The Big Idea: Rosiee Thor
Early on, Rosiee Thor learned an important fact about the world, and who it impacts, and why — a fact that years later became integral to the creation of their novel, Fire Becomes Her. Here they are now, to illuminate that fact.
The idea behind Fire Becomes Her came to me–as so many odd ones do–while listening to show tunes. Okay, to be fair, it was a song from Hamilton, and, to be fairer, who among us wasn’t mainlining the Hamilton soundtrack in order to offset the mind-boggling despair of the circus show that has been American politics over the past few years? The song was “Burn,” and I listened to it an amount I don’t care to disclose, as I don’t want to be judged (I judge myself plenty).
The song “Burn” is about betrayal–the kind of romantic betrayal of a jilted lover. But as I listened to it over and over and over again, slowly melting all of my brain cells into a singular musical blob, a different kind of betrayal came to mind. It made me think about the betrayal of political promises and the social contracts of capitalism and democracy. It made me think of the way the rich, the powerful, and the politicians in the world disrespect the people they are supposed to serve by promising to change things, only to fall short of that promise every time. Most of all, it made me angry.
So, I wrote about a girl named Ingrid fighting for her fair share. I gave her my anger and frustration, and I made her world a glitzed and glammed up version of our own. Ingrid is a teenager who wants more than she was born to, but she must grapple with her desire for wealth and status when confronted with the idea that both are a little immoral and a lot unfair.
Ingrid is a teenager, only seventeen, but I remember what it was like to be young and to feel helpless to change a failing world. In fact, I’m thirty years old and I still feel that way most of the time. The truth is, we may not be allowed to vote until we’re eighteen in the United States, but politics begin to shape us long before we become legal adults.
My first political memory is from the year 2000. I was eight years old, and I had two best friends–one was the daughter of the Republican Party chair for our city, and the other was named after an herb. The former told us both that she wasn’t allowed to be friends with us unless our parents were voting for George W. Bush. That was the day we stopped being friends, but it was also the day I learned how to obtain political lawn signs, tape them to a wagon, and make the 2nd playground my personal protest zone.
I don’t think my ill-advised campaigning around the sandbox made much of a difference in the election, but it did kickstart my engagement in politics. As I grew up and became a tween, then a teen, I learned that politics aren’t just about lawn signs and losing friends; they can also be about losing lives. My beliefs changed and hardened, my dreams spilled and soured. The world was broken and I felt powerless to change it. My friends and I felt like everything was happening to us and there was nothing we could do about it. Politics was this untouchable place where powerful people got to decide what happened to the rest of us, and because I was too young to vote, it felt like the world was saying I was too young to care.
Now, I know that it’s not a one-way street. I can take action myself, even if those actions are small. It may not dispel the feelings of helplessness or frustration, but it’s not nothing. I wanted to write about those feelings and about a girl doing her best to thrive in a system set against her coming to the realization that she can actually do something about that system by working to uplift others, not just herself. I hope readers walk away from Fire Becomes Her feeling empowered and emboldened to enact change, even if it’s only within themselves, and knowing that their actions and beliefs matter. Politics impacts us all whether we involve ourselves or not, so we may as well get our hands dirty–even if it means burning the whole thing down along the way.