Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa* took me by surprise. It took me a while to get into it, and even longer to realize that it was based on the real events in Seattle around the WTO protests in 1999 (probably because I was 12 at the time and I don’t clearly remember any details from the time). The story follows several different characters which makes it seem a little disjointed at first, however it is completely worth it as they all begin to come together. Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is not an easy read, there are passages that are difficult to read, and events that I was horrified to learn actually took place. I cried more than once. But it is also an incredibly important read, and I truly believe that sometimes we need to read the difficult things, sometimes we need to not turn away, and I truly wish this novel was no longer relevant, but the truth is it never has been more relevant.
CW: Violence, Police Brutality
Victor wanted to have the strength to watch, to witness the brutality and be strong enough to tell the world about it. He wanted to witness it and by witnessing make it real, unable to be forgotten; he wanted this horror seared into every pale pink fiber of his skull. But he was afraid. The batons rising and falling like pistons in an engine Victor didn’t want to know about. Victor’s arms were two pieces of wood shivering in the pipes. He counted; he breathed; but he didn’t chant.
He watched as the Doctor lurched to his feet. Victor knew what was coming, but he wouldn’t look away. He would witness this. The Doctor was turned around, disoriented for a moment, and in the mayhem he stumbled backward into a cop. The cop came low and fast with his baton. A sharp clip to the shin that crumpled the Doctor’s leg and sent him tumbling to the pavement, where the cop was already on him tearing off the sign
ONE HUMAN FOR HUMANITY
and throwing it into the wind. The cop hit him across the face and the doctor’s hands flew to his teeth, still narrating, mumbling through the blood. “Police brutality. You are practising police brutality.”
Oh god, Victor was so scared.
No, John Henry could tell from the tilt of the cop’s heads as they paraded back and forth, the way they huddled in small groups hurriedly talking, the way they strode through the crowd, the anger with which they struck. Every gesture and motion signaled their desperation and frustration. They had never encountered it before, either in the streets or in their dreams of the street: people that would not submit. People unafraid of their violence. Brave people who would not leave.
How can you protect your children if they don’t want to be protected? How can you protect your children if the thing from which they need protection is you?
Now, watching their bodies taking the blows, she saw it for what it was. Because where have you arrived when you take your piece of a pavement, your glass bottle, your stone, to go to war with a modern military? When all you have left is your body, or the body of your son, and that is what you throw in the street. That is your final roadblock to occupation. Jesus Christ, look at them. Attempting to take a city with nothing more than their bodies and whatever currents might run inside. No, revolution was not glamorous. Revolution was a sacrifice. A desperation. The last insane leap to some future where you might have the room to breathe. Except there was nothing there when you landed but a wall running east to west. Or was it the most clearheaded sanity – this last leap? The final decision you would have the power to make. Which would it be? Hurry now, the tanks are rolling in the street, the troops are at your door. Time to choose. Slavery or suicide? Surrender or fight?
*Received an advanced reader’s copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.