The Blind One Who Sees

In my book, The Great & the Small, the old blind rat, Balthazar, cries out for the rat colony to seek truth. As in fiction, those who stand up for truth in real life face grave risks.

We don’t want to see. We cling to our mythologies, our reasons why we can’t be whatever we secretly dream of, and most of all, we resist change. We resist change to the point that change-makers, those daredevils who scoff at the status quo, take their lives in their hands. Or paws. Depending upon species.

Balthazar reaches a level of heroism I can only aspire to—after all, isn’t that what writers do? We explore our own dark corners and wonder what could be? But heroism isn’t just for characters in a book. It is for us. Each one of us.

Every day that we take an extra second before pronouncing judgement that something is “good,” or something is “bad,” we take a step toward heroism. Every time we truly look into someone’s eyes, whatever their species, and try to understand, we step forward. Whenever we listen to the words of those who supposedly know, and question…we inch closer.

Time is short. And knowing this, perhaps we can take that stand, listen harder, look deeper, and seek truth.

 

And We Will Light Up This World

 

 

Why does the change of a number, 2018 to 2019, feel like a chance to take another try at things that have eluded us in the past? After all, every day, every moment, we have the chance to make different decisions, to live more fully, to wake up a bit more. But there is something about a new year that feels different…

 

2018 was a hard year. Midway through I had already dubbed it “The Great Scouring,” when assumptions I’d had were challenged, when my most cherished dreams were upended, and when everything I thought I knew was on the table. To be honest, I am glad it’s January 2019, and not 2018.

 

And yet…

 

2018 taught me that my worth isn’t measured in dollar signs. It taught me that the fate of the world is not just in my hands, but in the hands of a human collective worldwide that is working to bring true justice, unity, and dignity to all life. It taught me that in the face of corruption, cynicism, violence, and extremism, there are people of goodwill who will not back down. It taught me that doing something for love is, in the end, the only real reason to do something. Love transforms. It lights the darkness. It is the underlying purpose of life, running through the length of our days like an underground river.

 

Yes, every day I can make choices. Every day, I can wake up a little more. But now, at the break of a new year, I consciously choose to live more fully in each moment, to let go of trying to control the future, to be here, now. I consciously choose to reject the many messages of society which teach me that I am not enough. I choose love.

 

In 2019, if enough of us choose love, we will light up this world.

 

 

The Book of Negroes–A Review

THE BOOK OF NEGROES was as brilliant as I thought it would be. It follows Aminata Diallo, a young African girl in the mid-1700’s, in her village, until she is kidnapped by slavers. She is forced to walk naked to the coast, where she is branded, and stuffed into a slave ship bound for the new world.

The account of what life was like for those stolen from their homes, bound in heavy chains and thrown into the hold of the slave ship was no doubt based on historical accounts. It was hard to read. I kept imagining what it must have been like. How would you go on? Some didn’t. Some people flung themselves into the ocean, or committed suicide by attacking the crew. Although the events depicted occurred over 200 years ago, there was little comfort in that. The prejudices that allow for one person to do to another such heinous acts are still alive and well. This is not just a tale of yesteryear, but a story of today. How we treat groups of people that we see as “other;” how we allow horrors to occur for them, that we would never want for ourselves.

Aminata Diallo narrates the story, and through her unflinching honesty, dignity, and wry humor, we walk through events that would shatter most people. She is highly intelligent, and learns on the fly how to navigate the new culture in which she finds herself. Through the beginning and middle of the book, her life is recounted in detail. My one critique of the book is that as she ages, there is less detail and more summary of events. That aside, it is a powerful narrative, told by a heroic woman. While she is fictional, she represents the thousands and thousands of heroes who survived against all odds to make a life—if not for themselves, then for their children and grandchildren.

On a side note: while slavery is illegal on paper, there are millions of modern-day slaves working in agriculture, in the fishing industry, in the sex trade, and many other areas. The issue of viewing some people as “other,” continues. There are abolitionist groups that are working to make change, and to finally, finally, free the slaves. Some groups are: Free the Slaves (https://www.freetheslaves.net) , Beyond Borders (www.beyondborders.org/en/home) Modern Abolitionist Coalition (on Facebook under the same name), and the Frederick Douglass Foundation (www.tfdf.org).  There is also a course through FutureLearn called, “Ending Slavery: Strategies for Contemporary Global Abolition (https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/slavery/1)  which I took, and highly recommend.

While THE BOOK OF NEGROES dives deep into the depravity to which human beings are capable, it is also about the human spirit—its strength, its inherent beauty, its stubborn hope against towering odds.

The Great & the Small…AWARD WINNER!

The Great & the Small has won high honors in the 2018 Literary Classics Book Awards, winning the ELOQUENT QUILL Award! It also won GOLDS in the “Upper Middle-Grade” and “Epic” categories. The Great & the Small has won several silver medals in 2018, but this is its first gold! I’m very excited, and very honored!

              

 

This book has been, and continues to be, a “heart” project for me, one that I had to write, if I ever wanted to get a good night’s sleep again! An author never knows if anyone else will connect with their book, and it is gratifying to know that this book resonates with so many people!

-Andrea

The Great & the Small–Top 10 List

Thank you to reviewer Scott Cahan for adding The Great & the Small to his Top 10 list for 2018. Scott is an author/illustrator and wrote a beautiful, thoughtful review. It means a lot that he added it to his favorites for 2018.

Here’s the link to Scott’s list, and to his blog:

My Favorite Books of 2018