Sarina Dahlan's 'Reset' Imagines A Shortcut To Peace
Speaker 1: 00:00 As Asian Pacific American heritage month comes to a close, we bring you a story that puts a new spin on the Buddhist concepts of Nirvana and detachment and explores the power of memory and desire. Lamesa author Serena Dahlan grew up in Thailand, surrounded by the myths and ghost stories that carried the cultural traditions of the past. But her debut novel is set in a utopian future and it, human memories are erased every four years as a way of living in peace without war, but eventually some memories find their way in and the book asks the question. Can you love someone you don't remember? So Rena Dallin's new book is called reset. She spoke to my co-host Maureen Kavanaugh recently, here's that interview. Speaker 2: 00:46 Now your novel is set after a series of catastrophic wars and in an effort to stop that annihilation memories are reset. Why did you focus on memory being the nexus of human problems? Speaker 3: 01:02 Well, um, because I grew up in Thailand, I was surrounded by the culture and the teachings of Buddhism, even though I'm not. And Buddhism teaches that the path to Nirvana is detachment. And I thought, well, if memories are the seeds of all types of attachment, erasing memories would be a natural shortcut to peace. That's how I got the idea. Speaker 2: 01:27 Now, there was an incident, as you struggled with what to write that sparked the idea for this book. Can you tell us about that? Speaker 3: 01:36 Yes, actually, um, reset is the first book I've ever finished. And previous to that, um, I've just been writing, you know, over and over again, trying to get to a story. And, and I was writing for months, uh, this one story and, um, one night at about 3:00 AM in the morning, I decided that I hated the story and it, you raised everything. And, but in that moment, as I was staring at the blank screen, um, a question came to me. What if we, as human can erase our memories just as we do any computer program and what kind of world would we have and why would it be necessary? And those questions kind of propelled me forward. And the one question that you had mentioned, can you love someone you don't remember pretty much haunted me the entire time I was writing it, Speaker 2: 02:34 Eating this world, uh, to most people. It might sound pretty good. Your concept of the four cities where the people of the earth live sounds beautiful, you know, on the surface at least tell us what life is like. There Speaker 3: 02:51 It is a utopia in every sense of the word. Um, I wanted to go into a place where if the last war were to happen to us, what would be the one thing that we would find most valuable and that's peace. And in this world where peace is the most important thing, it would be something that we'd want to protect would be something that society would want to protect. And so the utopia has this, uh, life where everyone's taken care of because the idea is to protect the whole of humanity. So all resources are shared. Um, there's no money because, um, extreme capitalism really has no place in this world because memories are, if memories are erased every four years, there's no point in accumulating wealth and no point in building empire and dynasties. Um, also, you know, everyone's a site, a place to live, so there's no homelessness and because there's no homelessness, there's no hunger. Speaker 3: 03:57 Um, everyone is assigned a job pretty much, you know, life is this easy, uh, way of living. And I wanted to kind of create a world where we all are. The readers can feel conflicted about liking because, you know, eventually in the book, um, the readers will get to know two characters who, whose memories were raised and are trying to find each other. And so, you know, this utopia became their dystopia and you know, some, every utopia someone's dystopia because whenever you place upon another, your belief and they don't have a choice in it, um, someone is going to be unhappy. Speaker 2: 04:45 As you mentioned, in, in the four cities in this utopia, every four years, everyone's memories are raced, but that a ratio does not always work perfectly in your book. Can you read us a short passage where one of your characters is starting to recognize something in his dreams? Speaker 3: 05:06 I think there's something I'm supposed to find out about the past than just says, like, I don't know, but I keep getting these dreams, dreams. Aren't real. Benja, there's just your mind firing synopsis, making connections, cleaning out junk they'll feel real. To me. He says Eris thinks of her own nonsensical dreams and how they to feel real to her, but they are just dreams. They're not links to the past, no premonitions of the future. And even if one could visit the past why to it, to her tabula rasa is a gift. The planner had bestowed on humanity every four years, very raised of all the reasons to hate. So everyone can co-exist in harmony. Every time she gives the children a tour at the museum, she is reminded of how fragile pieces scattered human skeletons, scorched sky collapsed buildings. She would gladly take this version of reality over the alternative Speaker 2: 06:12 That was Serena Dahlan reading from her new book called reset. And thank you for that. Thank you so much. Now, Serena Asian Americans are experiencing an outburst of, I guess you could call a generational hatred fueled by decades of anti-Asian sentiment, the humans in reset, move beyond that kind of hatred, because they don't remember it. Is that the only way out of this trauma? Speaker 3: 06:38 I believe that, um, you know, in reset that different says was also taken out of their hands because everyone's, uh, everyone's created using randomly mixed DNAs of all their survivors. So in a way everyone's mixed and because of that res resonant exists, and we know that race is this kind of human concept and construct. Um, that is in a way, you know, have been used over and over again to divide us. But, you know, if we really take a look around and, um, and reach out to people on the other side and get to know them as human being, I feel that we are so much more similar than we are different. And the way out of this really is just through that. It's, it's rewriting what we were taught. It's in a way, erasing our old memories, the things that taught us to fear and hate each other. And we can do that ourselves. We don't need a world to erase our memories. And so we can preserve all the love that we have for another and learn to embrace people who are different from us. Speaker 2: 07:58 The Mesa author, Sharina Dollins new book is called reset. And I want to thank you so much Serena for joining us. Speaker 3: 08:05 Thank you. I am so happy to be here. You Speaker 2: 08:08 Can join Serena in a virtual event presented by mysterious galaxy books. She'll be reading and discussing her new book reset. And that starts tonight at seven.