Doing It For The Kids

Since the US elections, living in the People’s Republic of Berkeley and working for a Human Rights organization, life feels very intense. Conversations are heavy and the TV follows Rachel Maddow and her colleagues. This is not lost on my teenager kids and their friends.

It has been a tough political coming-of-age as my sons avidly watched the primaries, election and inauguration, seeing the emergence of a political entity that is the opposite of the values we have shared with them. They have friends who are people of color, female, and LGBT.

I told a friend that I am considering leaving the epic fantasy world and returning to social justice-themed novels such as The Accidental Activist and Unwanted Heroes, which I wrote a decade ago. One is about the abuse perpetrated by multinational corporations and the other about war veterans and their struggle. I have another completed draft that is gathering dust about gay rights. Her response surprised me.

She said that young people deserve the escape route that my books offer, that I sending powerful messages about the value of friendship, the abuse and responsibility of leadership, and about racism and tolerance.

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I am driven to share my values and beliefs with my children and their friends. Working with millennials for almost a decade, I felt privileged to have the opportunity to be a role model and challenge students to questions their values and those around them. For years after Hurricane Katrina, I took students to New Orleans, not just to help rebuild, but to bear witness to the stories of those who were racially discriminated against.

But my children, and many young readers of the Wycaan Master series, deserve an opportunity to grow up and enjoy their childhood, teenage and college years. I am not suggesting they should be oblivious to, or shielded from, what is happening. But they need outlets to balance this.

Opening a book, getting invested in a series, can be memorable and powerful experience. It offers readers of all ages, a chance to soar to a different land, to make friends and cheer on characters who take risks and face great challenges, a chance to dream.

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It is not just the children and young adults. I should not feel bad that I spend a portion of my time watching sport and reading fiction myself. We all need to become involved and aware – this is the greatest lesson from this election cycle and an imperative going forward – but we all need to seek balance in our lives.

So, as you look at your schedule for the coming week, why not reserve time for a hot bath, a glass of wine, and a good novel?

Alon @elfwriter.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books. The link above takes you to the Kindle versions. For all other eReaders, please click here

More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

An Unexpected Journey

This weekend, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey comes out. If you are reading this blog, you have probably been counting down along with the Mayans. I haven’t seen the movie yet, so there are no spoilers, but I am incredibly excited. I can’t wait to see it and have no doubt that I will love it, buy the DVD, change my computer’s wall paper and take my kids to eat breakfast at Denny’s…again!

imgres-2But there is something else that has me so stoked for this movie stands on the threshold of something historic: it is the induction of the next generation of epic fantasy readers. Just as Lord of the Rings ignited my generation’s interest, and Christopher Paolini’s Eragon sentenced my own children to a lifetime of reading and vivid imagination, The Hobbit will take a new, unsuspecting generation on an unexpected journey.

My own journey has been somewhat unexpected. Having written a series of well-received social justice-themed novels, I have been introduced to people who are passionate to see and work for a better world. I treasure the opportunities to meet readers at book signings and author meet ups.

DSCN1387As we approached the launch of At The Walls Of Galbrieth, I sought to define my target audience and had a big surprise. To begin with, there were the 100+ who filled out my survey ­– thank you all – and I began to discover a group of passionate and richly imaginative readership.

But here is what excites me. I am meeting a large number of students and teenagers who are die-hard readers of epic fantasy. They eloquently share their love for the creation of a new world, their desire to see everyday folk transform into heroes, and to believe in universal principles such as freedom, good over evil, and the value of friendship.

My social justice-themed novels all contain a common thread: an everyday person goes through a transformational experience which empowers them to pursue justice. Swap the multinational corporation for an evil Emperor, replace the use of social protest with a special bow and arrow, and we have similar themes.

My point is that epic fantasy creeps up on you. This weekend many ingenuous children, teenagers, and parents, are going to see a hyped-up movie and experience a transformation. They may not start yielding a sword and slaying dragons, but they just might embark on an unexpected journey of reading and enter into a world that drives our imagination and defines our social values…

All because in the words of a great wizard: “Hobbits really are amazing creatures.”

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Alon Shalev is the author of At The Walls of Galbrieth, Book 1 of The Wyccan Master series, which reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, released by Tourmaline Books. The First Decree, the sequel is due out in early 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).