One of the most delightful things I’ve read lately is the short story “Thrown” in the The Hero Next Door. An autistic boy makes the transition from the kids’ class in Aikido to the teen and adult class. In addition to it being a wonderful story, it’s by a guy I know, middle grade author Mike Jung, who I actually practice Aikido with. And it’s set in an Aikido studio that resembles the one where we study, Aikido Shusekai in Berkeley. The characters have names slightly changed from real people I know. (Anika Sensei! Kristof! Brandon Sensei!)
One secret of publishing is that sometimes we writers borrow from real people for characters in our books, or pluck their names.
I wrote a book, Dessert First, about a teenage girl who was dealing with the most difficult year of her life, even before her younger brother had a cancer relapse, and she became his last hope, as his potential bone-marrow donor.
For the nurses in that book, I took the first name of one law school classmate and then the first names of half a dozen nurses I knew.
And I’m not alone in that practice. I’m lucky enough to know lots of writers now, and one thing I notice is them slyly putting each other’s names in their books. So my current novel in progress might have a principal and teachers with names Principal Kisner, Ms. Sarig, and Mr. Reichs. Unless someone inserts a graphic here, we’ll never know from where my subconscious could have gotten names like that:
(Oops.) That’s the thing about secrets. If there’s a paper (or electronic document) trail, they’ll often be found out. As a friend of mine said, “Dance like nobody’s watching, but email as if it’ll be read aloud in court.”
I thought about that recently, as I read Ronan Farrow’s gripping bestseller, Catch and Kill, about his breaking the story of Harvey Weinstein’s serial sexual assaults, which—as the book described—had been hidden by decades of aggressive litigation, threats, gaslighting, intimidation, and non-disclosure agreements. In the end, a number of women agreed to come forward—expecting that doing that would further wreck their lives—because they wanted to stop Weinstein's future assaults. NBC killed the story, under pressure from Weinstein, but The New Yorker ran it, and that, in turn, caused many other women to come forward publicly.
Despite tremendous efforts, the truth will out. And—if we pay attention—it will have consequences. Shortly after the story on Weinstein broke, he resigned from the board of The Weinstein Company and he was fired. Eventually The Weinstein Company filed bankruptcy. Weinstein was arrested and charged with sex crimes and now faces trial.
As I write this, coincidentally, the President of the U.S. has been accused by at least 67 women of inappropriate conduct, as detailed in the recent Barry Levine/Monique Al-Faizy book, All the President’s Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator. Two Courts of Appeal have ruled that the President cannot prevent his accountants from turning over his subpoenaed tax returns. This week, another federal judge ruled that his aides have no blanket immunity from being required to comply with subpoenas, and still another federal judge required the turnover of documents showing that aid to Ukraine was withheld by the President. There are reports of multiple additional whistle-blowers coming forward with further complaints of specific misconduct.
There will be a paper trail, an email trail, a text message trail, and probably the clumsy smudge prints over all of those, showing an attempted cover-up. The truth—or at least conspicuous parts of it—will out. And then the only question will be—will that matter? Because it’s partly up to all of us whether it does.
On this day of thanksgiving, may we be grateful for what we have, and may we continue to have things to be grateful for, including the rule of law, the bravery and integrity of individuals who tell the truth, and an involved citizenry willing to take that truth into account in holding people in power accountable.
Happy Thanksgiving and good luck to us all.
Dean Gloster has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” His current novel is about two funny brothers who have to team up with their friend Claire to save the world. It has all the usual Dean Gloster novel ingredients: Death, humor, the question of whether it’s possible to save someone, a love interest to root for, dysfunctional parenting, and a slightly off-kilter sensibility. Also a mergers and acquisitions lawyer dad who is missing 74 percent of his soul.
When Dean is not writing, studying Aikido, or downhill ski racing, he’s on Twitter: @deangloster