header photo

The Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics

ISSN: 2472-7318

Covid Diaries: A Multi-Generational Account of Literacy, Writing, Family, and Carework During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Christopher Sean Harris, California State University Los Angeles
Ronnese Glover, University of California, Irvine
Dayrin Flores, Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School
Shannon Thayer Miller, California State University Los Angeles
Michael Dieguez, California State University Los Angeles

Table of Contents

Keywords: collaboration, mapping, death, Los Angeles, stroke, heart attack

Categories: Navigating Loss and Grief; Creatively Caring for Self, Others, and Place; BIPOC Perspectives on Labor and Love during COVID; Forging Communal Ties Through Collaborative Writing

Content warning: death, stroke, heart attack

Los Angeles, as reported by Luis Rodriguez, is comprised of waves upon waves of different cultures and diversity hugged by a mountainous rim. At the center of that rim is California State University, Los Angeles, the university with the most upwardly mobile students in the most culturally-diverse university system in the United States. Our university population is a diverse one full of strugglers, fighters, and the Covid-19 pandemic has intensified our struggles by introducing new challenges and making our many victories increasingly rewarding. In this series of vignettes, LA residents brought together by a California State University, Los Angeles publishing project reflect upon the varied challenges faced by academics during the Covid-19 pandemic. Their pandemic-altered teaching, writing, and learning takes different trajectories depending on the distinctiveness of their lived experiences.

Map of Los Angeles with names of the authors superimposed to show where they are from.

Image 1: This map of Los Angeles shows from where the co-authors of this piece hail as well as CSU Los Angeles, the institution where they came together.


Writing in the Wake of Twenty/Twenty

A young Black woman with long Black hair and wearing a blue blazer and gold earrings smiles at the camera.

Image 2: Ronnese Kirton Glover, from Arcadia.

Ronnese Kirton Glover is a doctoral student at the University of California, Irvine, where her work interrogates anti-Blackness in educational spaces. She also teaches English at Cal State LA. She reflects upon the ways that the pandemic infiltrated both her teaching in the classroom and her academic workspace at home.

A small room with a gray couch covered in books. The walls above are lined with shelves full of books.

Image 3: Ronnese Glover's Writing Space.

The small space behind me serves as my “academic” writing space in my home. It is my happy place, quiet space, a place where I can be alone with my thoughts and radical ideas about the state of the academy. This space is where I completed my master’s thesis and wrote a compelling statement of purpose that secured my place in a notable PhD program at UC Irvine. It’s been my sanctuary over the past several years. I find myself anchored and on a sure foundation when I am seated here. 

But Covid-19 and the events of 2020 abruptly shattered these thin walls of peace. Covid-19 has transitioned aunt Irma and cousin Peter to heavenly angels, and two more are on ventilators, teetering the fine line between life and death. In this quarantine, I no longer have this safe haven in my home. It is now shared with a husband and two teenage boys who all have their own full-time schedules. The internet is slow. The dog barks during Zoom calls. The sink and laundry are piled with dishes and clothes that I did not know I owned.

Everything takes up space, and solitude is difficult to find. But in my work of caring for elderly parents and for my immediate family who I love so deeply, I find less reward in the fanciful, flowery theories and writings of the academy. I’ve found that writing is both a privilege and a necessity. A privilege because here I am, again, with the luxury of time to sit in front of my computer, pondering my life as a writer–a necessity because I write in the midst of a global pandemic, in the midst of protests, riots, and civil unrest in response to generational oppression. I recognize these as unsure times, a world in which normal must be redefined. 

Until resolve manifests, this is my work: I write with immeasurable urgency for Black people and for other minoritized communities. I write for my students who are afraid, for my son who is mistreated at school because of the color of his skin. I write against the misinformation that bombards my communities during this global pandemic. I write as a lifeline to my sanity in the wake of twenty/twenty. 


Twenty Twenty 

An image of Dayrin Flores, from her clown days. She wears a hat, purple and black pigtails, a pink shirt, and full makeup.

Image 4: Dayrin Flores, from Long Beach.

Dayrin Flores hails from Long Beach and teaches English Language Arts at Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School. In the classroom, she maximizes student learning by creating a holistic curriculum that includes a variety of notable Los Angeles writers. Additionally, she employs creative teaching methods that center on the concepts of risk-taking, expressing multiple viewpoints, and multimodality to engage students. Engaging students in such ways is difficult during a pandemic, and Dayrin reflects on the anxieties that difficulty engenders.


I’ve got students to teach
Papers to read
Grades are due
A week from Tue

I live in
Piles of ungraded assignments
Blissful monotony

I can do this
I can do this!

Teaching, grinning
re-teaching, dreaming
The opposite of resting

I live with
ADHD, dyslexia
*Ad meloria

So does
Third period Jackie
COVID took her *Papi

Miss, I can’t do this
*ssiM, I Can’t Do This!

You can do this!
We can do this!

We’ve got work to do
Words to bend
Hearts to mend



Is Jakcei here?!

I can do this
I can

Please open to page 316. Let’s get started…


2020: My Kind of Reality?

A smiling white woman with light brown hair stands behind a smiling white man with gray hair wearing a pink shirt and khaki shorts. He holds his glasses in one hand and a tittle black dog in the other.

Image 5: Shannon Thayer Miller with Max and Daisy.

Shannon Thayer Miller is a writer, tutor, and graphic designer living in Highland Park with her husband Max and dog Daisy. She had the pleasure of sharing several classes with Dr. Christopher Harris, Ronnese Glover, and Dayrin Flores during her years at California State University, Los Angeles, and earned her BA in 2017 and her MA in 2021.


2020: My Kind of Reality?

By Shannon Thayer Miller

As a recluse, the isolation imposed by Covid-19 began as just my kind of reality. I’d had a mild stroke just before lockdown that turned out to be a gift in the way it subtly changed the way my mind works. Sure, there were lingering mental and physical challenges. But overall, I felt unburdened, secure in a deep understanding of the oft-contentious love that my husband Max and I share, and I was fascinated as new solutions to old problems effortlessly came to me. Indeed, the stroke had come at a lucky time because just before me lay the four-day, seven-essay exam that would complete my master’s degree in English literature. This is super important since my pre-stroke self suffered academic essay dread wherein I’d slide helpless and frozen down that long spiral of inadequacy and obsession to an agony of confusion and self-hatred. But my now-genius self realized in a flash that “done is better than perfect!” Oh yeah…writing was gonna be different this time and I actually looked forward to writing the four-day, seven high-stakes essay exam with playful excitement.

The trouble started as I sat down to write. Cue Max, my force-of-nature, brain-injured, long-suffering, and no-impulse-control husband, and Daisy, our stubborn, half-blind geriatric poodle. Both of them suffered separation anxiety when they sensed a psychic shift away from them, and they started to come unglued the first time I slightly closed my door to concentrate. Max, now bereft of social interaction, turned to online horse betting–a hopeless pursuit that invariably resulted in sudden, earsplitting screaming and terrifying wall-pounding when he lost–which was about twelve times a day. Over and over the litany:

F————G INCREDIBLE AGAIN! I was supposed to win this race—but NOOOOOOO—instead—my longshot got nosed out just at the wire AGAIN! REALLY MF————R? Oh really, really, R E A L L Y? Never in the history of the WORLD has this happened OVER and OVER to someone. You C—————s! You dirty dirty cheating c—————ers. You mf—ing, filthy dirty bastuds [he’s from NY]! You worthless, worthless, worthless, worthless pieces of garbage! Oh GOD—how much can one man endure? Why must I ALWAYS BE TORTURED like this?

Perhaps even worse is that he doesn’t remember his outbursts afterward. Four days to complete the highest-stakes assignment of my life! I now realized with dismay that I was imprisoned in a jail of my own making and that completing my master’s degree was now down to a duel of brain injuries between Max and me. One of us had to be the adult, and I saw that it was going to be me. And, too, Daisy became relentless in her whining insistence to get up on my lap, to get down, to be put on the bed, to be fed, to play with her ball, to go for potty walks. Up. Down. Down. Up. Up. Down. She and Max followed me everywhere—into the bathroom, into the kitchen, up to my secret place at the top of the hill, onto the patio, constantly interrupting me to do something for them NOW. Needless to say, these two had become irritating as hell in their neediness, though I tried everything I knew to make them feel cared for, and I often thanked them graciously for helping me finish my exam.

Between races, Max came in and stood beside me and talked nonstop: “What are we having for lunch?” I’d go make lunch. “What will we have for dinner tonight?” I’d get up and make dinner. “Hey, my computer just froze!  Watch this animal video! Why is Daisy crying?” He sang and whistled at the top of his lungs. The volume of his screaming and demands crept ever higher until I sat staring into space with saliva running out of the corner of my mouth at times. Now it was two days till the deadline! I asked him how much money he would take to be quiet for one hour, and he toned it down just long enough for me to gather my writing energy. Indeed, my brain had long since returned to pre-stroke hysteria, and inchoate rage jammed my ability to remember and think straight. However, that deadline had to be met. I turned the volume of my noise-canceling headlines up to deafening and listened to Bossa Nova, to YouTube ego–releasing, laser focus, and binaural beats music. I spoke each written word out loud, smiling grotesquely to “fake it till I make it” I silently proclaimed “Triumph!” at my desk. I ate everything in sight.

The results? Well, I flunked Part One. However—and best of all—despite every provocation by following my new conviction of “done is better than perfect!” I HAD, and, ya know, I didn’t even mind not passing because it was finally over for now (I’d have another chance to write Part One the next semester) and best of all, I’d made a huge forward step in my academic writing by completing it on time, once again enjoying my favorite kind of reality: the wondrous post-stroke togetherness, peace, and squabbling—having realized that my writing challenges probably always need to be worked through. 


My Life, My World, My Guardian Angel, Papi

A young Latino wearing a blue Dodgers cap and gray hoodie hugs an elder Latino in a gray cap and black jacket. A Latina with black hair and glasses smiles at the camera, her arms wrapped around a smiling elder woman with short gray hair.

Image 6: Michael Dieguez, his Papi (Lorenzo Bojorquez), his mother (Laurie Bojorquez), and his Mami (Lilia Bojorquez), from Burbank.

Michael Dieguez lives in Burbank and loves to spend time with his family in his multi-generational home when he is not busy earning his bachelor’s degree in English at CSU Los Angeles. Michael helps take care of his elderly grandparents, and the pandemic brought new complexities to his caregiving as he was able to juggle spending more time with his aging grandparents and studying, sometimes racing between videoconferences at home and courses held in person.


Dear Papi,

From my earliest memories, I could always remember you and Mami being around. You two were always there to make sure we were well taken care of, even when you were busy running around doing all the handy work around the house. You never did sit still—you still don’t sit still. I must watch over you like a hawk, but that’s okay because I know you’d do the same for me.

I thank God for every day I get to spend with you. It truly is a blessing, although you give me a heart attack when you try to go for a “walk.” I saw you with Mami’s walker and you were running, not walking, but RUNNING in the driveway. I was filled with anxiety that you’d fall, but after quickly making my way to you, I laughed with you because you were running!  Imagine that, an 88-year-old running laps in our driveway. It was definitely a sight to see, something I will cherish for the rest of my life.

I have a ton of memories like this, but I also appreciate the moments when you’d sit me down to make sure I am on a path towards something great. You always pushed me to finish school and to help our family because that’s what is right. You were always a guiding light. One day, as we all will eventually die, you will be my guardian angel. That day will be one of the saddest days of my life, as I would have lost someone extremely near and dear to not only my heart, but to my entire soul and being.

Most people have been having a difficult time during the pandemic. People they love are dying, and it is terrible that this world and the wonderful people in it must deal with issues like that in this way. That being said, the pandemic has been a little blessing for me. Although I had to stay home and manage my time better for school because of easier distractions, I knew you wanted me to finish school. So I pushed onwards. You’ve always pushed the idea of higher education and have always reminded me to never give up. That is the impetus that kept me in college. I still think of your words when I feel that life or school has me down in the dumps.

The real blessing was spending this seemingly interminable pandemic bonding with you and Mami. You two are irreplaceable lights in my night sky, my Northern stars to guide me to where I need to be. I’m glad that we were confined to our house together, as it’s an experience I will never trade. The dinner table was always full during the pandemic, and for that I am thankful to our Lord for providing everything necessary during a time of great suffering. I am even more thankful for Him to have blessed me with being able to spend so much time with you and Mami.

I don’t know how I will make it without being able to kiss your head when I tell you that I love you, or being able to hug you so tightly the arthritis in your arms bothers you. Not that I do it to hurt you, but I just really love you, tons, Papi. I am lucky to have been blessed to grow up with you by my side and to have you live with us these past eight years. Being able to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with you, Mami, and Mom have been some of the best times in my life. I will miss it when we can’t do it any more, but I will never forget those memories or you. You have taught me what it means to be a man for my family and those I care about. You have raised and taught me to be a good human being. We need more people like you in the world, maybe not the stubbornness, but we can work on that. I love you forever, Papi. I cannot wait to see you when I hopefully get to Heaven so you can fill me in on everything you’ve been doing with Mami when you two finally meet the Lord. Please say hi to Scooby for me, I know you all are having a good old time up there.

With the Utmost Love from Your Grandson,
Michael Dieguez


Checklist for Single Parent Faculty During the Pandemic

A white man in a baseball cap, wearing a red shirt and socks, shorts, and green sneakers clasps his hands together as he sits on a tree stump. Behind him, sun dappled everygreens rise into the sky.

Image 7: Christopher Sean Harris from San Pedro resting in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Christopher Harris retreated to Big Bear in the San Bernardino Mountains during the pandemic, but has since moved back to San Pedro, where he continues to teach remote and hybrid courses while caring for his elderly mother and young daughter. (His father passed away in April, 2022). As with Ronnese, Dayrin, Shannon, and Michael, navigating LA, teaching, parenting, and caregiving during the pandemic has brought new challenges to Christopher's life.



Date: ____________________

Prepared By: ____________________

Child: ____________________


 Date Completed


  1. Place child in timeout during a videoconference with students.



  1. Hold videoconference with students in one room while child is attending school via videoconference in an adjacent room.



  1. Visit five or more stores in search of a restroom for child.



  1. Discover that Home Depot stores often have family restrooms and Home Depot has not closed their restrooms during the pandemic.



  1. The AI running the phone’s map app now places Home Depot at the top of the search list.



  1. The other parent gave up on online education.


 I am compelled and anxious to take up the slack.

  1. For the child, print this week’s schoolwork on the reverse side of last week’s school work.



  1. Sit to the (select one) [right] [left] [both], just outside of my daughter’s Zoom™ camera.


 Every day.

  1. Child (select one) [sings] [scream-sings] to Jack Hartman during her English Language Arts sessions.



  1. Made child cry because they have difficulty engaging with videoconference school and I strongarmed them into engaging.



  1. Cry because I made my child cry during school.



  1. Cry for my students.



  1. Cry with my students.



  1. Hold videoconferences (Check all that apply)
  1. in car
  2. in ex-spouse’s house
  3. outside the coffee shops or fast-food restaurants that didn’t turn off their wifi
  4. in the campus parking garage
  5. in the hospital parking lot
  6. at parks
  7. in bedroom
  8. in back yard
  9. in kitchen
  10. in bathroom


 This is often standard operating procedure for my students.


  1. Have multiple nightmares about videoconferences, underwear, and flesh.



  1. Realize Zoomtown was a horrible decision.



  1. Secretly relish not needing to deal with my colleagues in person.



  1. Miss the union’s email about parental leave applications.


 My union is fighting for single mothers. I am a single father.

  1. Give friends rides to and from mental health clinics.



  1. The first-grade child effortlessly performs distance education maneuvers that would have brought many college students to their knees two years ago.



  1. Gain one or more generations in the household not through birth.



  1. Acknowledge faculty privilege and the fact that students face these challenges on a regular basis, pandemic or not.



Even though the Los Angeles metropolis covers some 35,000 square miles, our motley crew of writers, educators, and students came together through our Cal State LA connection as we collaborated to launch the inaugural Mighty Metaphors community engagement project with students from Lynwood’s Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School. Our team led a group of uniquely creative high school seniors in a bookmaking project in which students authored, illustrated, and bound their own superhero comic books inspired by the To Save the Day: Superheroes in Art exhibit at the Torrance Museum of Art. Our work together and with these students cemented our commitment to helping students envision themselves as scholars by fostering their creativity, even through the difficult times of a pandemic.

Our work is heavy, but we stand united as co-laborers, building and serving the diverse needs of our underserved Los Angeles student community. We come from different corners of LA. We come from different backgrounds with different privileges and have different levels of responsibility to carework. But we are Angelinos! Our culture is diverse and we navigate the city traffic like we navigate the colorful identities of who we are collectively: with love, and passion.



California State University, Los Angeles. (2018). Cal state LA ranked number one in the nation for upward mobility. Retrieved from

Rodriguez, L. J. (1993). Always running: La vida loca: Gang days in L.A. Touchstone. 



Ronnese Kirton Glover is a PhD student in Culture and Theory at the University of California, Irvine, where her research examines anti-Blackness in composition pedagogy. Ronnese is a lecturer in the Department of English at California State University, Los Angeles.

Dayrin Flores is from Long Beach, CA, and teaches English Language Arts at Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School. Her curriculum includes a variety of notable Los Angeles writers, and she employs creative teaching methods that center on the concepts of risk-taking, expressing multiple viewpoints, and multimodality to engage students.

Shannon Thayer Miller is a non-fiction writer, tutor, and graphic designer from Manhattan Beach, CA, who now resides in Highland Park, CA. She met Dr. Christopher Harris, Ronnese Glover, and Dayrin Flores during the fun and hard-working years she spent earning her B.A. and M.A. degrees in English Literature at California State University, Los Angeles.

Michael Dieguez was born and raised in Burbank, CA. He will earn his bachelor’s degree in English in December 2022 from California State University, Los Angeles. He hopes to go law school or get his Master’s degree and teach after graduating. He currently takes care of his elderly grandparents and thoroughly enjoys the time he gets to spend with his family. These are some of the best times he will look back upon in his life, the times with his family when they needed him most. He encourages everyone to take the time to be present for the people they love.

Christopher Sean Harris is an associate professor of writing studies at California State University, Los Angeles. His teaching and research interests include writing across the curriculum, multimodal writing, political history of writing instruction, teacher training, digital pedagogies, and mindfulness and writing. Away from academics, he enjoys swimming, biking, and running as well as spending time with his daughter, Josephine.

Table of Contents