I’ve already been asked several times—and I expect I’ll get asked many more times—about why I chose to depict Hope as a stoner. I wouldn’t actually consider her a stoner. Yes, she smokes pot. Yes, it alters her mind. But, she doesn’t do it so that she can lay around and be lazy. Hope smokes cannabis as a way to meditate. She smokes with the intention of slowing down her brain so that she doesn’t overthink things—so that she can find what might be the most obvious solution to the problem on which she is focusing. She doesn’t use it to escape her problems. Hope smokes weed to investigate her problems.
I felt that, as a Native American, Hope should be more open to ancient medicines and practices. I’d briefly considered having her use peyote since that is much more frequently associated with Native American tribes and cultures. But, once I did a little research on it and saw that the “journeys” taken on peyote can last for many hours, I knew that having Hope eat peyote on a semi-regular basis would be overkill. For many reasons, I needed for Hope to be able to dream her prophetic visions, not for her to see them while she was hallucinating. I eventually decided that cannabis was probably the best tool for the narrative.
I’m sure that many people will take issue with my depiction of a pot smoking angel, but it was a literary device that I felt was necessary for her tale. The whole weed thing was also why I put their reservation in Colorado, even though it is actually in Arizona. It’s also why Hope’s tale is set in the 2070’s. Her grandfather even mentions at one point that cannabis has been as legal as alcohol since he was too young to even buy it. While some of those around her don’t use marijuana for the same meditative purposes as she does, I simply don’t consider her to be a “stoner.” That word has such negative connotations and to put that stigma on someone who works so hard…Well, I just don’t agree with that label when it comes to Hope.
I had one person ask me why I didn’t just have her drink because alcohol is legal and more socially acceptable. Sorry, but no. Alcohol has done so much damage to the indigenous peoples of the Americas that I couldn’t consider even for a moment depicting any of the Hopi people as drunks. It hurts my heart to think of Hope, her brothers, or her friends, as being alcoholics. There’s also the fact that less than a century ago, alcohol was illegal in America. Just look at how popular it has become since prohibition ended. I feel that in sixty years, when cannabis has been legal for so long and it has become more socially acceptable, people will wonder how it ever became illegal. Maybe I’m wrong about that. But I maintain that having Hope smoke her genetically modified, chocolate cake flavored marijuana is a necessary literary device for her story.
Why genetically modified? Well, as much as I detest GMOs, I felt that it was a feasible line to add since it is set sixty years in the future. I mean…come on. If someone smokes weed, why wouldn’t they want to smoke pot that tastes like cake? It kind of kills two birds with one stone, doesn’t it?
So, yes. Hope smokes weed. Daily, if she can. Her friends smoke and so does her family. I don’t see anything wrong with putting that in my novel. They’re from a different time, culture, and place than the one we currently occupy. This made-up family from a fictionalized culture shouldn’t be judged for doing what they were raised to believe is normal and acceptable.
We do our best not to judge the ignorance of people from the past. Was it wrong to lobotomize masses of mental patients in centuries past? Yes. But did they know any better? No. So we do our best not to hate the innovators who brought this archaic technology into existence. Was it a bad thing that our government started poisoning people with tainted booze during the alcohol prohibition almost a century ago? Definitely. But do we blame our current government for the mistakes of those in the past? Of course not!
The way I see it, we also shouldn’t judge people from a mythical future for what amounts to no more than being products of their environment. Hope cusses like a sailor, but so do the others around her. She smokes, has sex out of wedlock, and she’s extremely disobedient. Clearly, she is not anyone’s role model. She was also never meant to be one. She’s intended to be human. In all of her faults and bad choices, Hope is meant to be relatable—even for people who don’t have to figure out how to save the world and will never have the problems that come with growing wings.
If people are afraid that letting their child read my book will encourage them to smoke pot and try to fly off the roof, then they shouldn’t be letting their dumbass kid read Our Only Hope. (Or, maybe they should and it’ll clean some stupid out of the gene pool.) This is not a YA book by any means. It is intended to be for adults, even though it is not an “adult” book. The second book will have a lot more blood and violence than the first one does. The third book will have even more.
All the while, Hope will keep learning and growing as a person. Even as adults, we don’t have it all figured out. Well, neither does she. She bumping and bumbling along through life as she tries to figure out on her own how to be the savior she’s told that she’s meant to be. She makes bad choices and mistakes, but she uses them to teach herself how to be a better person. So what if she gets high? She’s not hurting anyone with it. And in her world, no one would bat an eye at her toking up. Why should you?