Friday, September 4, 2015

On Social Consciousness and YA Literature

My first novel, FAULT LINE, came out of a rape survivor's testimonial writing workshop I participated in. The story of the journey to publication is here if you're interested. That book, and actually a lot of my books, have their roots in social justice issues. Many, many things have happened with FAULT LINE and the nonprofit The Voices and Faces Project since the book first sold. Some good, some bad. I regret none of it. Everything that happened is to get me to where I am today.

I receive a lot of letters from survivors about FAULT LINE. I talk to a lot of survivors in my daily life because of who I am and what I do. When people ask me how I define success, the letters, the rape workshops that I continue to help fund or speak at, the conversations that start because people love/hate/don't understand my book—that is all my idea of success. How could it be anything different?

Next weekend, I am going to be on a panel in New York with Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely, and Coe Booth about "Social Consciousness in YA Lit". In anticipation of this panel, I read Jason and Brendan's forthcoming ALL AMERICAN BOYS. It's an important book, one of those kinds of books that you want to hand to every kid of every race to read. It is a difficult book, but mostly because it asks more questions than provides answers. When I think about the state of race in our country, I am left with a lot more questions than answers. I've been trying to read everything I can on how to make things better. I've been trying to listen. I've been trying to grow. There are a lot more questions than answers when it comes to reconciling my own privilege as a white woman with the realities of the lives of marginalized people. How do I change things? Most days I just hope I do better than I did the day before. I hope we all do.

I have watched in stunned amazement as Patrick Ness and a boatload of authors have responded to the Syrian refugee crisis. I am in awe of their compassion. I am in awe of the compassion of a lot of people. It reminds me that we are grounded in the instinct to help. I like thinking about that. I like thinking that most people want to help when things are bad. Sometimes the only way we can help is to donate money. Sometimes we can do more. It is nice that the world is made up of people who do both. 

I have seen many other examples of writers consciously engaging in fundraising, volunteering, protesting, etc. in order to make the world a little better. I love this. 

When we look at the work we do, sometimes we forget that we aren't creating art in a vacuum, that we are in fact creating it in a living, breathing, hurting, loving world. Glennon Doyle calls this life "brutiful". I quite like that. Thank you, readers, writers, people in the publishing world for trying to help, asking difficult questions and starting important conversations, and above all, for trying to do better every day. 


1 comment:

  1. Especially with the increased call for diverse stories, in the YA publishing industry we will all be encountering a lot of new stories touching on situations and issues that bring to light new struggles and pains many of us will not have encountered or considered before. This is an important step in initiating change in our world, and in helping developing the compassion and drive to fight for change and improved lives all around. There is a reason #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

    --Sam Taylor, AYAP Intern