This month I celebrate the 30th anniversary of that day when I landed, terrified and wide-eyed, in America.
Anniversaries are a time for looking backward, so these days my eyes are firmly fixed in the rear-view mirror.
Here's what I see in that mirror: On the public and political front, this has been the very worst of those 30 years.
For many of us in America, this has been the year to chide ourselves for our heretofore simplistic and deluded understanding about who and what this country actually is ( the "United" States? I think not).
Still, as artists in America, it's our job to offset some of the damage done and being done today, as I write this. Even in bad old 2016, there's still time. Today and tomorrow and on Christmas Day and for all eight days of Hanukkah and on New Year's Eve, write or paint or photograph or compose or sculpt like your life depends on it.
Because in many ways, it actually does.
Write and create for those who are too scared or too voiceless or too persecuted or too busy working three low-wage jobs to have the luxury of writing.
Also, use your art and your voice to advocate and resist. For local protest events near you, check out PEN America's Writers Resist.
Despite the political schisms and our very, very scary headlines, here's what I also see in that rear-view mirror: All those 2016 days when I pinched myself at my good fortune. I'm not just healthy and alive and with a roof over my head; I'm able to do (and teach) what I love to do and teach.
In my three decades here, writing has brought me my closest friends. Writing and books have put me in the very best company I know. Writing has given me my tribe and the existential home that I left home to find.
For these and for you, my friends, I am deeply grateful.