A friend and colleague sent me this tonight, news that Humane, in its second year now since release, is again (still) on the Alberta Bestsellers List. We’re not a huge market. But we’re my home market. And I’m thrilled that people continue to take Humane home and engage with it.
I know that part of my fortune in this regard is that local universities have seen fit to include Humane in their curriculum.
In fact, just last week, I had an amazing experience, as virtual guest of one such class.
The students were so positive, so enthusiastic in their reactions to Humane, that I was bowled over. It’s what ever author dreams of, people boisterously declaring what they like (maybe even love) about your work. And I am like anyone, I like compliments. But I wanted more. So, I asked.
‘Now that you’ve told me some of the things you like about Humane, is there anything that troubles you? Anything you found difficult, or confusing? Anything that you just didn’t like?’
There was a pause. And then a hand went up.
A young man began, with great grace and care, to preface his question. He explained that he’d read the book along with his partner, who has something in common with the victim of the crime that catalyzes the plot. And his partner was disturbed by the position I took as an author, toward that victim.
My heart pounded – equal parts trepidation and exhilaration. Exhilaration, because there was nothing facile about this question; trepidation, because I could so easily go wrong in my answer, if I didn’t take care to preface and contextualize why I wrote the way I wrote.
I realized I might not be able to give an honest answer that would satisfy him and his partner. But I took a moment to appreciate the care and respect with which he brought the question to me, and I knew there was nothing to do but answer honestly, with corresponding care to preface and contextualize the real-world reasons why I wrote this fiction the way I did.
I can’t get into the specifics without introducing some spoilers, but it was perhaps the most profound exchange I’ve had as an author with a reader. And I am deeply grateful, to that student, his partner, the professor who brought me and my work to the table, and to the whole messy cacophony of song from which Humane was born.