On the evolving career of my favorite new writer, and why you should all be following it.
I might be wrong about this, but I think the last time I wrote in this space about the post-retirement creative writing career of my mom Ilene Railton, that career was entirely ahead of her, just a glimmer in her mind’s eye. In the seven years since, she has more than fulfilled that glimmer, completing drafts of a YA novella and numerous short stories; most of her works to date (as well as those in progress) focus in one way or another on the lives and identities of young people like those with whom she worked for so many years in the Bright Stars program, while one is a compelling mystery story based on elements of her own autobiography combined with thoughtful, universal themes of memory and loss. This Spring she’s part of a novel-writing class, the next step in a developing writing career that continues to inspire and motivate my own writing.
Obviously I’m not able to be (nor interested in being) an objective commentator on that evolving career, but I would nonetheless make the case for why my Mom’s stories should be of interest to all readers (even if you don’t trust my judgment on their quality, which you should!). As I wrote in that hyperlinked post on the Bright Stars program, the children and families at the heart of programs like that are among the most vulnerable in American society, which all too often (if not indeed all the time) means that they are also among the most frequently overlooked or forgotten in our collective narratives. In this post a couple years back on a book talk for We the People at Shirley Prison, I made the case that incarcerated Americans are the community most consistently excluded from our narratives of national identity; I stand by that assessment, but would say that folks who are homeless or in similarly extreme situations of poverty, disadvantage, and vulnerability are likewise quite consistently excluded from our conversations about American identity and community.
As with any overlooked and excluded community, raising collective awareness is a vital first step in changing those narratives. Through her extensive experiences with these kids and families, my Mom is in a perfect position to help share their stories, or rather to create fictional characters and stories that can help connect readers to them. Obviously works of fiction are only one means for building that awareness and the understanding, empathy, and policy shifts (among other effects) that can come with it—but they are one means, and an engaging and accessible one at that. Which is why I love Ilene Railton’s stories, and will do everything I can to help these stories and this evolving new writer reach audiences as broadly and fully as possible!
Anti-favorites series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Short stories or writers you especially love?