The Exclusion Wars by Sheila Agnew is a dystopia set in New York in about ten years’ time, and one which is looking increasingly likely. Many such stories feel as if they would require considerably longer before they might happen, but this one features a Trump-like President with a hatred for one group of the population; the Latinos.
The novel is self-published because all the publishers Sheila approached a couple of years ago felt that the scenario was far too unlikely…
The main character is teenager Mateo Rivera, aka Matthew Rivers, who is alone after his mother escaped to Alaska, the only safe place for Latinos to go. He is looked after by the Underground, whose goal is to restore Latinos in the community, while helping people to disappear safely, or to live in disguise.
There are government agents everywhere, equipped with ‘fake’ dogs, and there are inspections in schools to find children who are pretending not to be Latino. One way to trick people to give themselves away is seeing if they speak Spanish, when caught unawares.
Matthew himself joins the Underground as a minor agent, and along with his best friend he runs messages between the adults. We don’t see so much of President Trent, but the schools inspector is a pretty terrifying man, who is quite hands-on with the searching.
This plot could be true almost anywhere, with almost any group of people as the unwanted ones. If you stop and think for a few seconds, you can probably come up with some. Maybe not as totalitarian as this set-up, but we’re not far from it in places.
It’s a shame the book couldn’t find a mainstream publisher. As you know, I often wonder what they are thinking a lot of the time. Sheila did the kind of thing I could see myself doing; she sent her book to Eoin Colfer, who liked it.