The King’s Mercy, my sixth historical novel with WaterBrook & Multnomah, releases today. To celebrate here on the blog I’m sharing some insightful thoughts from someone who has helped me behind the scenes with all my books, but none more so than The King’s Mercy.

I met Amarilis (Amy) Iscold as members of an online Literary Forum we both frequented for years. She lived and worked in Brazil as an MD-Pediatrician with her own practice for a little over a decade before relocating with her family to the USA. On the forum, Amy frequently drew from her considerable experience to answer my and other writer’s questions concerning the fictional expectant mothers and newborns that populated our stories, providing real life anecdotes to make those scenes believable and grounded. Amy specializes in Family & Human Development and currently teaches higher education: child psychology, development, and early education. Her upbeat, creative, and inquisitive outlook on life has earned her several sobriquets, her favorites being The Hope Lady and The Book Whisper (if you want a lead on your next good read, follow Amy on Facebook, where she writes compellingly about what she’s lately read).

I’m thankful Amy not only chose to read The King’s Mercy but agreed to be a guest on the blog today to share her thoughts on one of the major themes of the story: the responsibility of those with power toward those without. As always, Amy dove deep and helped even me to see the story and characters contained in The King’s Mercy from a fresh angle.

Power, Privilege & Representation

by Amarilis Iscold

I was recently listening to a scholar (and activist) who spoke, among other things, of representation. She reaffirmed that, ideally, the voices to be heard are those that best represent any given cause. However, she was pragmatic and realistic enough to admit that the world is imperfect and idealism will only carry us so far.

As many – for ages – have said, at times it takes an ally with power to open doors so that those with a cause can make their voices heard.

Those who have any kind of power and privilege should listen. Really listen. Listen with an open heart and an open mind and be prepared to be educated, mentored, and challenged.

This isn’t easy… “We are not skilled at listening to the wisdom of those whose life patterns are outside of the social norm” (Jean Vanier in BECOMING HUMAN).

There are many degrees of power – and of oppression. Most of us can think of at least one situation for which we are on either side of the equation. Some have more things on one end of the spectrum… others on the other end.

Knowing a little or empathizing in some degree does not authorize us to represent a whole – much less a whole we do not fully belong to. It does not give us a right to speak for others.

We are all inherently a part of the life we live. We are a product of our times. We cannot remove ourselves from humanity and analyze it from the outside in. There is no outside. Or, rather, there are varying degrees of “insiderness”. But we can create alliances.

To align.

In talking about the power of representation and of having a voice in society, an expression that comes up is that of having a seat at the table. During said speech, I was asking myself (and later my journal), “When given a seat at the table, who do you align with? Do you open doors? Or are you a gatekeeper? Do you change the rules? Create a bigger table?”

Lori Benton tackles some of these subtly – and not so subtly – in her new book… Characters find themselves in situations where they are challenged to think about how to use their strengths – and lack thereof. Physical disabilities, financial difficulties, indenture, servitude, sexism, slavery, racism… 
Levels of power and oppression – of belonging or exclusion. Fascinating how when something is on my mind it shows up on things I read.

Thank you, Lori… This was a true pleasure to read. 

Trying to match his self-possession, she faced him. “What you said last night, about the lines between us, my family and the slaves–“

Wheest,” he interrupted gently, straightening but still gripping the fence rail. “I oughtn’t to have said such things, Mistress.”

“Miss Joanna,” she reminded him. “And whether you spoke amiss or not, I’ve been thinking about it — even before last night. You’re right. I do find it difficult to keep from crossing those lines.”

He leaned toward her slightly. “Can you imagine a life without them?”

(excerpt from The King’s Mercy)
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When captured rebel Scotsman Alex MacKinnon is granted the king’s mercy–transport across the Atlantic Ocean and exile to the colony of North Carolina–he’s indentured as a blacksmith to Edmund Carey, prosperous owner of Severn Plantation. The arrangement devastates the Scot who mourns the life he lost and finds life on a slave plantation intolerable. Unwittlingly, Alex is drawn into the plight of Carey’s slaves, particularly those connected to Carey’s stepdaughter, Joanna.
A mistress longing for a different life, Joanna Carey is expected to wed the plantation’s overseer, Phineas Reeves, who has no patience for her kinder vision for Severn’s future. For guidance, Joanna relies on itinerant minister Reverend Pauling, who travels to the plantation seasonally, bringing the gospel to all with ears to listen.
Despite his growing bond with Joanna, Alex longs to break the chains of servitude and forge his freedom, until he’s face with the choice that hounds him: continue down his destructive, rebellious path or embrace the faith of a man like Pauling, whose freedom in Christ no earthly power can steal. But the price of such mercy is total surrender and perhaps Alex’s very life.

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