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Dear Mr. Elephant

Updated: Apr 2

Dear Mr. Elephant,

I have been informed by my father that he has been in regular contact with you even after he left the UK, and his e-mail correspondence would often include my upbringing as a case study for his arguments about accessibility and migration.

I am writing to you to alert you that my explicit consent was not given in his letters and was only notified about them after they were sent. Please note that any mention of my experiences and upbringing in his letters does not represent my full perspective.

Since my father lives overseas and has resigned himself from parental responsibilities, my Mother and I do not actively engage in any correspondence with him, or his writing.

Therefore, his letters to you are written from an individual perspective and are not mutually agreed upon by the people he mentions, including my mother and me.

Best wishes, Hannah

My Dad wielded the letter as a weapon against the world. Unfortunately, the consequence of my adolescence in a Karen-adjacent household was being his proofreader on a zero-hours contract, especially on night shifts.

“Hannah?” Oh no…

“Hannah..” Not again!

“Hannah, are you awake?” I wish I wasn’t.

I would debate with myself whether or not to say yes, or to rhythmically raise my breathing in an attempt to make it sound like I was asleep, the latter of which was mostly unsuccessful. Oozing out of my bed sheets like a morose puddle of insomnia, I would pull my limbs past my need for warmth and amble out of the bedroom to the living room, an enclosed space draped in dim sepia lighting.

To the left of the entrance to the living room was Dad’s castle or office cluster: a printer, desk, and computer. The pull-out keyboard shelf accommodated a slew of tea-stained rings and small ecosystems of dust. Hunched over the screen during these late hours would be my Dad and his black-rimmed reading glasses. The cold emission of light from the screen would bleach the high planes of his scornful gaze.

“I’ve written something and I need you to check if it makes sense”. In other words, Dad wanted me to read through his five-page letters to check that the content of his writing was clear, even though it was a school night. Under no circumstance was I to check the grammar if I were to be like mum and get an earful about how proofreading English for clarity had nothing to do with grammar—even though it usually did.

I was only chosen as the unwilling reading participant because I liked reading books, but my grammar was a small improvement to his since I was still a developing child. Mum was technically more qualified, but Dad didn’t care for her correcting him. On my Mum’s behalf, I just waited to do it when his attention shifted to the news he recorded rather than me sitting at his desk.

Although I was doing well in school and loved English lessons, I was not enthralled with proofreading letters about political topics I did not understand to politicians I did not care about—especially when I was drudging past my hazy focus and half-open eyelids pulling me towards darkness. Carefully brushing the mouse’s scroll whe