- MAYBE I WILL selected as YALSA Top 25 Nominiee
- Voting for Top Ten until October 18th!
- Q & A with author, Laurie Gray
- THE FIELD wins the Eric Hoffer Award for YA
- Luminis Books president, Tracy Richardson participated
in the Booklist New Adult Webinar - What is New Adult anyway?
- Author Peter Van Buren, discusses why he wrote
GHOSTS OF TOM JOAD.
Q&A with MAYBE I WILL author Laurie Gray
"In Maybe I Will, Laurie Gray writes about important topics that teens need to talk about, including sexual assault, friendship, and alcoholism or self-destructive behaviors that result from trauma. Maybe I Will may help some teens know they're not alone."
~Cheryl Rainfield, award-winning author of Scars, Hunted, and Stained
1. Sandy uses two very different coping strategies; alcohol abuse and Tae Kwando. Why did you choose these and how do they reflect on Sandy’s ‘character,’ which is a theme in the book?
As human beings we all have to deal with traumatic events at some point in our lives. We can try to escape our feelings or we can figure out how to face them. For Sandy, alcohol is an escape while taekwondo is a way to stay physically and mentally present in the moment in a way that allows the healing process to begin. I chose alcohol because it is by far the most commonly abused substance by both teens and adults. Because it’s legal for adults, teens have a sense that it is safe. This misconception that alcohol won’t hurt you only makes it more dangerous. Working as a prosecutor in juvenile court and in our local drug court, I saw alcohol destroy many lives. It’s not just about becoming an alcoholic. Sandy doesn’t become an alcoholic. Abusing alcohol can cause death (alcohol poisoning), act as a gateway drug, and lower people’s inhibitions enough for them to make really bad choices they wouldn’t even consider if they were sober.
I chose taekwondo as a positive coping strategy because I’ve spent many hours over the past five years watching my daughter (now 11) progress through the ranks to earn her second-degree blackbelt. I have been so impressed with all of the instructors and the supportive community created by Penny Beddow-Wolf, the owner of Coventry Taekwondo in Fort Wayne where my daughter attends. In addition to the physical aspects of the sport (balance, coordination, strength and endurance), my daughter has developed confidence and perseverance. She has learned to set goals and to work toward achieving them. But what I really emphasize in the book is how the studio feels like a safe, friendly, and nurturing place the moment you walk in. It’s exactly what kids need whether they’re recovering from a devastating event like Sandy or just dealing with the normal angst of growing up.
As far as character goes, I would hope that kids realize they don’t have to let any single event or series of bad choices define them. Sandy lies and steals to get alcohol, but by the end of the book, I don’t think most people would say Sandy is just a good-for-nothing liar and thief. Sandy’s real character traits are those that we see at both the beginning and the end of the book. Sandy is intelligent, resourceful, courageous, and creative.
- The book jacket copy says, “It’s about parents and teachers, police officers and counselors—all the people who are supposed to help you, but who may not even believe you.” This is one of the toughest challenges Sandy faces. Even the adults who care about Sandy can’t or won’t or aren’t always able to help. Would you discuss why adults in the book are portrayed in this way?
Because as much as they’d like to, adults can solve kids’ problems for them. There are really only two people in the book who don’t believe Sandy about what happened—The police detective and Cassie. Cassie’s refusal to believe what happened is far more devastating to Sandy than what the police detective does or doesn’t believe. Most of the adults really do believe Sandy. Certainly Sandy’s parents and counselor believe Sandy. Even the district attorney, who gets to decide what crimes will be prosecuted, believes Sandy. He just knows that without physical evidence to corroborate Sandy’s testimony, there’s not enough to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. A good defense attorney (like Mrs. Peareson) would destroy Sandy’s credibility in cross-examination, while Aaron as the defendant would be presumed innocent. As long as he exercised his right to remain silent, the jury would never get to know anything about Aaron’s credibility and questionable conduct in other situations.
One of the reasons I made Mrs. Peareson a defense attorney was to emphasize that there really isn’t much Sandy’s parents can do to make the legal system work for Sandy or bring Aaron to justice. If Sandy’s parents were to focus on trying to make Aaron pay, they would probably only prolong and increase Sandy’s suffering. In my opinion, Sandy’s parents do everything they can do, and do it very well. They notice the changes in Sandy’s behavior and are persistent in trying to get to the bottom of it, following through, and getting Sandy professional help as needed. As a parent myself, I would hope that my child knows she can tell me anything, but as a professional, I know that even kids with the most supportive and loving parents are often reluctant to talk about what’s really going on. It’s human nature to hope that if we pretend something didn’t happen, it will all just go away.
- What do you think about comments reviewers are making about Sandy’s ‘non-gender?’ Some love it, some have trouble with it, and one even wished that Sandy was a boy! How do you think that reflects on what you were trying to accomplish?
Sandy is a boy. And Sandy is a girl. I have never seen Sandy as “non-gendered.” Instead, I tried to create a character that is so human as to embrace both genders fully and equally. I think we’re so accustomed to gender stereotypes and the way that we judge people based on their gender, that it really can feel disconcerting not to know. It matters because our expectations for Sandy and our judgment of Sandy’s conduct are unconsciously controlled by stereotypes that are so deeply ingrained that we don’t even notice them. To engage fully in the story as a reader, you have to picture Sandy as male or female. Readers who jump back and forth or approach it as a mystery to be solved are likely to feel frustrated and attribute this to just about any other aspect of the book, from character development and dialogue to plot and the open ending that doesn’t tie everything up into a pretty package.
As a society, we’re so accustomed to gender bias that we feel some critical element must be missing when it’s not there. I’m not saying my writing is perfect. Far from it. I’ll spend my lifetime experimenting with and honing my craft. But I do think that there’s at least a hint of discomfort with my refusal to identify Sandy’s gender behind many of the comments I’m seeing. To me, that’s a good thing. It means I’m encouraging readers to move outside their comfort level and think about things in a new way. It doesn’t matter to me whether the reader reads the book with Sandy as male or female or whether that assumption comes consciously or unconsciously. My hope is that after reading the book one way, there will be readers who are willing to go back and read it the other, just to see for themselves if they feel differently about anything.
THE FIELD wins the Eric Hoffer Award for YA
"Readers will appreciate the fast-paced, compelling drama. A good choice for people who hope there’s more to space than space". ~ Kirkus Reviews
The Eric Hoffer Award for short prose and books was established at the start of the 21st century as a means of opening a door to writing of significant merit. It honors the memory of the great American philosopher Eric Hoffer by highlighting salient writing, as well as the independent spirit of small publishers. The winning stories and essays are published in Best New Writing, and the book awards are covered in the US Review of Books.
Luminis Books president, Tracy Richardson, talks about 'What is New Adult?' in the Booklist New Adult Webinar.
New Adult is an emerging category of books that is receiving a lot of attention. On August 5th, Luminis Books president, Tracy Richardson participated in the Booklist New Adult Webinar. The big question, though, is 'what exactly is the New Adult genre', if we can even call it a genre.
We are so pleased to be part of the conversation of what is New Adult. This is a great opportunity to reach out to readers in the 18 to 26 age group with books that speak to what is important to them. To what is going on in their lives and what they find compelling. Not just books about sex and romance, but about every aspect of their lives. Just as YA as a category encompasses a wide range of genres, so should the New Adult category. We're hearing from librarians who are identifying ways to connect with new adult readers. Here's how we see New Adult:
- Reflection of Self ~ A reflection in literature of what people in the 18 to 26 age group are experiencing in their own lives.
- Connecting with the World ~ Represents the type of literature that appeals to new adults as it addresses the kinds of questions they are asking and explores the issues with which they are grappling.
Peter Van Buren discusses why he wrote GHOSTS OF TOM JOAD A Story of the #99 Percent
"A seasoned State Department diplomat, stalwart Iraq War whistle-blower, and author of "We Meant Well" (2011), Van Buren turns his keen eye to the shameful treatment of the nation’s unemployed and homeless." ~ Booklist
I never expected to become an author. I worked as one of America's diplomats abroad, at our embassies and consulates, from London to Tokyo to Seoul. My last overseas assignment, however, was in Iraq, in the midst of America's invasion and occupation. What I saw shocked me, and I blew the whistle on all the waste, fraud and terrible mistakes there in my first book, We Meant Well: How I Lost the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. The U.S. government sought to prosecute me for telling the truth, and it was only with the help of some good lawyers that I was able to leave government on my own terms.
At first the only job I could find was working for minimum wage at age 52. I wasn't planning on writing another book. But what I saw shocked me. I had returned to America from Iraq to find another sort of regime change underway. I saw firsthand what a life based on lousy wages and barely-adequate food benefits adds up to. There were no cruise missiles deployed to create the changes, but the cumulative effects of years of deindustrialization, declining salaries, absent benefits, decimated unions, the undertow of meth and alcohol abuse pulling at our people, the broad-based loss of jobs and of course wealth inequality on a radical scale did the job. The willful destruction of a way of life in service to the goals of the rich was hard to miss, but I still wanted a clearer picture.
I began researching the plight of the working poor. I traveled throughout the Midwest, the old industrial areas now called the Rust Belt, where I had grown up. I saw an America that is tired. Drive through our Main Streets, past abandoned shopping strip malls, and you can't help but return to that word: tired. These towns grow smaller each year. They replaced factories with boutiques and pop-up wine bars and thought it was a rebirth when they couldn't see the dying. These experiences drove me-- compelled me-- to write about it all, and the result is Ghosts of Tom Joad.
In this book I hope to humanize a complex issue. Too many people who have a decent life now either demonize the working poor as lazy or uneducated, or mythologize them as salt-of-the-earth yeoman. There are indeed some of each out there, but the majority I met were just trying to do what everyone tries to do, feed themselves and their families, make a better life for their children and find some meaning and pride in work. The problem is that the currents of society and economy make it near impossible for them to do that, and Ghosts tries to explain all that not only from a numbers and economics point of view like in Thomas Piketty's new bestseller, but from a human point of view. Economics in the end isn't about numbers, it is about us, how we live, how we might become better people than we now are.