by Gabriel Landrein Buendia '23
On November 17, ECFS invited a special guest to share his new book, The Equals, with some members of Fieldston Middle School. This special guest was Daniel Sweren-Becker, a Fieldston alumnus who graduated in 2002. His dystopian novel, The Equals, is about the one percent of the United States population that is genetically engineered. This genetic engineering was banned by the government, which tried to reverse it by a serum aptly named "The Vaccine." A group of the genetically engineered children come together to try to fight fire with fire and attempt to recreate a genetic engineering lab high in the mountains. The plot is eventually uncovered by the military and cracked down upon.
This novel and Sweren-Becker's previous book, The Ones, both raise ethical dilemmas about genetic engineering, dilemmas that we must confront before genetic engineering, as it will, enters our society. With only one percent of the population being genetically engineered, of course, there is bound to be jealousy and spite. However, if all of the population is genetically engineered, then this raises questions about the economy. Our economy, as are many others, is built on people and things being imperfect. If no human got diseases, doctors and healthcare workers would be out of a job. If everyone already knew everything, there would be no need for schools, and so on.
Sweren-Becker was asked questions about the writing process and how he writes his books. There were many questions asked about how he comes up with his characters, and he responded that since the main characters were mostly teenagers, he tried to make them like some of the people he knew in middle and high school at Fieldston. Writing The Ones and The Equals each took him one full year, including writing drafts, editing, revising, and getting them published. Sweren-Becker is also a screenwriter, and after a question about this, he said he much preferred screenwriting to writing a book, because with screenwriting you have strict guidelines and work as part of a team.
This Literary Lunch was hosted by the English department and the Tate Library and took place in the seventh-grade Academic Center. There were 23 students from grades six through eight in attendance.