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Plus, a playlist of episodes about grief and loss.
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Host Anna Sale and the logos for Death, Sex & Money and WNYC Studios, all on a beige background.
This week, we're bringing you my conversation with Leslie Gray Streeter, a writer whose husband died suddenly of a heart attack five years ago. We spoke a few months back, when we had no idea how much all of us were going to feel surrounded by loss, grief, in the coming weeks and months.

So our conversation isn't about collective grief. Leslie and I talked about her personal grief and how she's integrated it into her life and work since. She's brutally honest, and also, fun to listen to. When I read her memoir, I can remember laughing out loud as I turned the pages. You get a sense of that from her memoir's title: Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief For People Who Normally Avoid Books with the Word 'Journey' in the Title.

As we put this episode together, I found myself thinking back on some of the other conversations we've had about about personal loss and grief on the show. Some, like Leslie, find humor a salve. Others are unflinching about their anger and sadness. There are people who lean on faith and their relationship to God, and others who describe being struck by a lack of order in death's wake. We made a playlist of some of these other episodes around grief, which you can find here.

A lot of us are encountering grief right now, in a lot of different ways. We hope you find some company in these stories, and also, permission to move through your the pain of loss in your own way. 

- Anna and the Death, Sex & Money team
This Week on Death, Sex & Money

Five years ago, Leslie Gray Streeter's husband, Scott, had a heart attack and died. And in the immediate aftermath of losing her husband, who was just 44 years old, Leslie says she found herself being hyper-aware of how she was performing her grief. "I remember hearing myself saying the words, 'So he's gone then,'" Leslie told me, about the moment doctors let her know that Scott had died. "And I also remember thinking...'I wonder if I sound - is that what you should say? Is that a normal thing to say?"

Leslie chronicles all of this in her new book, Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like Journey in the Title. I talked with her about what she's learned about the realities of grieving, how she thinks about her love life today, and why she decided to buy herself a grave plot with her book advance. Listen here. 

Your Responses: Talking Racism With Your Family
If you're from an immigrant family, we've been asking you about the conversations you're having with parents, siblings, and other relatives about race, racism and politics. A listener named Angela wrote us from Texas, where she's quarantining with her parents. They immigrated from China in the late '80s, and Angela says that being home for an extended period for the first time in her adult life is highlighting the places where they don't see eye-to-eye:
"My mother wasn't interested in politics until 2016, but now she is an adamant Trump supporter who gets all of her news from Fox News and WeChat groups. One of my mom's first jobs in the U.S. was in the public housing authority in Illinois, and her supervisor there would tell her that the people in the system, who were primarily Black, were having too many children and purposefully taking advantage of the welfare system. This early interaction, along with the typical racist views of mainland Chinese people, has heavily shaped her current views. Both my parents hold views that different races are genetically different somehow, but Dad is more centrally aligned politically. Both of them typically vote along conservative party lines, but my father does oppose Trump because he believes that Trump is dividing the country. They are part of several WeChat groups, many with other local Chinese immigrants, that send each other conservative memes of violent looters and lawless protests, many of which are sensationalizing or pushing conspiracy theories.

I have tried to discuss these matters with them and share literature and data, but it’s exhausting because I am always playing defense and doing the research to counter their blanket statements and headlines. Mom is nearly impossible to reason with and constantly rebuts with 'whataboutisms.' Mom and Dad have even had several arguments between themselves. We watched '13TH' on Netflix recently, and it helped spark some helpful discussion between Dad and I, but the hardest part to get through to them is the fact that hard work by itself does not level the playing field for Black people. From their perspective, they came from nothing, arrived in this country without any money, didn't speak the language, worked really hard, and built up wealth. They don't understand why everyone else can't do the same thing. My dad believes that if Black people cooperate with police and follow the laws then they wouldn’t be in this current situation. Just last week I had to explain to him who Breonna Taylor was, and the fact that she literally wasn't doing anything wrong when she was shot dead in her home by police because he hadn't heard of her story.

My brother is usually the one that has these types of conversations with my parents, whereas I usually avoided these discussions in the past because I knew that we weren't aligned and wanted to avoid confrontation, but being in the same space as them during this time has forced these uncomfortable conversations. Unfortunately, my mom's position is so opposed to mine that we usually settle on a fragile peace where we don't bring up these types of topics in order to get through dinner without tears. It is emotionally draining on me to see the people who raised me have these harsh views that I don't understand, and my brother will help tag in sometimes in our group chat, but overall, I’m having trouble finding support or ways to approach them with their immigrant experiences and points of view. From speaking with other first generation friends of mine, I know my situation is not unique, but no one seems to have an effective way of discussing these things with their families, if they have discussions at all. I had even toyed around with starting a support group to help people in similar situations discuss counter points and back these points up with studies and evidence."

 
—Angela, 30, Texas
 
And a listener named Alison is also having tough conversations with her parents: 
"My dad emigrated from Argentina when he was 11, in the late 1960s during the aftermath of a military coup, but before the Dirty Wars. He said the first Black people he ever saw were in Texas, where he first lived in the States before moving to Queens, New York. My mom is not an immigrant. Her maternal grandparents came to the US in the early 20th century from Italy, and her paternal line dates back to the original 1940s Irish immigrants.

My dad is pro-border wall and anti-affirmative action. He says immigrants have to come into this country the correct way, like he did over 50 years ago. He says people have to earn their spots at universities regardless of the color of their skin—though he told me to make sure I check off the 'Latino' box on my college application six years ago. We are white. My dad hardly has an accent, his last name is Italian, and he shortens his first name so it sounds American. I feel very little connection to being Argentinian, anyway. I learned Spanish through high school and college, and we sometimes make empanadas and chimichurri (I tell my dad he’s not Argentinian when he overcooks steak, which is often). Soccer has also been a staple in our house, though: my dad supports River Plate while my three siblings and I are bosteros (Boca Juniors fans).

We’ve been having many discussions about race, which often become shouting matches when my dad gets involved. This week he and my mom were talking about how comedians can’t make jokes anymore, specifically white comedians. I countered that of course white comedians can be funny without joking about other races—all those racist and stereotypical jokes have been done before, they’re harmful, and in my view not funny. He said if people of other races can make fun of white people, then white people should be able to do the same to other races. I wish I’d asked him if he could think of any jokes about white people, as I thought of that rebuttal during my morning run the next day: all I could think of were that we can’t dance and we don’t season our food, which aren’t harmful like many jokes about people of color. But at the time I said that white people are not damaged by jokes about them; they are the default, they are at the pinnacle of society. People of color have been the butt of 'comedy' for decades. My dad cut me off by saying 'my view is my view, your view is your view, and nothing is going to change that.'

I’ve tried to make my peace with that as a 23-year-old recent college grad in book publishing versus a 64-year-old chemical engineer, but at dinner my mom will mention something that she saw on Facebook, which becomes a match that lights a fiery discussion. My twin sister will literally run out of the room when that happens, and I text with her after to recap and vent about how angry it makes me to live with someone like that, who refuses to try and feel an ounce of sympathy or empathy. To my mom’s credit, she does try, but almost every time I try to push a little harder she shuts down. I know if I don’t try to educate them, they will not seek to educate themselves. Even if I provide a podcast episode or reading material, it is ignored. That makes me sad, as I was raised to love learning.

It’s strange to live in a house with an immigrant mentality, with two people who began their lives in different financial circumstances (i.e., not much), one who worked very hard to provide a better life for his kids financially, and then to not recognize the huge head-start he had in comparison to people of color simply because he’s white and has a white-sounding name. And it’s awful to say I now cannot wait to move out when the pandemic is over, because I can’t live with someone who harbors certain views and is unwilling to consider the other side."

 
—Alison, 23, New Jersey
 
If you're from an immigrant family, what are your conversations about race, racism, and politics looking like right now? We'd especially love to hear about conversations with family members who aren't parents. We'd also love to hear from parents about what it's like to talk to your kids! Send us a voice memo or an email, to deathsexmoney@wnyc.org.

Listen to This: Audio We Love

Voter turnout among the 18 to 29-year-old demographic is traditionally the lowest of any age group—in 2016, it was just 46%. But there's a lot at stake for young people in this year's upcoming presidential election. In a new project called 18-to-29 Now: Young America Speaks Up, our colleagues at WNYC's Radio Rookies are featuring young media makers around the country talking about the issues that matter the most to them—from immigration to recovery to debt to racism.

And if you're looking for something to watch this week, we gotta recommend the documentary Mucho Mucho Amor on Netflix. It's about Walter Mercado, the Puerto Rican astrologer who was ubiquitous in Latinx culture for decades until he suddenly disappeared from TV in 2010. Come for the incredible costumes and hair, stay for the story about family, loyalty, love and loss. And if you want to hear the backstory about how the film came to be, listen to director Cristina Costantini on The Takeaway

"I think the work you are doing is very valuable, and all the more so in these current times. You explore issues that truly matter and help people feel more connected."

—Jiyoun, San Francisco, CA

Join Jiyoun in supporting our work at Death, Sex & Money!
Donate now at deathsexmoney.org/donate.
We want to know: If you're a childcare provider and/or someone who has kids, is childcare working for you right now? 

Tell us about the hard conversations you're having about childcare during the pandemic. Send us an email at deathsexmoney@wnyc.org.
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