Literary Hill: Losing is Democratic

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Kitty Felde

For this month’s column, I interviewed Kitty Felde, author of Losing is Democratic, a book that teaches children about the January 6th insurrection in 2021. Felde also shares information about her other books featuring young detective, Fina Mendoza, below.

Literary Hill: Why did you decide to write this book?

Kitty Felde: I covered Capitol Hill for nearly a decade as a public radio reporter. I was in California on January 6th, where I watched TV in shock as a mob of unhappy voters overran my old office: the U.S. Capitol. I knew those members of Congress who were trapped in the House Gallery, the staffers who spent six hours locked in office bathrooms, the police officers who used to give me a hard time about forgetting to put my phone through the metal detector. The insurrection felt like a home invasion.

In my post-journalism career, I’d produced the Book Club for Kids podcast where I’d go into schools to talk to kids about books. Many of those schools are on Capitol Hill. As I watched the violence unfold, I thought of the kids I’d met. Their parents worked on the Hill. What were they feeling? How did their teachers talk to them about January 6th? I wanted to do something to respond. I asked Capitol Hill teachers what they said in their classrooms. And after some reflection, I realized the larger question was about winning and losing and how important those two concepts are in just about anything: spelling bees, baseball games, as well as elections. All require both winners and gracious losers.

I’d been writing a series of mysteries about the 10-year-old daughter of a congressman who solves mysteries on Capitol Hill. It seemed important that I write about January 6th through the eyes of Fina Mendoza. That became the novella Losing is Democratic: How to Talk to Kids About January 6th.

LH: Why is it important to help children understand what happened on January 6th, 2021?

KF: We’d like to wrap our children in cotton to protect them from the dark things in the world. But all we can really do is help them understand them. With all the disinformation floating around about January 6th, it’s vital that children know the truth about what happened and why. Kids are our future voters and future members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, even presidents. If we want a healthy democracy, we can’t let them become cynical or turned off by our system of government. I write the Fina Mendoza novels to inspire them to think about public service or at least about casting a ballot.

LH: Will we find other mysteries starring the intrepid Fina Mendoza in print?  Are there new mysteries, starring Fina, yet to come?

KF: Yes indeed! The first two full length Fina Mendoza mysteries are available in print: “Welcome to Washington Fina Mendoza” (about the Demon Cat of Capitol Hill) and “State of the Union” (about the bird that pooped on the president during the State of the Union address.) The books are also available in Spanish. “Bienvenida a Washington Fina Mendoza” is out now, and “Estado de la Unión” comes out in July. Book three is called “Snake in the Grass” (spring 2025 – Chesapeake Press) and it’s about the bitter partisanship on Capitol Hill.

FYI, Fina has no interest in running for office herself. She doesn’t like asking for money to
campaign, knocking on strangers’ doors to ask for their vote, or sitting through meeting after meeting. Her older sister Gabby might be
the next politician in the family. All the books are designed to introduce civics to elementary age students.

There is also a free curriculum that accompanies Losing is Democratic, available at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HuYAlm0DR6t49bS2oFivJSGoGkqzGdY2/view

Reviews

Losing is Democratic

When Fina’s congressman father is caught in
the events of January 6, 2021, she must set
aside her investigation into the missing 5th
grade pizza to confront the realities of a
divided nation. Fina, her sister, Gabby, and
their grandmother, Abuelita, watch in horror as a mob breaches the Capitol, where her father works. As the story progresses, Fina and her classmates must reflect on the significance of being able to lose. A compelling tale that highlights the electoral process and the impact of
political events.

Carol McCabe Booker

The Waterman’s Widow

Carol McCabe Booker dives into a real-life murder mystery that shook Maryland in 1900. The story follows the investigation into the shooting death of Littleton (“Lit”) Condiff, revealing the harshness of life as a waterman on the Chesapeake Bay. Booker, a journalist and lawyer, meticulously pieces together the case through historical documents and newspaper accounts. Not simply a whodunit, but a painstakingly researched window into the past, readers will find themselves questioning the motives of Bessie Condiff, the victim’s wife, as they are engrossed by rich detail surrounding Lit’s murder.

JoAnne Hill

Unique Eats and Eateries of Washington, DC

JoAnn Hill takes you on a foodie adventure through D.C. More than just a guide, Hill celebrates the passionate individuals who create DC’s unique flavors, uncovering the stories behind the chefs and dishes. Readers will find familiar comforts, mouthwatering indulgences and exotic delights—iconic half-smokes, barbeque, and sweets to Ethiopian stews, crispy dosa crepes, and Lox’d and Loaded Bloody Marys.

NOVA Bookstore Crawl

Feeling adventurous? This bookstore crawl features fifteen independent bookstores in NOVA, MD, and WV. Stores have partnered to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day and will continue to stamp passports and offer special events through May. Why not start with a special visit to WordPlay in Wardensville, WV? More information: https://events.humanitix.com/nova-bookstore-crawl

Michelle LaFrance is Associate Professor of English at George Mason University. She teaches creative nonfiction, life writing, and civic writing at the Hill Center and blogs about writing, her upcoming writing classes, and writing retreats at writinglostriver.org.