Does Fiction Really Matter?

A guest post by Alexandra Allred

You betcha! But it wasn’t until I wrote non-fiction that I fully understood the importance of fiction. If you Google me, you’ll learn of my background in bobsled.  This is significant only in that it helped launch my writing career.  There really weren’t a whole lot of pregnant bobsledders out there competing on the World Cup.  Because of this adventure, I was introduced to a leading OB/GYN researcher who was super excited to have me in his laboratory doing all kinds of crazy plyometrics and aerobic workouts to support his thesis about elite pregnant athletes, placenta and super-babies in utero.  (Again, that’s another Google story).  But while the rest of the world was still measuring their pregnancy fitness routines against the monitored heart rate, I knew better and became the International Olympic Committee’s poster momma for inner core temperature.  (This involves a rectal thermometer and probably more information than you want on a blog about fiction…again, Google).  After I won US Nationals, I started getting phone calls from athletes around the world who wanted to know how I knew what was safe and what was not for the baby.  I wrote a book and sold about 200 copies.  Woo.  Hoo.

I did a freelance piece and eventually wrote a book about female football players.  This meant that I play for a season which then meant I had to be hit so hard that I once broke four bones and dislocated my arm, had to drive three hours in a stick-shift track and learned what real agony was.  I think we sold about 400 books. Woo.  Hoo.

I did a piece on the importance of bi-lingual education.  I think my mother read it. I did a story on how the judicial system plays into senatorial decisions. I’m sure the senators who were interviewed looked at it.  All in all, however, I don’t think my works made an impact on the world around me.

When I began speaking out, writing and blogging about air quality in hopes of saving lives, I did get to travel and meet important people but the message was never received in a big way.  Air advocates tend only to be supported by other air advocates.  Football fans read football articles, fashion conscious people read the fashion mags, animal lovers read animal stories and its big business.  It is really hard to pack a stadium with super excited air advocates or pregnant athletes or bi-lingual educators trying to change policy.  So sad.

I was reared in a very socially conscious, very political home. But when you’re a seventh grader sitting at the lunch table arguing that a communist nation can only sustain its own structure for so long before societal infractions occurs and/or that by being a communist state the education system is incomplete and therefore forever flawed, you are not looked upon by your peers as insightful or savvy.  YOU ARE A FREAK!  And you learn to stay away from politics, education and societal values unless you are writing to a small audience. That’s why being a pregnant bobsledder was so safe. 

Then, came the word “niglet” and changed everything.

I heard that word and couldn’t let it drop. I mean, seriously.  Can it really be 2013 and people are still using that word?  Can it really be 2013 and people are still judging others by their skin color or religion?  Can it honestly be 2013 and people are stroking out about a Cheerios commercial with a bi-racial couple?  Who the freak still cares about that and why?

And so the book, WHITE TRASH, was born.

Honestly, had I just written a piece on the ills of racism, who would have read it? My mom. Me … because sometimes I compulsively reread my own stuff.  But who else?  I met up with two female cops in Dallas who are named Wolfe and Fox.  No.  Really.  You can’t make that stuff up. They were almost legendary in some of their antics out in the field and in the office.  This would include the time they busted a heavyweight boxer doped up on cocaine, held the in-house Olympic Games in the police station, fleeing from snakes, wrestling a large naked woman on a waterbed who bit off her fiancé’s ear and refused to give it back, and their hatred of all black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Muslim, Indian and Jews. The only thing worse was to be a teenager.

Add to this, ignorant people who are too intolerant and ignorant to know how ignorant they really are, small town politics, a morally corrupt judicial system, fainting goats that escape on Main Street, backstabbing and gossip and you’re standing in any small town, USA.  Welcome.

As I began to write, it became therapeutic. For the first time, I was not writing to educate but I was venting. Rather than walking (or limping) away with broken bones and mildly successful stories, I landed a publishing house, got on television, and the book has received amazing reviews.  Through WHITE TRASH, I have been able to talk about racism on a level I never imagined possible.  Who knew? Fiction.

While attending the Sydney Writer’s Festival a few weeks ago, I met an Australian author, Rachael Treasure, who writes rural romance. We were chuckling over her love of soil.  As a rancher, she loves soil and says, “I could talk about soil all day!” But, she conceded, not a lot of women want to read books about soil.  But throw in a half-naked hottie on a tractor and voila! Suddenly soil can become very sexy.

What is too bad … no, wait. Scratch that.  What is a load of crap is that people write off women’s fiction as fluff, insignificant, silly. B. S. Whatever our genre – romance, fantasy, chic lit, humor, suspense/mystery, women’s fiction is amazing. Through larger-than-life characters and outrageous scenarios, our women are heroes, villains, monsters and saints.  They are strong, powerful, exciting, entertaining and nothing like the characters once depicted by predominantly male writers decade ago.

I’ll leave you with this … I was reading a book by one of my own favorite male authors.  He’s VERY popular.  In one book, a serial killer had come into a home, killed everyone but one woman.  Instead, she was beaten, raped, tortured and left with a promise from the bad guy that he would be back for her. What he didn’t know was that another woman was hiding in the house.  When the killer left – I have since forgotten why he left – she crept out and whispered to her bleeding, suffering friend that she (friend) wasn’t strong enough to carry bleeding girl out but that she (pathetic, loser, lame-ass friend) would come back for her.  What?  I shut the book.  I was so pissed.  Know this, dear reader… if you were beaten, tortured, left for dead with the promise that bad guy was coming back to finish you off … I was haul your body, however big or small, out of that death trap no matter what.  That a male author could not understand how strong a woman is only reiterated the point that maybe men shouldn’t be trying to create a character they can’t fully appreciate.  We are nothing short of amazing, as is our fiction!

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