A multi-award-winning writer and former social worker now focused on transformative justice, Kai Cheng Thom’s ethos is the title of her essay collection, I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World. This year has brought a wave of recognition, from a glowing Vice profile to an American Library Association Stonewall Honor to Hollywood legend Julie Andrews reading Thom’s 2017 children’s book, From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea, on her storytelling podcast. Thom’s vision of a just, loving world is steely-eyed yet without despair, and it’s perfect for our turbulent times.
What she’s proudest of this year
“No woman ever does anything in a vacuum without other women—some people I’m thinking about are Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, whose writings influence my work around transformative justice, as well as Mariame Kaba, who has done some key thought and practice leadership in the field of prison abolition. But my notion of accomplishment was challenged this year. I’ve not been doing as much creative writing as I used to, and my boyfriend had to move back to Canada because of COVID. His sudden arrival meant he had no place to live, so he moved into my studio apartment at the height of lockdown. We lived in the same room 24-7 for three months. We’d never lived together before. And we’re still together and our relationship is healthier! I had to use all my conflict resolution skills—the thrust of my career has been: How do we resolve interpersonal violence? How does learning about violence teach us about love, and love teach us about violence? Maybe people think I got into conflict relationship work, and writing about love and forgiveness, because I’m good at that stuff. But I’m always in conflict with people. The rubber had to hit the road when my partner moved in, and we made it. The highlight of my 2020 is that I managed to be a good and healthy partner.”