Author Daniel José Older Schools His Fellow Writers

Last week, a host of top-tier writers (including Stephen King, Amy Tan, Colm Toibin, Dave Eggers, and Jennifer Egan) did what writers have done throughout history when confronted with grim political moments and movements: they showed solidarity in penning a missive meant to shame and call out a rogue in power. Using the literary site Lit Hub to host their “Open Letter to the American People,” the Writers Against Trump collective wrote:

 Because, as writers, we are particularly aware of the many ways that language can be abused in the name of power;

Because we believe that any democracy worthy of the name rests on pluralism, welcomes principled disagreement, and achieves consensus through reasoned debate;

Because American history, despite periods of nativism and bigotry, has from the first been a grand experiment in bringing people of different backgrounds together, not pitting them against one another;

Because the history of dictatorship is the history of manipulation and division, demagoguery and lies;

Because the search for justice is predicated on a respect for the truth;

Because we believe that knowledge, experience, flexibility, and historical awareness are indispensable in a leader;

Because neither wealth nor celebrity qualifies anyone to speak for the United States, to lead its military, to maintain its alliances, or to represent its people;

Because the rise of a political candidate who deliberately appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society, who encourages aggression among his followers, shouts down opponents, intimidates dissenters, and denigrates women and minorities, demands, from each of us, an immediate and forceful response;

For all these reasons, we, the undersigned, as a matter of conscience, oppose, unequivocally, the candidacy of Donald J. Trump for the Presidency of the United States.

Daniel José Older

Daniel José Older

Daniel José Older, author of the Bone Street Rumba fantasy series, and the excellent YA novel Shadowshaper, took to Twitter shortly after the letter was posted to express his support for the basic sentiment, but dismay at the eliding/sugarcoating of American history in the clause below:

 Because American history, despite periods of nativism and bigotry, has from the first been a grand experiment in bringing people of different backgrounds together, not pitting them against one another;

 Older has just released an essay on the Electric Lit site that builds on his Tweets. Excerpts from his op-ed include:

 Because this line, “American history, despite periods of nativism and bigotry, has from the first been a grand experiment in bringing people of different backgrounds together, not pitting them against one another,” from the Writers Against Trump statement is not only empirically false, it’s a continuation of the ongoing legacy of sanitized lies America has shoved down its own throat since its creation;

Because we, the people who continue to struggle in the face of that lie, and whose ancestors suffered and died from the reality that lie conceals, are fully fed the fuck up with people who claim to have our backs dishonoring our past and perpetuating that lie;

Because in an age when we still have to shut down highways to declare whose lives matter, the lie of American exceptionalism and “a grand experiment” is really a way of valuing one life, one story, one experience over another;

Read the rest of Older’s essay here, and watch below as he humorously but seriously explains why he doesn’t (and you shouldn’t) italicize Spanish or any non-English language when writing.

All images courtesy Older.