Radical Hope is a collection of essays written by a diverse group of authors after the presidential election of November 2016. Each essay is framed as a letter. These are authors that are known for writing books that explore issues of social justice, including race, incarceration, gender, religion, and ethnicity. They range from Jane Smiley, whose novels realistically analyze lives in rural America, to Parnaz Foroutan, who was born in Iran, to British novelist Hari Kunzru. The authors are all critical of the recent election and there are even references to the political turmoil experienced in our own state of North Carolina. Karen Joy Fowler writes in her letter:
“The two-party system? Only works if both parties believe in democracy. When one party applies itself vigorously to lying to the electorate, suppressing the vote, and gerrymandering the districts, there is no democracy. Elections may still be held, but there is no democracy. Just look at the mad, sad state of North Carolina”
With viewpoints toward the left, this is not a book that spans the political and ideological spectrum.
This book was published May 2, 2017, four months after the current President of the United States took office. Given the time frame, it is understandable that the essays are emotionally fraught with the shock that these particular authors felt and their immediate reactions to an election the likes of which hasn’t been seen in modern times. At the time of publication and now, some of the essays and the hope within seem almost quaint. The reader has had time to digest the reality of the election and a few months to grapple with the issues. Even so, these passionate reactionary reflections can inform, inspire, and engage the audience. With the conflicts our country and our local regions are experiencing, this book provides the opportunity to spend some time with others that have been affected in ways we may not understand. The perspectives themselves are diverse and the outlook is sometimes contradictory. There are no easy answers provided to approach what is described as “dangerous times”. But the hope is infused throughout and as author Jonathan Lear states:
“What makes this hope radical is that it is directed towards a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is”
It is left up to us to continue to anticipate this future goodness.
Elizabeth Lehman works in the Children’s Department at the Mebane Public Library. She can be reached at (919) 563-6431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.