Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “friendship”

Can Fantasy Be A Vehicle For Social Change?

I believe passionately that writers of fiction can ply their craft to help effect positive social change and offer a platform for values and principles. The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale both reflect this and I have a series of books focusing on social issues in the US (all based in San Francisco) beginning with Unwanted Heroes which will be released by Three Clover Press later this year and highlight the way we treat war veterans and the homeless.

I was delighted when Kaitlyn Cole from Online Universities shared a list that their faculty had put together entitled: 50 Best Novels For Political Junkies.

Kaitlyn wrote: “True story: Some of the best political novels aren’t explicitly about politics. Yes, some of the books on this list deal directly with governments and politicians, with laws and the ways they’re made or abused, and with the peril and promise inherent in every governing body. But some of them use adventure, parable, or satire to subtly explore our political system with a depth that wouldn’t be possible any other way.”

Great point and relevant to those of us who write political fiction. But how about fantasy? Is there room to use our elves and dwarves to promote social injustices or causes? 

Over the last three summers I was blessed with the amazing experience of writing three fantasy novels together with now 13-year-old son. While I have read a few fantasy novels, I had no idea about the “rules” of the genre.

Writing with my son, however, compelled me to include moral issues such as racism, dictatorship and freedom, as well as the values of friendship and inclusiveness. I was writing for my son and there are plenty of swords, quests, elves, dwarves etc., but as I watched him read and listened to his feedback, I waited for his comments about such issues and derived huge satisfaction when he brought up issues.

In setting my goals for an exercise at Author Salon, I wrote:

“I have seen the impact of the Harry Potter series and Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series on my son and his friends. I want to help shape the landscape of the next generation’s imagination and maybe even the society they strive to create.”

 My lack of knowledge regarding fantasy leads me to ask the question: Can fantasy offer a vehicle to discuss political and social injustice? I would love to hear your answers.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

A Safeway Fairy Tale

Fairy tales never come true, right? You know: the ones where a hero tries to save a damsel in distress (from dragon/bad prince/abusive boyfriend), gets wrongly accused by the all-powerful (insert king/queen/corporate boss), punished by (insert thrown in dungeon/sent on dangerous quest/fired from job in middle of recession), and finally vanquishes his foes (insert with magic sword/unicorn/mass movement from the people) for a happy ending.

Doesn’t happen, right? Wrong.

Ryan Young was working his shift at the meat counter of a Safeway when he saw a man repeatedly push and kick a pregnant woman. Ryan didn’t hesitate and, without regard for his own safety, stepped in to protect the woman from being beaten.

A hero right? His corporate bosses probably gave him a promotion, a raise and, we can forgive them if they exploited this to show that Safeway cares about its customers, plastering pictures of the hero in every place possible.

But Corporate America never misses a chance to do the wrong thing. Claiming that Ryan should have called security instead of stepping in himself, the suspended him without pay and, pending the results of an investigation, might fire him. He should, they said have followed company procedure and called security.

Ryan can be forgiven for being such a good citizen because his wife is also pregnant. They are expecting their baby in a few months, so this is probably as good a time as ever for taking away his income, as he prepares for the financial (as well as emotional) changes.

A Safeway customer, Doug Castro, who is also a security guard, believes Ryan did the right thing by intervening.  Had he called security and held back, the victim could have sustained serious injuries and endangered the life of her baby.

So Mr. Castro turned to Change.orgasking Safeway to lift Ryan’s suspension and give him backpay for the income he lost during his involuntary time away from work.

Indeed, local Police Chief Ron Langford has reviewed the security footage and believes the man who beat his girlfriend could be charged. He also told reporters, “In my mind, in this case Ryan did the right thing.”

Enter the magic sword/wise Jedi master/fairy godmother/whatever – lets call it Change.org and the army of good people form all over the country. Over 180,000 people signed Douglas’ petition asking Safeway to reinstate Ryan with full back-pay, and Safeway has acquiesced.

Ryan’s case became news on CNN and other national media including CBS and Business Insider.

Ryan says he’s “deeply grateful” to everyone who signed the petition. “Knowing that I had all these people standing behind me and that I wasn’t alone really helped me through this difficult time,” said Ryan. “Thank you again to everyone who took the time to help me out.”

And everyone lived happily ever after.

When my boys were younger and we would read them fairy tales and ideologically stories about peace and friendship (I know, poor kids – they have never quite recovered – And To Think That We Thought We Could Never Be Friends should be required reading for every citizen in the world!)  – I would often ask them what we could learn from the story.

So here we go:

– Corporate America can and does get it wrong.

– We can stand up to them when we stand together.

– The Internet can be a powerful tool for change.

– The folks at Change.org are awesome.

– Those who signed the petition are awesome.

– Ryan Young is a hero and should be recognized as one.

– Safeway did the right thing in the end.

And now everyone can live happily ever after.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

 

Post Navigation

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: