Silicon Valley Reads focuses on caregiving, solidarity


Khong, Lukach, and Pizzaro- The Silicon Valley Reads selected 2018 authors, Rachel Khong and Mark Lukach, answer audience written questions read by Mercury News columnist Sal Pizzaro during the Feb. 1 Kick-Off event at De Anza’s Visual & Performing Arts Center.

The Silicon Valley Reads Kick-Off event was hosted at De Anza College’s Visual and Performing Arts Center on Feb. 1 and featured an on-stage interview of this year’s selected authors.

Silicon Valley Reads is a local program that uses literature as a method to open discussion of important themes in local communities. This year’s theme was “No Matter What: Caring, Coping, Compassion,” and focused on caregiving and community support.

The Kick-Off event’s interviews were led by Mercury News columnist Sal Pizarro, and started at 7 p.m.. Questions directed to the authors were both generated by Pizarro and by audience participants of the nearly-full Visual and Performing Arts Center.

The selected works this year are “My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward” by Mark Lukach and “Goodbye Vitamin” by Rachel Khong.

“My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward” is a real-life memoir of author Mark Lukach’s struggles and experiences in dealing with the bipolar disorder diagnosis of his wife Giulia. During the event, Lukach shared the systemic problems he had encountered within the mental health system.

The system focuses on temporary stabilizing “band-aid” solutions, and diagnoses only focus on the person diagnosed and shut out the people with whom the patient lives and interacts, Lukach said.

Lukach also described his advocacy for caregivers and solidarity with those in similar circumstances, and for family unity and communication.

“Tragedies will strike all of our families, but if you can have what I phrase as: ‘the courage to listen to each other,’ to really hear how things feel, even if they’re really difficult to hear, then family can be a force of strength that can help navigate,” Lukach said.

“Goodbye Vitamin,” a novel written by author Rachel Khong, tells the story of a woman moving in with her parents and helping take care of her father after symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease begin to show.

Khong said that “Goodbye Vitamin” was a seven-year process, wit  work on the novel balanced with her job as an editor of the magazine “Lucky Peach.”

“I really cherish the moments when writing feels easy and when it just flows out of you,” Khong said. “Those are the special moments that you write for.”

Readers’ reactions and their personal experiences in similar circumstances were something that Khong found surprising and special as an author.

Nancy Howe, Silicon Valley Reads co-chair and county librarian for Santa Clara, said that the themes of both these books are important in our everyday lives and in our communities.

“The one thing about both of these books that tied it together was that the idea that in our ordinary lives most of us are put into a caregiver role at some point,” Howe said. “These are very real issues and part of life now, and if we can approach them with strength, compassion and empathy and honor the caregiving in others, I think it makes it a better place.”