Chronicling Loss, Revealing Humanity


In my first blog post for the journal Ploughshares, I explore Kanishk Tharoor’s radio series, “The Museum of Lost Objects,” and his luminous story collection, Swimmer Among the Stars. In both, Tharoor’s stories remind us of the power of empathy and connection in our shared experience and the need for imagination, even playfulness, in times of adversity.

I’ve had loss on my mind lately. Not long ago, I watched footage of a Manhattan-sized glacier calving and crashing thunderously into the sea above Greenland; I hit pause several times as I sat blinking at the screen in disbelief, unable to fathom the scale of this loss. Scientists are bracing not only for a continued thawing of our polar ice caps, but also for the possibility of a “sixth extinction,” an age of unprecedented losses to our environment. With conflicts around the globe causing untold death and destruction, as well as growing rifts and political uncertainty at home in the US, I find a sense of loss palpable and ever-present.

When I stumbled upon Kanishk Tharoor’s story collection, Swimmer Among the Stars, at a book fair, it was the cover image—an elephant meandering into a midnight-blue sky etched with luminous silver stars—and the title that attracted me first, maybe because they hinted at a whimsical, magical world where the losses I have felt and feared would fall away.

Follow to the Ploughshares blog to read more about Chronicling Loss — and Humanity — with Kanishk Tharoor.