There have been many novels of the 21st century that focus on revolution, but none that strike a chord in the reader’s heart as much as Sunil Yapa’s debut novel, Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist.
Published at the beginning of 2016, Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist immediately made its way onto the desks of critics and award-winning authors alike. Various critics wrote reviews stating things like the novel was “overly ambitious” and “[Yapa] lets his writing get away from him”, but the writers of the world disagree. Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning called it “an open-armed love letter to humanity.” Smith Henderon said that it is “visceral, horrifying, and often heroic.” The novel’s delicate prose has poetry seeping onto every page, enticing the reader into an emotional collection of stories about love, loss, and revolution.
The novel itself focuses on the 1999 Seattle WTO protests, which took place before international delegates, including President Bill Clinton and United Nations Secretary Kofi Annan, were supposed to meet to discuss world trade deals and further the globalization movement. Protestors ranged from union representatives to anarchists and everything in between. While initially a peaceful protest, stray acts of vandalism and other small crimes quickly caused police to turn on the horde of people. News platforms at the time reported mostly on the police brutality and destruction of property. The reporters of the 1999 protests, also known as the “Battle of Seattle”, ignored that many of the people who were fighting for the hope of a better world were young. They were teenagers and young adults. It is too often forgotten that the youth of the world are involved, that we do care. Because the media prefers to focus on the anarchic elements of a news story and neglect the positive actions that people will take in the hopes of affecting change, evidence of human compassion is too often lost. While the articles and reports of the protests will heavily feature destruction and violence, Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist focuses on the holds love and hate have over the world, and the power of youth. The novel is told primarily from the point-of-view of 19-year-old Victor, who is arguably the most empathetic person in the whole book. Yapa reminds us that it is young people who want to make their world a better place, and it is young people that are willing to fight for it. And it is these very same young people who make up Riverside’s Rapid Change Club.
Rapid Change works in collaboration with WE, the non-profit organization formerly known as Free the Children, that helps provide sustainability in developing countries worldwide. Rapid Change is WEs Riverside division, a student-run club of people who are passionate about change. WE is its own form of revolution – a revolution of youth. The charity itself was started when founder Craig Kielburger was only 12 years old and focuses on the power of young people and growing the leaders of tomorrow to be compassionate and educated. WE works in eight countries, growing individual villages and communities using education, agriculture, alternative income, access to clean water, and health care. Last year, Rapid Change raised over $10,000 and built a school in rural China. This year, they are hoping to raise $10,000 for Haiti, where they will provide clean water to school for life and fund 60 different family and maternal workshops. The group will hold multiple campaigns throughout the year to raise this money, such as selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts and the 12-hour relay. The students of Rapid Change are big believers in the fact that change starts small, and any student can be a part of that change by attending Rapid Change meetings on Thursdays at lunch in room 118, or by doing something as small as buying a doughnut. Rapid Change also goes on a volunteer trip every two years (in 2018, they’re going to India) and anyone can sign up. At Riverside, many people do. These trips are not for the faint of heart – they are for those who have enough care and compassion to feel empathy for people hundreds of miles away.
Riverside’s Rapid Change Club is a macrocosm for what the world should be: “people who care. People who feel, people who do not hate,” – at least, according to Sunil Yapa.