California author Edan Lepucki: Fiction stops us seeing people as statistics

Edan Lepucki is the New York Times bestselling author of the novel California. Her new novel, Woman No.17, will be released May 9. Maverick blog talked to her about taking part in Slate’s Trump Story Project.

Why did you take part in Slate’s Trump Story anthology?

I participated because Ben Winters, who edited the series, invited me. Before writing Chorus I hadn’t written anything speculative since my first novel, California, and I felt ready to return to the genre. I was so upset when Trump won – I still am – and I wanted to further explore my fears and anxieties about his administration. This project was the perfect way to do that.

What’s the role of fiction, and art more generally, in the current political climate?

Fiction is essential and amazing because reading it allows us (even requires us) to enter another person’s consciousness – this encourages empathy and expands our understanding of others.

To see something from another person’s point of view is powerful and it makes the world a far more nuanced and complex place. This, in turn, keeps us from seeing people as mere statistics, as faceless groups.

I believe fiction is also political because it gives voice to people and/or experiences that might not otherwise be shared with others. I always I feel it’s my duty as a writer and as an artist to write about complicated, even damaged, people – in particular women – so that we may see and be seen as fully human.

Art overall can jolt us out of cliché and tired language (‘mistakes were made’; ‘Make America great again’), to see the world as it truly is; or can be.

How can the political trend of populism co-exist with creative, independent thinking?   

I’m certainly not a political scientist, but it seems to me that populism is often a way for politicians to take advantage of large groups of people by claiming to support them, to listen to their needs, and by promising to enact policy that will better their lives, when in fact the politician is doing the very opposite of that.

With Trump, we’ve seen a whole lot of rhetoric and not a lot else – or, what we do see are a lot of rich white men ostensibly supporting the working American, when in fact they’re rushing to strip these Americans of their healthcare, good public schools, and so on.

However, in the wake of Trump there has been such a huge resistance movement, and this movement requires independent thinking and creativity. People are questioning the president’s rhetoric, digging into his false claims, writing postcards, calling their representative, protesting, and more. The discourse, it seems to me, is alive and well, and we are fighting against the stale and meaningless language of our nefarious ‘populist’ leader.

How can we separate genuine concerns (about terrorism, for example) from humanitarian issues like the refugee crisis?

It seems to me that we don’t need to separate them. One way to fight against terrorism is to accept refugees from war-torn countries so that they and their families can live and prosper in a safe and inclusive America.

Andrea Jones is a British journalist and author. Her novel Offshore is available on Amazon from April 24th. Read, review, and #resist.

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