Stacey Abrams, Hero of 2020 and Beyond

Georgia’s 16 electoral votes didn’t make Joe Biden president all by themselves. Nevertheless, emotionally, they were some of the most important—a famously red state for decades that flipped in a nail-biter of a race, thanks to the hard work of many, many people. But it was particularly sweet for the woman who lost the 2018 governor’s race in the state, then came back with nothing less than a revenge plot worthy of the movies: Stacey Abrams.

Abrams’s belief in the possibility of Georgia and her efforts to turn the state blue are inspiring and they have been amply covered this year. When she lost the governor’s race in 2018 to the man in charge of overseeing the voting, she didn’t let it crush her; instead, she sat down with her campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, and drew up a strategy for her new voting rights organization, Fair Fight.

What I really love, though, is that Abrams did all this as a romance writer and—openly, proudly—a huge nerd. In a 2019 video for Now This, she explained her love for a particular episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which Data loses a strategy game to somebody who is not an android and has a crisis of confidence over it. After a bracing talking-to by Jean-Luc Picard (obviously), Data “comes back and he defeats Kalrami in another game of Strategema, not by trying to defeat Kamrami, but by realizing if you avoid taking the obvious risks and the obvious challenges, you can find your way to victory anyway. And that is how I have completely organized my political career,” Abrams explained with a smile. She participated in fundraising efforts for the Georgia runoff with cast members from both Star Trek and the CW’s long-running Supernatural.

When I interviewed the organizers of Romancing the Runoff, who raised more than $400,000 for voting rights organizations Fair Fight, Black Voters Matter, and New Georgia Project, to support her efforts for the Georgia Senate runoff on January 5, Courtney Milan pointed out that Abrams has never tried to downplay or disown the eight romances she wrote under the pen name Selena Montgomery; “She’s always like, I’m a romance author, I love romance, I am part of the community.” Abrams herself once told Entertainment Weekly: “I’m excited for people to know about Selena Montgomery. I’ve never hidden her.”

But while she has never tried to hide or diminish her romance writing, she situates it within her public image on her own terms and refuses to let it take over the conversation about her work. In 2019, when she appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, he read spicy selections from one of her books, Reckless, even after she insisted, “I want people to read them in the quiet of their homes.” She drew the boundary—which Colbert ignored—without suggesting anything negative about her work, just that she didn’t want it read out loud on national television. When people want to make the books themselves a subject of teasing or outright mockery, she politely shuts it down.

She herself sees a connection between her writing and her political work, telling Entertainment Weekly in 2018: “I revel in having been able to be a part of a genre that is read by millions and millions of women, in part because it respects who they are. It respects the diversity of our experiences, and it creates space for broader conversations.” As a writer for the Washington Post noted, “The plots of her books frequently echo the key pillars of her campaign platform — especially health care, criminal justice reform, child care and the environment.”

Abrams is a living debunking of the stereotypes about romance writers and readers. As a Georgia native and lifelong romance-reading nerd, I cannot even tell you how satisfying it has been to watch her proved right about Georgia going blue: There’s nothing quite like a satisfying ending.

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