Warning: This post discusses Sword and Verse and its sequel, and contains minor spoilers for the first book. Skip it if you hate that sort of thing!
They say that reading a book changes you. Writing one does too.
When Bernie Sanders first announced his candidacy, I was a big fan. Like a lot of liberals, I liked what he had to say; I liked the way he challenged the system. And though I was jazzed about the idea of a female president, I was like a lot of other people who said, “Oh, but why can’t it be Elizabeth Warren?” There was just something so hard to like about Hillary Clinton. Never mind that she is the most qualified candidate ever to run for the office. She was just hard to get excited about.
There has been a lot of ink spilled on analyzing why that’s so. She’s just not likeable, say some. She’s not a great orator or a natural politician. She stood by her man instead of leaving him. She’s dishonest. (Never mind that she’s not really.) She’s too career-oriented and not warm enough.
Just try, for a moment, to imagine that last statement being considered a valid complaint against a male candidate. And there you have the crux of it: she’s a woman, and in this country we don’t have a framework to understand a hardworking, ambitious, dedicated, flawed woman.
I’ll leave the analysis to the links; all I can tell is my story of how I came to understand more about how my own preconceptions were keeping me from supporting Hillary. For me, it all went back to her staying with her husband after his sex scandals. I felt almost betrayed as a woman to see this strong, smart woman choosing to remain in that marriage. And of course, I recognize now that being fed a steady diet of Hillary-hatred by the media didn’t help the situation.
And then I spent a year and half drafting a novel about a strong, smart, ambitious woman named Soraya Gamo. (This is the as-yet-untitled sequel – or companion novel, if you prefer – to Sword and Verse, due out in 2018.) Soraya was a fairly minor character in Sword and Verse, but the events of that book upended her life. The daughter of the wealthiest man in Qilara, Soraya was engaged to the crown prince. She knew that her father was using her to try to control the crown, but she didn’t care – all she wanted was a chance to prove her talent and intelligence, and to take the Queen’s seat on the Scholars Council. Soraya had to make some difficult choices and swallow a lot of humiliation – not least of which was her fiance’s infidelity. And in the end, she had to accept help from the last person she wanted to.
The sequel sees Soraya as a member of the new Ruling Council of Qilara, trying to work alongside her former fiancé, the woman who destroyed her life, and the Resistance leader who held her captive in a tomb. The phrase “reaching across the aisle” doesn’t even begin to cover it. How can this spoiled, privileged girl navigate a world where everything that gave her power is gone, at the same time confronting the fact that being a woman always made people judge her by a different standard? How far will she go to protect the independence she holds so dear?
I realized, after finishing the first draft, that Soraya has a great deal in common with Hillary Clinton. Both endured humiliations and persevered to get where they are. Both have accusations of “unlikeable” lobbed at them; not coincidentally, both also take deliberate stands and speak up when the men around them want them to be quiet (which seems to be all of the time). Both are hard-working and care deeply about the political process; they care more about getting it right than about being liked or getting praise. And both are willing to stay in the fight, to endure the rotten tomatoes and the stupid sexist comments because they have their eyes on a larger prize.
Both are women to admire.
So, yes, Hillary Clinton has my vote. She is not “the lesser of two evils”, as some like to say. She has fought her way through the goblins, pushed through miles of political slime. Is she perfect? Of course not. The fact that I even have to point out that no political candidate in the history of ever has been perfect just shows how ridiculous this election has become, and the ludicrous double standard that strong women are held to. Perhaps it’s ridiculous that it took writing this book for me to really understand it, but either way, #I’mWithHer.
Or, as Soraya would write it in the language of the gods: