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Literary Scene: Rep. Mike Schlossberg novel represents ‘Redemption’

Pennsylvania State Rep. Mike Schlossberg (D-132) is so upbeat and outgoing over the phone, you would not think that he suffers from depression.

But Schlossberg, who represents wards in Allentown and districts in South Whitehall Township, is open about a condition that does not have to stop anyone from leading a fully active and productive life.

Depression is the underlying theme of his young adult science fiction novel, “Redemption” (Ellysian Press; 332 pp.; $11.99, print; $5.99, digital; 2018).

It’s the first of his planned “Spades Trilogy.”

Asher Maddox wakes up with 20 other teenagers in an unfamiliar environment that he comes to realize is a spaceship.

He and the others discover they are on a mission that can affect the fate of the world, which involves a dangerous disease called Spades. The novel, written prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, has proven to be quite topical.

Despite his self-doubt, Asher is chosen as captain of the ship. As well as facing opposition from villains, aliens and rivals, he has to fight himself. At times, his anxiety and depression threaten to overwhelm him.

Schlossberg went public with his depression after the suicide of Robin Williams in 2014. Schlossberg was angered by some of the comments made about Williams’ death, and went public with his own experience.

“I was floored by how positive it was,” he says of the reaction. “I didn’t realize how much of an impact it would make. It actually helped my political career.

“The book is not too technical. There is a sci-fi backdrop for the real story, which is about mental health.”

Schlossberg felt the young adult genre was right for his message: “It is an unsettled, impressionistic time of life. Young adults often don’t know what’s going on with them, and don’t realize with depression that it’s nothing that can’t be managed.”

And it does not have to limit you. “The book deals with the highest stakes imaginable. Anxiety and depression should not stop you from anything at all.”

As the teens in the book figure out how to operate the controls in the spaceship, it does not take the reader long to discover that Schlossberg is very much into video games, particularly those with open world and role-playing themes.

“I’m more of a console than a PC guy,” he says.

He is so enamored of video games that his children are named after characters in video games.

Schlossberg lives in Allentown with his wife, Brenna, and their two children, nine-year-old Auron and eight-year-old Ayla.

Auron is the name of a character in “Final Fantasy X.” Ayla is the name of a character in “Chrono Trigger.”

Schlossberg, born and raised in New Jersey, graduated from Muhlenberg College in 2005 with a BA in Political Science and Psychology, and from Lehigh University in 2006 with an MA in Political Science. He was elected to Allentown City Council in 2009 at age 26, the youngest person at the time elected to the office.

His previous, non-fiction book, “Tweets and Consequences,” was published in 2015. It tells how politicians have misused social media, and what they should do to prevent disasters.

He admits that the premises in his book were disproven by former President Donald Trump.

“He did everything I advised people not to do,” says Schlossberg.

The divisive political climate has not been good for mental health, according to Schlossberg: “There has been a lot of interpersonal conflict and lost relationships.”

The isolation that comes with COVID-19 has also had a negative effect, says Schlossberg, who says there’s a phenomenon yet to be explored: “Suicides have gone down, while addiction has gone up. Usually, they are related.”

If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental-health crisis, Schlossberg says, “Make a call. It begins with insurance companies to find a practitioner,” although he adds, “There are not enough practitioners.”

Those without insurance can call the mental health crisis number of the county in which they live.

“Redemption” information: mikeschlossbergauthor.com

“Literary Scene” is a column about authors, books and publishing. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

State Rep. Mike Schlossberg