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Too Real: My dystopian YA novel is actually happening

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Every morning since the election, I have woken up, checked the news and experienced a surreal feeling: scenes from my book, The Ones, are being reported as real life events.

Not just any scenes, mind you, but scenes of horrifying injustice, bullying and intolerance.

See, my novel is often placed into the "dystopia" genre. Although the book feels contemporary, it is set in a future where genetic engineering has become commonplace. The first babies born with this technology have reached their teenage years, and the rest of the society suddenly starts a backlash. Afraid and resentful, a populist movement springs up to persecute these genetically engineered citizens.

Dystopian novels are supposed to warn us about the future. They are not supposed to reflect the present, at least not literally. So how come some of the harshest moments from the book are reflected in today's headlines?

There was the incident in Shasta, California - incidentally, the setting of my book - where white students brought in fake deportation papers for their Latino peers.

There are the email chains going around college campuses like the University of Pennsylvania that list minority students who should be subjected to violence and intimidation.

And there are the countless other reports of anonymous, venom-filled graffiti dotting bathroom walls in schools across the country.

Each of these examples echoes a moment from The Ones. But unlike the victims in the book, real people are being hurt here. Real people are being made to feel unsafe. Real people are being mistreated.

And sadly, of course, real people are also perpetuating these hateful acts.

How do we stop these real people from recreating the worst moments from our fiction? The heroes in my book fight back in bold, reckless ways. They are not always right, even though they might think so and even though they might win.

I'd like to believe, however, that the dystopia of the book is worse than the current predicament our country finds itself in. In fact, I need to believe that. And that means we don't need heroes to do anything crazy. We may not need heroes at all.

What we need is for all the people who believe they are neither victim nor perpetrator to pick a side. Neutrality among the silent majority is unacceptable. There is right and wrong being done here and it is easy to discern.

Choosing a side does not mean being confrontational or violent. It can be as simple as wearing a safety pin. Smiling at someone in the hallway. Correcting a person who says something intolerant.

There are concrete actions to take, as well. Calling government representatives and demanding accountability. Volunteering and donating to organizations like the ACLU that fight back against these crimes. In short, becoming an active citizen on the right side of history.

My book is filled with heroes and villains. They get all the attention and all the good lines. But our country isn't a fictional place. It's time for all the boring background characters to stand up and change the story.