Janet Whitaker Virdis is a New York State transplant to San Diego at the very beginning of the longest drought in California’s history. Years after her arrival, she is happily married with four children and a very well-paid job at an elite San Diego law firm. Her work grants her unparalleled access to the rise of the firm’s most powerful client: an extremely wealthy political party with its own beliefs, uniforms, and hierarchy that is determined to lead California and the nation in a moment of crisis.
As the drought worsens and dust storms become the norm in San Diego, Janet insists on remaining in Southern California. Across the world, species are going extinct, people are forced across borders in unprecedented numbers, and entire regions are becoming uninhabitable. A mysterious disease associated with increased desertification, which only kills teenage boys, has made its entrance, and no cure is available. Janet is the mother of three boys. Awaiting public execution in San Diego, twenty-four years after the drought began, Janet tries to make sense of the many reversals she has suffered and how ostensibly innocuous choices upended the happy life she once enjoyed.
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I am a lawyer and linguist by training, and I love language and writing. I was born and raised in Africa, and the US has been home for the past twenty years.
The book that changed my relationship with all books and all writing was required reading at high school for the international exams. It is a book that deals with the collision of two antagonistic worlds, individuals, and political systems. I recall being enthralled, appalled, and shocked by that book. I couldn’t stop talking about it, thinking about it, and maybe even dreaming about it. Almost twenty-five years later, the book’s impression remains undiminished. That book is Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. It taught me that good books change lives.
My own work, not Shakespearean at all for any number of reasons, tries to deal with similar themes. The California Ballot Killings explores how we construct our lives and sense of self through small, powerful choices that cumulatively change us and others.
When I grow up, I’d love to be a ballet dancer.