It’s release week for An Unconditional Freedom, the last book in the Loyal League series! Below is the Author’s Note for anyone who’d like to read it without having to commit to the whole book.
Writing any book has some level of difficulty, but among the books I’ve written thus far, An Unconditional Freedom is lovingly called “the book that broke me.” That’s not exactly accurate—it was the world that existed as I tried to create Daniel and Janeta’s story that broke me.
When I first started this series, America was seemingly on an upward trajectory, despite still struggling with the whole “liberty and justice for all” thing. When An Extraordinary Union came out, it was alongside surging White supremacy, with neo-Nazis and Confederates being given glowing profiles in national newspapers, which led to them taking to the streets with torches. If you’ve read the book before reading this (I know some of you skip to the back of the book and I will not judge you [too much] for that), then you know this book was about a man who believed in America and was grievously wronged by it, a man who was unable to process his trauma in a country that was still hurting people like him while also expecting them to help right the wrongs baked into the foundational bricks of the country.
As I was writing this book, it seemed that every other day brought a new story about a Black man or woman being killed by police. As I was writing this book, opening social media meant seeing the casual cruelty of the current government’s policies. As I was writing this book, I couldn’t help but succumb to sadness and defeat because what promise could I make a character like Daniel about America, knowing that in 2018 it had reverted back to everything he feared? How could I give him a happy ending in a country that was so set against him having one?
I became depressed and despondent at several times during this book. I stopped and started, and couldn’t bring myself to push toward the end. There were several individual things that allowed me to finish the book—films, books, articles—but maybe foremost among them was one I watched with Betty Reid Soskin, a ninety-six-year-old park ranger and author of Sign My Name to Freedom: A Memoir of a Pioneering Life, and Luvvie Ajayi, author of I’m Judging You. Soskin said something that resonated with me deeply:
“There’s still much, much work to do. But every generation I know now has to recreate democracy in its time because democracy will never be fixed. It was not intended to. It’s a participatory form of governance that we all have the responsibility to form that more perfect union.”
It reminded me of something that I had already known but had been buried under the relentlessly growing pile of awful news: Daniel’s happily ever after didn’t mean that America had to be that perfect Union as I was writing the story. It is in the possibility of perfection, in finding a community of like-minded people who share similar goals and work toward them, together. I wish that things were different. I wish the injustices chronicled in the Loyal League series were truly in the past. But wishing only gets us so far. I hope that by the time this is published, America is moving in a better direction. Whatever the situation is, I hope that you, dear reader, have found a way to exercise your rights, to participate in our democracy, and that you have found the community that will fight alongside you. We can’t all be daring detectives, but we can all do something, no matter how small, to make the future brighter for every American.