September 8, 2009

Morals & Responsibility

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a blog talk radio host just hours before we were due to go live. The host, afraid to upset the show’s listeners, wanted to change topics from talking (with a book club) about Homefront’s story and characters  to talking about publishing and writing, in general, because there was concern the readers of the book, and listeners of the show, would get upset.

Marriages are going through tough times with all of these deployments, and a relationship in Homefront had made some of them unhappy.

I was told my book had, among a certain group, become controversial due to some raw emotions.

It’s not surprising military marriages are going through some difficulty. A relationship can be hard to maintain a)when you’re never together b) when  your time is unexpectedly cut short when you are finally together

and c) your relationship goes from a year of heightened anxiety to time together spent trying to get to know who you’ve each become during the most recent absence. Never mind that a lot of marriages have a hard time during the first year, as it is, and many people marry just prior to deployment should anything happen (and because it can be romantic). A deployment can put stress on strong marriages; imagine what it does to the new ones. Or the already weakening ones.

The email from the radio host about the reactions of some milspouses might explain why, on Kindle, Homefront is #2 in the category “Morals & Responsibility” (and was recently #1 in “Feelings & Emotions”).

I was surprised by the Morals & Responsibility category, because I immediately went to my positive place. “Homefront? An example of good morals and responsibility? I guess that could happen. I mean, the subjectivity of morals and the various ways in which we take personal responsibility leaves room for all kinds of interpretations. It is a gray area, after all, and…”

But after remembering the above email, I realized, “Ohhhh…it’s just IN the category. The way the story ‘Harrison Bergeron’ might be categorized under ‘Utopia’.”

One of the relationships in Homefront could certainly be considered “immoral” if looked at from a black-and-white perspective. “This is right. That is wrong. No matter what.”

But I don’t believe in “no matter what.” There are certainly obvious rights and wrongs, but there is also context. Circumstance. Human nature.  Contributing elements, factors, and forces.

I wrote back, in part:

The story is meant to shed light on the very real difficulty of deployments, and forgetting that to avoid unpleasantness is kind of like sweeping all of it away. It’s not pleasant, period – there’s no reason to pretend otherwise.

It was an opportunity to let them vent, if they wanted to. I was more than happy to be their target. They had things to say and it felt cowardly to not give them the chance to do it to the person whose book was upsetting them.

It would also have meant being able to explain that that particular relationship portrayed in Homefront very intentionally upset them (if you will) because that’s a reality. That stuff happens. Only, rather than approaching it in a sensationalist way, it’s approached in a way that does its best to explain how things like that can happen. (This is not a primary story line in Homefront, but a sub-plot.)

How are people with no knowledge of deployments going to know how it affects people without knowing how it really affects people?

It’s not all yellow ribbons and cookies.

There is a lot of strength, passion, perseverance, love, loyalty, elation, and dedication to be found in couples going through deployments.

There is also a lot of confusion, jealousy, conflict, anxiety, tension, impatience, anger, frustration, and restlessness.

Homefront covers the former. It would have been the height of irresponsibility to ignore the latter.

In the end, we did discuss the book and the characters and the story–mostly. The questionable relationship was avoided as if it hadn’t been written.

And, honestly, these women have so much going on already that if avoiding that relationship during the show meant NOT riling them up and, instead, just having a pleasant discussion about Homefront‘s other elements – unlikely friendships, troublesome mother in-law types – maybe it was for the best.

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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. I can understand why they wouldn’t want their phonelines jammed with enraged military women. At the same time, I think a well prepared statement on what its about might have been helpful or even healing for some of these women.

    Just a thought. I haven’t read the book, so I’m just going off of your description.

    Reply
  2. I’ve only read about 40 pages of “Homefront” so far, but it impresses me — someone who lives now in the same Navy community in which I was raised — as being absolutely authentic. Which is not a highly prized quality in military communities, in my observation. For generations, they’ve been conditioned to value appearances over reality, uniformity over human disorder, to wallpaper over fears and worries and weaknesses in the interest of an ill-defined greater good. And if all other peer pressures fail, there’s always the trump card: “Shut up or you’ll harm your husband’s career.” Apparently saying that is the moral and responsible thing to do.

    Reply

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About Kris Tsetsi

Kristen J. Tsetsi is the author of the novels "Pretty Much True..." and "The Year of Dan Palace" and the short fiction collection "20 Short Stories," all published under the name Chris Jane. Website: http://kristenjtsetsi.com

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