It feels like eons ago since I last posted. It WAS eons ago. Aside from identifying my daughter's sketch the day after the election, I haven't been able to find words adequate to the task of expressing what I'm feeling. I've derived some grim satisfaction since then from being Bitter on Twitter (@unpubYA, in case anyone's interested), expelling short and mostly vicious bursts of sarcasm to describe the betrayal I feel at the hands of this country I've called home my entire life. But putting together a coherent paragraph seemed beyond my ability.
I went to my doctor a week ago Friday for a long-scheduled annual physical. He told me my blood pressure was up, and started questioning me to figure out why. No, my diet hadn't changed, my salt consumption hadn't changed, nothing had changed except my lifelong belief that America could never become a fascist state. He suggested I was overreacting. "The environment will be irreparably harmed," I said, for starters. He waved that away as a minor concern; what was really important right now, he said, was that the country have a leader who would grow the economy, bring back the manufacturing sector. I talked a little more about the global economic abyss of eight years ago and the extraordinary job Obama had done since then to lower unemployment and lift us out of deep recession, but I gave up after a little while. My doctor clearly wasn't buying any of my arguments. He was a kind, intelligent, educated man who had obviously voted for Donald Trump, the most profoundly ignorant person who will have ever held the job to which he will ascent in exactly two months.
Meanwhile, David Duke publicly exults at Trump's staff picks, a swath of hate crimes erupts across the country, and Trump repeatedly takes to Twitter not to condemn either of these things, but to excoriate both the press and private citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. Every pick he has named so far has been worse than appalling. The only way the nomination of Sessions as Attorney General could get worse would be if the Senate rolls over and approves him, thus cynically declaring that the fox would do a bang-up job of guarding the henhouse. This is a man who believes that the concept of civil rights for minorities is un-American.
I've tried to do a few things. I closed my Amazon and Macy's accounts, specifying that I was doing so because of their continued entanglement with Trump business interests. I've contacted both of my senators. I've signed onto my friend Julie's secret project which is going to be amazing and empowering. But I've spent a lot more time feeling enraged and powerless and hopeless.
But last night I had an idea. I attended an SCBWI writing craft conference last weekend, and I came back knowing that I have a lot of work ahead of me to revise my current work-in-progress. A lot of cutting. Establishing more clearly right up front what the main character wants. And as I was struggling last night to implement some of these changes, I started thinking about how crucial diverse books are to the kidlit world, especially in these dark times. And I remembered everything I've read and heard from editors and agents about how much they'd love to see books that have diverse characters but that are not ABOUT diversity; the diversity is not a plot issue, it's simply part of the fabric of the story.
I thought about all of this for a long time, and at the end I decided that I want my protagonist's best friend, whose ethnic identity is currently unspecified, to be Muslim. I want him to be part of a somewhat secularized American-Muslim family, but otherwise to basically remain unchanged from the person he already is. I don't plan to include any didactic lessons about inclusiveness. He'll just be a regular American kid, which is of course what Muslim kids are. But I'll know the difference. And maybe someday if and when this book gets finished and published, it will make some middle-graders think about the world a little differently than they otherwise would.
I'm a writer. I am living in deep dread of the damage one hate-filled demagogue and his minions will be able to inflict on my country and on the world over the next four years.There aren't many things I can do single-handedly to change the outcome. But I can, and I will, change my book.