The Author’s Note in Rivera Sun’s Winds of Change reads, in part: “The Dandelion Trilogy has always stood in a time that looms around the corner of today, in a place on the edge of our nation. It is fiction that reveals the problems and possibilities lurking in the shadows of our work.” The trilogy sparks ideas and provides examples of how grassroots organizing and nonviolent activism results in true change. The books are about resistance and resilience. They’re about recognizing a system that’s not working, and doing something about it.”
Protest novelist and nonviolence activist Rivera Sun was the featured guest on October’s episode of The Fine Print, an online conversation series with contemporary feminist authors. Like previous episodes, a group of feminist changemakers gathered on Zoom to hear the writer discuss ideas in her novel, Winds of Change—the third book in the Dandelion Trilogy.
The evening did not disappoint.
(Watch video highlights from the evening’s conversation below, or on LiisBeth’s YouTube channel.)
The trilogy follows protagonists Zadie Byrd Gray and Charlie Rider— a feisty and passionate young couple—in their leaderful movement that challenges the existing government structure in the United States and hopes of replacing it with a people-powered, representative democracy. The stories involve conflict with oligarchy and the wealthy elite. “If this sounds a little familiar to U.S. culture it’s because it is a little familiar to U.S. culture,” Sun said on the video call from her Earthship home in New Mexico. She started writing The Dandelion Insurrection, the first book of the trilogy, back in 2013, just a few months before Edward Snowden leaked information about the NSA spying on American citizens. “I was a little paranoid for a couple of months as the reveal came out because I had actually been writing about that, as a speculative fictional scenario,” she told the group
Truth is Stranger Than Fiction
Protest novels are books defined by their intent that often challenge political views, depict social injustices and/or offer alternative perspectives from underrepresented groups. According to Sun, “In a world like ours where injustice runs amok and so many are crying out for change, I think all of us can bend our talents and skills in solidarity with demands for respect, dignity, fairness, inclusion, safety, and sustainability.”
Sun has a few favourite protest novels she uses for inspiration including Starhawk’s Fifth Sacred Thing, Victor Hugo’s classic Les Miserables and Ursula K LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness. For more examples of books written in response to, or inspired by, political strife, check out the list compiled by Electric Lit.
The author’s writing is influenced by her lived experiences.
Sun described herself as someone who was once an ‘ignorant activist’ who has since come a long way in her activism journey. The 39-year-old has been involved in participatory democracy from bike messenger co-ops to member-mechanic operations, leaderful movements to consensus-based nonprofits. “I believe in this kind of democracy the way I believe in nonviolence. They both have challenges, but they offer more hope than any other system I’ve seen.”
Not sure what leaderful, non violent movements or actions might look like? Watching starlings in murmuration provides a useful way to imagine it.
Winds of Change largely focuses on the belief that for participatory democracy to work, “People need to have a direct and active role in determining the laws and policies by which our lives are impacted.” Sun was quick to address the idea of participatory democracy as a lofty goal but also something that is not entirely out of reach. “We’re at such a point of division that sometimes it’s hard to believe, or imagine, or trust that humanity as a whole has this kind of inherent wisdom…but we do have a pretty innate sense of wanting to solve problems together.”
While Sun isn’t alone in recognizing that our current systems aren’t working, she attributes the lack of change to the fact that people aren’t meeting and discussing issues in a room together whether it’s virtual, physical or metaphorical. “They’re not actually engaged in collective problem solving and they’re often spouting political opinions in reaction to the lines and the commentary that are fed to them by elite groups to keep them divided and disempowered,” said Sun.
Writing the trilogy allowed her to grow both as a writer and as an activist. For example, while researching how to bring her stories to life, she actually Googled “How to bring down dictators non-violently.” She discovered plenty of people are already out there doing it.
Sun said there are no shortage of examples of nonviolent activism successful in heralding change. “We have to remember there are over 300 different methods of non-violent struggle ranging from holding that sign, to civil disobedience, to shut downs, blockades, boycotts, occupations, covert actions, refusals to comply with work, slowdowns, walkout strikes. The list goes on. So that’s the kind of hopeful news that people are engaged in.”
Spreading the Word Like Dandelion Seeds
By self-publishing her books through Rising Sun Press Works and printing copies on demand, Sun doesn’t feel the pressure of answering to a publisher’s vision of her work.
Where does Rivera Sun find hope?
Through crowdfunding different projects, she has built an audience of loyal followers and created uniquely community-published work. She is encouraged and humbled by the amount of support and positive feedback she receives from readers. For example, commenting on Winds of Change in Transition US, Marissa Mommaerts wrote, “These practical and inspiring examples of direct democracy are exactly what we need to move forward as society.” Tom Altee at the Co-Intelligence Institute and Wise Democracy Project also has high praise for Sun’s work. “I was totally captivated [by] Rivera’s vision in Winds of Change. It was the best participatory democracy imagineering creation I’ve ever seen.”
Sun is mindful about the message of Winds of Change: “I hope no one takes this book as a blueprint. It’s not. It’s a story that is meant to spark ideas, thoughts, and reflections in the reader. It’s intended to provide more questions than it answers.”
BONUS! Download and read an excerpt from Winds of Change © Rivera Sun 2020.
GOOD NEWS! THE FINE PRINT returns in 2022. Free for FEC members or you can purchase access tickets on Eventbrite.
Watch for updates!