By Lance Erlick
What was it like growing up in the Richmond Swamps? If not for the illegal print books Mo-Mere lets me read, I would describe my life as school, salvage from the depths, and chores at home. But her books make me see my world in the context of how other people live. The Federation calls us Marginals and we live a marginal life in many ways. We live with constant dangers from storms, not enough food, contaminated water, and the Federation’s genetically-enhanced alligators. Yet we are free in ways that those living in the Federation are not. There is no one telling us what to do or how to live. Mom sacrifices so my sister and I can go to school six days a week. I don’t know how she spends her days when we’re away, except we have enough to eat and our very own island with an orange and apple tree. At times I feel like Tom Sawyer, except we have to be vigilant to dangers and work hard to find food and keep our home safe.
At the beginning of the first book, why were you afraid of Antiquities agents? Both Mom and Mo-Mere, my teacher, tell me to avoid agents at all cost. Contrary to the implication that Antiquities preserves the past, it is their job to destroy any evidence from before the Federation. Even our calendar begins three hundred years ago with the Federation as year zero. We fear the agents because during storms, their agents kidnap girls from the swamps to work on Federation farms and in factories and mines as slaves.
How do you imagine life on the other side of the Great Barrier Wall? We are told that life on the other side of the Wall is better than the swamps because they don’t have as much to worry about storms stealing their land. They have food, and they don’t have vicious gators. But I wonder since so much of what they tell us is lies, whether this also is a myth. They have a caste system. They take our girls as slaves. That doesn’t sound like a place where I would want to live.
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