Report from Louisiana: Wuhan Diary

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As an avid and constant reader, I decided to do the Reading Challenge on Goodreads again this year; last year I set the lofty goal of 100 books and missed the mark with 63 out of 100 books.

This year, because of the pandemic, probably, I did better. I set a lower goal of 75 books and so far I’ve read 82. I’ll probably be at 83 by the end of the year.

Currently I am reading Wuhan Diary by Fang Fang, which is the collected dispatches, or posts, from the renown Chinese author during the 76 days of the Wuhan lockdown. While most of us are tired of Covid, tired of reading about Covid, and tired of all things Covid, I am enjoying the book.

To me, it is interesting to see what it was like in Wuhan in the days after the pandemic broke. Fang Fang’s frustration with the situation is evident and she is well aware that the government censors are reading and taking down her posts. Her readers would screenshot the posts and share them via text message to each other, and in many ways she became the voice of the pandemic in Wuhan as people in lockdown were starved for information that was not filtered for them.

Her frustration with the initial position that the virus is not contagious from person to person is clear. She does not mince words, despite the censors. As the lockdown in Wuhan drags on, it has been interesting to read how neighbors worked together to supply each other with fresh food, medicines, and supplies.

The book also shows that we are not all that different; Fang Fang loses many friends and colleagues to the virus; she deals with the same problems we all have: shortages, misinformation, isolation.  She worries a great deal about the mental health issues that result from the lockdown and she worries about the marginalized who cannot get medical treatment, especially in the earlier days before the temporary hospitals were constructed.

She also has very relatable problems, like running out of dog food. (She cooked rice for her dog when this happened.)

Sometimes she even challenges the censors. She wants to be seen as a witness, not necessarily a critic. As a result, her voice is honest, and heartbreakingly real.

I’m not finished with the book yet, but I do recommend it. Somehow it seems fitting to end this year of the pandemic with Wuhan Diary.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

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