An Impossible Grief

Reckoning with a beloved teacher’s complicated legacy

Amy Susanne Robinson
Gay Mag
Published in
15 min readMar 30, 2020

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Illustration by Carmen Johns

TTruth: This essay is supposed to be about an impossible grief.
Truth: This essay is supposed to be about power.
Lie: This essay is about what it’s supposed to be about.

We’ve all heard famous women defend famous men who have been accused of abuse, of rape, of sexual harassment and violence.

We blame the men, the abuser himself, but we also blame, or call out or in, or “cancel” the women who defend them. We remind them that abusers don’t abuse everyone, that your story, your experience of a person doesn’t negate someone else’s story or experience of the same person. It doesn’t mean the story of abuse is a lie.

We’ve heard the women’s apologies. We’ve heard that they can’t reconcile the man they know and love with the man described in the accounts of abuse.

The truth is, there are truths that can’t be reconciled.

TTruth: At Pomona College, I took an intro fiction workshop and an advanced nonfiction workshop with David Foster Wallace.

Truth: Professor Wallace (I could never call him Dave) was the best teacher I’ve had before or since.

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Amy Susanne Robinson
Gay Mag

Essayist, poet, writing teacher. Mom. Very good cook. Web: StudioFriend.co. Twitter/IG: @amysmcd