The Breaks

Lucy Zi Wei Fang

by Julietta Singh

Coach House Books

171 pages


Julietta Singh’s The Breaks is at once a letter, a memoir, and a work of narration. In addressing her six-year-old daughter, Singh’s storytelling is, for the next generation, “a map of broken things, a recyclable archive that will spur you to fashion other ways of being alive, of living.” Singh presents parenthood and pedagogy with urgency, a process of “learning to mother at the end of the world” against the onslaught of environmental destruction and late capitalism, while her daughter, a little brown girl, has already started to navigate American racial and gender dynamics.

Singh takes up ‘the breaks’ in varying ways: The bodily break of a fractured bone that is left to over-heal with extra calcium, the inevitable break that comes between generations in loss and disconnect, and the hopeful break from a capitalism-ingrained way of life to an alternate world. For Singh, break from is a loss that is necessary to survival, but breaking with can make room for collective healing and renewal.

What does it mean to have a child at the end of the world? The break also takes the form of pedagogy; in addition to providing a child with a toolbox of archived stories, parenting can be “reconceived as life’s most enduring act of radical pedagogy” in unlearning the world with a new life. The reader is invited on this journey of experimental unlearning, in ways such as queer family-making and

radical resource sharing. In doing so, a reader might find themselves spoken to as both potential elders and an inheriting generation, perhaps exposing their own relationships to parenthood. The second-person narration brings the reader into an intimate epistolary, blurring the (arguably already inseparable) boundaries between the personal and political. The Breaks illustrates this inseparability by rescaling personal desires for a biological child with themes of radical pedagogy and the intervention that the world needs. However grandiose, these themes must also make peace with the environmental and moral impacts of bringing a child to the end of the world.

Elders, inheritors, and anyone in between can benefit from the narration of The Breaks by approaching it as it was intended—as a selection of knowings from which one can choose their inheritances among the unrealized dreams for liberation and survival beyond the end of the world. As a map of makeshift pathways and ongoing fights for survival, The Breaks ultimately reveals the too-daunting task of being a child at the end of the world, tasked with finding a yet-unrealized way of survival for themselves.

          —Lucy Zi Wei Fang

Lucy Zi Wei Fang is a translator, writer, and photographer. You can find them at 

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“Maple keys are built by nature like helicopter blades, which allows them to propel as far as possible from the mother maple… In these pages, we see the brave, touching, true ways we, too, must embrace the fear and the excitement that comes with leaving where we are rooted.”

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