TIME TO CELEBRATE OUR FREEDOM TO WRITE! IV
My focus this month on the Freedom Legacy today’s writers have available to and for all of us has been an encouragement for me. I hope it has been for you, too. However, I would be remiss if I did return to the fact: Freedom is not “Free.” The Legacy of Freedom we carry forward today has come at a price—both ancient and recent. The cost has been dear, yet what we continue to experience through the written works of every author before us, only fortifies the foundation that supports us today.
Early Publishing in the Colonies: The American colonies found immediate publishing Freedoms with printing press pamphlets and writings from American authors such as Captain John Smith, Thomas Ash, William Penn and others. Histories, poetry and Bibles (or Bible sections) were the most frequently published. At this same time, England continued to restrict their printing by confining the presses to four locations where the government could monitor what was produced.
One of the first African American authors, Phillis Wheatley, published her book—Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral—in 1773, three years before our Independence Day. She was born in Senegal (West Africa), sold into slavery at age seven, brought to American and was purchased by a Boston merchant. By age 16, she spoke fluent American-English and began writing poetry. Even though George Washington told her “the style and manner [of your poetry] exhibit a striking proof of your great poetical talents,” Wheatley still had to defend herself in court to prove that she’d written her book. This event became possibly the first “court recorded” recognition of African-American literature.
More Recently: Esmat Qaney of Afghanistan is a novelist and short story writer. Because his work was judged “hostile” by the Afghan government, copies of it were burned, and Qaney was forced to flee from his country (1980) and subsequently settled in Pakistan. Then again, after publishing a collection of his short stories (Send Charity, God Bless You), the new authorities in Afghanistan—the Taliban—found that book to be “an insult” and decreed that Qaney and his publisher were “apostates.” All available copies were seized and burned. As far as I was able to research, Qaney remains in hiding, leaving his family behind.
In China, Wang Yiliang, a poet and essayist was involved in underground literary activities (1980s). He was kept under constant surveillance, was regularly interrogated and jailed, and he was banned from publishing any of his works. By early 2000, Wang was arrested for “disrupting social order” and sentenced to two years of “re-education through labor.”
And if you’re a writer in North Korea today, your chances of being published are practically zero. One “fiction” novel has been smuggled out, title: The Accusation, Forbidden Stories From Inside North Korea by Bandi (pseudonym). Kirkus Review says that this novel is, “Of more journalistic and sociological than literary interest, without the inventiveness of recent writing [techniques] south of the 38th parallel—but still an important document of witness.”
And so it must be. Writers who feel the palpable heartbreak of hundreds, thousands, millions of others, must tell the world what is happening whether through fiction, non-fiction or poetry. It is only through the courage and tenacity of such authors that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s hopes can be realized. He once wrote that he looks forward to a world founded on the essential human FREEDOMS and “the first is freedom of speech and expression.”
Returning to thoughts of my own FREEDOMS here in these United States of America, I am so thankful that what I write can and will be published, when I decide to publish. I will continue writing until I can write no more, and when I’m no longer able, maybe someone will pull out a desk-drawer manuscript of mine and publish it for me. I believe this is the deep desire of all creative artists. It is yours? Do something about it today. Write! Publish! …and write some more! ⚓︎