Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Using Fiction to Address Real World Issues

by: Katie

So, I wrote a book.  It wasn't terribly long or even terribly clever or original.  I wasn't trying to make a statement about social issues, and I didn't even have a plot figured out when I sat down and wrote it.  It just came up out of things I'd experienced and issues that were milling around inside my head.  What I find intriguing about this is that the finished product did speak to current issues.  It did address things that are happening in the real world, and it gave readers who may otherwise never be in that position, a chance to consider how they would respond to it.

These thoughts prompted me to consider the role of fiction in shaping a culture's values and passions.  A culture that reads about certain issues seems more likely to take those particular issues to heart and fight boldly and courageously for them.  On the surface it may seem like a silly idea to try to produce change through writing stories about it.  But on a second glance, it seems entirely possible to open society's mind to problems that run so deep within the system that mainstream America can't see it.

So, writing a small book isn't going to save the world, but using whatever influence I have as one voice to open the conversation where it has always been closed in the past, that seems like something worth doing.  It may not be read or discussed by that many people, but it just might.  You never know.

The book in question was written after spending a couple years working in our local Public Defender's office which has its office in the courthouse.  I got to see and experience a lot of daily scenarios that happen around the nation out of earshot of the general public who doesn't spend its days in the courthouse.  I have tried to start processing how this has effected my worldview and hope to continue working through ideas and concepts as the series continues.

Thankfully, I don't feel that the office I worked in was like the one in the book, but those forces were at work in other areas.  The conflict of ideals and cynicism was real and continues.  Do we continue to care about people we can't trust or do we just throw up our hands and write off an entire subset of the population as a lost cause?  Do we bother to investigate the facts or do we assume the worst and leave vulnerable people in the hands of a callous system?  These are questions that hit when you are delving into people's lives, and they seem especially relevant in the current debates that are happening in public this election cycle in particular.

I don't feel like I have all the answers, or even most of them.  I hope getting a fictional environment in which to wander for a bit is helpful for readers as it has been helpful for me.  For those of you who are interested, the book can be found on Amazon both in paperback and Kindle formats here.  Enjoy!

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