But above all, this season took me back into my newest novel, which Five Star/Cengage will release in April 2018: THE LONG SHADOW. Working with an insightful editor, I didn't just tidy up loose ends (fresh eyes help so much!). I looked into my heart to discover why I wrote this book, in which three teenage girls in 1850 confront Vermont's confusing mixture of attitudes toward abolition ... try to take care of each other ... and suffer the consequences.
As I wrapped up the responses to the editor, the film Wonder Woman arrived at the local theater. By that point, I needed to catch up on editing again, though, and with a sense of loss, I missed the chance to see the movie. (Hope I'll catch it in a few months when it's on a streaming service.) The reviews made it clear to me I'd missed a really good one -- one that asks questions about what it is to be both a woman and a hero. The questions I tackle in every book, story, and even poem that I write.
So when I saw a related list online, "7 Books to Read After Watching Wonder Woman," I figured I'd at least start tucking those books into my evening reading hours. My fabulous local librarian, Jen, tackled getting the books with enthusiasm and power, and I've just finished reading the one I chose for "first": AMERICAN WAR by Omar El Akkad (publisher's author website here; public radio interview, not so great but still interesting, here).
What a novel! Dystopian in the sense that The Hunger Games series is ... featuring a strong and relentless woman ... set in the American South, which I always realize is like another country, for this Yankee woman to visit ... and testing what people will do to each other in the name of politics and manipulation, as well as love.
Most important to me at the moment is also the detail that the woman of interest in AMERICAN WAR, Sarat Chestnut, is dark-skinned, tall, and with frizzy hair, and loved wholeheartedly by her not-identical twin sister, who is shorter, light-skinned, and has the smooth hair that I always envied in my own sister. (It's the little things, it's always the little things. My sister will read this -- her courage astounds and touches me. Meanwhile many Other Big Things sneak up on us, in fiction and in life.)
What will our nation be like after climate change forces the seas to rise above the coastal cities? How will religion-based terrorism ever resolve? Will our nation of 50+ interdependent states remain United? And what do we exchange, for the satisfaction of following through on our own longing to become Wonder Woman within the bounds of our very diverse lives?
AMERICAN WAR spoke insistently to me. I expect some of the echoes to penetrate what I write next: the sequel to THE LONG SHADOW (already underway), the prayer/praise collection, the long work on aging, the very personal novel I'm working on for an editor who trusts my ability to get there in the end. There are things worth crying about. And many, many people worth supporting, as we all struggle to make a good life, one that's honest and deep and caring.