George Orwell's Animal Farm is a good example. We can read that book as a history lesson of sorts, learning about the Russian revolution while seeing those events through the lens of Orwell's commentary. We can also read it through the lens of our own time, considering what lessons that piece of history has to give us, and how current events could mesh with Orwell's story. Now that I've written a book of my own, I'm pretty sure the latter is the best approach.
Time Magazine - October 17, 1969
Time Magazine - February 8, 2017
When I started writing Miss E. and filled it full of strong female characters and anti-war demonstrations, we were in the first half of the Obama administration. The closest thing to a protest that I could find was a crowd of people near our neighborhood middle school who wanted the county to install a clearly marked crosswalk. I created strong female characters in my book because I have some amazing women in my life whom I respect and admire. I wove the 60s anti-war movement into my story because that period of history has always interested me, and I notion the idea that one person can have an impact on the world.
Still, reviews like a recent one in Publishers Weekly say things like...
"Relationships, feminism, civil protest, and respect are among the themes highlighted... readers are likely to draw connections between current events and the political climate depicted in the book..."
They're not wrong! But I also didn't plan those themes five years ago when I got the idea for Miss E. and started writing.
Books and stories aren't stuck in time. If they were, we'd file them away in history classrooms and be done with them. Stories are fluid, and they're open to interpretation whenever they're read and whoever reads them. When we see our own time and current events in what we read, books are truly alive. I love that someone can pick up my book today and see themes of feminism and protest. I also hope that when Bets raises a "No War" sign above her head and stands up for what she believes in, readers will see a little bit of themselves in her character.