Ellen Meeropol: On Hurricane Island & Cecelia Tichi: Jack London

Ellen Meeropol talks about her new novel, On Hurricane Island. It’s about what happens when an innocent American citizen is abducted to a domestic black site and tortured. Meeropol also discusses how being married to one of the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg has influenced her writing.

Then, a look back at one of the greatest writers and critics of America’s first Gilded Age and his relevance for today, Jack London: Cecelia Tichi talks about her biography of the great writer and democratic socialist, Jack London: A Writer’s Fight For a Better America.

Ellen Meeropol

This week’s episode of Writer’s Voice comes only a few days after horrendous terrorist attacks in Brussels, Nigeria, Iraq and Pakistan. After Brussels, presidential candidates called for more security, including Ted Cruz’ call for patrolling Muslim neighborhoods in the US. And while cooler heads have called for balancing security with civil liberties — Bernie Sanders among them — since 9/11 the US has seen a steady erosion of those liberties.

Mass surveillance is ever more pervasive. Torture was used under the Bush administration and continues today with the use of solitary confinement. The US government uses drone strikes to execute America citizens abroad without trial. And, yes, Muslim neighborhoods are right now being patrolled by law enforcement in the US.
My guest Ellen Metropol examines the dangerous seesaw between security and human rights in her new novel On Hurricane Island. It concerns what happens when an ordinary citizen, a math professor, is abducted by Homeland Security and rendered to a black site — not in some foreign country but on an island off the coast of Maine.

Told over the five days approaching the anniversary of 9/11, On Hurricane Island is both a fast-paced political thriller and a literary examination of the dilemma facing our society. How far should government go in the name of protecting our national security? What happens when governmental powers of surveillance and extra-legal interrogation are expanded? How free are we?
Ellen Meeropol is the author of a previous novel House Arrest, published in 2011. Her latest, On Hurricane Island, is out from Red Hen Press.

Cecilia Tichi

tichi_jackJack London is best known for his wolf-dog tales and stories of the frozen North, like Call of the Wild. But a new biography by Cecelia Tichi challenges the notion that London was merely a mass-market producer of potboilers.

London grew up in grinding poverty during America’s first Gilded Age. As a child laborer and then a young man, he experienced the brutal conditions most workers lived under in those times. Yet, he was a voracious reader from childhood and developed into a writer famed the world over for his adventure stories.

Those stories were meant to do more than thrill readers. Through plot, character and allegory, Jack London exposed the plight of America’s 99% — the hunger, the homelessness, the dangerous working conditions. He also wrote essays and reportage designed to awake America’s conscience and hasten social, economic, and political change. He was in a very real way, America’s first public intellectual.

Cecilia Tichi’s biography, Jack London, A Writer’s Fight For a Better America focuses the lens on this aspect of Jack London’s work and, in so doing, draws important lessons for our own second Gilded Age today.

Tichi is the author of twelve books, including mystery novels and nonfiction. She teaches English and American Studies at Vanderbilt University and is the winner of the Jay B. Hubbell Medal for lifetime achievement in American literature. Her recent work explores the relation of citizen activism to progressive social change in the United States.

Read A Preview of Jack London by Cecilia Tichi

See Videos of Jack London on the book’s website

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About Francesca Rheannon

Francesca Rheannon is an award-winning independent radio producer. In addition to hosting Writer's Voice, she's a freelance reporter for National Public Radio and its affiliates. Recipient of the prestigious Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for reporting on substance abuse issues for her news series, VOICES OF HIV, produced for 88.5 WFCR public radio in western Massachusetts. She is also finishing a book on Provence (PROVINCE OF THE HEART) and working on a memoir of her father, THE ARGONAUTS.