new begin­ning. HOW TO LOVE THE WORLD casts refugee women and daugh­ters as the right­ful judges of the world and the world as the right­ful home of all human beings.

Discussion Questions

In How to Love the World, Jew­ish Uyghur refuge Elvi­ra Base­vich ori­ents her­self in a world where a Jews looks at an Arab/​and see her­self,” where The part of me that’s a Jew­ish poet/​is lost in a park­ing lot in Detroit,” where her father — once a Pro­fes­sor of Math­e­mat­ics at Moscow State Uni­ver­si­ty — now dri­ves a taxi in New York and curs­es cus­tomers who dare to hail his cab as he works out the­o­rems at red lights. Base­vich begins with her own mid-migra­tion birth in Vien­na and then hur­ries the read­er across bor­ders, dis­ci­plines, and lan­guages until we’re breath­less — not just from the dif­fi­cult jour­ney, but also from the urgent delight of Basevich’s humor and max­i­mal­ism. Whether relat­ing to Lebanese refuges or Immanuel Kant, Base­vichin­sists that the writ­ing of poet­ry is a kind of time trav­el; and it is always a prepa­ra­tion for love.”