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South Carolina Honors College

Because Reading is, What? Fundamental.

by Liam Quan   

“Ni hao, mother—!” 

There’s no time to process when 

Those four college students race away in the silver truck,  

Hiding behind a palmetto flag— 

My father screaming back at them, 

My sister and I each grabbing an arm to hold him back. 


Since then,  

Since I was ten, 

I’ve learned to read faces as open palms; 

Lines and creases predict myriad futures. 

I memorize my hand and brace for more “ni haos,” 

Divining warnings of disaster with my crystal-ball eyes. 


I’ve learned to read minds like they are comic strips, 

My telepathic abilities born from the radioactive spider  

Bite of Good ‘Ole South Carolina Jingoism. 

Some times— 



It is easier for me to hear what people think instead of what  

They say or what they refuse to  

Say to my  


I can see the thought bubbles, 

But I can’t make them burst. 


I’ve learned to read maps drawn by what's left between lines: 

X marks the spot where I get called a slur; 

The X over here is where I get refused service for being queer; 

The X over here is where I might get hate-crimed. 

WhethXr it be a billboXrd that sXys: “JXsus Sees Your SXns,” 

Or the ConfXderXte flag flying off of a Ford, 

The signs are everywhere in languages only South Carolina teaches you how to read— 

Languages crafted from consonants of clandestine contempt. 


Instead of censoring education to fix the issue, 

All schools need to expose children from the earliest age 

To more than just old White men. 

If we can expand our children’s cultural vocabulary with 

Asian poets, 

Queer authors, 

Hispanic journalists, 

Disabled playwrights, 

Then perhaps “ni hao” will seem like a greeting instead of a slur. 


What we read directly impacts the way we view the world; 

It dictates how “You” and “I” share the same sentence. 

Kids should learn from big and bold and beautiful characters, 

So books can be mirrors rather than black lines fenced by white spaces. 

If we feed unity instead of lunacy, 

Inclusion instead of delusion, 

Then we can change how the next generation grows. 


But as long as South Carolina limits the plumes with which our progeny can pen, 

And I keep reading the hate—clandestine or clear—around me, 

I look at our flag not with a smile,  

But with a grimace. 


So let’s write the narrative where  

Silver trucks are silver trucks and superpowers are obsolete. 

Let’s right our wrongs and read insatiably— 


Because reading is, what? Fundamental. 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.