On Spokane

by

When I wrote an essay about the Gonzaga basketball team and Spokane, which ran on The Guardian U.S.’s website on March 14, I had meant to capture how important the Gonzaga basketball team has always been to me. But by characterizing the city in an unfairly negative way with errors in fact of various sorts, it has led to a lot of understandable frustration among Spokanites.

The Guardian released an apology today about the way the article came off, but I wanted to pen my own mea culpa as well.

The goal of any piece like this should be to humanize, and this essay didn’t do so. My piece was meant to highlight a point of genuine optimism. It was written as a response to the people outside of Spokane who speak poorly of our hometown. Where I am able to tell these people that they’re wrong about Spokane, is, in part, in the success of the Zags and the sense of community the team engenders. This is what I had tried to show, but in lacking a greater nuance and understanding of contemporary Spokane, it was poorly conveyed. Instead of a piece of optimism, it came across as someone panning a town from afar. That is a thoughtless thing to do, and was never the intention.

Honestly, I’ve been enthralled and charmed by much of the response. The #CodyComeHome hashtag is hilarious and creative, and I really do want to check out all the new shops and restaurants that have popped up in the recent past. I’ve been blown away too by the civic pride so many Spokanites have had in responding to this piece, and, it’s been perversely flattering to read the mirthful stuff that nationally beloved writers like Shawn Vestal and Sharma Shields have penned in response.

Spokane still has problems; every city does. But there is also an overwhelming amount of development and progress and wonderful happenings there. Politically, it’s a different city than from when I grew up. The downtown food scene has gotten way better, the literary and music scenes are thriving, and, most importantly, it is home to some of the most fantastic people I have ever met. These aspects of Spokane deserve their fair share of focus as well. Short articles often have to sacrifice nuance for a clear narrative, and in trying to emphasize the team’s success, the struggling Spokane angle was drawn out more than needed. Clearly, it is not “dreary” and “desperate” as Vestal jokingly wrote. Clearly it’s not the only source of “hope” for the city.

Spokane is still home for me. It is where I went to school, where I grew up, where I went to my mother’s funeral, and it is where I left; but I always come back. It is a place I love, and it is far stronger than a single article. To anyone who was hurt by the essay, I apologize. Spokane is a place, as so many residents know, that is full of courage and progress and success. (No doubt even Larry Gagosian would be proud.) ♦