Being Followed
Derek Muk
DEMAIN Publishing (January 31, 2024)
Reviewed by Nora B. Peevy

WOW. Derek Muk’s Being Followed is a hard pill to swallow, making America look at the seedy underbelly of White Nationalism rebranded throughout our nation’s history and around the world from generation to generation before, during, and after the rise of Hitler. Muk had this to say about his novella in his interview with Steve Stred, “The book was inspired by racial tensions sparked by the 2017 Charlottesville, VA rally, the January 6th coup … of the US capitol, and the murder of George Floyd, and the fascist atmosphere of the Trump Presidency.” Never has our nation perched on a powder keg of politics ready to explode, as it has in the past eight years. It’s been festering like a slow infection just below the skin for decades because America refuses to address the issues surrounding White Nationalism, but Muk shines a light on the ugly wound. Wielding a sharp blade of honesty cutting to the bone, every word chosen with a surgeon’s precision highlights the plight of our world and national politics. Having a BA and an MA in Social Work, he holds a deeper insight into society and diverse groups of people, which is displayed in his novella.

In Being Followed Claire Goldman, a Jewish leftist feminist authors a controversial anti-White National book. Her book draws the attention of the White National Movement, making her a target. They use horrible scare tactics to intimidate Claire, which culminates in her kidnapping and brutalizing by a leader of a White Nationalist sect.

I love the character of Claire because she is a strong, female archetype juxtaposed by her foil, ex-husband Albert. The plot flips between their early days in love where we first see Claire growing into a young woman of her own in New York and then into the present day where she and Albert are divorced, but still very devoted to each other. He is by her side as a partner and confidante, even though his politics are more conservative, and he doesn’t want her to confront the White Nationalist group.

In an interview with Steve Stred Muk said his influence comes from Stephen King, Joe Hill, Joyce Carol Oates, Harlan Ellison, and Richard Matheson, just to name a few writers, all forward-thinking authors with a political bent in many of their books, if you look past the horror and sci-fi elements. Muk describes his own book in the same interview as “a mix of urban, modern horror, mystery/suspense, and romance, with sort of a political bent to it.” I fully agree and I’m addicted to his writing. I hope he pens another story just as skilled as Being Followed. I liken his work to George Orwell’s 1984 like many reviewers but also Animal Farm and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I want his book to become part of the English Canon taught in all American Literature courses on college campuses and read in high schools across America. I hope it shows up on the shelves of every library and finds its way into every home.

This book hit home for me for many reasons, and I admit moved me emotionally towards anger. Anger makes me uncomfortable when it’s political because I don’t know how to solve such big issues. I’ve had my own personal experiences since the rise of Trump and White Nationalism. They are relevant to this book and so I will share because I feel we all should speak up or nothing will change. You see, my best friend knew the person run over in Charlottesville and she was supposed to be at that protest, but by chance couldn’t get off work. I feel incredibly lucky and very guilty because she knew the person murdered. I’m Roma and it’s been hard watching my people around the world kicked out of every country and I’m also tired of the slurs endured by me. I’m upset my people haven’t been properly recognized for so long as victims of Hitler during the Holocaust. The recent monument is not enough. I live in Milwaukee, which is less than an hour away from Kenosha, the infamous Wisconsin town with the riots and burning linked to the Proud Boys. And I personally had an ugly and violent encounter with the Proud Boys in Dayton, Ohio. I frequented a bar for a year there and a nice group of young white men posed as a bowling league and came in every week. I am bisexual. They saw me kissing women. They sat next to me and didn’t make any derogatory comments. They saw other women in relationships together, and mixed-race couples too. They were friendly to everyone. I had no idea they were Proud Boys, which chills me to my core. That is how much White Nationalism has become normalized and infiltrated our society. One night they started a huge fight in the parking lot, pinning my friends with their cars against the wall and punching them. They broke the female bartender’s nose and ground her face into the gravel. They prayed in the parking lot before the fight to have strength against people … well, I won’t say all the disgusting slurs they used. Thankfully, I was in the bar drinking and hadn’t been outside or I might have been drawn in too, but the police came. The bar shut down. We all had to give statements and one of the Proud Boys was at large for a while, which was unsettling, since he knew who we were, but we didn’t know who he was or where he was. I was traumatized for weeks as a bisexual woman thinking about the hatred felt towards me without a group of people even knowing my character and the fact that I associated with such monsters and could not even tell they were monsters. Thankfully, in the book Claire can because they all wear the Fashy Haircut, but White Nationalists are assimilating into society, as ordered by their leaders so they cannot be identified. They could be working in your companies or sitting next to you at a bar, very polite, and you would never know.

If you are like me or even if you aren’t, read this book and educate yourself further on what is going on in America and around the world right now. Muk does a wonderful job of fictionalizing America’s current ugly history. Muk has been previously published in Twisted Tongue, The Horror Zine, Ink Stains Anthology, The Pinehurst Journal, Suffer the Little Children, and by many other presses. He is a brilliant author, and I am watching to see what he does next. I thank him for being brave enough to speak out in this novella.

About Nora B. Peevy

Nora B. Peevy is a cat trapped in a human’s body. Please send help or tuna. She toils away for JournalStone and Trepidatio Publishing as a submissions reader, is a co-editor for Alien Sun Press, the newest reviewer for Hellnotes, and has been published by Eighth Tower Press, Weird Fiction Quarterly, and other places. Usually, you can find her on Facebook asking for help escaping from her human body or to get tuna. Tuna is nice. Cats like tuna.

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