When I first started getting back comments from people who had read my Shea manuscript, I was taken aback when they referred to the novel’s sad ending, because in my mind, I thought the novel had a happy ending. Good triumphed. The efforts of all the people who sacrificed so much to bring the fascist Christian Republic down succeeded. Iz and Shea reconciled. Yes, a lot of the people who resist the regime die along the way, and my narrator, Islam Goldberg-Jones remains in prison at the end because in the U.S., Federal judges are appointed for life, and the entrenched Christian Republic judiciary and Christian Republic holdovers in the FBI conspire to keep him there. Most of the people who committed the worst atrocities under the Christian Republic never have to pay for their crimes.
But that’s how the world is. Famous and anonymous heroes for millennia have sacrificed their lives, bodies and sanity to bring down tyrants or systems of domination. AIM activist Leonard Peltier, whom most of the world regards as a political prisoner, remains incarcerated today for murder even though the U.S. government lied to get him extradited him from Canada, coerced witnesses, withheld evidence during his trial, and even though an Iowa jury acquitted his co-defendants of the same crime.
Dictators and generals in Latin America like Augusto Pinochet, after their torture states finally fell, lived affluent, comfortable lives for decades afterwards.
People think I’m a glass half-empty kind of person. Sometimes I think that’s true. I think sometimes when the Israeli military occupation of Palestine finally ends, if it does end in my lifetime, that I want to be the one who remembers all the people who gave everything they had to fight it and ended up crippled with despair, as well as the ones who ended up dead. But I also think that while compassion is never wrong, it is also always right to celebrate when grassroots movements succeed in toppling oppressors. We need to take a moment and honor the thousands, even millions of nameless Filipinos, South Africans, Chileans, Serbs, East Timorese, Tunisians etc. who decided simply the time had come when toppling their government was more important than their lives, or, that if they all worked together, they had the power to topple their government with minimal loss of life. By honoring them, we also learn, and when we face tyrants ourselves, we are better equipped.
I was tempted to put in a plug for my novel Because the Angels, when the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war rolled around and then decided that was tacky. (The plot is partially based on the experience of my organization, Christian Peacemaker Teams, when four of our colleagues were kidnapped in Baghdad 2005-06). But this morning, I decided I hadn’t plugged it for awhile, so I thought I’d send out a tweet with a link to the Amazon Kindle page. I discovered that someone I didn’t know had written the following review:
Most Surprisingly Good Read of the Decade, April 22, 2013
This review is from: Because the Angels (Kindle Edition)
“BtA wins the most surprisingly good read of the decade. Past the cover art and the anime obsession, the story is fraught with messy, intense, and endearing characters. What’s probably best about the book is the amazingly successful and comedic ending. Without being sappy, the author manages to weave a brilliant resolution to an engrossing tale.”
It’s my first genuinely unsolicited review—probably from the week of free downloads in late February, early March. Davey R. Jones also really like Junot Diaz’s Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a book I really loved, and books by Mario Vargas Llosa, Madeline L’Engle and about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, so he seems like a kindred spirit. I am assuming he’s not the dead Monkee. Glass half full, see?