Waiting for Walker: Waiting for Your Comments

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Waiting for Walker was one of the most challenging stories I've written. And I'd like to hear from readers about how I handled a couple of these challenges.

As many readers have noted, my stories tend to include unusual or even esoteric topics in support of the characters and the plot. Examples are dog behavior; synesthesia; autism; transgender; intersex; Paganism; the list is long.

I enjoy the research necessary to present unusual topics, and sometimes I rely on subject matter experts. But the story Waiting for Walker includes topics that were more challenging to me than usual. In my Author's Note at the back of the book, I indicated that I would set up space for comments about my success regarding these challenges. This is that space.

[WARNING: The remainder of this post contains spoilers.] 

Representing Islam

The story includes a U.S. soldier's conversion to Islam and what it was like for him and for his Afghani Muslim bride when he brought her to his home in Connecticut. To do this credibly and sensitively, I felt I needed to go deep enough into Islam to present it in support of this story without putting myself forth as any kind of expert—and, in my limited knowledge, without giving offense. 

One reader suggested that perhaps I shouldn't be writing about these topics. But I resist that advice on three counts:

  1. My stories are the stories of my characters; they tell me who they are, what their dreams are, how they react to the world around them, and how they live their lives. I go where they tell me to go.
  2. Could I refuse to follow the dictates of characters? Yes; but—why? In fact, in light of the hate mongering and bigotry in today's world toward Muslims (here is just one example), I was glad the story line went in the direction it did; it gave me a chance to present Islam and Muslims in a favorable light and, I hope, to represent sensitively some of the challenges they face in trying to become accepted members of Western society. In my opinion, we don't have enough stories like this.
  3. I reject the old advice that writers should write only about what they know. While I believe it's good to begin there, what writers know can effectively lead them—and their readers—into fascinating new areas of life where they had not yet ventured. Without imagination, writers cannot write creatively, and they should not limit themselves to what they already know any more than visual artists should do so.

Your Thoughts

For those of you who have read Waiting for Walker and would like to comment about anything, but in particular about my treatment of Afghanistan and/or Islam, please use the comment section below, whether complimenting or criticizing. My effort was done in good faith; if that has failed, I'd like to know.

Thank you for reading. 

Throwing Shade on the Women's Marches?

Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, likes to teach dog owners that preventing their dogs from focusing on trouble (a letter carrier, another dog, a trash truck) is to give her a sudden, physical distraction as soon as that focus seems likely. This might be a gentle push on her backside, or it might be a sharp tug-and-release on her leash.

After reading the January 24 New York Times article by Jenna Wortham, I think what I got was a less-than-gentle push on my backside. For sure, the tone of this article distracted me from the enthusiasm I have felt since leaving the Boston Women’s March.

This is war.

For over a decade, I've written novels about gay teens. I'm a cisgender, straight advocate, and I write these stories because I hate injustice, I hate fear-driven paranoia, and I'm distressed at the vulnerability of LGBTQ teens.

When I began writing, I was certain that I would not see marriage equality in my lifetime. I knew very little of the hell that trans individuals go through. I knew nothing at all about what intersex means.

And since I began writing, I have celebrated win after win after win for LGBTQ people.

Then came Trump.

Electoral College Needs an Appendectomy

Every day since the November 8, 2016 election, we’ve seen the number of citizens who cast their presidential vote for Hillary Clinton rather than Donald Trump increase. That lead is now roughly TWO AND A HALF MILLION VOTES.

Dear Governor McCrory...

I know you're suffering. And I have some information that I hope will help you and your family out of your current troubles.

As an advocate for personal truth, and in particular an advocate for the rights of LGBTQ citizens, I have read with interest a number of articles about you. In them, you describe the difficulties you and your wife have had to face as a result of North Carolina's HB2, the law you signed that requires people to use public facilities according to the gender on their birth certificates and limits the civil rights of LGBTQ people in general.

Black and White

It’s the end of a week full of horrible events.

The shooting death of African American Alton Sterling by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana… The shooting death of African American Philando Castile by police officers in Falcon Heights, Minnesota… The shooting deaths of five white police officers by a single African American in Dallas, Texas, apparently as retribution for the week’s two previous events and for so many other shootings of African American men by police….

Orlando: Phoenix Rising

From the ashes of destruction, so the legend goes, rises the Phoenix, renewed and reborn. The horrible, burning agony—physical and emotional—of the tragedy in Orlando will give rise to a glorious spirit. We can see it appearing already.

Since the Stonewall riots of 1969, the spirit within LGBTQ people has been glowing brighter and stronger every year. The last few years have been the most remarkable yet, because the spirit has been spreading to people who are becoming advocates.

The chemistry of hatred

It’s a simple chemical reaction: Apply fear to ignorance and you get hatred. We’re seeing far, far too much of it lately.

Here in Massachusetts, the state legislature has been debating whether to pass a bill granting citizens the right to enter public bathrooms according to their true gender. I recently heard one misguided legislator insist that if the bill passed, women and girls would no longer be protected against assault. I understand what this guy and many other people who’ve said similar things are afraid of. What I think we need to get at is why they’re afraid.

Robin Reardon: Reading Aloud

When I have a chance to do a reading or a book signing event, I love connecting with readers. And after the events, they often ask me whether I’ve made recordings of the excerpts I read to them.

Well, now I have. There’s a new page on my website dedicated to excerpts I’ve recorded from my books. So far there are recordings from four books. If this feature is popular, I’d love to do more. This page is accessible from the Items of Interest, which you’ll see if you scroll down on my home page.

So… give it a try? And do let me know what you think, good or bad. Thanks!

Mistaken Identity?

Hello, little girl. My name is… well, it doesn’t matter. What matters is how much trouble I'm planning to go to just to get to a place where I can attack you. Let me tell you all about it.

 

See, I grew up twisted. Blame it on abuse, blame it on a mother who was domineering, blame it on whatever you like. The thing is, I hate females. And something inside me tells me I’ll feel better if I beat you up, rape you, maybe even kill you. And I just came up with the best friggin' idea for how to get you alone so I can do horrible things to you. BATHROOMS!

Fear the Gay!

Although the discriminatory laws passed in recent days in North Carolina and Mississippi (with a close call in Georgia) claim to be about religious freedom, there is no question that the primary target is members of the LGBTQ community.

 

These three laws have subtle differences; NC's law seems to focus sharply on transgender individuals and bathroom usage; GA's law would have focused largely on marriage; and MI's law shoots squarely at the heads of all LGBT individuals. But they, and all recent "religious protection" laws passed in the last several months (such as Indiana, Arkansas, the list goes on), have the same goal: Protect good Christians from ... from what, exactly?

Make your vote count... FOR THE NEXT 30 YEARS

If you identify with or support U.S. citizens who don’t fall into the “straight, cisgender” category, you have an opportunity that is not likely to come again in your lifetime. And the rest of your lifetime is about how long the outcome of this opportunity will matter.

With the death of Antonin Scalia, one of the least LGBT-friendly voices on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) for the past thirty years is silenced. The question is what the next voice will say.

Devilish details keep minority groups isolated

Different in a threatening way. Disturbingly different; alien. To perceive a person or people as alien to oneself. Each of these phrases defines “other.” I confess that I hadn’t known the word could be used as a verb, but it exemplifies perfectly the way far too many of us treat “others” of us whom we don’t understand.

As the author of books and stories about gay teens, I tend to notice situations in which LGBTQ individuals are othered. Examples are all around us, from the notorious Kim Davis to state-based Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs, introduced because “the advance of LGBT rights has encroached upon religious liberty”) to fanatics like the Westborough Baptist Church to most of the current candidates vying for the GOP nomination to the wanton murders of trans individuals (more last year than ever before).

Help an old cisgender, hetero lady out

I’d like to say that my work has helped society move forward toward acceptance, and many people tell me it has. But as this progress continues, I’m beginning to feel a little left behind. I’d just about wrapped my mind around the concept of transgender and was getting really good at using “she” and “her” for trans women, and “he” and him” for trans men, when I started to see articles about the movement—largely on college campuses at first—for a whole host of other pronouns being insisted upon by people who don’t identify with the binary categories.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Mormonism

There is a wonderful group called Mama Dragon on Facebook, for members only, that supports Mormon and ex-Mormon families who have lost a child to suicide. Since the Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) announcement last November outlining their draconian approach (see below) to LGBTQ church members, Mama Dragon has reported thirty-two suicides of young Mormons between the ages of fourteen and twenty, most of them from Utah.

“Ex-gay” “reparative therapy” (quotes used to connote the lack of veracity and validity for both terms) has been the cause of untold numbers of suicides, especially among teens. The organization TruthWinsOut.org has ample documentation about the suicides of LGBT individuals, and teens especially.