They say that history repeats itself.
Actually, they’re not exactly sure who said it. It could have been Karl Marx, George Santayana, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, or any number of likely candidates.
But it hardly matters.
Because it’s true. History does repeat itself.
So if history repeats itself, why can’t I?
It’s been about 25 years since my award-winning novels for young adults hit the market with surprising (to me) success.
At the time, I was just writing about what was on my mind and in my heart. I didn’t realize that these books had a pattern.
Now, from the perspective of 25 years, I see there was a pattern here: my novels were all about some form of social justice. Civil rights (Spite Fences). Economic rights (Kinship). Women’s rights (Uncommon Faith). Free speech rights (Fallout).
Sadly, over the years, my books had fallen out of print.
And yet, rereading the pages again, I realized that history repeated itself. Civil rights is still an issue as we fight for criminal justice, fair housing, and educational equality. Economic justice continues as a rallying cry for those not in the top 1%. Women’s rights are under attack by new abortion laws, and women are beginning to seek justice through political representation and protests against sexual violence. Truthful speech is still being assaulted by those who cry “fake news” or who decry the findings of science.
History was repeating itself.
So I was faced with a dilemma. Do I let my books fall out-of-print or do I republish, convinced that they still have something to say?
It hasn’t been an easy decision. In the early days, my publishers set up wine-and-cheese parties or conference speeches to promote my work. For instance, my children and I were flown to Los Angeles to receive an international award. I was feted in the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center. I was given a platform at the New York Public Library, awed by my opportunity to walk between those two brave lions to speak to the nation’s premier librarians.
But that was then.
This is now.
Publishing has changed. Today authors are expected to develop websites and social media platforms. Authors are now required to be their own marketeers. If I republished, I would have to navigate the new media winds, sail into the hurricane of e-publishing, and survive the tsunami of social media platforms.
Given all these changes, would I still want to make sure my books remained in print?
I decided that the answer was ‘yes.’
Because the messages in my books are not old. They are new again. They will likely always be new again, for the struggles they depict are timeless.
That thought gave me confidence.
After all, if history repeats itself, so could I.