An open Letter to Anne Hathaway and her haters. What am I missing?

My husband is not big on movie musicals, but after Anne Hathaway was interviewed on The Daily Show, he and I both managed to see the Les Miserables this winter. Indeed, I almost felt a spiritual urgency about seeing the movie. And Anne Hathaway’s performance is what I remember most about it.

I do not want what I am about to write to be misinterpreted. Anne Hathaway does not know what it is like to stand for hours in line at a clinic in Haiti with a sick baby, only to be turned away because she does not have money or the appropriate papers. She does not know what it is like to have a family member disappear in Colombia, or to receive an anonymous letter saying that if she does not leave the area immediately, she will end up dead and floating in the river. She does not know what it is like to have her home demolished because an Israeli settlement wants her family’s land for expansion. She does not know what it is like to face the ongoing loss of land and violation of treaty rights that Indigenous people are constantly facing in North America. She does not know what it is like to live with the casual racism that people of color do day after exhausting day in the United States.

And yet, when I watched her performance, it touched the place the feelings come from when I have witnessed the above struggles of marginalized people as part of my human rights work. Watching her face, I saw the faces of so many other people who have suffered enormous losses. Victor Hugo never experienced the poverty he wrote about so eloquently, and Picasso was not in the Basque village of Guernica when it was bombed by German and Italian warplanes in 1937, but through their art, they brought poverty, injustice, and war to the attention of millions, and people used that art for social change. What Anne Hathaway accomplished in Les Miserables was profound art in that tradition.
So my husband and I were pleased when she acknowledged all the Fantines of the world at the Oscars ceremony, and were shocked at the negative publicity she received afterward. I sent her the letter below care of her management agency in March after we were aware of the publicity (we don’t really follow celebrity culture). This weekend, when I was in Washington DC for my stepdaughter’s graduation, I was riffling through a recent Cosmopolitan in her dorm room as she prepared to move out and saw yet another article on why Anne Hathaway was unlikeable. So, since for some reason, celebrity culture still finds this topic current, I am going to repost the letter here:

Regarding your comment: “Here’s hoping that sometime in the not-too-distant future, the misfortunes of Fantine will only be found in stories—and not in real life.”

March 15, 2013
Dear Ms. Hathaway,
I am not the sort of person who normally writes celebrities. I work for a human rights organization called Christian Peacemaker Teams ( and have served on assignments in Haiti, Chiapas, Colombia, Palestine and Israel, Democratic Republic of Congo and with North American Indigenous communities. I have enclosed a newsletter so you will know the sort of thing that normally occupies my time. Like millions of people I was moved by your performance in Les Miserables (My brother—a SAG member—wrote in his January 25 Facebook status: “exercised his sacred right to vote this morning, knowing that the whole of western civilization depends on Anne Hathaway being recognized for her rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream.’”) My husband and I watched the Oscar broadcast this year primarily because we had acquaintances who made the documentary, “5 Broken Cameras,” and because of you.

We so appreciated that you gave a nod to all the real-life Fantines in your acceptance speech. I have worked with people who have had most of their choices stripped away and people who have given up everything, including their dignity, for the sake of their children. You captured their despair and conviction in a profound way when you sang, “I dreamed a dream.”

But I would not have written this letter if it hadn’t been for the media in the past weeks obsessing over the darts in your dress and in general everything except your mention of the real Fantines of the world. In fact, the only thing I found about you acknowledging their suffering was a snarky “Anne Hathaway thinks Fantine was real.”

So that’s why I decided to write. Just so you know that my husband and I noticed, and appreciated it. I’m sure Victor Hugo would have too.

Blessings and peace,

Kathleen Kern

Twitter timesuck, Agent-cycle, Gilead and Writing that pays


I made a decision today to close my Twitter and HooteSuite tabs (I use both, because I use both 300% magnification for an eye disability so I skim HootSuite  to look at writing-related tweets and then read everything else on Twitter.)  I have found it basically impossible NOT to check it 10x a day.  I haven’t listed anything on Ebay for more than a week, which is my usual downtime activity.  But now that I have a May 1 deadline for some Bible curriculum lessons—writing that I actually get paid for,  I need to strap in.  I’m going to check the feeds just twice a day.

So far, I’ve sent out five agent queries and gotten three rejections.  I’ve also just heard from the Dana Awards that my manuscript didn’t make even the honorable mentions.  So the honeymoon is over.  Not everyone sees how exquisite Shea is.  I’m back to “if you’re going to be a writer you have to be able to take rejection and x received 60 thousand rejections before it was finally published blah blah blah” mode.  I am being a bit more careful about my querying though.  Even though I have a template, I’m not sending out the query e-mails on the same day I write them.  I’m let them sit and tweaking at them until I feel good about them.

The first draft of  my query today—meaning first draft of my final paragraph, “Why I am sending this query to you, Ms. Agent”—was about our shared enthusiasm for Mariindexlynne Robinson’s 2005 novel Gilead. That novel made me feel really hopeful when I read it (or listened to it, since I can’t read normal size fonts anymore.) It made me realize there is a place, post-Tolstoy, for novels about people of faith.  Great novels.  It’s sad really, that the term “Christian fiction” immediately brings to mind a genre that is formulaic and trite, when faith should be deep, and awesome and profound.  Which, of course, Gilead is.

With this agent, I’ve shared a little more personal information than I usually do—like that I’ve not used the link to the Kirkus Review of Because the Angels with some other agents because it has “an interesting approach to Christianity” in the title.  I’ll let the letter sit a couple days and see whether I think it’s still a good idea.  Wouldn’t someone who loves Gilead be interested in that?  But does she get fifty queries a day from people claiming a Gilead kinship? Aaargh!

The downside of the shared enthusiasm is that you become more emotionally invested.  Even though I never met this woman, it means more when someone who loves a book you’ve loved rejects you.

But of course, I have a lot to occupy my time.  Six weeks until my sabbatical is over, and I have these thirteen lessons about Jesus’ use of the Hebrew Bible to get done, as well as a bunch of boxes in the hall that I said I was going to go through and get out of the hall before my sabbatical was over.