“Books can not give you freedom, or a big bank account, but they can light a pathway and for kids like Autumn, I wonder if we are doing enough. By not writing about someone in Autumn’s situation, by not making money part of the story are we ignoring her yet again, along with everyone else in or near her situation?” – Colleen @ Chasing Ray
Collen Mondor, together with her posse of fellow authors and bloggers, has put together another intensely intelligent What A Girl Wants (W.A.G.W.). This month the question deals with socioeconomic levels as viewed through the lens of young adult literature.
This is a …difficult topic for me, because I grew up differently from what I became. Or, I was different, even as a kid, than people expected, or than I appeared. Not sure just how to put that.
Fact: my parents had a high school education and nothing more, for a long time. Fact: I’m the first person in my immediate family to have a Master’s, although my eldest sister did me one better and a year and a half later came away with a double-Master’s. (Yeah, I know. Overachiever Alert!) Fact: there is NO ONE in my family with a PhD. No one. We’re blue-collar janitors, bus drivers, and childcare workers. No doctors or lawyers in the pack. Not yet, anyway.
That being said, I went to private school. My parents scrimped and saved and stretched the pennies ’til they wailed to send me to a Christian school with a small teacher-to-student ratio, where I would excel and achieve. Despite the massive blocks of government cheese we ate, or the Safeway reject flour, out of which we sifted the cigarette butts (which is why they probably only rarely sell flour in bins in grocery stores anymore) and the reject produce from which we cut the bad spots and froze the rest, there were expectations about how we were to act, speak, and think. There were kids with whom we weren’t allowed to socialize, because we were moving out of the class and economic strata where our parents were currently situated. ALL OF US went to school, even my parents. We were ALL supposed to move up and out, and do better.
Maybe that’s the kind of novels I should be writing, those plucky “hard luck” tales of socioeconomic woe, where Determined Girl Makes Good. Those novels in which a girl strives and stands on the shoulders of the past to uplift herself and her race… maybe those should be my forte. Certainly it seems lately like those are the only ones that will sell.
Ach, don’t mind me. I’m a little disappointed, a little cranky. Two recently rejected manuscripts have characteristics in them which shake the status quo, which is what got them rejected, I’m afraid. I’m not sure how to react to that. I’m determined as a writer not to be pigeon-holed, not to be stuck writing just one kind of book because that’s what the market supports, but I’m a little worried now, two strikes later. What if there’s only one kind of book I’m expected to write? Where’s the mirror reflecting the world for kids who grew up like me?
“Possessing characteristics which are seen as “normal,” and thus not worth being mentioned. In this society, at this time, this includes being white, male, heterosexual, cisgendered, affluent, and with certain physical abilities. Just about everyone deviates from the unmarked state in one way or another, though some ways are deemed important and others are not.” – Nisi Shawl, co-author Writing the Other
If you haven’t read W.A.G.W. yet, go — it’s well worth your perusal. Here’s to thinking deep thoughts and writing them down.