As you’ve no doubt gleaned, I’m on tour with my new novel, Homeland. A lot of people commiserate with me about the grueling pace — and it is! a new city practically every day and nowhere near enough sleep and continuous interviews and presentations from o-dark hundred to late at night — but for all that, it’s actually something I love. That’s because I get to meet readers, especially young readers (I do a lot of school presentations) and readers tell me about how my books have affected them, and it’s generally both humbling and delightful.
But every now and again, I hear from a reader whose description of her or his experience with my work leaves me, well, speechless. This is one such letter, from a young man named Brian, who emailed me this morning, and graciously gave me permission to post his letter. I’m posting it to let you know — and to remind me — that for all that touring is sometimes a lot of work, the end result is that my books end up in the hands of people for whom they can be revelatory. It’s such an awesome responsibility, and such a wonderful one. Thank you, Brian.
I started reading Homeland the day it came out, and finished it the day after. I had it on pre-order on my kindle, which I proceeded to bring with me everywhere for the following two days. I have read Little Brother, For The Win, Pirate Cinema, and Chicken Little. Each one amazed me (though Chicken Little is slightly less related to my point). By the time I got to the last page of Homeland, I was incensed. I didn’t have time to read the afterword, I was going to get started right away!
I looked up TrueCrypt, and was shocked to find it actually existed. Immediately downloaded. I had known about TOR before, but hadn’t thought much about it. My next move was to install it into my TC drive and begin using it. I found out about the CryptoParty movement, and I’m trying to figure out a Party in my hometown.
My point is, your book introduced me to practical cryptography and to a side of the movement for “freedom of people,” as you called it, that I had never before seen.
And then I read the afterword.
Related to my cryptography search, I had recently re-read some of the news articles and documents pertaining to Aaron’s suicide. The moment I saw his name on the afterword, I put the book down and started crying. I’m not normally a person to cry, but I couldn’t take it right then. Slowly, I picked my kindle back up and started reading again. As I read, tears welled in my eyes. I was very moved by your book, but (with all respect), these words from beyond the grave – from a real person beyond the grave – affected me more than any book ever could.
I didn’t know Aaron personally, but even so that passage made me cry. I can’t say I know how you felt, but I can say that I think it would have been hard for me to include his afterword. I’m damn grateful you chose to keep it. It is even more important now. When I read it, I was touched, but I was also pissed. My immediate, gut reaction was that no one has the right to do that to someone. The attacks and case against him were ridiculous, and I hope those who targeted him feel ashamed. My ensuing reaction was to do something, to really get out and do something. What, I’m not quite sure: I don’t know many internet activists, and my hometown isn’t exactly the center of internet activism, but that’s what the internet’s for, isn’t it? The internet lets anyone anywhere join in global movements that impassion them, and now I’m ready to join in a global initiative toward freedom on the internet across the world.
So, to summarize: your book worked. I read the Huffington Post article of an excerpt of their interview with you. Well, I am your ideal kid: I’m 14, here in 2013, and I my reaction was to “rush to a search engine and figure out proxies, free/open operating systems, freedom of information requests, local makerspaces, campaigns for political accountability…the whole package.” (Well, really I’m still working on some of those.)