Local author’s ‘The Moment’ chronicles when, why and how change agents took action


“This was the most satisfying and important project I’ve ever worked on,” says Evanston author and writing coach Steve Fiffer—which says a lot, since The moment is Fiffer’s 20th non-fiction book.

Evanston author Steve Fiffer

The moment: change agents on why and how they joined the fight for social justice is scheduled for publication November 15 by NewSouth Books/University of Georgia Press. It includes short stories, in their own words, of 38 influential “change agents” that explain what drove them to move forward with important social justice work. The book includes well-known activists like Bryan Stevenson and authors like Edwidge Danticat, as well as a variety of lesser-known but no less influential crusaders.

Here are three of those moments from the book:

Erika Andiola, immigration rights activist from Phoenix: “My mother never did anything wrong. They grabbed her and handcuffed her and took her and one of my brothers as well. And I thought: Maybe it’s my fault ’cause I went out on television and said I didn’t have documents. I felt so guilty. I was sitting there with my brother crying, thinking, What the hell is going to happen to my mother when she’s deported? Who will help you at the border? What will happen to my brother? Will he stay there long? I did not know what to do. One of my friends came over and said, “Erika, you need to stop crying now. At this moment you are not Erika, the daughter. You are not Erika, the sister. Your mother doesn’t need that. You need to be Erika, the activist. You need to get up and you need to do something about it.”

Amirah Ahmed, an 18-year-old American Muslim activist in Virginia: “I remember staying up the night of the 2016 presidential election. It was a pivotal moment. I was twelve years old, in eighth grade. I didn’t understand everything that was going on, but I knew that the result had a lot of emotion and consequences, especially for Muslim Americans like our family. I remember the results coming in and sitting on the toilet sobbing.”

Anthony Tamez-Pochel, Neighborhood Services Coordinator for the Native American City of Chicago, Anthony Tamez-Pochel: “At the protest, indigenous youth were able to speak. It was my first time speaking in front of a huge crowd. I remember thinking, ‘Damn! This place is packed! I was worried beforehand, but remember one time up there I just felt so passionate about what I was saying and hearing people applaud. Wow. They were interested in hearing what a dark-haired boy had to say. It gave me the feeling that what I say matters.”

Of the 38 change agents, Fiffer writes on the book’s website: “They are as diverse as the United States. Young and old. Color and white. Urban and rural. Immigrants and natives. They are students and teachers. Athletes and Artists. Lawyers, doctors, politicians, community organizers, architects, novelists and more. They are institutionalists and agitators. But as diverse as they are, these change agents share one thing in common. Each is committed to fighting inequality and injustice. Each can also identify a moment when they were moved to action, when it became impossible to stand aside and just watch.”

Fiffer said it was always his intention to include “a broad mix of age, race, ethnicity and geography” for the book, as well as providing a guide to inspire young people to make a difference.

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