On Election Day in 2008, my father was bedridden, his body ravaged by lung cancer. Luckily, I’d convinced him to vote early, and less than three weeks later, he was gone. Herman Hugh Johnson, a man who lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and Jim Crow, cast the last vote of his life for America’s first Black president.
I believe those of us whose ancestors have been denied the right to vote have a profound respect for its power. My debut novel, The Kindest Lie, opens with an election night watch party for Obama, and I tell the story of the promise and limits of hope during that era. As an author, I’ve struggled with how public to be about my own political activism. Who am I to speak out about politics? Will I alienate readers? What I’ve come to realize is that as a Black woman in America, my very existence is political. The stakes are too high for me to remain silent, so I’ll continue to use my voice as an author to encourage civic engagement and fight for freedom and justice.
That’s my story, but I wanted to hear from other authors. So, I asked them why they’ve chosen to be politically vocal and public about it. Here’s what they told me:
“I talk to my (social media) followers about the election as if we were sitting in a room having a conversation. I like to know what people are thinking, and I like to be heard.” – Maurice Carlos Ruffin, author of We Cast A Shadow
“I am a writer. It is something I’ve always wanted to do. Always wanted to be. I want to sell books. Lots and lots of books. And spend my days thinking about the next book I want to write. But I am a mother. Of two Black sons. The wife of a Black man. The grandmother to a tiny Black girl. This country has never GIVEN us anything. We have had to demand it, take it, die for it. The last four years have shown just how fragile these gains are, how easily taken away. If I can’t breathe the air, drink the water, have access to health care, marry who I love, make my own reproductive choices, or even be assured that my sons will come home at night, then having a bestseller is pointless. I DO care about book sales and alienating readers, but not as much as I care about living in a safe, clean, moral country.” – Rita Woods, author of Remembrance [Read more…]