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Abortion Struggles of the 1980s Inspire Minnesota Writer
(Minneapolis, MN) – Senior year of high school is the time when most teenagers dream of starting a new chapter as freshly-minted adults. But not everyone has the luxury of being able to follow their dreams.
Trapped by family obligations, blue-collar Seth fears he’ll never escape his small town. Wealthy Quinn, on the other hand, has every opportunity in front of her to spread her wings and fly. They keep their unlikely romance a secret. But an unplanned pregnancy forces them into family conversations and public confrontations about freedom, morality, and life-changing choices.
In the new novel ’89 Walls (Wise Ink Creative Publishing, June 5, 2015, $12.99) by Minnesota author Katie Pierson, politics suddenly get personal. Quinn and Seth find themselves fighting bare-fisted for their beliefs and each other—in the clear light of day.
The themes and setting of ’89 Walls may seem eerily familiar. In 1989—as in 2015—Americans argued bitterly over the parameters of legalized abortion, the role of religion in public life and the right to privacy.
According to Pierson, sex-positive messages in young adult fiction are still the exception rather than the rule. “We still fall back on girl shaming in young adult fiction and in real life. The message we send young people is that boys who have sex are players but girls who have sex are sluts.”
The female protagonist in ’89 Walls learns to take charge of her sexuality and is made stronger and happier by the choices she makes.
The Eighties are an increasingly popular time period for young adult fiction. “Painful as it is to admit, 1989 qualifies now as historical fiction,” says Pierson. “According to the Beloit College Mindset List, the class of 2015 never lived in a time during which Russia posed a nuclear threat. For them, Star Wars has always been just a movie. ’89 Walls introduces young adults to the good old days of getting by on 12 cable channels and communicating in cursive.”
Though it takes place at the end of the Cold War, the novel’s international relations context, again, feels familiar. In 1989, the U.S. was still divided over an unpopular war and theoretical debates over “big government” vs. “small government.” It walked a fine line between supporting pro-democracy activists in China, pushing for better human rights practices and maintaining economic ties with the Chinese government. The world kept a wary eye on Russia and worried about the new power vacuum in Afghanistan. The protagonists in ’89 Walls grapple with these and other hot-button political issues in class discussions and in conversations with their parents.
“As far as I know, this is the first young adult novel to put a coming-of-age story in the context of the end of the Cold War,” says Pierson. “It’s a great backdrop for characters trying to define themselves. They have to decide who they are—not just point a finger at their rival and decide who they’re not.”
Ultimately, the female protagonist rejects her father’s politics and his failure to appreciate the threat to individual freedoms posed by the Christian Right’s takeover of the Republican Party.
The publication of ’89 Walls coincides with the 50th anniversary of the landmark Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court decision (June 7, 1965) that legalized birth control in the United States. The court found that the Constitution’s implied right to privacy (such as the First Amendment’s right to free speech and the Fifth Amendment’s freedom from self-incrimination) cannot be unduly infringed.
The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion builds on Griswold, making abortion legal on the same right-to-privacy grounds.
“Roe’s basis in Griswold explains why the national antiabortion movement has never tried to repeal Roe directly,” says Pierson. “An attack on Roe equals an attack on Griswold. Ninety-eight percent of Americans use birth control during their lifetimes. A conservative attack on the Constitution’s implied right to privacy, in other words, would amount to political suicide. And they know it.”
Roe v. Wade legalized abortion at every stage of pregnancy. But it also defined the ways in which states could regulate abortion in the second and third trimesters, provided that those regulations did not impose an “undue burden” on the woman.
Pierson switched political parties in 1989 after the Webster decision in which the Supreme Court upheld a Missouri statute that said that human life began at conception. It also barred the use of public funds for abortion and prohibited abortions at public health facilities. Webster marked the first time in 26 years that the court failed to affirm Roe v. Wade.
“I was 20 in 1989, and volunteering as an abortion counselor at the Planned Parenthood affiliate in downtown Philadelphia. This was before the Freedom of Access to Clinics Act. I was already spending every Saturday pushing through hostile, screaming crowds to help my patients get in the building. Webster felt like a huge betrayal.”
The novel’s broad outlines are autobiographical. Raised in a prominent Republican family in Lincoln, Nebraska, Pierson spent her childhood leafleting neighborhoods, pounding yard signs, and helping elect Nebraska’s first woman governor. “In a former life I wore a fuchsia debutante’s dress and campaigned for Dole in my role as the Executive Director of College Republicans,” says Pierson.
“Nothing in this book’s plot actually happened. But all of it is emotionally and politically true. This is the book I had to write. Doing so let me mentally hash out with my dad (who died in 1989) a very weird political moment. He was the smartest guy I ever met and the one I trusted most.” Pierson dedicates the book to her father.
’89 Walls will be available on June 5, 2015, in bookstores and online at Amazon.com. For more information, visit the author’s website, www.katiepierson.net.
About the Author
Katie Pierson is a communications consultant for progressive non-profits, a former lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of MN/SD, and a lifelong pro-choice activist. Her current clients include Hennepin County’s successful teen pregnancy prevention initiative. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in American History from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master’s in American History from the University of Minnesota.
Her published work includes political Commentaries in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, articles for Minnesota Journal (a public policy monthly) and Nebraska Humanities journal, and a chapter of an anthology called Nebraska Voices: Telling the Stories of our State.
She lives with her husband and two daughters in a suburb of Minneapolis.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To arrange an interview with Katie Pierson or request a review copy of ’89 Walls, contact Rachel M. Anderson, Publicist. at 952-240-2513 or email@example.com. High-resolution photography is also available upon request.
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Title: ’89 Walls
Author: Katie Pierson
Print ISBN: 978-1-940014-55-5
Size: 8.5 x 5.5 in trade paperback
Copyright: June 5, 2015
Retail price: $13.95
Category: Young Adult fiction (with crossover appeal to adults who experienced the 1980s as teenagers.)
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing 222 N. 2nd Street Suite 220, Minneapolis, MN 55401, 612-200-0983 http://www.wiseinkpub.com
Publicity: RMA Publicity, Rachel M. Anderson, Publicist, 952-240-2513, firstname.lastname@example.org
Book Website: http://www.katiepierson.net