Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Politics of Fallen Embers

First, and before we begin, let me warn you that reading this may spoil parts of book one, so if you haven't yet read it, it might be better to come back after you have.

Still with me? Okay then. Here we go.

I've been plagued by twin curses for over twenty years: chronic insomnia and bad dreams when I do sleep. Long ago I learned that if I made up a story in my mind, followed it, let it fill me, pushed and prodded it into the next scene, and the next, and let it flow and blossom in my mind, the trail I followed would often lead to me to sleep, and on to dream about my story instead of the other things.

The story I started many years ago, the one I nurtured for two decades,   is the foremother of FE . But when I wrote it, and it came so quickly  when I did, it took on a life of its own. And of course, of course!, my  convictions colored it, changed it, led my characters to snort or scoff, to laugh, to stand strong (or give in), to want, to dream, and to cry, and when I finished it, and each time I reread it, I discovered that this story reveals a great deal about those things that matter most to me.

What is FE about -- really? Well, I'd say that it's very fundamentally about the absolute power of love. Not less importantly, at least to me, it's also about the capriciousness of social norms (despite our tendency to think of them as "Truth"s), and of accepting your own and others' bodies even if they don't conform to social ideals. But it's also about examining power inequities (and abuses), racial stratification, gender norms, and social and gender ideals. I would also say that it's constantly pondering ethics, and because it does, FE tries to define what it means to be a hero in any place and at any time, what it takes to become someone who finds the courage to break through the crust, and it most assuredly asserts that we're all capable of doing so -- if we're willing to pay the price.

I want to add that the stories that the slaves tell Kiera are inspired by real events, by still-living people who experienced horrifying abuse at the hands of those who had been charged with caring for them. Some I adapted from accounts told by Irish adults recounting stories of their childhoods in orphanages. Others came from women and men whom the civil upheaval in their countries had forced into refugee camps or virtual slavery in others' homes. Further, the characterizations Lady Agni spouts when Kiera asks her why the Alak slaves don't run away reflect general tenets white Americans very commonly expressed about their black slaves. I encourage you to google all of these things for yourself. We need to know, because knowing begets anger, and anger begets action, and there is, quite frankly, still so much to do.

I have much more to say, but I won't here. Not for now. Instead, I am going to close my eyes and dream another story, one that starts a heartbeat after BE - the second book - ends.

Until we meet again: sweet dreams. xx

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