MOONRISE Giveaway!

I am a big fan of YA author Sarah Crossan, the brilliant author of One, The Weight of Water, Apple and Rain, and co-author of We Come Apart (which I reviewed earlier this year). In September, Sarah’s much anticipated new novel Moonrise is due to be published and I have teamed up with the folks at Bloomsbury Australia to do a special Moonrise Proof Giveaway!

I am currently about halfway through this brilliant story, written in Sarah Crossan’s signature verse style and I can’t wait to share the book love with you.

ABOUT MOONRISE

The astonishing new novel from Carnegie Medal, CliPPA Poetry Award, YA Book Prize and CBI Book of the Year Award winning author Sarah Crossan. 9781408867822

They think I hurt someone.
But I didn’t. You hear?
Cos people are gonna be telling you
all kinds of lies.
I need you to know the truth.

Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years, and it’s for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row.

But now Ed’s execution date has been set, and Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with him, no matter what other people think …

From one-time winner and two-time Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this poignant, stirring, huge-hearted novel asks big questions. What value do you place on life? What can you forgive? And just how do you say goodbye?

 

ABOUT THE GIVEAWAY

I have ONE proof copy of Moonrise to giveaway. To enter the giveaway all you have to do is email inwordsandink@gmail.com with the Subject Line “Moonrise Giveaway” and includes the following:

  • Your Name
  • Your Mailing Address
  • Why you want to read Moonrise in 25 words or less

Entries will close Thursday 3rd August at 5pm (AEST) and the winner will be announced shortly after on Twitter (@haylesnew) before being contacted directly.

Please note: This giveaway is restricted to Australian residents only. No international entries will be considered.

I can’t wait to see your entries and share the Moonrise love with you all!

Good luck!

 

© Hayley New 2017

‘The Cut’ & Brexit: An Interview with Peirene Press’ Meike Ziervogel

Peirene Press are masters of translated European fiction that speaks to the heart and soul of a particular moment in time. Last year, Peirene Press took a leap and began the Peirene Now! Series, commissioning short novels about current events that are heavily shaping our world today. Last year’s breach was one of the most introspective novels I have ever read, taking the experiences of refugees in the Calais refugee camps and turning them into incredibly heartbreaking short stories. In 2017, Peirene Press have published the second book in the Peirene Now! Series – The Cut. The Cut is a brilliantly written exploration of Britain and the people who voted in the Brexit referendum and uthor Anthony Cartwright gives equal space to both sides of the debate, whilst weaving a complex web of human relationships.

The Cut is the first novel I have seen, let alone read, about Brexit. Whilst the Brexit vote and recent General Election in the UK have been heavily documented by the media, The Cut is the first literary take on the effects of the vote and the implications for the British public. The book itself was funded by a kickstarter campaign that raised £6,745 ($11,412 AUD), so it is clear that this is a book that people not only wanted to read, but wanted to have a hand in producing.

I was lucky enough to interview Meike Ziervogel, founder and commissioning publisher at Peirene Press, about The Cut. A writer herself, Meike grew up in Northern Germany, before moving the the UK in 1986. Our interview is below…

***

HAYLEY: First of all, thanks for taking the time out to discuss The Cut with INWORDSANDINK. So, how did the idea for the Peirene Now! Series come about?

MEIKE: Peirene’s specialises in translated fiction. This means that we can only choose from what is already out on the market in another country. Over the last few years, we started to realise that there are sometimes urgent issues we like to see addressed in literature but we couldn’t find a story about it anywhere. So we decided to set up a series of commissioned novels responding to pressing topics that are concerning us and our readers right this very moment.

HAYLEY: How important was it to you to commission a novel about Brexit?

MEIKE: The referendum has been one of the most important political events in the UK this century. It concerns us all.

HAYLEY: Why did you decide to commission the novel after Brexit rather than beforehand (as a speculative novel perhaps)?

MEIKE: Brexit hasn’t happened yet. So I commissioned the novel – and the novel was written – before Brexit, but – of course – after the decision to leave the EU.

Before the referendum I lived in a bubble. I assumed there would be no Brexit – ever. The outcome of the referendum was a shock and a wake-up call for me. I suddenly understood that I live in a divided country. I commissioned Anthony Cartwright to create a literary bridge between the two Britains that opposed each other on referendum day.

HAYLEY: What about Anthony made you decide he was the person to write this book?

MEIKE: I wanted a story that would make me see what I previously wasn’t aware of. Anthony comes from the Black Country where many people voted for Brexit. His four previous novels are all set in Dudley. Emotionally and psychologically he understands the area and he empathizes with the people who voted ‘no’ to the EU. Moreover he is a very good writer. Before I commissioned Anthony I read his fourth novel, ‘Iron Towns’ and I enjoyed it. I could see that Anthony would be bring the right sensibility to the subject matter.

HAYLEY: How did you negotiate what this book would discuss? What was that process like?

MEIKE: Anthony’s remit was to create an artistic response to what had become apparent during the referendum – the division of this country into two halves. Initially we discussed possible story lines. Then we had editorial meetings after each draft, discussing and refining the story line, imagery and characters.

HAYLEY: What about this book really spoke to you about pre- and post-Brexit Britain?

MEIKE: It was only after the book had been completed and I could take a step back from it – read it like a reader and not as an editor –  that I realised how Anthony’s subconscious had thrown up the perfect image for the situation in our country. We, i.e. both sides of the divided country, The Remainers and Brexiteers, are in bed together. We have a relationship – a troubled one, yes but we have to live together. We can’t get away from each other. In The Cut neither Cairo nor Grace want their relationship to end badly. We – the Remainers and the Brexiteers – have to be careful that our relationship, too, doesn’t end badly. I believe that neither side really wants that to happen.

HAYLEY: As someone who was born in Germany, what does a book like THE CUT mean to you? What about it speaks to your experiences as a European immigrant in a country that has rejected the EU?

MEIKE: I have dual nationality. I have lived all my adult life in the UK. This is my home. I, too, need to change, in order to change the political situation. I can no longer excuse my lack of political engagement. And so I have now become a member of the Liberal Democrats and I campaigned for them during the last election.

***

 

The_Cut_2000px-568x900

 

The Cut is available in all good bookstores, or directly from Peirene Press. As always, INWORDSANDINK encourages its readers to buy from and support their local independent bookstores and support independent press.

Thank you once again to Peirene Press for sending me a copy of The Cut, and to Meike for taking the time out to answer my questions. Please note, whilst I was sent the book for reviewing purposes, I was not in any way paid or financially obligated to write this review.

 

© Hayley New 2017

A Journal of Small Pleasures | New/Old Music

 

There has been a surge of new music releases in the last few weeks. But none have captured me in the way that a small number of artists have.

***

2013 and 2014 were strange years for me, marking my final year of high school and my first year of university. It was a time of major transition, not only in terms of education, but also of changes in my personal relationships with people and how I viewed myself. I spent a lot of time travelling – long car trips with friends, bus rides to work, trains to and from university – and these vast spaces were filled with music. My tastes in music had changed and evolved over this time, and while a few old favourites stayed, a lot of new music poured into my life.

***

PARAMORE

Paramore was not new to me in 2013. I had always been surrounded by Paramore fans, but I had never found myself as hooked on their music as my friends.

But then the self-titled album came out. And Paramore became a staple for me. They featured on every mix CD I gave to my friends for long car rides. We all knew the words, and the right moments to clap in the middle of a song.

‘Still Into You’ made me envious of Hayley Williams and her crazy vocals. ‘Ain’t It Fun’ was the growing-up anthem I didn’t know I needed until I had it on loop. ‘Grow Up’ helped me get over bad friendships that were falling apart. To this day, that song always reminds me of the friends I had to leave behind in order to find myself.

Paramore’s self-titled album was the right album at the right time.

***

HAIM

I came across HAIM by accident. I had heard ‘The Wire’ on the radio more than once, and it often played at work, but I never knew who sang it. Spotify rectified that for me.

I soon played all of Days Are Gone on repeat for hours in my room and danced around to the stunning vocals and dramatic beats. I had never heard anything like these women. I wanted to be as effortlessly cool as they were. ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’ was the song I listened to whenever I was getting ready to go out, and I spent longer than I care to admit trying to learn the dance routine from the music video.

HAIM sang their way through my train journeys and there was a song for every moment, every feeling I had. And they were mine. None of my friends knew them, and I never shared them. HAIM was my little secret, and I wanted them to stay that way. Sometimes music feels like it should just be yours, if only for a short while, and I didn’t want to lose HAIM. They were too important.

***

BLEACHERS

Bleachers was a gift given to me by Lena Dunham’s Girls. After binge watching Girls I fell into a Google wormhole and came out the other side clutching Strange Desire.

I knew Jack Antonoff from his FUN days, but Bleachers was such a different sound. ‘Rollercoaster’ was instantly a summer song. It was bright and beautiful and fun. But it was probably ‘I Wanna Get Better’ that hooked me. I was going through a rough patch when I heard this song for the first time, and it got right at the heart of how I was feeling without making me feel like a cliched sad person.

Bleachers was unlike anything I had listened to before, and I was surprised to find myself listening to it as much as I did. I didn’t love the whole album equally, but I knew the songs I was going to keep with me in case of an emergency, and that was important in those days.

***

Recently, each of these groups have released new music for the first time since 2013/2014. Whilst I listened to their old music every now and then since, it was the recent release of new music from each of them that has pulled me in all over again.

It is strange hearing these voices for the first time again. They are new. But they are familiar as well. And somehow it makes it seem like 2013/2014 again.

I am in a new period of transition at the moment – finishing up my undergraduate course at university and working out what to do next. I have big plans, much in the same way I did back then. But the strange tug of the past has curled around my heart in these songs.

It is amazing how much emotional value music has for us. For me, music is always intertwined with memories – of specific events, of certain friends, of big moments in my life – and it was a weird coincidence that all three of these groups that had such an impact on an important moment of my life have released new music at the same time, a time that mirrors the changes of 2013 and 2014. All those memories of happy moments, moments where hard choices were made, and moments of in-between are flooding back with these voices, these songs.

I am a different person then I was, and these songs remind me of that. But some things haven’t changed at all, and it is the comfort of knowing that I will always be able to mark my memories with music, with this music, that brings a little more sun back.

It’s time for memories worth the soundtrack I have been given.

 

I have made a Spotify Playlist with some of my favourite songs from Paramore, HAIM and Bleachers, from their 2013/2014 albums and their latest releases. Check it out here.

 

© Hayley New 2017

 

 

Why I Am Not Entirely Okay With “Passengers”

Or, A Commentary on a Good but Problematic Film

This piece includes minor spoilers for Passengers, though only those that have been openly discussed by many large media outlets.

When I first saw the trailer for Passengers, I was genuinely excited. I love a good film about humankind taking to the stars as much as the next person, and any film with Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt in the leading roles is going to get my attention. I didn’t go into the film expecting something particularly mind blowing or intellectually challenging, I just expected to enjoy the plot and love the concept that the trailer had portrayed.

And sure, it was a good film, with an interesting take on the humans-in-space film genre. I laughed more than once at little moments of wry humour and cleverly constructed scenes. The visuals were stunning and seeing two actors inhabiting most of the vast space of film by themselves was incredibly interesting, and unlike anything I had seen before.

But walking out of the cinema, I found myself conflicted as to whether I was actually entirely okay with the story that Passengers told.

Passengers opens with a glitch in the incubation system that keeps the five thousand passengers of the starship Avalon travelling to Homestead II, a human colony planet some 120 years away from Earth. This glitch causes the hibernation pod of engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) to malfunction, and Jim wakes up only to find he is the only person awake on the ship, and has woken up 90 years too early. Jim spends a year alone, struggling with the knowledge that he will die long before the ship ever reaches its destination, and will live the rest of his days alone on the ship.

Up until this point, I was not surprised with this development, as much of this is explained in the trailer for the film. However, it is from this point that I realised that the trailer had left out a crucial plot point – how Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) wakes up.

In the trailer for the film, it is made out that Aurora wakes up due to a similar pod malfunction caused by a glitch in the ship’s system as that which woke Jim up. However, this is not the case. In fact, it is Jim who wakes Aurora up, largely due to his own loneliness. This act not only wakes Aurora up early, it also sentences her to an early death aboard the ship, long before it reaches its destination. Effectively, Jim has murdered her.

But this is not the story that the film wants you to remember, sugar coating that act of personal violence by forcing these two characters to fall in love despite this act of murder. Even when Aurora eventually finds out what Jim has done, and is angry about it for a while, the end of the film sees Jim participate in an act of great heroism and sacrifice that sees Aurora proclaim her love for him all over again, as though this demonstration of the White Male Saviour complex somehow redeems his earlier act of murder. Even when a member of the crew is woken up by a failure in his hibernation pod’s system, he tells Aurora that whilst Jim did the wrong thing, she shouldn’t let it rule the way she interacts with Jim for the rest of their lives aboard the ship. It is almost like he was woken up to tell Aurora to get a grip and move on because there are bigger problems than her feminism and self-preservation – and that straight up hurt me to see.

Look, I get it, this is not the first time that a film has allowed the lead male to ‘redeem’ himself via the White Male Saviour complex nor will it likely be the last. But that doesn’t mean that I can forgive this film, and the marketing machine behind it, for its deliberate misrepresentation of the film’s plot in the trailer. Sure, if Aurora’s pod had malfunctioned in the same way Jim’s had, I might not have the same problem with this film – in fact I would probably have loved seeing two people trapped in a terrible situation find themselves with their perfect partner. But to see Jim’s character deliberately sentence Aurora to death for his own selfish purposes, and then be forgiven because she magically falls in love with him, by fact of sheer proximity, doesn’t sit right with me. In fact, it coloured the way I saw the entire film, even in its best moments.

What puzzles me most is that the two lead actors, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, signed up for this film knowing that the plot would play out in this manner. I have been a long time fan of both actors, and both actors have been very vocal about feminism and the representation of women in film. Jennifer Lawrence has been particularly vocal, and has become something of a role model for young women, and so to see her in a role where her character, though presented as a strong woman, is eventually okay with the circumstances of her murder because she happened to fall in love with the perpetrator, was disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, Jennifer Lawrence is brilliant in this film, but it was her brilliance in a role that seemed to undermine her public feminism that made me feel uneasy. I’m not about to boycott either Chris Pratt or Jennifer Lawrence because of their involvement in this film. Indeed, I will continue to see their films because they are incredible at their craft (though this doesn’t excuse this film for its blatant endorsement of Stockholm Syndrome). However, it does make me wonder why the marketing team behind the film decided not to show this crucial plot moment which happens so early in the film, in any of the promotional material, or why the writers felt that this would be an excusable element of the plot.

I am interested to hear your thoughts about this film, especially if you have seen it and have felt as uneasy I have about this plot point, so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to hear what you did and didn’t like about this film, and how you felt about seeing these two beloved actors in these roles.

 

© Hayley New 2017

My Top Books of 2016

At the start of 2016, I set myself the goal of reading 50 books over the course of the year. By the end of the year, I had read 52 books, averaging a book a week. I read so many brilliant books, some of them from authors I had never come across, some from authors I have been reading for years, and some that seemed to come out of nowhere and steal my heart.

So, to celebrate all these wonderful books, I thought I would share my top picks (in no particular order) from the list of 52 books I read in 2016.

 

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours – Helen Oyeyemi9781447299363What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

I think that this might just be the book that sticks with me the most from 2016. A gorgeous collection of short stories that sit somewhere between fairytale and real life, I always find myself coming back to the magic that this book held for me. I want to press this book into the hands of everyone I know.

Read the full review I wrote for it last year here.

 

 

Fight Like A Girl – Clementine Fordfight-like-a-girl-cover

Fight Like A Girl was the book I didn’t realise I needed until I read it. Clementine Ford’s unapologetically upfront and blunt take on modern feminism is more than just a manifesto, it is a battle cry. It also taught me one of the most important lessons I learnt in 2016 – “It’s okay to be angry.”

Read the full review I wrote for it last year here.

 

 

Flâneuse by Lauren Elkin1000x2000

Lauren Elkin’s brilliant book is just one of the many feminist books I read in 2016, but it is one of the best of them. Part memoir, part cultural history, part commentary, Flâneuse recounts the experiences of women artists and their relationships with the cities they lived and worked in. As a female writer in a very male dominated city, this book really struck a chord with me.

Read the full review I wrote for it last year here.

 

Licence to Quill by Jacopo Della Quercialicensetoquill

In amongst all the very serious literature I read last year, I definitely needed a good laughter filled adventure, and Licence to Quill was just what I needed. As an avid fan of Shakespeare, there was no way I wasn’t picking this book up. A clever mix of Shakespearean style mystery and history with a James Bond edge to its humour and adventure, I giggled my way through this brilliantly written story. I still smile just thinking about it.

Read the full review I wrote for it last year here.

 

Hide by Matthew GriffinHIDE2

Books like Hide don’t come along very often, but when they do, they break your heart. This brilliant book tells the story of Wendell and Frank and their relationship, from just after the war, to their old age. It is more than a tale of struggling with sexuality in a time that discriminates against your love, but also a tale of watching the one you love slip away whilst they are standing right in front of you, and the brutality of deterioration. It was one of the most harrowing books I read in 2016, and it has stuck with me ever since.

Read the full review I wrote for it last year here.

 

Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh9780702254048

I cannot sing my praises loud enough for this book. Julie Koh has quickly become one of my all time creative crushes and I loved this collection of short stories for all the wit, humour and intelligence she brings to them. I implore everyone to go out and get yourself a copy, if only so when people are talking about Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them you keep accidently replacing beasts with breasts in the back of your mind (damn you Julie).

Read the full review I wrote for it last year here.

 

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti 9781472234377

I was lucky enough to be given an uncorrected proof copy of the upcoming The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by the lovely folks at Hachette Australia and it was completely addictive. The day after I finished it, I had a book hangover – the mark of a truly amazing book. I don’t want to say too much about it other than it is the kind of book that everyone will love, regardless of their taste in books, it is that sort of book. Keep an eye out for it when it is released in April 2017.

 

 

Honourable Mentions

  • Harry Potter and The Cursed Child Parts One and Two by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

There was no way I could not write a list like this without mentioning at least one of the new editions to the Harry Potter Universe. Whilst I have not read Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them as yet, I am so grateful for J.K. Rowling’s new books and potentially my favourite line in Harry Potter history – “Ethel. Cancel the goblins.”

  • Browse edited by Henry Hitchings

This brilliant collection of essays about books, bookshops and the magic of those spaces is one of my favourite yet. I devoured it in a few train trips.

  • Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisago Buchanan

A beautifully enchanting tale combining themes broken family, art, parenthood, relationships, immigration, the sixties, New York, Berlin, Japanese culture together to create one of the best books I have read about art and identity in a while.

  • Soft In The Head by Marie Sabine Roger

This is a book that climbs into your heart and sets up camp there for long after you have turned the final page. The whole time I was reading it, I was mesmerised by the gentle and understated loveliness of it. Perfect for lovers of The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time and The Rosie Project.

  • The Man I Became by Peter Verhelst

I came across this book in one of my favourite indie bookshops. Whilst it gifted me with an incredible fable like story, it also re-ignited my passion for literature in translation and introduced me to the brilliant work of London based publishing house Peirene Press.

 

I read so many great books in 2016, and while many of them aren’t listed here, I am incredibly grateful for all the people who worked to write, edit, translate, publish, and sell them. Stories are one of the best things in the world, and I can’t wait to lose myself in more of them in 2017.

So what were your favourite books of 2016? Please share them with me in the comments below, and tell me what books you are looking forward to reading in 2017.

 

© Hayley New 2017

 

An Open Letter to 2016

Dear 2016,

You have been an incredibly painful year, perhaps one of the most painful years I have experienced in my lifetime. You took so much, and spread so much despair and misery through our world. You have undoubtedly been a complete shit show.

2016, you killed so many people. In war, in moments of heartless violence, in acts of hatred and discrimination – you took people who still had whole lives to live. You saw bombings and shootings and acts of terror. You saw people suffer through the worst possible things one can go through.

You also took a tremendous number of our role models and heroes from us – David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Harper Lee, Elie Wiesel, Gene Wilder, George Michael, Muhammad Ali, Leonard Cohen, and so so many more.

You also took people close to me and my family. And for that, I’m not sure I can forgive you.

You took me on a terrible ride through personal sadness and heartache and saw me curled up in bed without wanting to leave my house for days for fear of what you might do to the world.

You let bigotry and fear lead the vote for Britain to leave the European Union, and see that same hatred and fear allow Donald Trump to win the US Election.

You have seen so many small acts of hatred turn into large scale movements that have the potential to destroy us. I have never been so disappointed and scared and sad at the state of our world, and 2016, that is your fault.

But 2016, I also have to thank you for a few things.

2016 was the year I found myself so much more attentive to the small wonders of my world, to the little things that make this world worth living in.

2016 was the year that I discovered Hamilton, the year I found myself crying through Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Love Is Love Is Love speech at the Tony’s, the year I lost myself so completely in the soundtrack and let it be the thing I turned to when things felt hopeless.

2016 was the year that brought me more Gilmore Girls, brought me home to a place that I have always loved and will always love, brought my childhood friends back into my life, and brought such joy and fullness that it leaked out of me and caused my Mum to see if I was okay because I was blubbering so loudly.

2016 was the year I finished my undergraduate degree, despite my own personal struggles, and felt so immensely proud of myself for getting through it.

2016 was the year I read 52 books, smashing my own goal of completing the 50 book challenge. It was the year that those same books opened up so many new opportunities for me as a reader, a writer and as a future employee in the publishing business. 2016 was the year that introduced me to so many great feminist writers like Clementine Ford and so many socially aware writers like Julie Koh, someone I have had the great pleasure of meeting. The year I thanked so many writers I admire for the gift of their work.

2016 was the year I started reviewing books, receiving books from publishers, and then started an internship at one of those same publishers – one of the most wonderful places filled with wonderful people. The opportunities that interning there have granted me have been phenomenal, from reading books ahead of their release, to being invited to a special screening of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. I have also been so lucky in working with the people at that publishing house, who have taken me under their wing and taught me so much.

2016 was the year I took on so many new projects, from poetry to the Mass Book Drop Event for Books On The Rails on Sydney Trains, the year I was paid for my first published piece of writing, the year I noticed my hard work finally paying off.

2016 was the year I went to lots of concerts, alone and with people I love. The year I stopped feeling self conscious in those spaces and danced like the complete dork I am. The year I couldn’t stop myself from thanking the singers, songwriters and musicians I met for the music they gifted me.

2016 was the year that I found people who loved words as much as me, and who were willing to spend their time with me to discuss our work and what writing means to each of us. I got to see my friends create wonderful pieces of art and be so immensely proud of them.

2016 was the year I got to see progress amongst the hatred, the year I found so many new voices to fight for, the year I heard so many new voices speaking out and sharing their thoughts with ever-growing communities, the year I realised I wasn’t going to stop fighting, no matter how crap things get.

2016 was the year of “Ethel, cancel the goblins” and “Obama out” and “Just a smidge” and “It’s okay to be angry” and “The Fantastic Breasts” and endless creative crushes and having breakfast at Tiffany’s for my 21st birthday and spending endless hours with my best friend in the whole world and getting a new puppy and the Hamilton Mixtape and surprise presents and magical bookshops and endless generosity and so many wonderfully body crushing hugs from people I love.

2016 was the year I realised I was so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful people, who even when they didn’t notice they were doing it, made me feel so full of light in my darkest moments and made me smile when I wasn’t sure I would be able to.

All these things have been so vitally important to me and I am so endlessly grateful for them.

I’m not sorry to see you go 2016, but I am glad that you gave me the opportunity to learn so much and open my eyes to all the small wonders of the world amongst all the pain. You gave me the chance to see so much beauty despite the dark, and I am so grateful for that.

But please, don’t come back any time soon.

 

Kind Regards,

Hayley New

 

© Hayley New 2016

On Hamilton, Politics and Pence

 “[Hamilton] is such a nice escape from all the craziness in our world right now. It’s about two famous New York politicians locked in a dirty, ugly, mud-slinging political campaign – escapism.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda on Saturday Night Live

“Vice President-elect Pence we welcome you and truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton, an American Musical. We really do. We sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our parents or defend us and uphold our unalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us. We truly thank you for sharing in this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men, women of different colours, creeds and orientations and we truly hope that you heard our message sir, because you all represent all of us.”

 – Brandon Victor Dixon at the Richard Rogers Theatre

 

Hamilton is by definition a show about politics. The whole second act is an account of the creation of the American political system. The first act is just as political, singing out about the power of revolution and fighting for the unheard voices. The recently released remixes of Hamilton tracks as part of the highly anticipated Hamilton Mixtape are even more intensely political – just listen to ‘Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)’.

When Mike Pence walked into the Richard Rogers Theatre on Friday night, he knew what he was walking into. The plot of Hamilton is no secret – not only is it pulled from history books, but it has become such a pop-culture phenomenon that even those not schooled in US History know what it is about, and what it has come to stand for. Hamilton is not just about telling the story of an immigrant, or a group of revolutionaries, or even the women who are normally silenced in these stories – it is the very place where these people stand on stage, and sit across from their counterparts in the audience. The cast of Hamilton has always included an incredibly diverse group of people, representing the US to the best of its ability, and this has been one of the most discussed and celebrated aspects of the show’s work. Mike Pence did not go in blindly.

I cannot even begin to imagine the pain it must have caused for the company of Hamilton to perform for Mike Pence that night. Mr Pence, much like Mr Trump has been very open about his proposed policies, and many of those policies are directed at the very people and communities that Hamilton seeks to represent each night. Beyond that, it must have been hard to be an audience member in that room with Mr Pence. New York has been a hot spot for protests against President-Elect Trump and Vice President-Elect Pence since the results of the election were announced. But the actions of the Hamilton company were not just those of protest – they were a show of acceptance, acceptance of the upcoming Trump-Pence administration, and acceptance of the power these people will now hold. More than that, they were an act of faith – faith in their nation’s democracy, and faith in the man standing surrounded by security on his way out of their theatre that he would stop, if only for a moment, to hear them.

The theatre has always been a space for people to ask for people to listen to them. It has become a tradition for cast members to step forward once the show has finished to ask patrons to donate money to a particular cause, or to inform them about large social and cultural issues that they can make a difference in. The theatre has always been a safe space for actors to use their platform to give a voice to the people who aren’t always heard.

Hamilton has participated in this tradition before. And this is no different.

Mr Trump, who took to Twitter to voice his anger, said that “the theatre must always be a safe and special place”, and I fail to see how that was not the case here. When Brandon Victor Dixon stood forward, speech in hand, he was standing there for all the voices who have been crying out in all their different ways since the election. With the greatest respect for the position he had, and for the position the man he was addressing has now gained, he thanked him for listening, for choosing this show, choosing to hear them, and for choosing to stay for a few moments to hear the people he spoke for. Dixon used his position to stand up for the voices needed to be heard – loud, clearly and without hate speech and violence. As Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the show, tweeted later “Proud of @HamiltonMusical. Proud of @BrandonVDixon, for leading with love. And proud to remind you that ALL are welcome at the theatre.” And honestly, if that does not show the power of the theatre as a safe and special place for everyone, I don’t know what does.

I am not a fan of Mike Pence or his proposed policies, but for a second let’s put that aside. I am not here to talk about my political views, I am here to defend the place of theatre and I want to take a moment to talk about this event specifically. Despite being booed on his way in, Mr Pence did go to Hamilton, and he watched it. Theatre is a space for learning, for education, and a place to test your own personal views. Given that, Mr Pence’s very presence in that space shows, for me at least, a glimpse of hope. He went to perhaps the most political show running on Broadway and listened to every word of it. More than that, when the show ended and the cast stayed to address him directly, he stopped. He didn’t demand an apology. He didn’t walk away. Despite the audience’s booing (which the cast made sure to discourage) he stayed and listened.

And that act of staying and listening gives me hope for the next four years.

So please, Mr Pence, keep on listening.

 

© Hayley New 2016