This is normally a page for sharing news about my books - which, incidentally, deal with the rise of Fascism in Italy during the 1920s and 30s. But today, in light of recent world events, I feel that I can't remain silent. As writers, we are often very good at making beautifully-worded statements and not so good at taking real-world action. This just isn't good enough. I know that readers look to us to see how we react when the situations we deal with in our books repeat themselves and come knocking at our door - situations, often, relating to human rights. As Edith Wharton affirmed, 'Art is on the side of the oppressed'. But if we are going to be writers worth our salt, we need to be on the side of the oppressed in deeds as well as words. So I wanted to tell you about some of the concrete things, over the past few days, that I have felt compelled to do as a writer and as a human being.
Although I am a European, most of my readers are American, and what I have learned over the past year is that yours is a wonderful country full of people who believe in the values of human rights, tolerance and peace, a beautiful community which comes from all backgrounds and cultures. So I feel I can't remain silent when I see so many of you raising your voices in defence of those values and each other, hoping that the world is listening. We are listening, and we hear you. Most of the writers I admire have also been doing the same things I have - not because we are generous, or heroic, but because basic human decency requires it. If you, like me, are watching unfolding events in the US with increasing concern, I hope this will help you with some ideas for concrete, peaceful action.
1. I donated to ACLU, the organisation which is successfully challenging detentions of Muslim Americans and visitors to America, with the help of brilliant pro bono lawyers. You can donate here: https://www.aclu.org/
2. I wrote to Theresa May, who is my prime minister and who I believe needs to do more. You can do the same here: https://email.number10.gov.uk/ (Or, if you are not British, you can ask your own government to do the same or, importantly, thank them if they have!).
3. I contacted my UK member of parliament to ask her to urge Theresa May to do more, along with other world leaders, to oppose Trump's recent immigration ban and uphold the values of peace and tolerance which are so important, historically, to the American people. If you are British too, you can do the same here: https://www.writetothem.com/
4. I signed this petition, which has just passed one million signatures: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/171928/
5. I signed this global letter: https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/en/deartrump/
6. An important one, this: I made sure that I was following those people, often Muslim writers and writers of colour / BAME writers, and many of them senior journalists, who are generously offering their time on social media to report on and analyse current events. Their voices are the ones we need to step back and signal boost right now, and they can get news out, often, faster than the official news sources they work for.
7. I renewed my membership to Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/join/
8. I also, recently, joined PEN International, and if you are a writer you absolutely need to be a member too: http://www.pen-international.org/join-us/
Meanwhile, as I've already mentioned, along with some colleagues I am busy setting up a group of writers from all countries and backgrounds who wish to peacefully unite to uphold and defend human rights in a more dedicated and long-term way, in partnership with organisations like PEN. Like many other writers, I believe that artists need to remain peaceful, strive for tolerance, uphold free speech, and be active participants in the world we seek to make sense of through our work. Please know, if you are feeling alone or suffering during current events, that many writers stand with you, and we are trying to be better allies of our readers and to do more. If your favourite writer isn't saying or doing anything about the issues that you care about - particularly if they are, like me, a white writer who is in the privileged position of not being directly threatened by current events - feel free to contact them and politely ask them why. You – diverse readers – buy our books and pay our salaries. And if you are a fellow writer or a reader and want to help with the group, please let me know. You would be incredibly welcome.
With very best wishes for peace and safety today to all my readers, wherever in the world you are,