I can’t imagine in this universe or the next not writing about politicized/non-PC topics due to either being an unknown indie author, an unknown traditionally published author or any other iterations involving a small or nonexistent following on social media and/or in the real world.
Author Melissa Eskue Ousley recently published an article on Book Daily on this topic, though, asking some penetrating questions: http://www.bookdaily.com/authorresource/blog/post/1929116
It’s interesting to read people’s varying points of view on the matter. Some of Ms. Ousley’s writer friends said they wouldn’t have broached certain subjects in the past, but due to recent changing events (the Trump election) they’ve become more vocal. Other friends said they were bold before the election, so they weren’t afraid of losing social media followers.
Maybe coming from me this doesn’t mean much. I don’t know. It’s like that age-old question: If a tree falls in a forest but nobody’s there to see it or hear it, does it make a sound? I may say I’ve always been bold. I may say I would never keep my mouth shut for fear of “losing social media followers.” But, some might ask, would I be this way if I did have lots of followers? If I was making a nice living through my writing?
Even though I wrote a paranormal comedy that came out last summer, one of the topics I touched on was the very serious subject of racism. The protagonist is mixed race like I am and at one point, for example, she and her sister muse about the comments they used to get in school about their “mocha” colored skin, which usually came out as a “compliment” but still was, in the end, something everybody noticed and felt the need to comment on.
Conversely, later in life when the main protagonist is trying to make it in Hollywood, she isn’t, for some reason, “black enough.” And these are obviously fairly innocuous, bland examples; the tip of the iceberg, in the duplicitous labyrinthine casuistry of bigotry and racism.
I like to believe that, regardless of followings or book sales that may or may not ever increase in size in the future, that I will always be strong enough and courageous enough to share my thoughts and opinions on hot-button topics. Ms. Ousley concluded that she has become more and more vocal over time, probably turning off some readers and even getting angry messages from some. However, overall, responses were positive, and she’s even seen an increase in followers.
I do have a question, though. According to the article, the angry messages Ms. Ousley received followed her sharing photos and her views from the Women’s March. Now, without having seen her posts on this subject or knowing the content therein, I still have to ask: what could have been so offensive that people felt the need to write angry messages to her?
Going by the article from Book Daily, her tone seems gentle, very sensitive and sympathetic. I can’t imagine her blog concluding with something in all caps like, “MEN SUCK. WOMEN WILL RULE THE EARTH AGAIN,” or something equally inflammatory. So who knows where the anger comes from? You can’t please everybody, obviously.
I actually don’t think an author can be separated from their views. We are our views and our opinions and these philosophies and leitmotifs are infused into our work. There’s a way to phrase our points of view, though, that doesn’t intentionally incite anger or come off aggressively as “the only possible truth.” I think there’s a way to be passionately vocal while at the same time keeping communication and the desire for catharsis in the forefront.
Admittedly, that’s hard to do sometimes, at least for me, like when it comes to Donald Trump. For instance, I posted a picture on Facebook either right before or after the election of Arkham Asylum and likened it to Trump’s administration.
Yeah, some Trump supporters might have taken offense to that, and no, it’s not a benign call for a far-reaching catharsis. But in retrospect…it was also very prophetic, wasn’t it? Even Trump people, the reasonable ones, would have to give me a grudging nod at this point, eight months later…
And, no, saying “the reasonable ones” isn’t very “kumbayah” of me, either. But I’m referring to the Trump base here, like the ones involved in the Charlottesville mess. Not only the ones who were marching for…I don’t know what—against other people? Certain people? All people who weren’t them? I’m also referring to the ones who even said, after it was over, that they were “glad” that Heather Heyer was killed. Calling those with such a mindset “unreasonable”, I think, is the biggest understatement in not only this dimension but all parallel dimensions unto infinity.
In summary to Melissa Eskue Ousley’s final question, “Do you think it’s okay for authors to share their political views, or is it advisable to stick to safe topics” for me it’s not advisable to stick to safe topics. Parts of my life, my family’s life, and our experiences haven’t been safe where racism is concerned, psychologically and even physically.
And racism itself isn’t really the problem. It’s simply an unlighted doorway leading to more questionable doorways; a pervasive mindset lacking empathy and inclusiveness, glutted with ignorance, frustration, and fear. Instead of addressing the fear, frustration, or lack of knowledge, it’s always easier to simply roll with the baser extremes. And when one is pulled down into baser extremes of existence, a tendency for intolerance of any kind—for sexuality, religion, what books to read—will be, in my opinion, an easier, shorter trip the longer one is immersed unquestioningly in that kind of limited consciousness.
In this fashion, my father, a dentist, was called a derogatory slur by police officers.
In this fashion, my mother answered the door of her gated-community home to a security guard who assumed she was a maid.
In this fashion, my brother was walking home from school one day and was stopped and frisked by the police.
In this fashion, after I went out with a particular guy a few times, his mother asked him, “Why are you dating that girl? You aren’t going to marry her.”
In this fashion, Trump was able to ask Barack Obama to present his birth certificate for the entire eight years he was president while almost no one brought up the fact that McCain was born in the PNZ while he was campaigning for the same position.
(To see a fuller account of this argument, go here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/01/07/there-was-a-very-real-birther-debate-about-john-mccain/?utm_term=.77508c34f43b)
And in this fashion, reality TV celebrity/real estate mogul Trump was elected president after running with a litany of fanatical, xenophobic, dogmatic, one-sided, fractious, sectarian, racist, and ultraist campaign promises that would have made Darth Vader feel unambitious and forgettable.
So, in this fashion, regardless of any potential readership, any blossoming followers, any future ultimate successes, in the memory of past injustices, large and small, in the midst of all present injustices in full swing today, and steeling myself for all probable future injustices, angers, hatreds, ignorances, fears, pain, and suffering in the future, I hope I never stick to “what’s safe.”