Advice for Social Activist Writers and Readers, Inspired by the work of Adriana Paramo

(1) A literary work of social activism is nothing if not a series of ethical decisions made by the author, one that invites a return volley of decisions from the reader: what is important, whose story needs telling, do I recognize the importance of this issue, et cetera, ad nauseam.

(2) Always be mindful, but never forget to take the step that comes after contemplation; reflection is the best of starts, but a true work of social activism inspires action — recognition is where it starts, but movement is the ultimate goal, a realization in reaction.

(3) Finally: if your decision-making process and/or your understanding of the world has changed since reading a book, you must take a moment, a breather, and recognize that you have just read a good book.  Do not hide it; pass that information along.

Adriana Paramo’s talk was provoking, to say the least; more on this talent in the world of social activist writing can be found at her website, here.

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From and On “What Is the Business of Literature?” By Richard Nash (2013)

“[Publishing has the power[ to disrupt industries like education, to drive the movie industry, to empower the gaming industry. … the notion of an imperiled book culture assumes that book culture is a beast far more refined, rarified, and fragile than it actually is. By defining books as against technology, we deny our true selves, we deny the power of the book. Let’s restore to publishing its true reputation—not as a hedge against the future, not as a bulwark against radical change, not as a citadel amidst the barbarians, but rather as the future at hand, as the radical agent of change, as the barbarian. The business of literature is blowing shit up.”

The entirety of Nash’s article can be found here.

I worry that the closing argument contained in Nash’s article opens up too many opportunities for Michael Bay to defend Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen as a work of art; having been involuntarily exposed to those reels on a half-dozen occasions, I would argue that there exist exploitation films–ones severely lacking in explosions–that do a better job of embodying “literature.”

Some of us like to think of ourselves as the disciples of long-established creeds, the guardians of the holy world of literature against those that might defile it, against the corrupting influence of a loose-moral-having wave of newfangled filth; some of us like to think of ourselves as anarchists, revolting against an established hierarchy that we ourselves find revolting, tearing down the tyranny of an industry that refuses to recognize the beauty in looking forward rather than behind.  The truth is that we are, all of us, a mixture of the two.

We are the breadwinners who publish Poe and Austen as a surefire means to put food on the table in an attempt to find secure ground in an industry in which taking a risk on an untested author could get a whole floor fired.

We are the artists who pour a sentence–one that has somehow never been written before–out onto the page in an effort to release the creative fluid that burns behind our eyes, so tightly compressed within our minds that pens act as our safety valves.

It’s in finding the balance between these to identities that we thrive.  It’s in pulling together that we branch out, in imploding that we explode; in reconciling, we blow shit up.