Falling Back in Love with Being Human: Letters to Lost Souls comes out on Aug. 1. Click here for Broadview’s Q&A with the Kai Cheng Thom.
When the world seemed like an awful place, Kai Cheng Thom posed a question to herself: “What happens when we imagine loving the people — and the parts of ourselves — that we do not believe are worthy of love?”
The result is Falling Back in Love with Being Human: Letters to Lost Souls, a collection of 31 letters she penned after experiencing some deeply personal losses and being a witness to violence. As she explains in the book’s first letter, “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change and cancel culture, people seemed to be treating one another with a viciousness that threatened to shatter me. It wasn’t just my world that was falling apart. It was everyone’s.”
The letters are addressed to groups of people like “the ones who watched” or “the ones this world was never made for,” as well as to individuals. She describes them as “a series of love letters to unexpected people and places, to the parts of the world and my own self that I thought were beyond saving.”
One such letter is written to Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling. Here, Thom, a trans woman, addresses Rowling’s fear of transfeminine people while also pointing to the traits she and Rowling share. “i know what it’s like to live in a body defined by what men can take from it. i lived in terror too, like you. i know what being a survivor is, i know what being a survivor does, i know about the things we become in the dark, what fear turns us into when we are desperate to live.” She ends the letter with hope the two of them can learn to love their internal monsters of fear and shame.
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Thom, who also writes books for children, is a former clinical social worker turned coach, consultant and conflict resolution practitioner in Toronto. Related to this work, she has included a suggested activity after each letter that connects to its theme. “Think of a lie you’ve told about yourself,” one reads. “Summon the memories of all of the times this lie felt true. What does this lie reveal about who you really are?” These brief interregnums help make the book a participatory experience.
Falling Back in Love with Being Human is in some ways a continuation of the approach Thom took when writing her 2019 essay collection, I Hope We Choose Love, as both are grounded in the transformative justice tradition that is the basis of her therapeutic work.
More on Broadview:
- This transgender priest says Anglican church’s affirmation of new worship resources could save lives
- “It was the scariest thing I’d ever done … and also the best”: celebrating later-in-life transition stories
- How to deal with the end of the world
They’re also grounded in faith, which she describes as her solace and her guide. “Not faith in any particular god, necessarily,” she writes, “but rather faith in other people. Faith in the transformative power of the bonds between us.”
Thom invites readers to join her in making a journey back to love. As she ends her first letter: “This book is an act of prayer in a collapsing world. My devotion to the belief that we are all intrinsically sacred. My bridge back to hope. I hope it can be yours too.”
Alex Mlynek is a writer and editor in Toronto.
This story first appeared in Broadview’s September 2023 issue with the title “Transformed by Love.”
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