The Importance of Independence
by Anna Brentwood
July 7, 2022
I believe Independence plays a colossal role in my life—maybe more so for some of the characters in my books: but what is it, really? A goal? A dream?
Wanting to be free or independent is probably at the heart of who many of us aspire to be. As infants we strive for ‘independence’? To crawl, walk, run. There’s a little part inside of each us that wants to defy the first no’s we hear as children, or the rules we humans do and don’t want to follow.
In my book, Mermaid’s Treasure, the prequel to the Sapphire Songbird series, a Russian military officer from a prominent Imperial family, the lone survivor of a tragic shipwreck, emigrates to America in 1893 with a treasure and many secrets. What better symbolizes independence than leaving everything behind to go somewhere foreign and create a different life for themselves and in turn, future generations of their family?
In The Songbird with Sapphire Eyes, the second book in the series, the heroine, a beautiful young farm girl from rural Kansas, leaves home at thirteen dreaming of a better life. With only her beauty, a good singing voice and a desperate hunger to experience all she imagines life can offer, she ends up in Kansas City, Missouri—Sin City. With some help from her friends, Prohibition and a dashing New York gangster, young Hannah becomes the quintessential flapper, coming of age during the very roaring twenties. She flies free but ultimately becomes a bird in a gilded cage, and learns the hard way that freedom comes at a cost.
In my third book in series, Anthony’s Angel, outside of the shadow of a very dominant gangster father, an obedient son struggles to become his own man.
As someone who writes historical fiction and takes history very much into consideration when I write, what a girl growing up in 1920’s America would perceive as being free and independent is eons away from what a boy struggling to define himself in the forties or a girl or boy growing up today would think. It’s obvious what we personally deem as independence is wholly influenced by family, history, societal expectations; where and when we are living, how rich or poor we are, what beliefs we hold, etc., etc.
So, a part of me asks: is independence even real? I don’t think Independence, being synonymous with Freedom, (defined here as being free from the influence control or determination of another or others), is all that simple…
Because first, in exploring the idea of personal freedom through my books, what I have found is independence looks different to each of us at different times. And like any goal or ideal, comes with sacrifice. Second, independence, in truth, has to be broken down, because it is an IDEAL, and there are facets to any ideal that separates the dream from the reality.
In the physical, real world we inhabit, there are rules, laws and much we can’t control i.e., we do not always have agency to traverse our lives independently. However, the aspects of freedom within our grasp beginning from ideals, standards of perfection, beauty or excellence; levels of quality or attainment can in part, become reality, because we CAN set our own standards.
If you are in your teens or older, living in covid world 2022, you already know most things in life aren’t black and white. There are infinite shades of gray, rainbow explosions and colors yet to be named. Everything REAL doesn’t have to be solid, and so it is with standards and ideals and what we perceive as independence.
In writing as in life, each character has their own lessons to learn, their own standards, goals, purpose, conflicts and obstacles to fail with or grow from. I read, write and learn much by peeking through the lens of my characters, as I do by living my own life.
So, my take-away is this…
Our journeys are diverse, each ever changing through the times and worlds we are living in, but tangible or intangible, we all have the same super power. Being able to create, think, define our own versions of beauty and quality and to make it manifest, is a form of independence most of us are familiar with. No, we can’t control the weather, governments, death and a myriad of other things but we can control how we choose to live each day, and what we personally dream, think, believe, aspire and do.
If those small wins aren’t forms of independence, I don’t know what is.
Anna Brentwood writes historical fiction. She is inspired to write about interesting characters whose lives take them on journeys we can all enjoy and perhaps learn something along the way. This former suburban Philly and California wife, mother, doting nany of three lives in one of Oregon’s wild, enchanted forests in a log home that includes a sassy collection of Flapper memorabilia, her ex-Navy Seal hubby, a menagerie of creatures that once included wolves, coyotes and a hawk. Currently they harbor two very pampered French bulldogs, one ornery parrot and outside a variety of birds, squirrels and chipmunks.