Monday, May 29, 2017

Calling for Change


How does one judge the impact of a work with a social message? The impacts of Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Grapes of Wrath, The Jungle, even A Christmas Carol--each one a gripping tale in its own right--ripple on and on past any legislation that may have resulted to the shifting of social mores and attitudes. If people are still reading them today, which I suspect they are, will their impact ever end?

Twyla Dell's Call of the Rainbow Warrior strives to enter that category, with larger lessons wrapped in characters and situations. It specifically takes its model from Dickens' life-changing story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, except in this modern update the protagonist is timber executive Rich Lawless (yes, really!), profiting from turning ancient trees into lumber while denying his employees benefits like child care. An estranged brother, three intense dreams curated by the ghostly Rainbow Warrior, an awakening of empathy, and Rich embarks upon a new path of economics.

The final two sections of the book contain suggestions for the reader to learn more about environmental crises, including a reading list, and organizations the reader can join. It's a nice roadmap for making change, for those readers who are inspired to follow Rich's transformation with one of their own.

Unfortunately, the brevity of the story means that its didactic bones are all too visible, which makes it unlikely to change the hearts of any who aren't already inclined in that direction. In the language of writing coaches everywhere, there's too much "telling" and not enough "showing" here, which makes the story move too quickly and dilutes the effect. I wish it was more effective, because I personally believe that this transformation is desperately needed. A Scrooge-like transformation story might be a good way to advance society toward the cultural tipping points I believe we need. Although I don't think this story is the one, who can say where the ripples end?

Excerpt:

A part of the rainbow reached out from the swirl of color and took Rich's hand. Before he could reject the offer--instantly--they were gone from the building. Velvet blackness enveloped them. Lights twinkled here and there. He took a deep breath and looked around. There, against black space, hung planet Earth in its orbit, just as in the pictures the astronauts had taken. He looked down at his feet. His heart lurched. He was standing in space! He jerked around, searched for the eyes of the mask near his own face and let his breath out slowly. His guide's serenity somehow composed him.

Note: I read this for the Color Coded Reading Challenge. It also counted for the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge and I used it for O (Oregon?) in the Where are You Reading? Reading Challenge.     

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