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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Injustice

California To Require Proof Of Vaccination For State Workers

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY MATTHEW BOWLER

Above: Governor Gavin Newsom speaks at a COVID-19 vaccination site in City Heights, April 2, 2021.

In an effort to slow rising coronavirus infections, California will require state employees and all health care workers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or get tested weekly. Plus, an Encinitas mother who lost her son to opioid addiction reacts to the potential multi-billion dollar settlement with opioid manufacturers. Also, Aaron Harvey was arrested in 2014 under a controversial gang law for crimes he had nothing to do with. The charges were dropped, and now he's a UC Berkeley graduate. And, a preview of San Diego author Chris Baron’s new novel, "The Magical Imperfect,” about the friendship of two young outcasts as they navigate ancestry, illness, magic and the earth cracked open.

Speaker 1: 00:01 The bold efforts to boost vaccination rates as the Delta variant surges

Speaker 2: 00:06 Individual's choice not to get vaccinated is now impacting the rest of us. I'm

Speaker 1: 00:11 Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid-day edition. Are opioid manufacturers being held accountable for a deadly epidemic.

Speaker 3: 00:29 You just want to be recognized that this wasn't a failure of parenting or morality or strength that it really was a failure at a level that we had no control over

Speaker 1: 00:42 The story of San Diego and Aaron Harvey and how his encounter with injustice moved him to fight against it. Plus a local writer debuts a new book in an upcoming writers festival that's ahead on midday edition. Governor Newsome continues to push vaccinations as coronavirus case rates continue to increase

Speaker 2: 01:07 Individual's choice not to get vaccinated is now impacting the rest of us and in profound and devastating and deadly way. That choice has led to an increase in case rates, growing concern around increase in death rates. And self-evidently around hospitalization rates, not just here in the state of California, that has a 5.3% positivity rate. That's half of Texas, roughly a third of states like Florida, but across the rest of the nation.

Speaker 1: 01:38 So starting August 9th, the state will require its employees, healthcare providers, and employees of jails and homeless shelters to prove they're vaccinated or get tested weekly. The governor is encouraging all employers to do the same. California has yet to reinstate its masking requirement, but is encouraging counties to do so if their case rates are sharply increasing. Joining me now is Paul Sisson. Who's been covering this closely with the San Diego union Tribune. Paul, thanks for joining us. Thanks for having me. So how many people will this new testing or proof of vaccination requirement impact

Speaker 3: 02:12 Across the state? I guess there are a little over 220,000 state employees. Uh, I was checking the numbers earlier this morning. Uh, it looks like we have about 10,000 state employees here in San Diego county and about another 150,000 people working in healthcare. So quite a few people, the

Speaker 1: 02:30 Governor mentioned a 16% increase in vaccinations. Are we seeing an increase in vaccinations locally?

Speaker 3: 02:36 Uh, you know, it's trickling up, but I, I haven't been watching the numbers and I haven't seen anything like a 16% increase in, in the local dashboard that they update, I think once a week here in San Diego. Uh, so it seemed to be a relatively plateaued in San Diego at the moment.

Speaker 1: 02:53 Well, local case rates though are increasing paint the picture for us of what's happening.

Speaker 3: 02:59 We had quite a shock on Friday, uh, with, uh, the county health department and letting everyone know that they had received more than 1200, uh, notifications of positive tests on Thursday alone. Uh, you know, and as you know, that was nearly twice to 700. And so that came in on Wednesday. Uh, so it really looks like we've got a bit of a hockey stick curve going on. What we're hearing is that over 80% of those who are testing positive these days are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated. Uh, and so it's really a bit of a, you know, tale of two cities in some ways that, you know, you, you've got a much lower rate of new infection and those who are fully vaccinated, but just, uh, just going through the roof on the other side of the fence

Speaker 1: 03:45 Earlier today, the governor said vaccination rates and not masking should be the focus based on your reporting. What are your thoughts on that?

Speaker 3: 03:54 That when you're putting out a public health message, you want it to be, um, quite simple. You want to have a call to action. And I think my sense is that public health be it at the state level, the federal level, or the local level knows that the longterm way out of this is clearly vaccination. And all you have to do is, is look at the difference in case rate among those are vaccinated. And those who aren't that the governor said statewide today, actually they said in a, in a pre press conference briefing that the media had, that they, that they see a case rate of about two per a hundred thousand among those who were fully vaccinated and 14 per a hundred thousand and those who are not. So I think that rather than calling for statewide masking, once again, I think they want to kind of put all their, um, their wood behind this, uh, this arrow of vaccination, which they know is kind of the long-term solution. I think it's also, um, open to debate whether or not Californians are in the mood at the moment to re mask as we were for so many months. Uh, I think they probably wonder a little bit about whether that's even possible at this point, when you have restaurants and stores and everywhere else, pretty much full of unmatched people at this point. You

Speaker 1: 05:08 Know, I mean, speaking of that, if the trajectory though of case rates continues, do you have any sense of winter if mandates could be put back in place here in San Diego county

Speaker 3: 05:19 Comes down to hospitals. We learned, uh, during the pandemic and, uh, certainly during the holiday service that we saw in December and January, uh, that this virus is very capable of filling up our existing hospital capacity. Um, and if that really starts to happen, and we see this surge really gobble up a significant proportion of our hospital capacity, I think you'll probably see a local, uh, health officials take some additional action that that could very well be, uh, toward more masking that we now, and I think it all comes down to shared healthcare, uh, resources and capacity that they just cannot allow, uh, any virus to come in and make it so that, uh, one of your loved ones, if they have a heart attack or something non COVID related takes up so much capacity that it, uh, you know, you can't save somebody's life, who wasn't even affected by the virus.

Speaker 3: 06:20 I don't think we're anywhere near that, that, uh, point, uh, I should say, uh, you know, we have a much smaller denominator now in terms of the people who might potentially be hospitalized, we have over half of the local population fully vaccinated to 1.9 something million people out of 3.3 million in the county. So, so I think the potential to generate massive numbers of, uh, hospitalizations is, has gotta be much less than it was, uh, in the winter of last year. But, uh, on the other hand, there's the Delta variant is more transmissible. So we should see maybe a higher, uh, uptick in those who aren't vaccinated than we saw with the wild types out of UConn

Speaker 1: 07:03 Speaking with the San Diego union Tribune, Paul SIS, and Paul, thanks for your insight. Thank you

Speaker 4: 07:13 Just a week after the announcement of a multi-billion dollar settlement with opioid manufacturers, the agreement is showing signs of strain. West Virginia has already said it won't participate in the $26 billion multi-state settlement. The city of Philadelphia says it wants to continue on with his own lawsuit. Both say the amount is too low for the damage caused by opioid manufacturers, California supports the huge settlement, but there is still doubt about whether the companies involved Johnson and Johnson and three drug distributors, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal health and McKesson are truly being held accountable for their aggressive marketing of the highly addictive pain pills, Encinitas resident, Lisa Nava lost her son, Alex to opioid addiction in 2019. She is president of north county justice allies, and a member of the addiction awareness initiative. Lisa Nava, welcome to the show. Yeah.

Speaker 3: 08:10 Thank you. Thank you. Glad to be here now.

Speaker 4: 08:13 So close to this issue, does this settlement give you any sense that justice has been served?

Speaker 3: 08:19 No, not at all. I don't think there's any amount of money or a good name redemption, uh, for these drug companies that can do the justice to the devastation, not only to personal families, but to our communities. Do you think your

Speaker 4: 08:37 Son was a victim of the marketing campaigns that those opioid companies pursued?

Speaker 3: 08:43 I'm not sure if he was a victim from the marketing campaign. However, I do know that he was over prescribed Oxycontin when he broke his knee, and I believe that it was just a primer to using drugs in the future. One of the things I I see is, you know, even with, um, getting your wisdom teeth removed at such a young age, they're using Oxycontin, sending kids home with it, and that it really needs to stop from your,

Speaker 4: 09:08 With the addiction awareness initiative. What else can you tell us about the impact of opioid addiction in

Speaker 3: 09:13 Our community? People are so confused. Uh, it is so hard to find resources. We say that this is a crisis, and yet the crisis interventions, um, are not really working for my son, particularly, you know, they, they talk about relapsing right after rehab. He only went to rehab one time and you know, the drugs on the street right now are, are fatal and you can't find enough resources or help to, you know, abate the addiction that's happened, the ravaging, our communities, no matter

Speaker 4: 09:46 Each of your work focuses on shifting the stigma of addiction and overdose away from the victims. And I'm wondering, does a huge settlement against the manufacturers help.

Speaker 3: 09:58 It certainly is a good way to have national accountability in a way that we use in America too, to have some accountability. So I feel hopeful that settlement will have people accountable and turn people's faces away from the victim, always carrying the burden to be stronger, better, faster to overcome this mammoth problem. So yes, accountability is important and I think it is one step towards ending the stigma.

Speaker 4: 10:28 I think most people in the general public don't know about the way these drugs were marketed, about the way they were prescribed and what led up to, to so many people becoming addicted.

Speaker 3: 10:41 I think one thing people don't realize is that, you know, it's your neighbor. It's not just the homeless people on the street. It's your grandma, it's the medicine in your cabinet. And, um, it's really a societal problem of our pill culture. The thing that's not talked about lawsuit that's really important to me is our drugs on the street today are laced with that knowledge, which is completely fatal. You can't really be a longterm fentanyl user and expect to survive. And so I would like to see some of those, uh, programs really targeting fentinol and stopping the flow of fentanyl into our communities. Now,

Speaker 4: 11:17 Part of the settlement, none of the companies involved in this admitted to any wrongdoing that must be difficult for you and the families touched by the opioid crisis.

Speaker 3: 11:27 You know, it is very difficult, um, because you just want to be recognized that, that this wasn't a failure of parenting or morality or strength that it really was a failure at a level that we had no control over. And yes, those words that we did something wrong are very important to families. It's hard

Speaker 4: 11:52 When announcing this settlement of California attorney general, Rob Bonta said that this represents one step in the process of healing our communities. Do you agree with that?

Speaker 3: 12:03 Yes, it does represent one step. Um, you know, money goes a long way into, um, trying to find the resources that are our substance abuse disorder. Um, folks need our families need, uh, but it's a long way from being able to heal anything in the community. How do you, I think California

Speaker 4: 12:25 Should use the estimated 2.3 billion. It may get from this proposed settlement.

Speaker 3: 12:31 Well, I think, uh, medically assisted treatment is a critical for opioid addiction and substance abuse disorder. It is quite controversial. Um, so I'm hoping that California will find its way into mat, um, and really support people that way. Um, I also think that, um, harm reduction such as, uh, Naloxone and Narcan needs to be an everyday word. We, we use, it just was recently added to the CPR standards. So, um, that's an opioid reversal drug, and they are teaching people through CPR, how to administrate this, this drug. And that is really, um, where a lot of the money should be going is getting that Narcan into the communities.

Speaker 4: 13:19 Where else do you think the effort and resources should be in San Diego to really address the problem of opioid addiction?

Speaker 3: 13:27 Well, a hundred percent we need to do better at treatment options. Um, treatment is extremely expensive. The insurance companies, in my case, didn't want to even pay for 30 days in a rehabilitation place. And I had to fight for that. So we need to make it easier for people to receive treatment. It's a split second when the, um, addict is, um, able to make a decision that they want help. And in that split second, if you have to wait a week a month, um, even a day, sometimes that is a matter of life and death. This $26 billion

Speaker 4: 14:03 Settlement is not a done deal. Yet enough states have to sign on to it for it to go through. And if they don't, these individual state and city lawsuits have to move through, the courts may be taking many more years. So do you think the lawsuits should end with this agreement,

Speaker 3: 14:22 You know, without knowing the devil, the financial devastation in a city? I, I would be reticent in saying that law, the law suits should. And I, however I would say that a quick turnaround on these lawsuits is, uh, critically important for communities that are being affected by, um, opioid addiction and overdose. Um, so I am a proponent in trying to settle the lawsuits and getting as many states on the lawsuit as, um, because I think the, the, the communities really need the resources. So

Speaker 4: 14:56 In other words, the quick settlement of these, uh, lawsuits would more quickly bring money to the community.

Speaker 3: 15:03 Yeah, smart quickly bring money to the communities and people like me who have been personally affected and, um, have stepped into this fight will be able to see some sort of, um, hope at the light, you know, light at the end of the tunnel. I've

Speaker 4: 15:20 Been speaking with the Encinitas resident, Lisa Nava, president of north county justice allies, and a member of the addiction awareness initiative. Lisa, thank you so much for speaking with

Speaker 3: 15:30 Us. Thank you for this platform. The

Speaker 4: 15:33 North county justice allies will be holding an event on the 29th of August at Encinitas community park to raise awareness for the issue of addiction in our community.

Speaker 1: 15:50 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh and the summer of 2014, a swarm of police arrested Aaron Harvey outside Las Vegas. The San Diego native was charged as a test case of a new law that had never been used before. It said someone could be charged with conspiracy for belonging to the same gang. As other people who had carried out a series of gang shootings, a judge dismissed the charges against him, but not before he spent seven months in jail. Now Harvey has graduated from UC Berkeley KPBS reporter. Claire Traeger tells the story of what his last three years have been. Like. I

Speaker 5: 16:32 Remember sitting in jail and a Berkeley commercial came on and I remember telling, uh, his name is Deandre Cooper. We were, uh, Sally's uh, on the same case. And I was like, if they ever let us out of here, I'm going to Berkeley and everybody, ah, gosh, you sound stupid. You know,

Speaker 6: 16:59 This is Aaron Harvey in November, 2018 during his Thanksgiving break from his first semester at UC Berkeley. I interviewed him in the midst of what would be a huge challenge for him graduating from one of California's best universities.

Speaker 5: 17:19 You know, sometimes I feel like if I don't graduate from this school, I can never come back to San Diego. You know what I mean? Cause it's, it's just a lot of pressure, you know, like I have to get, I gotta be on my midterm. It flipped out, you know what, I've never gotten a B on anything. So I was like, I was, you know, that was very humbling. Uh, but then at the same time, like, oh, I'll just mess up my GPA because I have to have a high GPA. Cause I got to go to Harvard, you know, for law school. And, but I'm putting all this pressure. It's like chill out. It's a midterm. It's a be like, relax

Speaker 7: 18:04 The community in general, kind of dead place. A lot of, I don't know if I want to say expectations, but, um, kind of a burden of, of, of being successful on him fairly early on

Speaker 6: 18:19 That's colored Alexander, a community leader, who's known Harvey for a long time. He says Harvey's case, which so many people saw as unjustly putting him plus rapper, Brandon Dunkin in prison made the expectations that much higher for a true redemption story.

Speaker 7: 18:42 There was a huge amount of community outpouring while they were actually in jail. Um, and so you had the community was a part of this movement to have them released kind of from the very beginning, once released instead of the two of them kind of disappearing into obscurity and just kind of working on their own, um, or just being thankful enough to have been released. Um, instead of that, they ended up, you know, dedicating a large amount of their time to, you know, not only be active in the community, but to be active voices calling for a reform of the system or for addressing some of the wrongs that have happened. I think it's pretty clear that he would have been just as happy if not happier without all of the attention, being able to go back to school, go to Berkeley, um, get his degree in and decide to go in whatever direction that he wants to. So that's why I say it's unfair. I think it's unfair. Anytime a community puts their hopes, uh, on any one individual, I think it's an enormous amount of, of, of pressure and responsibility that you didn't necessarily ask them.

Speaker 5: 20:00 There was a lot of good things that came out of that case and a lot of people's lives changed for the better. And you know, we got legislation passed, all the good things have come, but at the expense of my life though, at the same time, you know, so it's like, yeah, it's great that we got all these things, but I kind of like my life as well, you know? So it's almost like, so on the same thing with like Berkeley now

Speaker 6: 20:27 This was over Thanksgiving break and Harvey said, in some ways it was difficult for him to be around his old neighborhood because he felt everyone he saw was putting pressure on him. But

Speaker 5: 20:40 Now they're like, oh, so when you, when you, when are you gonna start law school? And I'm like, I'm only halfway though. My first year, you guys are already talking to me about law school. Like this is okay now I got to get to law school. Um, Hmm. I don't think I've ever really said this before, but I CA of course I care about social justice. You know, I pretty much dedicated my whole life to it. Right. Um, but you know, people ask me like, well, what do you want to do and study law. And, but to be honest, like, yeah, I, yeah, of course I'm gonna study law, but really I'm doing all of this. Like, it there's a, it was a guy on our case. Uh, his name is Justin Anderson. He's doing life on our case. And he's like, I was like, my he's like my brother, you know, we grew up six houses down the street from each other and I I'm becoming an attorney to get him out of jail. Like, I'm not like things, people, people will benefit from the things that I'm doing. And, but those are like a F like those are like the side effects of it. Um, my goal is to get him out of like, we don't have the money to give him out of jail. Like I'm going to get him out of jail. And then after I do that, I might not want to study law anymore.

Speaker 6: 22:20 I talked to Harvey again during his winter break, and I could tell his college experience was taking a huge mental toll. He showed up looking tired, looking thin, and you could hear the exhaustion in his voice

Speaker 5: 22:36 Four or five weeks ago. I'm ready to drop out. All right. Um, so it's, it's, it was tough. Um, I got through it, but again, I think, I don't feel like it was tough necessarily. Uh, like academically in a sense, I didn't understand the information, but there's a language that you have to decode. There's a, there's like a, you have to like demystify a lot of things up there that I wasn't necessarily aware of going up there. Um, I'm just thinking, you know, go to class pre study, turning your paper. Um, but like building relationships with professors, being in relationships with the grad students who actually grades your papers to professors though, I'm like, nobody told me this. Like, why am I still going talking to this professor? And he knows nothing about my work that I'm turning in. Um, I just need him for a letter of recommendation, like, oh, okay. This is how all of this works. And it sounds so simple, but it's very complex for a person who doesn't know. And then just the, the nervousness of like, in a sense, right? Like going to jail is easy. I could physically do that, but you asked me to go talk to a professor in office hours and I'm about to have a panic attack.

Speaker 7: 24:08 He kind of became a representative of the community in general. And so as such, you know, and unfairly, um, you know, his success was tied up in, in what people I think felt was their own success. And similarly, his failure I think, was connected and tied up in what, you know, the larger community was see as their own, as their own failure.

Speaker 6: 24:30 Again, call it Alexander. He also,

Speaker 7: 24:34 Uh, as an individual, I think can represent kind of what it's like to be black in this country. What it's like to be an African-American in this country, um, where you do have to work harder. If you do mess up, there's going to be more attention. Harvey

Speaker 6: 24:50 Remembers people who've left his neighborhood in Southeast San Diego before they went to college or law school. And when they came back, they talk differently and dress differently. He resolved to not do that, but it's challenging. I call it like cold switching, I guess, whatnot. Um,

Speaker 5: 25:11 So when people would like still feel like, okay, he's still the same person. He's just doing other things. It kinda like motivates them. They're like, okay, well, I can still do this too. I've had professors tell me, um, you know, okay, we need to use more academic language. And, and I challenged her well, like who set the standard for what's academic language. Right. You know, actually you want me to speak white? I told, I told her one of her articles. I said, you know, I felt like you wasted my time. This article was trash. Right. And she said, well, why was it trash? Um, and then I critiqued it, which isn't that why we're in these academic settings is to, you know, analyze in your teeth. So she says, well, I'm going to need you to have a more critical analysis on this article, uh, on these articles when we were discussing in class. And I said, well, where are you? Meaning like, you just don't like the way I'm talking about it. Yes. I need you to speak more academically. Right. Oh, and I told her, no. And then what does that even mean? Define that. Right. Um, who set the standard for, what is, you know, the correct way of speak? Did you understand what I said? Yes. Okay. Well then that's, that's how we're going to communicate.

Speaker 6: 26:35 I talked to Harvey again at the end of his first year, and he was much more confident in his abilities at Berkeley and was thinking about what he do when he graduated.

Speaker 5: 26:46 I want to, I want to go, I want to go to Ivy league school. I don't want to just shoot for wound. Also Harvard Yales. Columbia is NYU. Um, if I stay in California, um, of course I'll apply to Berkeley. Um, like Stanford Davis, UCLA I'll be like, stay in California, but definitely like, honestly, I go wherever, whoever accepts me, but I'm applied to products are top 10, 15 law schools,

Speaker 6: 27:19 But he was also still thinking about his mental health because Harvey was arrested suddenly in a police raid and spend time in prison for gang crimes. He had nothing to do with, he has traumatic memories.

Speaker 5: 27:33 Yeah. I'm super paranoid too, as well. I'm always, who is that? Why is that person looking over here? You know, like I'm always thinking that, uh, somebody police or somebody, you know, taking pictures, I just, I don't know, like, I'm always just like super, you know, crowded in like crowded loud spaces. Um, that's, that's like the perfect recipe for like a panic attack, you know? Um, or even when you're having these like episodes of like panic attacks and anxiety attacks, a certain kind of like brain tricks to kinda, uh, you know, so they won't really either last as long or be as intense kind of things. I think that was more like my second semester is, is really, I almost feel like I, I, uh, I put myself in position for these kind of episodes to happen because of what I'm choosing to study. Right. Um, and then I'm at Berkeley where it's just home of everything political. So like staying off social media. Right. And not really reading these crazy stories, just leaving the news alone. Um, like don't, don't torture yourself more than what you're being assigned is automatically doing anyway,

Speaker 6: 29:04 Two years in one pandemic later, Harvey graduated with a degree in political science. Congratulations. Thank you. I talked to him again this time at an outdoor park with ducks around us, instead of a studio. Also his plans have changed.

Speaker 5: 29:25 I think I figured out law school wasn't for me, like my first year at Cal, because the more and more I started digging into the law, working with, uh, attorneys dealing with cases and things like that. They're still finding ways to incarcerate people. So it's like, I'm not saying that was wasted energy. I don't feel that way, but that's not good enough. Like, that's not that wasn't good enough. Um, there's laws get created for us laws do credit against us and they're still doing it. You know what I mean? I feel like there, and they'd been an attorney boxes. You lean like, you know, I'm dealing with the law and if the laws are moral, then it doesn't matter.

Speaker 6: 30:14 Now he wants to work in real estate and do development jobs that would hire people with felony records.

Speaker 5: 30:22 What can I provide poor people to kind of minimize the risks they're willing to take. That's going to put them in prison. I think that's where I'm at. Yeah. I'm willing to discipline a lot of people, but

Speaker 6: 30:38 I I'm going to ask you, do you have this pressure to, you know, it's like, oh, you did this now. What's next? What are you going to do? Yeah, no.

Speaker 5: 30:47 Cause people are like, yeah. So what's next. What's next? What's next? Cause I'm like, I don't know. Maybe I just want to go to sleep.

Speaker 6: 30:53 It's been a lot. We've got

Speaker 5: 30:54 A long, 70 years. Like, and I'm I'm, I am exhausted. I'm tired, but I'm like excited too, because now I feel like I can do what I want to do and I'm not by beholding to a school schedule. Um, but I don't know. I felt like I could just be way more impactful outside of the law. And I think that's where I'm going. So like the pressure is there, but I don't let it dictate or consume me. I did in the beginning when I was first starting to do all of this, but I think I'm in a position now and I'm older to where it's almost like a I've given it my all and like, okay, I will more do you want for me and I who, and then who are like, where are the pressures coming from? Like who are these people? You know what I mean? Like if someone very close and dear to you has an opinion, it means a lot more than just kind of like somebody far on the outs.

Speaker 6: 32:05 He's not really just lying around. He's working with a, non-profit helping people. Who've been to prison, write college essays and do their applications.

Speaker 5: 32:14 We have a hundred percent acceptance rate into the UCS. Think my acceptance rates into Berkeley is like 87% right now. So I'm, I'm, I'm like telling people, like if you go through my program, I guarantee you you'll get into a UC.

Speaker 6: 32:26 I played for him a few of his old clips about applying to only Ivy league law schools about having a panic attack over the B on his midterm. And he laughed. Wow. I don't think I was.

Speaker 5: 32:45 Yes. Um, I feel none of that anymore. Um, and I think it's, yeah, I just, well, one therapy, right man, a whole lot of that. Right. Um, and just like bro, you're, you're human, you're human and you're trying, and it's either gonna happen or it's not,

Speaker 7: 33:23 Oftentimes we hold have expectations for this one individual to make us feel better about an entire system. Um, and you know, thousands and thousands of people who are in the same situation,

Speaker 6: 33:34 Again, call it Alexander.

Speaker 7: 33:36 And while we should definitely celebrate Aaron's success. And, um, certainly be proud of all of the accomplishments that he's should make. That certainly shouldn't happen at the expense of us recognizing that, um, people like Aaron are kind of the exceptions who were able to, um, be successful in spite of the system and not because of the system. Um, and all of the people who, you know, are continuing to fight cases today or who have already lost their case and in doing serious amount of time, um, on gang enhancements, um, I think is as big

Speaker 6: 34:25 Now Harvey does seem later, less exhausted, less weighed down and with some of the ease and carefreeness, you'd expect a brand new college graduate to have, he has a young daughter and plans to move out of San Diego for a time, but says he'll eventually be back to buy a house and raise his family here.

Speaker 5: 34:46 Like my moves are changing. I'm just starting to feel a lot lighter on my feet, more energy. And now that is really given me the clarity on how or what I'm going to do. So I think, I think I know, and again, I was, again, it was guilt and everything else. I was trying to take care of everything else and I wasn't taking care of myself. And now I'm like, nah, I gotta take care of myself.

Speaker 4: 35:27 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann San Diego author and professor Chris Barron has a new book out a middle grade written in verse called the magical imperfect. The story takes place in the bay area against the backdrop of the 1989 world series and the massive earthquake. We follow the friendship of eight ton and Malia to outsiders and the family, community and world around them. The magical imperfect is barren second, middle grade novel inverse. After his noteworthy debut, all of me he'll be honored at the San Diego writers festival on Saturday with the 2021 San Diego festival award. Chris Barron recently spoke to KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dickson Evans. And here's that interview,

Speaker 8: 36:18 Let's start with the format of this book and novel in verse the plot unfolds similarly to a prose novel, but there's this ramped up magic and beauty to each page here. Can you talk a little bit about what else poetry brings to the narrative and why you made this style choice?

Speaker 3: 36:40 I feel like sometimes versus my native language, I've always loved writing poetry, but you're absolutely right. All the elements of storytelling, plod, character setting conflict, they're all there, but I think verse brings even another dimension to it. And there's kind of an intimacy with the reader that happens in a verse novel, um, and there's space on the page for the reader to breathe and to imagine them participate in the novel a little bit more, which I found to be a really cool effect of verse novels. I also think verse can explore like the internal landscape of a character a bit more, especially for middle grade readers. They have so much going on inside. You know, if you ask them how their day went, they might just say good, but we know there's just so much happening inside that they want to share. And I think verse allows for that more internal landscape that intimacy with their thoughts and emotions to come out.

Speaker 8: 37:33 I want to talk about your characters, uh, Eaton struggles with F form of selective mutism since his mother had to be hospitalized. And then there's Malia likey, tan cheese and outcast. If, if you could, could you tell us a little bit about these characters and, and what it is that Malia and Eaton can find in each other?

Speaker 3: 37:56 Yeah, I, I think I've always, I mean, personally love stories of the outcasts who kind of find each other and realize that they're not really outcasts, that they're completely valuable and important as anyone else. And for Aton, you know, a thing happened to him, his mother left suddenly because of, she had to deal with her, you know, her medical situation. And he just stopped talking in the book he talks about, he thinks maybe his words went with her and he doesn't really know why, but because of it, because he can't talk the way maybe he wants to, he can't participate in things. I think the kids treat them a bit like an outcast and from Aaliyah, you know, she's dealing very severe eczema, so bad that she's teased and bullied and has to be homeschooled because the kids at school call her the creature, even though she's this vibrant dynamic character. And they really bring out the best in each other when they finally do get a chance to meet.

Speaker 8: 38:52 And history is really important in this story, particularly this very, very famous backdrop of, of the earthquake. And there's a point in time as we approach that notorious world series that you start titling these poems almost like miniature chapters with a specific timestamp. And I was on the edge of my seat when you're writing about historical events in real places. What drives you? And as this wrapped up in your own experience with this game, I

Speaker 3: 39:26 Think that, you know, I've, this is my second book about the bay area. So clearly my time living there really had an impact on me and that setting, but I absolutely loved writing those parts of the book and imagining these earthquakes and, you know, the impact that earthquakes have on young people, um, because something so solid as the earth suddenly isn't anymore. And it's such a powerful sort of metaphor for kids growing up as the world shakes and changes. And also because it's historical, I had so much fun, not, you know, thinking of the horrible earthquake, but just doing the research. There's so much live action footage of it happening because it took place during the world series. And so just imagining those, you know, how the chapters are run and the moments leading up to it, it really wrote itself in the sense that it had to be broken down into those bits. What was happening in the world was happening for the characters, um, what was happening in the environment directly around them and how everything broke apart and comes back together slowly. It was such a great way to sort of write story

Speaker 8: 40:33 A scene in the back where Eaton's father, that son of a refugee, he tries to help Eaton understand what it might mean for the giants to come back from two losses. This is before game three, by talking about resilience. And he's talking about what his grandfather and other immigrants went through. Also what Malia goes through with her skin condition. Can you tell us a little bit about this immigrant story and the way you use these metaphors throughout the book?

Speaker 3: 41:04 That's a really important part of the story and the theme of that particular chapter is this idea of what are we made of, and as you know, the clay is a big part of the story. There's a kind of a magic clay in the story and you know, this idea of being made of something tough. So that's kind of the banter they have back and forth to discuss this topic because the people who founded this town came on a boat and immigrated through angel island and went through such an incredible, um, and powerful process of just immigrating. Lots of people know about going through Ellis island, but many people came from 1910 to 1943 angel island. And this story really imagines, you know, this group of people that came through and now we read about their, their ancestors who now are part of this story. And they, they imagine what they're going through Aton and his father, how hard life seems to be, but they are relating to, and, um, connecting with what the grandparents had to do, what his parents had to do as they came across the ship into a whole new life to make a whole new life together. So really it's about resilience and what it takes to, uh, to make it.

Speaker 8: 42:16 And there's, there's also a lot of ritual. There's Jewish tradition, there's these hints, it ancestral magic like that clay throughout the story, as well as nature. And we follow a tan as he navigates not only hearing stories about these things, but understanding and even harnessing them. What does all of that mean to you? I

Speaker 3: 42:38 Think that, you know, so much of the stories are generational. It brings kind of the idea of the old world and the new world clashing together. And what happens when, you know, older rituals are brought into kind of a newer life, um, because I think it's so important. I dunno for me and my family, but for young readers to understand how important the sacred can be. And, but a lot of times it's confusing, like all around us, there's things being demanded and people going through situations and concepts of ritual, but here's this kid a ton in the middle of it all wanting to honor everything, but seeing all the clashes. So I wanted the boat in the story to explore the beauty of these rituals and the challenges that come with them and the way that they, you know, like I said, the old world clashing with the new world and the new way of things, but also how they hold everything together

Speaker 8: 43:28 On Saturday, you will be honored by the San Diego writers festival with the 2021 San Diego festival award. First, if you could tell us a tiny bit real quick about the festival and also what is special about receiving that award?

Speaker 3: 43:45 Yeah, I mean the San Diego writers festival, it's incredible, um, with their, they were pulling together even in years where it has to be virtual. I'm just really proud that, you know, our city here is having such a vibrant writing community and that the festival is really one of the, you know, one of the leaders in this and a huge part of the community. And it's a super honor to be included in that amongst so many other talented artists and writers. Um, so I'm really humbled by this and I'm thankful to be a part of the, of the San Diego community as a writer and, you know, as an educator and just as a citizen

Speaker 4: 44:23 That was San Diego author and professor Chris Barron speaking to KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans about new book, the magical imperfect Baron will be honored at the San Diego writers festival this Saturday with the 2021 San Diego festival award.

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KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.