A few days ago, my editor and I were messaging about her upcoming visit to immigration. Now, for anyone who’s ever been an immigrant, you’ll know that trips to the immigration office are terrifying. In one of her messages, Katie said something along the lines of, “I know I’m being paranoid for no reason, but I’m really stressing out about this.”
Katie’s words gave me a moment of pause. Yes, she was being paranoid. The likelihood that something bad would happen to her at immigration was really small. However, that likelihood is always there and it’s impossible to ignore when your whole life is hanging in the balance. Did I think she was stressing out for no reason? No. I freak out every single time I go to immigration. Heck, I’ve ended up crying a couple of times.
Luckily, Katie’s visa got renewed, and I still have an editor, but the whole conversation reminded me of how different the world looks to me now that immigration is part of my life. When I was a run of the mill Texas girl, it never really occurred to me how scary being an immigrant might be. If immigrants were good and didn’t break any laws, of course they’d be allowed to stay in the country, right? Why should they be scared?
That sort of pleasant picture was only possible because I had no experience as an immigrant. These days, every time I jay walk, every time I mess something up in any little way, every time I get a confusing phone call, the same fear runs through my brain. Deportation. Why? Past experiences. I’ve been interrogated by the immigration police twice since I’ve been here. Once because I forgot to register my new address within two weeks, and once because my boss misfiled some of my paperwork. Both times, the infractions were slight, in fact, one wasn’t even my fault, but that didn’t change the situation. Each time, after being grilled in my second language about my wrongs, I slunk out, painfully aware that I had zero control over my life.
You will likely read a lot of facts and data about immigrants over the next year, but I would argue that my and Katie’s experiences and fears about being immigrants are just as meaningful as any of those facts and numbers. Before you call me a hippy and stop reading, I’m not saying that facts aren’t important. I’m simply saying that they can only give you so much of a picture. They’re like the lines in a coloring book. Sure, I can see this is a dog. It may even be a fairly detailed dog, but without the color, he’s not complete. Stories, experiences, and emotions, these are the color that go along with facts. Without the lines, the colors are a jumbled mess. Without the color, I’m missing a large portion of the picture.
This is what I love about literature. Sure, fiction books are often filled with things that are not facts. There is no Mordor. Little boys don’t get letters from wizard school. Pigs don’t just start walking around giving orders to the other barnyard animals. Instead, fiction gives us the color that we often can’t get from facts. Even a tiny hobbit can be brave. There’s hope for people who have crappy family lives. Watch out for pigs, man; oh and communism.
When I was in high school, I read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. It was followed by Les Miserable and then War and Peace. With these books, I not only learned about someone’s experiences, I learned about history and life in other countries. I could have read the facts about these things, but they would not have stayed with me. How do I know? Because all three books I just mentioned revolve around times in history that I did actually study in school. Can I tell you about the societal backdrop of the French Revolution? Yes. Can I tell you the dates? No.
This is the power of literature. It lets us try on a thousand different lives and feel a thousand different feelings that no other source of education can. Not only can it teach me what happened in history, it can teach me why people did what they did, and how their actions affected the world around them. It does all of this with words, which means it doesn’t require any expensive equipment or education. It just requires literacy, meaning that it’s available to a decent-sized portion of the world’s population.
These are the things that make me excited to be part of the indie author’s movement. Now-a-days, anyone with a cell phone or computer can write a story and get it published. The doors of the publishing world have been effectively thrown wide open. It’s a great step toward a more openminded and accepting world. Why? Because indie authors write about things that you would never find in a traditionally published book.
The problem with big publishing houses is that they only publish works that are commercially viable. Stop for just a second here and consider if you really want to limit your literary experiences to commercially viable ones. I’m not taking a shot at traditional publishing here. They have to publish stuff that sells. Publishing paper books is a much more expensive process. They can’t afford to give fringe writers a shot. Luckily, that’s not the case with indie writers. We work with a much smaller overhead which means that we don’t need huge numbers to survive.
The current trends in the indie market make me hopeful as not only an indie author, but also as a person living in society. People are reading a much more diverse selection of books these days. I can’t wait to see the changes this diversity brings. A few books probably won’t lead to world peace, but you never know, right? So I guess what I really wanted to say is, read. Read a lot. Read stuff that makes you a little uncomfortable. If you do, I’m positive that the world will be better for it.
Also, if you haven’t ever read an indie book, now might be a great time to check one out. Pretty much all of them are online, which means you don’t even have to get off your sofa. Not sure who’s indie? If they’re selling their book for less than five dollars, they’re probably indie. If the book is free, they’re pretty much definitely indie. Are some of the books badly written? Sure. Does that immediately mean that there’s nothing to be gleaned from the pages? Not if your goal in reading is learning more about the world. And some of them are better than popular authors. At least, that’s my humble opinion. Now get out there and find yourself a new indie book.