Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 in China and the U.S. through Literature and Writing is a 2020-2021 special project undertaken by TEA with funding from the University of Colorado Office of Engagement and Outreach and the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA). The project worked with ten secondary teachers to introduce them and their students to the book Wuhan Diaries: Dispatches from a Quarantined City, by the Chinese author Fang Fang.
Wuhan Diaries is a compilation of daily entries Fang Fang posted to the online platform WeChat as the city went into lockdown in early 2020. Compiled and translated into English by Michael Berry, this book now gives readers an entree into the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in China. Fang Fang’s eyewitness accounts not only reveal her personal observations but are also a testimony to societal anxieties and fears about the pandemic and its handling by local authorities. As Fang describes personal losses, she also gives voice to health care workers on the front lines as well as city dwellers tackling social distancing and isolation. Parts of her work have been read as critical of the government’s response. The book also shows the reach of the Internet in combatting the restrictions – both physical and political – of the time.
Participating teachers critically read the diary entries to comprehend how the Chinese city of Wuhan dealt with the infection and the lockdown, as seen through Fang Fang's eyes. They participated in two webinars to better understand 1) the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan and 2) its effects on the recent rise of anti-Asian racist incidents. They then created their own teaching plans to introduce the book to their students. Students, in turn, wrote their own reflections on their experiences living through the pandemic in the U.S.
Below are some samples of the student writing, undertaken during Spring 2021. Samples are reprinted here with parental permission, and some authors requested to remain anonymous. Students are from multiple grades from middle to high school in different types of courses ranging from Chinese language to World History courses.