on politics in prose

The election season in the U.S. has (mostly) drawn to a close. There’s still (unlikely) challenges to ballot counting coming from the losing individual, and there’s a couple run-off elections set in Georgia which overall was considered “solid red” (part of the “Bible Belt”) but instead “went blue,” voting for Biden and the two candidates with D’s next to their names are the ones with the razor-thin leads for the senate races that are going into run-off in January.

I really love this picture. Credit to: FlowingData. The purple shades and the quote really illustrate a philosophy: how what we see affects how we think about ourselves as a country, and how we think about each other as individuals. We are not “red” and “blue” states, as the President-Elect said. “We are the United States.”

My state of Florida went red (sigh), but my county was deep, deep blue (yay!). There is still a lot of work to be done, but the first steps have been taken to return this country to a more respectful and “for all” paths of opportunity.

This made me reflect how I have handled political issues in my writing. I don’t write about politics directly. I do believe that living in a representative democracy requires awareness, and active intersection with, the political. I also believe that fiction can be a way to illustrate this, by creating relatable characters who deal with and persevere against bigotry, narrowmindedness, ignorance, and systemic barriers in life and work.

In my first novel, Turning Point, there was a political subplot arc. Brenna’s husband is a candidate for higher office and already a city councilman. She has an awkward “visit home” since their marriage is long-distance (he’s in Michigan and she’s in L.A.) and she is “the candidate’s wife” at the same time she realizes he’s using her celebrity to connect with some younger voters. She fights with him as a result, refusing to be a pawn. There’s a restraint to that fight though, which reveals to Brenna that her marriage isn’t the strong, balanced and mutually supportive one she imagines she should have. In the story plot when she returns to L.A. after that trip she begins to see how she has been living in denial about many things about herself and her life and starts to make different decisions, seeking to change and live more authentically.

Turning Point also has a bit of political discussion when Brenna admits to being in love with her co-star. Her husband basically insists, “you’re my wife; you can’t be gay.” He falls back on other stereotyped and binary thinking. He assumes that she can’t be in love with a woman because she has been intimate with him and “I’d know.”

“We both have gay siblings,” Brenna retorts, calling him on his statement there is only one (right) way to love. It’s clear their marriage is over, they separate, and will divorce.

In the sequel, Turn for Home, during Cassidy’s hospitalization, I have the characters deal with the reality of many same-sex couples at the time (2001): few laws protect them in situations such as hospitalization, next-of-kin, and other “family” rights are denied simply because they are not spouses. They also discuss the politics of protest and marches and face different treatment in the press than a heterosexual couple would.

So, yes, I do tackle politics in my writing. My philosophy remains that all politics is personal. The power of (my) pen is used to write stories illuminating themes like “love is love” and I hope to make it clear through relatable characters for readers who may not have seen the topic the same way.

One thought on “on politics in prose

  1. I think many minds can be influenced and sometimes changed by the written word. Especially those younger minds that are still looking to carve out their own place in our culture. So I believe any positive politics in fiction, like yours, can be a good thing.


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