Based on original reporting from West Africa and the United States, and the poet’s experiences as a doctor and journalist, If God Is A Virus charts the course of the largest and deadliest Ebola epidemic in history, telling the stories of Ebola survivors, outbreak responders, journalists and the virus itself. Documentary poems explore which human lives are valued, how editorial decisions are weighed, what role the aid industrial complex plays in crises, and how medical myths and rumor can travel faster than microbes.
These poems also give voice to the virus. Eight percent of the human genome is inherited from viruses and the human placenta would not exist without a gene descended from a virus. If God Is A Virus reimagines viruses as givers of life and even authors of a viral-human self-help book.
If God is a Virus proves that poetry and public health together make and contain medical language, which makes the language of an epidemic more visible, more veracious. What breaks through is a voice of interiority telling us what’s not told about our bodies and what it means to function.
—Janice Sapigao, poet laureate, Santa Clara County, author of like a solid to a shadow
In a time of heartbreak and devastation due to the world pandemic, Seema Yasmin’s brilliant If God Is a Virus takes a timely and critical look at disease and its sociopolitical contexts, including multi various forms of domination and hubris: colonization, White supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism. This is a necessary book for our times. Read it and be changed.
—Cathy Linh Che, author of Split, executive director Kundiman
Seema Yasmin’s fantastic hybrid poetry collection overthrows the dry mindlessness of scientific halls, their power points and false Gods in the face of racism and global domination. God is a virus, and she teaches us to see through data while teaching us to love.
—Fady Joudah, author of Tethered to Stars
One always wants a poem to have such high stakes, wants a book to feel inevitable, that it couldn't have been written and that no one else but the poet could have written it, so unique to an individual experience it is. Well, this is such a book. And only Seema Yasmin could have written it.
—Kazim Ali, author of The Voice of Sheila Chandra
In her hands, a sole headline in Scientific American becomes a poem, as does the Hippocratic oath, the Broca's region. Every journalist should read this book, every doctor, every patient. Gird your heart, though, she’s on a mission to break it with her tongue.
—Lulu Miller, co-host of Radiolab and author of Why Fish Don't Exist