Colorado #ResistanceReads is the brainchild of local author Kate Jonuska, who wanted to find a way to make a positive difference in the world while supporting local writers in doing the same — all in a literary vein. It’s power to the people, by way of books. What are the details, you ask? How might you get involved? Good questions. We sat down with Jonuska to get the scoop.
Westword: So whose brainchild is Colorado #ResistanceReads? Where did the idea come from, and what in America today prompted its need now?
Jonuska: The idea was mine and sprouted from something I think about often, and that's the power of story. Fiction is often seen as the fluffier side of literature, but we can often look at challenging ideas better when they're sandwiched between covers and called a story than we can when the same topics are on the news. I had the hope that #ResistanceReads books like these might help readers work through some hot-button political issues and stimulate discussion, provide nuance and maybe an outlet for feelings of outrage and fear that are so common right now.
For me personally, this campaign is also a way to take action in the world the best way I can, with the unique skills I have. I am not a lawyer who can go to the border to help immigrants. I'm not a chef who can show up to feed hurricane victims or a journalist on the front lines of the press core. I'm a novelist, and this project is my small contribution that, combined with those of the lawyer and the chef – hopefully they add up to real change.
So how does the program work?
#ResistanceReads is at its heart a list of books by local authors for readers looking for ways to understand and deal with our tumultuous political reality. These books tackle climate change, #metoo, LBGTQ+ rights, the free press, homelessness, the refugee crises, religious intolerance and authoritarianism, and each one has discussion question to stimulate conversation. Then, in order to take real action to confront those political issues, each author will donate half of their profits from Black Friday until Colorado Gives Day on December 4 to the charity of their choice. That includes all types of sales: e-books or paperback, online or in-store purchases, by readers or by libraries, or in person from an author at one of the events we're planning during our program window. If you want to get further involved, we have a "friends of the resistance" page on our website for writers with related projects, and we'd love if every writer and reader would consider shouting out their favorite #resistancereads using the hashtag. There will also be options to donate directly to these nonprofit causes without purchase on the Colorado Gives Day website.
How were the charities and social programs chosen? Why those specific organizations?
Most of the authors chose a charity that handles an issue within their book. For instance, my novel Transference has a character invested in refugee aid, and proceeds will benefit IRC Denver, which does refugee resettlement and aid. The full list is:
- The ACLU (supported by Finding Life on Mars, by Jason Dias)
- International Rescue Committee, Denver (supported by Transference, by Kate Jonuska)
- The Continental Divide Trail Coalition (supported by Bury the Lead, by Cassondra Windwalker)
- ACCESS Housing (supported by Rectifier - The Electric Man, by Brian D. Howard)
- CHARG Resource Center (supported by The Wing Collector, by Kristi Helvig)
- Extended Hands for Hope (supported by Ansible: Rasha's Letter, by Stant Litore)
- The Transgender Law Center (supported by The Hands We're Given, by O.E. Tearmann)
Colorado Gives Day, which I've had experiences with over the years, felt like the perfect choice for an end date, because we are all Colorado writers. We wanted our readers to understand that donations would be going to reputable charities through a trusted, vetted intermediary. All the authors have Colorado Gives Day campaign pages where we will make our final donations so everything is as transparent as possible. We are a mix of indie and traditionally published authors, though, so there will be some issues about when payment is made based on when royalty statements are received.
So how did you become the point person for the effort?
Be the change you want to see in the world, right? I'm an indie author and pretty deep in the indie-author scene, and I think some of my passion and willingness to create this campaign does come from that DIY, rebellious indie mindset. Today, indie publishing — the kinder and more correct term for self-publishing — still carries a stigma, but we can get books to shelves faster than traditional routes and can tackle with relish controversial issues publishers won't touch. People should know that if they're looking for the literary voice of the resistance, here we are, in the trenches — and I know there are people looking.
Set in Denver, Transference is the story of a disgraced psychiatrist with a telepathic new patient. The psychiatrist, Dr. Verbenk, is a real #metoo nightmare with a dirty mind, which the poor patient, Janet Buckmann, can easily read. Full of unexpected and sometimes inappropriate humor, it's a superpower satire, an unexpected version of the classic comic origin story. While the #metoo angle is strong, politics also gets woven into the plot, because Janet is the wife of a fictional Colorado senator and her main cause of choice is refugee aid. In fact, a fundraiser for the fictional charity she supports is a big plot point, and Janet has strong feelings about people — including her husband — who don't do the right thing because it's not politically expedient. IRC Denver is the charity that I know Janet would support, so it was obvious to me that the proceeds of her story should benefit the cause to which she's dedicated herself.
Will this be an annual event? Seems like a natural for this time of year.
If the campaign is well received this season, we'd be thrilled to do the same next year. Since the moment I began to look for other writers in the many author communities around the state, I've been getting emails of support from other writers who either are currently writing books that would be ideal for the program or want to offer support. The enthusiasm is really high among authors, who I find are not only happy but honored to give away money that — let's face it — they could likely use themselves with author earnings at such a current low. Whether the campaign continues or not, trust that authors will keep writing these challenging, timely stories, because it's what we do, part of who we are.
Also, it would be thrilling to see the hashtag #ResistanceReads picked up by more authors and readers around the world to point out and share similar timely, politically relevant books. This doesn't have to be limited to Colorado. There are tons of great stories out there that could help you or your book club or your classroom discuss the big issues of our time and maybe find new paths toward a better future. In the end, reading is a political act. Reading is a way to be involved in the cultural conversation. Seize that opportunity with both hands.
Colorado #ResistanceReads runs from Friday, November 23, through Colorado Gives Day on December 4. For more information, visit the #ResistanceReads website, or see @coresistreads on Facebook and Twitter.