Sunday 26 August 2018

Changing the Narrative

I'm currently nearing submission time for my next novel, Every Sparrow Falling, which is out next year. It's the story of a girl who is in state care and is placed with new foster parents in Ballybaile, a fictional town in the North Coast of Ireland. Cariad find herself torn between living the life she wants to have and living the life she needs to have. A recurring question is why she feels she must behave better than everyone else in order to have the life that everyone else has around her. The threat of being moved on looms large. The threat of being dropped if she doesn't play along in the way that she is expected to.

I am thinking a lot lately about the narratives we accept as reasonable and 'normal'- the playing along that we expect people to do if we, who are already accepted, are to find them acceptable. I am thinking about the language we use about those who don't fit the acceptable narrative. Earlier in the week I wrote this on my Facebook account in response to an incident where two speakers, one who works for an LGBT organisation and the other who is a campaigner for reproductive rights, were dropped from what was billed as a progressive rally in Belfast, because their message was seen as potentially divisive.

Can we change the narrative please? Queer rights and Reproductive rights are not 'divisive issues'. Homophobia and misogyny causes division. The struggle for rights is only a struggle because some people wish to prevent them. Human rights should not be seen as radical things. We need to stop talking about LGBTQ people and women as if they're militant revolutionaries when they are expecting to be treated like human beings.
I live for the day when homophobia and misogyny are seen as the unacceptable and divisive thing. When people who don't fit in so easily are listened to. When we can stand beside people who disagree with us, not because we are so tolerant and good, but because we have decided not to stand in the way of their liberation- even if we can't understand it. We're a long way off. At the times when I can't muster up any hope about it I will find those who understand and stand by them, outside the 'progressive' rallies.

Last night I went to see Public Image Limited in Bangor. I don't agree with all of John Lydon's politics (show me someone who does and I will show you someone who isn't very familiar with him), but last night, standing in Bangor with a bunch of strangers, all of us yelling Anger Is An Energy... well, it was necessary. I hope that we can all find what is necessary when we feel darkened out by the acceptable ones.

And now back to writing the end of Cariad's story. Making novels, writing stories or poems which aim to address these things is really the main way that I am able to deal with my place in the world. What a great privilege to have the chance to share it. But we can all do this. Please do it. Share your story. You will find people who will listen, and people who will care. It might not be a lot of people, but this is no measure of the importance of your story. The world is a weird place where what is rewarded is what is vastly popular, even at the expense of some who may be left behind. But our own worlds don't have to be that way. xxx

Pic by my sister, Mags


Penny Dolan said...

Thank you. Good thoughts for a grey, wet day like today when one can feel the year moving on - and the best of wishes for your Sparrows.

Shirley-Anne McMillan said...

Thanks so much, Penny. x

Lynda Waterhouse said...

Great heartwarming post for a grey Bank Holiday. Good to know that you are out there focusing on changing the narrative. I'm really looking forward to reading your novel. Find myself humming 'Anger is an energy'and have this feeling its going to be in my head all day!

Shirley-Anne McMillan said...

Thanks Lynda!

Joan Lennon said...

Changing the narrative. Yes! Thanks for this, Shirley-Anne, and go luck with the final edits.

Andrew Preston said...

I agree with some of your views on John Lydon. However, marrying rich does rather give considerable licence as to whether or not to continue mouthing off here, there, and everywhere with one's boorish views of life, politics and everything....., without having the consequences impinge too much. Rather than expressing the anger through creative endeavour.

Was Bruce Smith doing the drumming at that gig ? A stomp, sorry, like 'Anger is An Energy' hardly exercises his talents.
Here's a better, imo, view of him at work, with The Slits.


Shirley-Anne McMillan said...

Andrew what do you mean? Are you saying that PiL's work is not 'creative endeavour'? If so then I'd have to disagree. I am also wondering why you continue to comment on my blog posts. You only ever offer negative comment on anything I have to say. Maybe it would be a more creative endeavour for you to find someone whose blog inspires you.

Shirley-Anne McMillan said...

And thanks, Joan! x