I've been thinking on the need for this for some time, and now the content of the next few chapters it is time to add it. I've gone back and added this to Chapter One.
I feel the need to make a comment on the inclusion of teen sexuality. As noted, I spent my career dealing directly and indirectly with teenage sexuality. While it may seem silly that I need to point out the obvious; people under eighteen have sex and they always have. In the US, and often in the larger English-speaking world, there has persisted a fiction that “good kids” don’t have sex. Furthermore, due to the outsized influence of the Puritanical strain of American law; it has been all but decreed that teenage sexuality should only be discussed in terms of condemnation. Those who create works of fiction that normalizes sexual behavior of young people in their middle teenage years are now subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) accused of promoting child abuse and/or pedophilia. This is nonsense. As someone who spent years working as a full-time professional dealing with both teenagers and sex offenders, I have the credentials to say that idea is nothing more than the ranting of the ignorant. In this project, I present many stories that touch on middle-teen sexuality, most of which were inspired by actual people and events. I have tried to present these issues with sensitivity, accuracy and a balance of the risks and rewards found by actual young people.
One final note, I have been working on this novel since the early 1990’s. Many of the events of the early chapters are fictionalized versions of events in my life with my family in the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s. The Campbell family began as a thought project as to what my real life nuclear family would look like when my children made the transition from childhood to the adult world. As it happened, the project outlasted my children’s childhood and saw my wife and I progress through our forties and fifties even as the family in the story hardly aged at all. At that same time, the characters in the story developed on their own, spinning off from a semi-autobiographic story to one of pure fiction. Thus, this novel is almost a ‘what might have been’ story rather than the ‘what might be’ from which it began.
As the project progressed from the story of a nuclear family in the American South (Book One) to a larger canvas of American culture (Book Four) it reflected the world that existed when I was writing the final chapters in the first decade of the 2000’s. In subsequent rewrites simple things like phone and video technology leaped forward. In the first draft for instance, there was discussion of video tapes and home telephones; however, by the third re-write in the first years of the 2010’s I found myself needing to rework the text not only to fix issues that tie tech to dates; but people and events in the larger society and world as well. Additionally, as my readers know, I tell a good many backstories which are also fixed in specific times and places. Then came the twin cataclysms of the rise of Donald Trump & the neo-fascist MAGA movement followed by the great pandemic of 2020. The world had changed more than I could keep up without simply abandoning the story as written.
Therefore, I decided that rather than adjusting my text to keep up with the ever-changing world; I needed to simply fix the opening of this novel in the early years of the 2010’s, coinciding with the 3rd rewrite. I decided in the fourth (and final) rewrite that includes the addition of the illustrations began in 2020; but I did not and will not attempt to incorporate the huge impact of the events after 2015.