The “After Life” of Covid

What Should Come After Covid?

Drs. Keri Leigh Merritt and Yohuru Williams discuss important research and reflection about what happened in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. The book’s authors document and analyze the effects of the pandemic in ways inspired by the writers who documented American life during the Great Depression. Perhaps most importantly, they discuss how this lengthy tragedy provides the United States with an opportunity to rebuild its society. Episode 507.

Buzzkill Bookshelf

Rhae Lynn Barnes, Keri Leigh Merritt, and Yohuru Williams (eds), After Life: A Collective History of Loss and Redemption in Pandemic America

After Life is a collective history of how Americans experienced, navigated, commemorated, and ignored mass death and loss during the global COVID-19 pandemic, mass uprisings for racial justice, and the near presidential coup in 2021 following the 2020 election. Inspired by the writers who documented American life during the Great Depression and World War II for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the editors asked twenty-first-century historians and legal experts to focus on the parallels, convergences, and differences between the exceptional “long 2020”, while it unfolds, and earlier eras in U.S. History.

Providing context for the entire volume, After Life’s Introduction explains how COVID-19 and America’s long history of inequality, combined with a corrupt and unconcerned federal government, produced one of the darkest times in our nation’s history. Discussing the rise of the COVID-19 death toll in the United States, eventually exceeding the 1918 flu, the AIDS epidemic, and the Civil War, it ties public health, immigration, white supremacy, elections history, and epidemics together, and provides a short history of the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and the beginnings of a Third Reconstruction.

After Life documents how Americans have dealt with grief, pain, and loss, both individually and communally, and how we endure and thrive. The title is an affirmation that even in our suspended half-living during lockdowns and quarantines, we are a nation of survivors—with an unprecedented chance to rebuild society in a more equitable way.

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