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Celebrating A New Chapter

March 30, 2021

Pamela E. Harris

There have been very few things along my academic trajectory that have given me a sense of accomplishment lasting beyond a day. Not my PhD, not a job offer, not even earning tenure. Celebrating academic milestones are fleeing---fog after a storm seems to last longer. But, as I write this I am living through a very different experience. I ask “Is this pride? Honor? A pinnacle of the best thing I may ever be a part of?”

For over a year, I have been collaborating with Alicia Prieto-Langarica, Luis Sordo Vieira, Vanessa Rivera Quiñones, Rosaura Uscanga Lomelí, and Andrés Vindas Meléndez on a book project stemming from our work leading Lathisms: Latinxs and Hispanics in the Mathematical Sciences. We began the conversations of this book before the COVID pandemic became global. “A project worthy of my sabbatical” I thought to myself as I long ago Skype called (no clue Zoom would take over!) everyone on the Lathisms team to think through starting this book project. What we now call ``Testimonios’’ --- A book with a collection of essays, written by Latinx and Hispanic mathematicians in which they shared their own personal stories and journeys.

Sitting alone in my Sweden apartment (no clue that the sabbatical life I was only starting to enjoy would end so abruptly) I remember feeling excited that everyone agreed that this should be our next big project. We even thought we could complete the book in preparation for the 5 year anniversary of Lathisms in fall 2020. However, every good thing takes time, even more so as we live through a global pandemic, fighting against anti-Black systemic racism and violence, and a political upheaval no country envies us for.

During months of work, our incredible authors wrote and rewrote and edited their testimonios, pouring their souls and emotions into their chapters in order to meet the final deadline of April 1st, 2021. Two nights before the April fool’s day deadline, I find myself yet again alone, with the desk lamp shining brightly against the dark of the room. It hits me, like it has multiple times in the past week, that I will soon compile the book one last time in preparation to submit the final version to our publisher. The reality and the enormity of what we have accomplished drowns my vision with tears. A book containing 28 testimonios of our people, the diverse and vibrant community to which I belong, where I am understood, and appreciated, and most importantly where I feel seen and loved.

I wanna swim in this celebratory feeling. I want to relish it and feel it fully. I want to feel this sense of pride and honor to have been a part of this project for as long as one can possibly be allowed to celebrate any professional accomplishment. Because after all, it isn’t just a professional accomplishment. This book is the culmination of a chapter in my own story. No longer do I worry that I might be the only Latina woman completing a PhD in mathematics, that was a sad and lonely chapter in my own testimonio, which is now officially closed. Now I get to read the testimonios in this book, while imagining the impact and joy its content will bring to a new generation of mathematicians, so that they may see themselves reflected in these stories of resilience, of community, and of love. I invite you to join me in celebrating (for as long as possible!) this new chapter in the story of Latinxs and Hispanics in the Mathematical Sciences.

P.S. Expect the book to be available for purchase in print this fall, with a chapter released free online every month after the book’s in print release!

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