Pandemic Files

The Yale Review’s new feature “Pandemic Files" aims to capture life in the age of the novel coronavirus. We have asked writers to send dispatches from around the world and from their disparate realms of experience. This folio, which will be regularly updated, will be a place where we can come together to think alongside one another—encapsulating the experiences, questions, and news of the moment in writing.

Slavenka Drakulic 

Waking up after six days on a ventilator in Stockholm.

Feisal G. Mohamed 

The pandemic has shuttered the theaters, but the need for live, communal experience has never been more vital.

Sarah Trudgeon 

Whoa the thought of digging a
hole nearly brought me to tears
how long have we people been
burying each other?

Katherine Mannheimer 

After a long-ago theater closure, a female playwright complicated what it means to be intimate with another body.

Losing the sense of smell might seem trivial, but a person's identity can go with it

Amrapali Maitra 

Loss of smell—“anosmia”—sounds innocuous. But I know enough of it to recognize its capacity to steal what we hold dearest.

Rowan Ricardo Phillips 

My grandmother saw it coming and left. I’d already left.

How do you convince people to share your reality?

Noreen Khawaja 

The line between the real and unreal cannot be established securely.

A symbol is being built for the sake of voters who have never been to the borderlands

Emily Gogolak 

An eleven-billion-dollar altar to nativism keeps being built, beam by beam, to protect the homeland, even as it puts the workers building it at risk of catching the coronavirus.

She wanted to do something for herself, so she traveled 1,200 miles to care for COVID-19 patients

Nell Freudenberger 

Bravery doesn’t arrive suddenly, the way it does in movies. You don’t have to wait for an extreme situation to see if you have it.

The importance of joy amid the anger of the protests

Roger Reeves 

What brings us to talk about the tambor is the news of black folks, here in America, dancing as they protest.

What the historian's account of an ancient plague taught me when my father died 8,000 miles away

Emily Greenwood 

Thucydides’ account of the Athenian plague has been my distance line through the compound shocks of public catastrophe and private bereavement.

Nobody is at greater risk from COVID-19 than the incarcerated—and getting them released is only half the battle.

Russell Morse 

I know this system’s dangers and horrors because I spent years of my life living in these institutions.

The world is collapsing, but we must go on. How do we continue?

Elisa Gabbert 

The black death was interpreted as a punishment for sin, and yet, the sinners who survived did not change their ways. The world collapsed around them and they moved on.

The fallacy of "literary distancing"

Millicent Marcus 

My detachment from the sufferings of the people of Florence suddenly seemed like smugness and complacency.

There are a million ways to teach a Black boy about death.

Hafizah Geter 

In this body, in this country, am I dead or am I living? Am I human or am I my country’s ghost?

Monica Ferrell 

But with the stores depleted
It now appears there’s only one well
Here that never runs dry,

The warnings were clear. So why was it so hard, even for a doctor like me, to accept what was coming?

Randi Hutter Epstein 

Our lack of experience with pandemics shaped how America responded—or failed to respond.

After days of witnessing racial violence, respite is no longer a given

Emily Bernard 

I am not writing out of pleasure; I am writing like a robot, fighting to be counted as human.

An excerpt from a striking new collaborative work on life under COVID-19

Yusef Komunyakaa and Laren McClung 

I know patterns of lockdown & migration—
how a storm or germ could drive us
into a cellar or march us out toward fertile soil.

Joyelle McSweeney 

My first act of prophecy was to predict my own child’s death.


How “In these uncertain times” became ad agencies’ favorite slogan.

Ben Purkert 

Of course, the goal of these ads isn’t to make people feel better; it’s to sell stuff, or at least maintain a brand presence.

Ama Codjoe 

After the apocalypse, I yearned to be reckless.

Zimbabwe's hospitals are woefully unequipped for the pandemic, but the nation's citizens can't afford to stay inside.

Khameer Kidia 

“People are starving to death,” my mother argues over Skype when I praise the stringent lockdown.

If funerals show a society's endurance, ours is coming apart.

Kathryn Lofton 

Every child knows that when something dies it should receive a funeral.

I was supposed to spend this week celebrating my graduation from Yale. Instead, I’m learning stories my immigrant family has never told before.

Meghana Mysore 

Despite the language about new beginnings, most of us are “moving on” but not moving.

When my father died of AIDS, he couldn’t shield me from his pain or the government's indifference. With COVID-19, I'm reliving the trauma.

Emily Ziff Griffin 

In 1987, when I was eight years old, the same age my daughter is now, my father—a vibrant, 37-year-old gay man—was diagnosed with AIDS.

Maya C. Popa 

Time persists, yes, I can see there are new branches.

Matthias Göritz, translated by Mary Jo Bang 

I’m off to see people living the life
on the edge of the breaking day

My aunt survived the Blitz and an orphanage, and taught me how to endure my partner's death. When coronavirus took her, she gave me one final lesson.

Rachel Jamison Webster 

Survival, she kept showing me, is intimately related to creativity.

I thought escaping to France would preserve my children's innocence. It wasn't that easy.

Natasha Randall 

I am translating the pandemic for my children into terms that suit their nascent psyches.

335 new diseases emerged between 1960 and 2004. Why weren't we ready for this one?

Frank Snowden 

The world was not mobilized to confront COVID-19 when it came, even though it had been long foreseen.

I was afraid I was losing my future. Now I'm afraid of losing my family.

Eric O'Keefe-Krebs 

Now, the room I devoted my life to getting out of is where I go to college.

I now go to Yale via webcam. Class is fine. It's college that's missing.

Sean Lynch 

Liberal education is not merely an ethos; it is also an aesthetic

When the home itself can kill

Emmeline Clein  

The health consequences of the coronavirus, like the consequences of Katrina, will not be measurable only in direct mortality outcomes.

Dreams of connection in quarantine

Brandon Shimoda 

I trust my dreams. I trust them especially when I do not trust myself.

The crisis in New York City

Briallen Hopper 

Each of the hundreds of overlapping, shrieking, keening wails represents a life, and perhaps soon, the sounds of mourning that life.

The two worlds of social distancing

Octávio Luiz Motta Ferraz 

Depending on the scale of inequalities in your society—the real social distance—and where you stand economically, your chances of riding out a pandemic will vary significantly.

Finding words for this pandemic in Inupiaq

Joan Naviyuk Kane 

Have the governments imposed upon my family—municipal, state, and federal—ever responded constructively to disasters?

The novel coronavirus exposes health care’s key weakness

Rena Xu 

Historically, change has not been our medical system’s strong suit.

Alicia Christoff 

The U.S. is getting serious about social distancing and I am trying to have a baby

Epidemics and the law

John Witt 

The real supreme law is not our health, but our fecklessness.

A doctor reflects on the dread of coronavirus

Nitin Ahuja 

Against the grain of age-related mortality curves, there runs the still scarier notion that when faced with exposure, some of us might be preconfigured for doom.

Vulnerability, contagion, and children

Miranda Featherstone 

I don’t wish that it had come for the children, this novel coronavirus. But would things be different if it had?

A doctor on the front lines

Laura Kolbe 

If you have enough infantry, you can countenance a good deal of loss.