In the past year, Kirsten Parkinson, Ph.D., professor of English, director of the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature and program coordinator for the gender studies minor, has had two essays published. The first, “On Giving Up Antidepressants During a Pandemic” (available to read online) was published in July 2020 by Broad Street. It’s an honest and personal account as Parkinson puts a focus on her own mental health while at the same time her household, her community and the world begin to change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It seemed ironic to give up antidepressants just as the media was publishing stories about spikes in mental health problems, so I decided to write about my experience,” says Parkinson.
The essay functions as a snapshot from the first few months of the pandemic in Ohio. Parkinson comments on the common toll that the coronavirus takes on mental health as people experienced increased isolation, fear of contracting the virus and disruption to daily routines. In the essay, Parkinson also captures the anxieties that many were feeling after the first few months of the pandemic were giving way to warmer weather. In the essay, she writes, “I worry that people are pretending as if nothing has happened, as if we can return to ‘normal.’ I no longer know what that word means.”
In September 2020, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards published another essay of Parkinson’s, titled “Discussing The Complexities Of Citizenship Within ‘Half Of A Yellow Sun’” (available to read online). The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards had invited Parkinson to contribute after she had included Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel “Half of a Yellow Sun” in her World Literature course, which Parkinson describes as a “great teaching and learning experience.”
When discussing the novel with her students, as Parkinson notes in her essay, Adichie’s novel sparked debate about citizenship, the requirements to become a citizen and a citizen’s right to vote. As Parkinson notes in her essay, “Our conversation became unexpectedly heated over the question of citizenship tests. Some students pointed out that most native-born Americans could not pass the stringent tests required of naturalized citizens. The class was divided on the fairness of these tests.”
Parkinson not only finds writing of personal importance for her, but her students have also found it helpful to hear about her writing journey. “Sometimes I will talk about my writing process to students to reassure them that I have the same challenges that they have or to show how I have overcome an obstacle that they may be having,” she says.
Parkinson also has plans to publish again soon. Her upcoming essay began with the story of her great-aunt. “My grandparents kept the ashes of my great-aunt Betty in the trunk of their car for several years,” says Parkinson. That family story led her to think more about the significance that societies hold in the remains of deceased loved ones. “The Family Cremains” is due out this summer from the University of Tulsa’s Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry.