Thoughts on Writing Novels in the Trump Era

In the summer of 2015, after the publication of my debut novel, A Decent Woman, a comment on a writing blog got my attention. It encouraged writers to focus on writing and marketing their books and refrain from sharing strong opinions and political views on social media platforms. The reasoning? So as to not alienate readers and potential readers; in essence, to limit their opinions and dialogue to discussions with friends and family. Good to know, I thought. The advice made sense to me at the time–nothing can turn a lovely dinner party into a school food fight quicker than heated debates about religion, politics, or other family members–but what about that business of writers potentially courting disaster with future book sales and alienating readers by speaking out on public forums? Was there any truth to that? I tucked that nugget away.

I kept my focus on learning the ropes of marketing a book. Little did I know marketing my novel would turn into an intense year of written interviews, podcast interviews, writing blog posts, participating in book fairs, and encouraging readers to post book reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble. That same year, I set up an author page on Facebook, opened a Goodreads author page and set up a Twitter account–lots of moving parts in addition to keeping up with a writing blog, interviewing fellow authors, and paying attention to my author website! And of course, I was thinking about writing a second book. A brief text exchange with my friend Wayne sparked an idea and I ran with it.

In early 2016, I began the preliminary research for my second book, as yet untitled. On June 16, 2016, Donald Trump officially announced his plan to seek the presidency. I started writing The Laments of Sister Maria Immaculada, now titled, The Laments of Forgotten Souls. From June to November October 2016, I watched the presidential campaign/sideshow on my laptop (I haven’t had cable TV since 2011). I kept writing and diligently researching the lives of nuns in 1927 Puerto Rico, the history of Old San Juan, and the little known (to me) islet of Isla de Cabras, five miles off the coast of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the ruins of a Spanish-built leprosarium remain. I kept writing and became increasingly distracted by politics. How could anyone possibly avoid it? I began to think about a writing retreat, away from home where I was buying the Washington Post on a daily basis and New York Times, when I could find a copy in my adopted West Virginia town.

In January 2017, I licked my wounds along with millions of Americans and participated in the now-historic Women’s March in Washington, DC. The political attacks and distractions from the White House began immediately and were unrelenting. I kept up with Rachel Maddow’s informative and timely blog posts for political analysis and information and watched MSNBC videos on Youtube. I learned a lot from Maddow, and for the first time in my life, I knew the names of all the key players in Washington, DC and their positions. I was paying attention. It also occurred to me how much my antagonist reminded me of Trump. A light bulb moment. What a strange and interesting twist. I zoomed in on Trump’s behavior and mannerisms, the way he speaks, and what his base sees in him.

I kept up with Twitter, Facebook, and I wrote a blog post about my experience at the Women’s March, always thinking about the advice to writers I’d read the year before: keep your opinions off social media. But how? I mused that might have been a popular opinion before the last Presidential election campaign. Before Trump became President. Before the march in Charlottesville. Before the brutal attacks on the protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Before Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the island of my birth, and Trump callously threw paper towel rolls at Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico after the hurricane. Before 20 shootings took place on American school campuses. Before Trump brought us to the brink of nuclear war by antagonizing Kim Jong-un. Before Trump ordered the barbaric directive to separate children from their asylum-seeking parents at US borders. Before our planet was threatened by Trump directives and decisions. Before, before, before. I’ve left out dozens and dozens of events, I know. My apologies, this is what immediately comes to mind as I write this blog post. Fill in the blanks, please.

The attacks from the Trump White House seemed endless, unrelenting, and more cruel with each passing day. Then I remembered–our country, Americans, have suffered and endured cruel directives that go back to the founding fathers. Our history is full of racism, white privilege, misogyny, bad decisions, and crazy makers. Had we learned anything? Apparently not. I was reminded of the old French saying, “The more things changes, the more they stay the same.” But I was changing–as a woman, as a proud Puerto Rican, and as an American who’d lived overseas for over 25 years. As a novelist, I was wide awake. History was repeating itself before my very eyes and I was outraged.

You see, before January 2017, I’d never marched in protest, never held a placard, and had never called my elected officials. I had voted, of course, and in my previous jobs as a refugee caseworker, Spanish language Family Support Worker, and as a counselor working in Brussels, Belgium, I’d worked with and tried my best to assist and support those less fortunate in my community. To walk hand in hand with those who were hurting and needed help—that came easily to me. I was a mom. But to be a vocal activist? To be outraged and shocked enough to say what I felt in a public forum, on social media? That didn’t come easy. I was raised to be polite, fair, and to be diplomatic, whenever possible. But I found it increasingly difficult to remain silent. I kept writing and in my continuing research, I kept digging deeper into the dark corners of religion, faith, and humanity. World events were certainly changing my work in progress. How could the story not be affected? How could I remain unchanged? As I saw it, it was imperative to remain informed, but to also strike a balance–I needed to turn away from the news in the evening and force myself to remain in my writing chair. I was losing discipline and valuable time, but with each new event in the US and abroad, I gleaned valuable research material. I felt like a literary vampire.

What I came to understand was that in many ways, art and the making of art and literature is a political act.

Among the early reviews of my first published novel, A Decent Woman, two respected writer friends called my first novel a political statement, a feminist novel. After my initial surprise and feeling so grateful for their generous book reviews, I realized the two men were absolutely correct. In the early stages of writing A Decent Woman, (and in my newbie writing mind), I’d simply set about to tell a story about the lives of women in 1900 Puerto Rico. Then I remembered. Just before the manuscript went in for the final edits, I came across documents and a book about the rounding up of prostitutes in Ponce, Puerto Rico (the setting of the novel) and about the forced sterilization of thousands of Puerto Rican women by the US government. The book had to change. I had to change. It was necessary to grow a thicker skin in the public arena and speak my truths, instead of opting to remain in the shallow end of the pool. So I wrote that book.

Interestingly enough, the same thing is happening with my second book, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, which explores faith, religion, and the Catholic Church in 1927 Puerto Rico, with all its’ ugliness and scandals, community works and good intentions. Once again, I’ve had to dig deep, record history, and speak my truths as I discover them in my research and from my memory. I’m still reading several online newspapers and calling my elected officials. I buy newspapers and still watch Rachel Maddow during the day. I write at night like I always did, with less fear than before. The balancing act of being ‘woke’ and finishing this book is easier these days; I’m not as reactive to the news. I use it all.

In the telling of a story, writers stand, exposed and raw, for all to see. So be it.

Will President Trump and this White House stop the unrelenting attacks on Americans, on the poor and the marginalized, on our democracy? Will Trump be impeached? All that remains to be seen. We have no choice but to soldier on, persist, and resist when the need arises. And as writers, we must keep writing. Lord knows there’s a plethora of material out there for novelists these days.

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

 

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Puerto Rico: It’s Better Than Nothing?

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My two cents today:

From what I’ve read and heard, officials on the island, mayors in PR, first responders, members of the National Guard and the US military, and FEMA employees on the ground, were frustrated, anxiously waiting for word to act and mobilize, while having to follow protocol, use proper channels, wait for the perfect organizational chart, a memo, an email, a call from higher-ups in Washington, and for marching orders to trickle down.

Make no mistake, the White House, the administration, DOD, the generals, FEMA, all knew what was coming at Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Caribbean with Hurricane Maria, and what had already happened with Irma. They knew, yet inexplicably dragged their feet.

I respect and I’m grateful for everyone involved in assisting Puerto Rico and the USVI in the aftermath of this catastrophic natural disaster. Someone described Maria as an atomic bomb. I also respect those in the military in the US, who’ve been working behind the scenes in the relief effort. They know it’s important work, and I know their families are proud of the efforts their loved ones are making on behalf of Puerto Rico. My Dad, a thirty year veteran of the US Army, even my ex-husband and his brother, each 27-year Army veterans and West Point graduates, all veterans of the Vietnam War, would say, “It’s part of our job; it’s what we are paid to do.”

We cannot ignore that the preliminary relief effort in Puerto Rico was a debacle and worse yet, that Trump looked the other way. Yes, the Jones Act is waived for ten days, and that will be incredibly helpful, but ten days clearly isn’t enough time to put things right in Puerto Rico and in the USVI. You only have to look at the NASA video of the Caribbean islands to know, ten days won’t be enough time. There are still ongoing rescues, containers of supplies sitting in ports, men, women, and children are still without power, potable water, and food. Many of us still haven’t heard from our loved ones and friends in Puerto Rico.

The military is capable of mobilizing hundreds of thousands of soldiers, equipment, supplies, communication equipment, to the other side of the world to set up bases. I’m praying that same decisive action and extraordinary capability is now used in the Caribbean.

Many friends responded to my dismay that the Jones Act waiver is only for ten days with, “It’s better than nothing”. To that I say, I understand what you’re saying, but Puerto Rico has been hearing those words and sentiments for decades, as they were forced to put bandage upon bandage on a crumbling infrastructure and economy with little help or relief from Washington. No, it’s not enough. Not nearly enough.

We must strike now while the iron is hot–continue to bring relief to the islands, attention to the Caribbean, and it’s high time to abolish the Jones Act.

Yes, we can do better in every single way. Thank you.   #PRstrong#PuertoRico

 

ABOUT ELEANOR:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

 

 

 

Hurricane Maria: Jangled Nerves and Prayers

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My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean islands, and with Mexico. This afternoon, I’m thinking of the people of the small Caribbean islands, who are currently suffering the devastating effects from Hurricane Irma, and who face the real possibility of more devastation with Hurricane Maria. It’s unthinkable, yet a reality. I wonder if Barbuda will ever recover and if Barbudans will return to their beloved island. I worry for the people of Dominica, Tortola, the British and US Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, and Guadalupe. And of course, I am beside myself with worry for my family and friends in Puerto Rico.

I know the resiliency and courage of the people of the Caribbean, but Hurricane Maria is a beast. I’m grateful to the countries helping in the recovery and rebuilding efforts throughout the islands, and I’m especially proud of my fellow Puerto Ricans for welcoming and assisting our Caribbean brothers and sisters to our island–Puerto Rico is truly a beautiful port in a storm for many. And what a storm is coming tonight and tomorrow morning.

On Monday, I spoke with my family members and friends in Puerto Rico. My aunt and cousins in Ponce and San Juan assured me their homes are physically prepared to “welcome” Maria. Well, as prepared as you can be with a Category 5 hurricane coming toward you. Emotionally? I’m not entirely sure, but I know their nerves are jangled at this time and stress is high. Our family members in the United States join me in praying and hoping against hope that Hurricane Maria goes far north of Puerto Rico and doesn’t make landfall on any Caribbean islands. That seems implausible with all the hurricane models and weather reports I’ve seen, but nonetheless, that is my prayer.

All the unknowns of a hurricane make this event very frightening. Like millions of others, I’m finding it difficult to concentrate with so much happening around the world with other hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods. So, the candles are lit and I will pray–that’s what I can do today. Be present, be still, and pray for my family, my beloved island, and for mankind.

ABOUT ELEANOR:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman, available in paperback and ebook format:  http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK


Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

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My Thoughts After The Women’s March on Washington

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Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Mission and Vision 

“We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

Shared from The Women’s March on Washington website.

My experience of standing shoulder to shoulder and marching with thousands of women, men, and children at the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, January 21, 2017, was one of peace, inclusivity, unity, and respect. I am grateful to the women who marched with us in 600 sister marches in their respective countries, and I’m very grateful to the organizers and co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington, who worked hard to organize what turned out to be a massive, historic event.

The short speeches made by six-year-old immigrant rights activist, Sophie Cruz (who won my heart), America Ferrara, Amanda Nguyen, Scarlett Johansson, Angela Davis, Cynthia Hale, Rabbi Sharon Brous, Gloria Steinem, LaDonna Harris, each of the co-chairs of the March, and Ashley Judd reciting a poem written by 19-year-old Nina Donovan from Tennessee, and many others, left me feeling represented at the March—as a Latina, as a mother, as a sister, and as a woman. As a mother, my heart broke for the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, and Jordan Davis. The mothers and their sons were rightly remembered that day.

I took away nuggets of wisdom from all the speeches, heard the truth of each speaker, and felt fortunate to be part of a march that demanded unity and respect for ALL. My group left just before Madonna came on stage, so I can’t speak to her message.

What I can say is that women and men, from across the United States and Canada, carried signs with deeply personal messages on a wide range of issues. The signs around me included messages about the LGBTQ community, the Black Lives Matter movement, women’s rights, human rights, domestic violence, immigration, the environment, education, Pro-choice, Pro-life, keeping our young women safe on college campuses, unity, and respect, among many messages against Trump and his decisions. And no, not every woman at the March was pro-choice as I’ve read recently. I saw plenty of women carrying pro-life signs standing next to plenty of women carrying pro-choice signs. So to me, it is incorrect to say or assume that it was a women’s pro-choice march as it has been described; it was much more. I never thought it was a case of “us” versus “them” that day; not at all. That’s not how I choose to live, and it pains me that many women and men are painting the March in that divisive light. Maybe you had to be there?

We were single and married women, mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, activists, members of the clergy, members of every denomination, faith, belief, and then some, standing together with our children, partners, and friends. The march wasn’t a dangerous, violent, hate-filled event, where you, your beliefs or your children were in danger of being trampled and hurt like I’ve read this week. I didn’t witness animosity or shaming of women by women; everyone simply spoke from their hearts as women do on matters that are important to them. Instead, it was a peaceful, rowdy, wonderful march with lots of respect, kindness, humor, and comradery among the marchers. I experienced patience, polite and kind behavior, and good humor, which was incredible, given the huge number of marchers, the long hours of standing, and the frustrating lack of large screens and microphones for thousands of our fellow marchers who weren’t close enough to the stage to see or hear. But who could have predicted the massive turnout?

I know women multi-task like nobody’s business, but on that day, we were physically limited to carrying one large sign, or two small signs as some did. I felt we were more than the signs we carried that day, as I would venture to say most women who participated (myself included), hold many, many issues close to our hearts. It was heartening to see the different messages around me; many that expressed my own feelings. I wished I’d had ten hands for ten different issues!

To say the Women’s March wasn’t focused, organized, or inclusive doesn’t describe the March I experienced—women have big hearts and we hold many issues close to our big hearts, and thank God for women—ALL women. Are we perfect? Will we always get it right? Will we always agree? No, and there is still plenty of work to do for future generations, and lots to learn.

Obviously, I can’t know if the March was a wonderful experience for all the marchers, but I pray it was. If it was less than a positive day for you, I’d certainly like to know how we can do better. I was proud to march with women for women’s rights, for respect, compassion, and for unity in this country. I certainly marched for the rights of my sisters, neighbors, and for children around the world—refugees most definitely included.

‘Respect my existence or expect my resistance’ was the message I chose to bring to the Women’s March. I wrote the message on my poster board in English and in Spanish. That message still resonates with me and my heart as I believe it includes the rights of all men, women, and children in this country and the world. I took home a lot more understanding of the human experience, and how we all do the best with what we’ve been dealt with in life. I am grateful for the eye-opening experience.

Thank you to the thousands of women who couldn’t march with us and who took the time to knit and donate the pink pussy hats most of us wore with pride on that historic day.

Lastly and most important of all: you may not like or agree that women marched and protested on Washington as is our right. You may not like or agree with the many messages women brought to the March, but please know women marched for YOU, too. And we will keep marching for you because we that’s important. Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.

For a list of speakers and performers at The Women’s March on Washington:

https://qz.com/891175/the-full-lineup-of-the-many-many-speakers-and-performers-at-the-womens-march-on-washington/

About Eleanor: 

ellie

Former counselor and family support worker for immigrant and refugee families, Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month selection by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.


Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

David Bowie: Pushing Creative Boundaries Into The Cosmos

I discovered the untimely death of legendary artist and musician, David Bowie, from my son’s Facebook post. My son simply wrote, ‘BOWIE’, and included one of his favorite Bowie songs. We were deeply saddened by the loss of one of the most talented, multi-faceted music greats. I remember feeling shock and then a combination of pride and relief that I’d introduced my children to Bowie’s music when they were young teens. I love that my adult children join me in continuing to listen to his songs and will continue to appreciate his genius for years to come.

Yesterday I spent the day scouring the Internet and reading hundreds of heartfelt social media tributes to the cultural icon and fine art lover, and with each beautiful message, my heart felt more and more constricted. I felt like crying but I didn’t, which is when I know the hurt runs deep. More than once in my life, I’ve experienced delayed emotional grief and numbness when tragedy struck. Yesterday was one such day.

Today the tears flowed as I listened to Bowie’s songs, and I realized my tears were more than profound sadness for his untimely death. The further back I went into my memory bank with Bowie’s music and my youth, the more I realized I was nostalgic and mourning him and days gone by. My youth. His inspiration. Our huge loss. And that it was okay to be a misfit, an original, because David Bowie was in our lives. He’d paved the way. We are so very fortunate to have lived on planet Earth with such an incredible creative being.

I will miss you forever, David Bowie. Thank you for decades of inspiration and for showing me how to push artistic boundaries in the world, out into the cosmos, and beyond. Rest in peace, Starman.

Terry O’Neill, David Bowie – Scissors, 1974 (1974).
Photo: Artnet.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvLnPO9t4Wg

About Eleanor

ellie

Puerto Rican novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her stories.

‘A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’. Book clubs across the United States continue to enjoy A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society, and she is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor is the mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel and a collection of short stories.

http://amzn.to/1kzKdGq

 

Thoughts On Travel and Amsterdam

Eleanor Roosevelt quote

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

November 27, 2015

A mid-November telephone call from my son yielded a huge surprise: he’d booked an airline ticket for me and one for my daughter, who would join us in Amsterdam on Thanksgiving Day. I’d last visited Europe in 2013 with a two-week visit to Vienna, Austria with my best friend. I was anxious to pack my bags, and return to the continent where I’d spent thirteen years with my children, and to Amsterdam, where my son currently lives.

As my departure date approached, the excitement of seeing my son after six months was close to deliriously happy, but there was huge glitch: my son hadn’t known that my daughter’s passport had expired and although she’d applied for a renewed passport, it was possible it wouldn’t arrive in time for her departure…not good.

Days later, a Russian airliner was blown out of the sky, and shortly afterward, Paris was brutally attacked. Like most everyone I know, I was glued to the horrifying news and subsequent updates. Frantic, we contacted my son, hoping he hadn’t traveled to Paris during the attacks. He was home in Amsterdam. For days, we watched news broadcasts and breaking news, worried for all the victims and their families. We asked my son about Dutch television coverage, and what his Dutch friends were saying. He replied that from what he’d heard, Holland had done a good job integrating Muslims into society, and that ISIS probably didn’t have a beef with the very tolerant country. I was convinced and satisfied, but my daughter wasn’t as convinced.

When her passport didn’t arrive on my departure date (we were on separate flights, different airlines), we spoke about Plan B: rescheduling her ticket to the following weekend since I would still be in country. But it was a big gamble on top of the $400 fee to change the date on an already high cost ticket seemed too steep. After long talks, my daughter’s ticket was cancelled, which was a damn shame, but we knew my daughter was dreading the flight in light of bombings in Syria, Mali, Paris, and worldwide threats that week. No judgement on our part for her cancelling her ticket despite feeling badly about not spending Thanksgiving as a family in Amsterdam. I know she felt worse than we did about our first holiday apart. We would miss my daughter, and thankful she would spend the holiday with my sister and her family as we’d done since 2007 when we returned from Europe.

On my departure date, I won’t lie, I was scared spitless about the prospect of hanging around the Dulles Airport, waiting for my flight, and even more frightened of take off and landing in Frankfurt, and then again to Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. I said my prayers, wrote out my will–yes a will–and handed it to my sister as she parked at the Metro for me to start my journey to Dulles Airport. It was a hand-written will because my printer had conked out, and like I told my sister, “It’s better than nothing!’.

Well, going through security at Dulles is always challenge, and it was no different when I went through, and flying Lufthansa is always a dream. I sat with a British university student, a lovely Tunisian mother and her four children seated behind us, and a Sikh with blue eyes. A global aisle–beautiful.

All three airports were packed with passengers rushing to their flights and greeting their loved ones after collecting their baggage. Everything seemed ‘normal’ during my flights and when I saw my son after six months, my fear and anxiety disappeared. He was a sight for sore eyes and I know my trip meant a lot to him. I patted myself on the back for overcoming my own fear of flying and traveling during this troubling time, and I smiled inside: no way in hell anyone is keeping this mother from seeing her kids!

Amsterdam, always one of my favorite European cities, was much like I’d left it–a crowded, rush-rush, bicycle-crazy, a gorgeous canal city with friendly people, too much fried food, great beers and cheeses, loud tourists, and pungent-smelling coffee shops. Sipping a cappuccino at a charming outdoor cafe after our market run for the ingredients of our Thanksgiving meal, I smiled and turned my face to the sun. Pure bliss.

To date, my daughter’s passport has yet to arrive. That’s life. She even paid extra to expedite the passport; it just didn’t happen for us. Only God knows why. As for me, I can now picture my son’s new life in Amsterdam. In future emails when he says he went to the movies, I know where that theater is. I know which market he likes, and which market stand carries his favorite thing to order in a bakery–Ollieballen with powdered sugar. I’m happy I mustered all the necessary courage to fly. Will I muster the courage to travel to Brussels to visit with long-time friends and to visit Paris before I fly home, which I planned to do? No idea yet…

but for today, I thank lovely, peaceful, charming Amsterdam. Thank you for not changing too much since my last visit, and for offering us a safe place during a turbulent time.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving weekend.

Blessings.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

 

elliePuerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s best selling debut historical novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Book club members across the United States have enjoyed the story, as well. Eleanor is featured in the newly published anthology, Latino Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is the mother of two awesome adult children and she currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

 

Shaming, Anger, and Intolerance: Don’t Give In

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Deplorable, outrageous, shocking, disgusting, inhumane, shameful, terrifying, arrogant, insane, pathetic, pathological, and deeply disturbing.

These are some of the words used by people around the world on social media this past weekend to describe the Paris attacks and the ISIS attackers. I would venture to say most of us would agree many are fitting words to describe the senseless and barbaric killing of innocent men, women, and children in Paris, the City of Light. Other words fit the atrocities committed against innocent men, women, and children in Beirut, Kenya, New York, Boston, Cambodia, Russia, and many countries around the world, from past to recent times.

I expected to see the words listed in the first sentence of this blog post used in describing the attack and the loss of life on November 14, 2015. I expected people would disagree with any number of things that happened or didn’t happen this past weekend according to how they would have handled the situation if they ruled the world, according to their political leaning. But I did not expect and was disheartened by after reading the same words directed at people who’d changed their Facebook images to the colors of the French flag in a show of support for the French people after the attacks. I couldn’t fathom people were offended by a showing of compassion, empathy, and solidarity for people who share the same planet, and who supported the United States after 9/11. Not to mention that it seems everyone who isn’t signed up for ISIS is an infidel—the French people, in addition to me, and most probably, you.

Upon learning about the Paris attacks, I immediately changed my Facebook profile photo to a ‘Pray for Paris’ image. I lived in France several times in my life, and worked in Lourdes, France for many years, and praying centers me during difficult times. I changed my profile photo to show my solidarity, just as I’ve done to show my support for gay rights, women’s rights, against human trafficking, and when hundreds of innocent Nigerian school girls were kidnapped, raped, and tortured by Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group based in Nigeria.

I agreed with French President Hollande’s decision to declare a three-day mourning period for the victims and their loved ones. Out of respect for the victims, their families and friends, and for my French friends living in France, I decided to stay off social media as much as possible on the second and third days following the attack. I don’t know about you, but most everything I did last weekend seemed a bit trivial in light of the deaths and destruction in Paris, and like most of us, I remained glued to online breaking news out of Europe.

Tonight I caught up on social media, and I was greatly saddened by many displays of humanity against humanity on Facebook and Twitter. There were vicious attacks on those supporting (or not) the acceptance of Syrian refugees into their communities, and slams on people agreeing or disagreeing with France and the United States’ decision to bomb the Daesh, as some described it, as ‘back to the Stone Age’. There was finger pointing and lashing out, racial slurs and spewing of hatred in reaction to what President Obama was doing right or wrong, the NRA, the US military, the pacifists, ‘war mongers’, Christians, Muslims, and people accusing others of acting like sheep—for following the herd and jumping on the bandwagon of support for France, who they claim ‘probably deserved it.’ Global warming even made an appearance today in an argument that it is still BS and a figment of our imagination.

Among the pleas calling for people to remain calm, focused, and to come together as one, which I agree with, a woman posted a photograph of the Oklahoma bomber, reminding her Facebook friends that the US was the target of much bloodshed and tragedy at the hands of an American madman on American soil–leave Paris to the French. A man posted a photo taken on 9/11 and raged against Muslims, wanting each and every Muslim DEAD. Yes, he’d typed ‘dead’ in all caps. An outraged woman replied to the Oklahoma post by replying, ‘How dare you attack Americans and Christians now. DEPLORABLE.’ Soon, I lost track of who said what about what, and turned my laptop off. I kept murmuring, ‘But not all Muslims are terrorists.’

The reactions to the tri-color Facebook profile photos and the eye-opening outbursts of many today reminded me that when we are frightened, stressed, pushed to our emotional and mental limits; when we’ve experienced similar situations of trauma at home and abroad; or when we are outraged and feel impotent to help others and ourselves, many of us will lash out. We might begin pointing fingers, drawing into ourselves, or many of us will show our true colors by shaming and ridiculing others. I am reminded that the definitions of passion are varied and complicated:

passion: the emotions as distinguished from reason

b :  intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction

c :  an outbreak of anger

a :  ardent affection :  love

b :  a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept

Of course I am filtering what I perceive as negative comments through my life experiences, which are undoubtedly different from the opinions of the woman standing next to me at Walmart or the views of the man on the treadmill beside me at the gym. I get that; we all do that, but please remember…

We ALL share the same fears and concern for our families, friends, and communities, at home and abroad. And with every attack by ISIS, we are shown the frightening agenda for their version of the End of Times, the Apocalypse, which they have shown they will die for. We are the target. We, as in all of us who are not members of ISIS. Threats against our country understandably make us edgy and afraid, which often breeds suspicion, anger, and intolerance. I say, don’t give in. But I do have questions…

I pray what I saw online tonight was us finding ourselves under extreme conditions of fear, insecurity, and duress over the attacks, not because we have hatred in our hearts. Yes, I’m outraged by the Paris attacks. I’m worried, as well. As a woman and mother, I worry for Syrian women, mothers and their children as they try to escape and find asylum. I worry for my children, living in the US and abroad, about the world they will inherit, and I am deeply saddened for those who were massacred in Paris and for their families from many nations who are burying their loved ones this week.

I hesitated in sharing this blog post, and can only hope you take it in the same vein in which it is offered, as my two cents–I’m trying to reign in my fear just as you are. I’m trying to understand and learn. I don’t have the answers, but I’m searching. However, I believe that if we turn to hate and rip away from each other, at the very seam of the fabric of our society, and fight amongst ourselves, instead of being tolerant and trying to understand each other at home and abroad, and more importantly, remaining focused on the bigger picture—creating a peaceful world for our children—it will unravel, and I fear we could be playing right into the enemy’s hands. I sure as hell hope not.

God bless us all.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

 

elliePuerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family  support worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut historical novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club, and book clubs across the United States have enjoyed the book. She is featured in the newly published anthology, Latino Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.