Trauma & Resilience in Children’s Literature

Trauma & Resilience in Children’s Literature

>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington D.C.>>Pam Jackson: Good afternoon.>>Good afternoon.>>Pam Jackson: Welcome, welcome. So, thanks for being here. I’m Pam Jackson. I’m director for the Center for
the Book here at the Library of Congress, and I’d like to
welcome you to our symposium, Books Save Lives, a symposium
on trauma and resilience in young people’s literature. I’m really grateful to
have your presence here. We’re excited for the
conversation we’ve created to have. And we’re very pleased to
have the individuals with us that we have today on the
panel and as moderator. Let me say a few words about
the Library of Congress first, because we’re proud to,
and I’m always ready to say that we are the nation’s
first cultural institution. And it is our mission to provide
the American people with the rich, diverse, enduring source
of knowledge. One that can be relied upon to stimulate intellectual
and creative endeavors. And we’d like to focus on the fact
that we encourage endeavoring. And that that’s not actually
a conversation we have often. What does it mean to endeavor? To try to aspire to work to make
effort to push the ball forward, maybe not always succeeding,
but at least endeavoring. And I like to emphasize that as
part of what we talk about today. And it’s certainly consistent with
what today’s conversation’s about. At the Center for the Book, we’re
focused on making connections among and between our national
and international networks and affiliates, and we do
so to create collaborations and to cause others to do the same
for the purpose of promoting reading and literacy and using the
Library of Congress collections. It’s an important part of what
we like to have people know. There are 167 million things
that are the collections of the Library of Congress. And most people don’t
know that we have at least 30-some-odd million
items that are not books. We have treasures, as Dr. Carla
Hayden likes to talk about. Manuscripts, letters,
pictures, clothing, smoking pipes, playing cards. All kinds of things that are our
nation’s history that are symbolic and significant pieces
of our cultural heritage. And we have them for the
purpose of not just having them but to have people engage with
them and in them and among them and use them as part of
learning and advancing knowledge. And that’s an important part of what
we care about and want to make sure that you know about, that the
Center for the Book’s purposes for. One of the things I can say is
that we have our purpose and focus on promoting books and library and
literacy and reading and poetry and literature, and we do so
knowing that they’re the best tools for sustaining and growing
healthy engaged societies. And, in fulfilling our mission,
we care about empowering people to be sensitive to and caring
about the needs of others. Very consistent with our mission
and purpose is todays talk. One of the things that I have been
promoting recently is my desire and commitment that we keep
the humanity, I’m sorry, keep the humane in humanity. And it looks like we might
need a little more effort to do that these days. So, to today’s event. We bring you five authors who will
share stories about surviving chaos and trauma through
fiction and real life. We wish to thank our
funders for this program and our very special partners,
the Center for the Book at the Virginia Foundation for the
Humanities and the Maryland Center for the Book at Maryland Humanities. Andrea Lewis from Maryland
Center is here today. Say hello, wave. Very. Thank you. Thank you, thank you. Thank you for your partnership. Thank you for your commitment. We value you as a friend and
affiliate with the Center for the Book at the
Library of Congress. And we also have that same for Jane at the Virginia Humanities
Center who’s unable to be with us today and sends her regrets. We’re also acknowledging,
we want to acknowledge, and we hope they’ll
be arriving soon, Olivia Smith is a media specialist from the Digital High
School in Baltimore. They were commuting down here today. Have they arrived? Is that some of the, no, not yet? Okay. So we’re going to have a
packed house when they get here. There are about 40 students that
are intending to join us today from Baltimore, Maryland
from that high school. And also, West Potomac High
School in Arlington, Virginia. Are you with us? I’m sorry, what did I say? West Potomac High School
in Arlington, it’s Alexandria, Virginia,
yes, hello. Welcome. Thanks for
being with us today. And we want to remind you,
those of you who are into media, our hashtag today is
resilience in books. So feel free to tweet that out and
pound that out, hashtag that out. How did it get to be
hashtag and not pound? I don’t know.>>To keep from confusing Brits.>>Pam Jackson: Oh yeah, okay. Those Brits. Okay. But anyway, before we get
started, I do want to mention that now’s a good time to check your
mobile devices to make sure they’re on silent so they won’t
be a distraction. We are videotaping this event. So all my silliness
will be captured. But so too will your
questions and answers. So as you participate in
today’s talk, which we would love to have you do, just know
that we’ll be recording you. And, you can know that today’s
recording will be available online at in our collection
videos and also is where you can find a wide variety
of the author talks that the Center for the Book has hosted
over the years. We encourage you to hang out in
that space and see this talk later. We will send an email to our
listener when the video is posted to let you know about that. And we also will have, which
is another notification, a little housekeeping item before
we get to the meat of our program. Book signing right after
this program outside in the, at the long tables as you
came in you saw the books, so they’re available for purchase
and signing after today’s talk. So please, we encourage you
to spend time with those books and spend your resources. Also, there are some, the resource
table out front when you signed in, we want you to encourage
you to stop by that table if you didn’t already do so just
to have more information about some of the material related to
today’s topic including material from Read LLC, Welcoming Schools,
GLSEN Libraries without Boarders, Shout Mouse Press, the
Association of Jewish Libraries and the Children’s
Lit for Leaders blog. So some of that information’s
available. We want to make sure you know
that today’s topic is designed to have us be in a great
conversation but also be in action. You know, there’s an opportunity for
us to take away not just thoughts and feelings and experiences of
others today, which is very valuable and why we have talks at all, but
also to be in action about them. What could we be doing, what ought
we be doing, what might we do next that we weren’t necessarily
planning to do an hour ago? So we encourage you to
think from that lens as you listen to today’s talk. So, now, let me get to
the meat of the program and my job is to do two things. First, to acknowledge again
the folks who are with us, the panelists, the moderators, but
also to give a particular shout out because some of them had to
make heroic and Herculean efforts to get here, including,
I think, five airports and four trains or
something like that. So there was some experience of bad
weather yesterday, and we just honor and appreciate you all for being
here and the travels that you made to join us and that which you
survived including in one case, our moderator’s case,
a 22-hour travel day. So and then I think, yeah,
you can clap for that. [ Applause ] I think we also had a
couple of panelists as well, Meg mentioned that getting caught up in the Northeast
trying to get South. So, thank you all. So let me introduce Joan Kaywell who
will be introducing each panelist, moderating the discussion and
the question and answer period which will take up the last about
20 minutes of our program today. She is a professor of English
education at the University of South Florida where she’s
won several teaching awards for her passion of assisting
preservice and practicing teachers and discovering ways
to improve literacy. She donates her time extensively to
the National Council of Teacher’s of English and its affiliates FCTE
and a bunch of other acronyms, and I apologize for
them, so I’m going to, it’s the President’s
Assembly on Literature for Adolescents is another
organization that she’s a part of. She’s highly published, 14
textbooks to her credit, including most recently Between
the Lines actively engaging readers in the English classroom. And most recently also, there was
the establishment of the federation, I’m sorry, of the Joan F. Kaywell
Literature Saves Lives Book award to honor her, to honor you, for your
deep commitment to the profession and your fervent belief
in young adult literature. And I just say I’ve had the
pleasure of meeting you this morning and your husband and really
admire and appreciate you, your leadership in the world. And your, the strength that
your voice provides for others. So thank you so much for being with
us, and please join me on stage. Let’s welcome Joan Kaywell. [ Applause ]>>Joan Kaywell: Well, I
am very happy to be here. And thank you very
much to the Library of Congress folks, all of you. It is definitely an honor to be
in this room with so much history. And to you all for being
here because you’re committed to the life-saving power of books. So to reiterate, I’m going
to introduce the panel, and then I’m going to
ask a bunch of questions. And about the last 20 minutes or so will be your
chance to ask questions. So be thinking while we’re
talking about the questions that are pertinent to you. So I’m going to go left to, yes left
to right in introducing the panel. I think my pal here, Laurie
Halse Anderson probably needs no introduction. She’s a New York Times bestselling
author who’s known for her work for tackling tough subjects
with humor and sensitivity. Laurie was the proud recipient
of the 2015 Freedom Award given by the National Council
Teachers of English and the 2011 Free Speech
Defender Award given by the National Coalition Against
Censorship and presented to her by her own hero, Judy Blume. Two of her books [ Laughter ] Two of her books Speak and Chains
were National Book Award finalists, and The Impossible Knife of Memory, won the Joan F. Kaywell Book
Saves Lives Award in 2016. Ready for this? Her work has sold over
5 million copies. Please hold your applause
to the end. Jarrett. Jarrett Krosoczka.>>Jarett Krosoczka: There you go. There you go.>>Joan Kaywell: He’s also a New
York Times bestselling author and an illustrator who creates books
with humor, heart and a deep respect for his young readers, qualities that have made his titles perineal
favorites on the bookshelves of homes, libraries and bookstores. He was first published
at the age of 23. And since then, he has more than
30 published books to his credit. His Punk Farm, Lunch Lady and Platypus Police Squad series
are all currently I the development for film. Krosoczka has delivered
two Ted Talks, which have collectively accrued
more than 2 million views online. Hold your applause. Barry Lyga is another New
York Times bestselling author for his murder mystery,
I Hunt Killers. All-in-all, he has
published 17 novels in various genres in
his 11-year career. His latest novel, Bang,
about the aftermath of an accidental shooting
has been called heartbreaking and tender and realistic. He lives and writes near New York
City with his wife and his children, and he has a comic book
collection that I think that even Jarrett would rival. So, hold your applause. Thank you. Kekla Magoon. She’s an author of nine
novels, including X, a Novel, that she cowrote with
Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm
X. How it Went Down and The Robin Hoodlum
Adventure Series is another one of her contributions to our world. She has received an NAACPE,
let me just add that in there, the NAACP Image Award, two
Coretta Scott King Honor Awards and has been long listed for the
National Book Awards as well. Kekla holds an MFA in writing from
Vermont College of the Fine Arts where she now serves on faculty. Hold your applause please. And then Meg Medina. Meg Medina is the author of seven
books, including Burn Baby Burn that was long listed for
the National Book Award and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your
Ass, a two-time Pura Belpre winner and also a Joan F. Kaywell Books
Save Lives Award winner in 2015. She was named one of CNN’s
ten visionary women in America for her work to support girls,
Latino youth and diversity in children’s literature. Let’s give it up [inaudible]. [ Applause ] Wow. We’re in for a treat, eh? So this is all about
trauma and resilience and the life-saving power of books. And so we’re going to talk
for this first question about how can children’s
literature build resilience to trauma and chaos. And I’m going to start
first with Laurie. I know that a reader found comfort
in resilience in Fever 1793. Would you share that story
with us today, please?>>Laurie Halse Anderson:
Yeah, this goes back to shortly after the book came out, I
think this was early 2002 I was at a school, a middle
school in New Jersey. And I was giving a presentation on
Fever 1793, which for those of you who don’t know, it
is a historical novel about the yellow fever epidemic that almost destroyed Philadelphia
during George Washington’s first term in presidency there. And you know, so I’m talking about
gross disease stuff and, you know, all those sorts of things that
middle school students love so much. And we get to the Q&A and this young
girl raises her hand and stands up. And she says, you know, I
don’t really have a question. But I wanted to tell you that my
father was in one of the towers when the planes hit them in the fall
of 2001, and thankfully, he got out. But it was really scary for
a long time before we knew that he was safe, and it’s
still been scary ever sense. And when I read your book, it was
the first time I found a character who understood what I was
feeling when I was so afraid. And boy, did that kid
teach me a lot.>>Joan Kaywell: Thank you. Barry. Can you give
us examples of readers who have been helped
by reading Boy Toy? That’s teacher sexual abuse.>>Barry Lyga: Yeah, I
think in terms of Boy Toy, which is about a 12-year-old boy
who has an affair with his teacher and the ramifications of that. It’s sort of obvious to look at
situations of students who got in touch with me and said wow,
something like that happened to me when I was that age or something
like that is happening to me now, and your book helped me sort of
process the grief and the guilt and the complexity of it all. But I think for me, sort the
most eye-opening response I got to that book wasn’t from somebody
who’d actually been abused. It was from a young woman who wrote
to me shortly after the book came out and told me that her boyfriend
had been abused by a family member in a situation similar to
what happened in Boy Toy and that the whole time they’d been
together she couldn’t understand why he acted a certain way and
why he did certain things. And then she read the book and
she went, oh, now I get it. And she started talking to
him, and he sort of opened up to her, and it helped a lot. And she said to me, because
of this, when I grow up I want to help people like this. And the coda on that is
that a couple of years ago through the magic of
Facebook stalking, I thought, you know what, what the hell? And I looked her up, and sure
enough, she’s a therapist now. So, that’s a case where
it didn’t just help her. Now it’s paying forward. She’s helping other people.>>Joan Kaywell: Thank you. What about Adventures of Fanboy and
Goth Girl with bullying in there?>>Barry Lyga: Yeah, the
bullying in Fanboy and Goth Girl, probably the most affecting
email I ever got was the one that started Dear Author,
you saved my life. And I think we’ve probably all
gotten some variation of that. This was a kid who, like the kid in
my book, was sort of misunderstood, bullied, put upon,
nobody understood him. And he wrote to me explaining
in detail his suicide plan and how he was going to kill himself
and the whole ideation of it. And that he was going to do it
at midnight on this specific day that had significance to him. And then he started reading
my book and he looked up and it was like two in the morning. And he realized oh, I guess I missed
my chance and didn’t kill himself. So, you know, thank God he was
that anal retentive I guess. But that was a nice email to get.>>Joan Kaywell: Thanks. I’m going to skip to Meg. Meg, you have Yaqui Delgado
Wants to Kick Your Ass. That deals with bullying also. Do you have examples of how
that book has helped kids>>Meg Medina: I do. And it’s, it’s not always
a straight line, right. Because when we’re
talking about bullying, we’re also talking about shame. And we’re talking about issues that
kids don’t necessarily want to come to you and immediately
admit what’s happening. But it’s been interesting to see. I had, you know, I had a school
in Virginia that did a day-long and schoolwide reading
of Yaqui Delgado to really unpack the ecosystem
of bullying in the school. So not just kids bullying each other but like principals
bullying teachers, students bullying the
student teacher, parents bullying the principal,
you know, that whole sort of vicious cycle that gets going. And they did it as a schoolwide
read and gave this school that was really struggling with
violence sort of on its campus, this thing that they
could use safely to have difficult conversations
with each other. So I’ve had that. And then I’ve had really
unexpected things, like at the National Book Festival
a couple of years ago a mom came through with her daughters. She might be here, I see
her often at these things. I signed the book for her daughter,
and her daughter moved off. And then the mother said to me,
you know, your talk made me think of a girl I knew in high school. I was terrible to her. And I’m going to try to
find her and apologize. So, sometimes it’s not
an immediate thing.>>Joan Kaywell: Thank you. Kekla, I literally finished the X
novel, finished it on the plane. Well, I did have a few hours. [ Laughter ] And your book touches
on societal bullying. Do you have examples of how society, how people have been
helped by that book?>>Kekla Magoon: I think, I don’t know if I have a
specific single story to tell, but the experience I’ve had
with that book, and sort of part of the impetus, you know, for
Ilyasah to want to tell this story about her father is
that we know a lot about Malcolm as an adult, right. We know about his ministry. We know that he was a
civil rights activist. He was a humanitarian and
a leader and a speaker. He’s famous for his speeches
and inspired a lot of people, did a lot of community organizing. He’s certainly a misunderstood
figure, right. People don’t, people may have heard
of Malcolm X but wouldn’t be able to give him much information
about his life and his history. And so you can find
out a lot about him. But writing a novel about him
as a teenager is a sort of way of looking back at a time when
he did not know that he was going to become this famous individual. He had no idea what his
future held for him. And so one of the most inspiring
and sort of powerful things about that story as a novel is
you’re reading alongside a character who has no idea what he’s become. He feels hopeless. He feels like the world is against
him, and the world is against him in a lot of respects, right. He goes through a lot
of trauma in his life. From racism, you know, and
society, from classism, from the loss of his parents,
from, you know, living in the city, you know, during World
War II where he, you know, sort of tried to avoid
going to war as a teenager. So he went through all of
these experiences thinking that he was worthless. Thinking that he had no future. Thinking that nobody
cared about him. Thinking that he was unloved. Thinking that he has
no intelligence, even though he knew he was smart. He did well in school as a young
child, but he lost sort of faith in himself for a period of time. So this novel is about
that period of time when he lost faith in himself. And so for a teen reader, for
anyone really, the story reminds you that you don’t know
what’s next, right. On those days when
you feel hopeless, on those days when you feel
like you’re not putting a lot out into the world, you know. It just sort of, you have to
wake up the next day and think, I’m going to try to
be a good person. I’m going to be somebody who
does something for the world. Because what could
happen five years from now or ten years from now, you know. And so that’s the message
that hopefully is in the book. And when I go present to teenagers, it does seem like that has some
resonance looking at that book and seeing this character
who we know is like, people wear his letter on a shirt. We have hats, you know,
you can quote his speeches. It’s 50 years after he was killed. And people still want
to talk about his life. And for him to, for them to
recognize their own emotions in his 14-year-old self, their own
hopelessness, their own feeling like the world is out to get them and they’re not going
to amount to anything. To say hey, he felt the way
I did when he was that age. And now, look what he did. That’s a really powerful experience.>>Joan Kaywell: And I felt that. So, continuing on, though, talk
about societal issues again and how it went down with police
brutality and society and all that. How has that book helped?>>Kekla Magoon: I think this
actually echoes something that Meg said. It creates a safe space for people
to talk about an issue that’s going on in the world right now. So this is the novel about
the controversial shooting of a black teen by a white
man and his community. It’s a multiple viewpoint novel,
but 18 different perspectives from teenagers and adults within the
community where this loss happened. And for me, I was watching,
you know, after Trayvon Martin
was killed in 2012, I was watching all the
news coverage and thinking, we’re not getting the
real story here. We’re getting a very surface story. We’re talking about Race
in America, capital R, capital A. We’re not talking
about how it feels when the kid that was killed was your
science lab partner or the boy who gave you your first
kiss or somebody who sat next to you in class. Or somebody who bullied
you and you’re pretty happy that they’re not in
school the next day. Those are complicated feelings. And so the experience
of being able to talk about those issues are
very real to my readers in a slightly removed setting to
talk about the fictional character of Tyrell, how he feels when
he lost his best friend. You know, to talk about your
own feelings through the lens of fiction is a really
powerful experience as well.>>Joan Kaywell: Thank you.>>Meg Medina: And I
want to hop on one thing, because I think you’re
touching on it. In seeing your community, seeing yourself there is
really a powerful thing. So for Yaqui Delgado what happens
is that people will tell me, teachers especially, will
say that the Latino kids in their classroom suddenly are
the experts on the language, on the food, on what
that phrase meant. And they suddenly are
in the position of power saying this is how
this looks in our family. This is what it sounds like. It doesn’t, it may not seem like a big deal unless you’re
the person who never gets there. You know, the way their family and their neighborhood looks
in roles, spoken about. And suddenly it’s there and you
have, you have the expertise. I think that’s really
helpful to readers as well.>>Joan Kaywell: Jarrett, can you
tell us how kids have been helped by the Lunch Lady series?>>Jarrett J. Krosoczka: This
past fall I had a book signing for my books in general. There was this mother who
happened upon the book signing, and she picked up a copy of
a Lunch Lady graphic novel. And as I’m signing it for
her, she just began to weep. She began to cry. And I was taken aback. I wasn’t sure what was happening. And she confided in
me that she told me, she said the Lunch Lady’s
books really saved my kid because she had escaped a
very abusive relationship from her kid’s father. And when she set up a new
life for her and her kid, the kid just retreated
into themselves. And they weren’t reading. They were slipping in their grades. They just weren’t engaging
in school. And however this happened,
whoever handed that Lunch Lady book to this kid, she loved it. And she read all of the
books in the series. And it’s a powerful
thing because for me, I just wanted to draw a lunch
lady fighting off evil robots with fish sticks that
turned into nunchucks. Like that was my goal, you know. So I’ll never, you know, and that’s
the story that was shared with me. And these are just all the
stories that were shared with us. You know, I can only begin to
imagine what other stories are out there that we may never know.>>Joan Kaywell: That’s true. And Laurie, Laurie with Speak. Speak’s been around for a long time. Raise your hand if
you’ve read Speak. All right. So see there. Speak’s going to be one of those
books we can all predict 100 years from now will continue to be read. Can you offer some stories of
people who’ve been helped by Speak?>>Laurie Halse Anderson: Ah man.>>Joan Kaywell: I know,
where do you start, right?>>Laurie Halse Anderson: Right. This book helped me. And this book has changed
my life so profoundly. My readers, the readers of this book
have changed my life so profoundly. Tens of thousands of
communications over the years. The book’s almost 20 years old. And from, you know, an elderly
woman in her 80s who wrote to me about being sexually assaulted
at age 12 by some boys at school, and her parents married her off to the next traveling
salesman who came through. And he finally died when she was
in her 70s, and she was taking that time from her 70s until the
end of her life to kind of start to go back and reflect on
what her life had been. You know, we write these
books for kids and teens, but you guys are all pretty much
old enough to know that when you go through something difficult in
your childhood or adolescence, those scars if not tended with love
and care at the time they’re formed, tend to linger and color your
life for the rest of your life. So I think that even though we write
in the field of youth literature, we’re really talking about the most
significant parts of our humanity. So Speak has been, I’ve heard from
all kinds of folks, men and women, girls and boys, who have been,
were survivors of sexual assault, different kinds of violence. But also people who have held
secrets, who have bad things happen to him that they didn’t
have the language for or didn’t have a friendly
ear to talk to. And that book helped them see
how our secrets can poison us. And when I hear from,
especially a young person, that the boy helped them find
their courage to speak up, that’s just the greatest
blessing in my life.>>Joan Kaywell: And
I’m going to continue on with the Impossible Knife of
Memory because you also shared that that is very true
or hits home with you. [Inaudible] how that
writing of that helped you.>>Laurie Halse Anderson:
Oh my gosh, yeah. The Impossible Knife of Memory
is my most recent YA novel, and it is the story of so
many of our teenagers today. A young girl whose dad
is home from the war, Iraq and Afghanistan
veteran with physical and emotional wounds,
untreated PTSD. And this book is for all
those kids out there who have to parent their parents because
their parents are kind of broken. And that’s the hardest
thing out there to learn. And it’s a reflection of my
experience with my own father. I wrote it as he was at the
end of her life, so the writing of the book became a bit of a
healing process for both he and I. But, you know, especially with
our older teens, they sadly get so good at putting the mask on. It’s really easy to tell when
10-year-olds are struggling. But I think that the 17 and 18
and 22-year-olds need us all to open our hearts a little bit
wider and give them a little bit of extra patience and love. Because so many of them are
carrying heavy burdens in our books, which you so generously put in
their hands, are often the key to unlock their silence and
strengthen them, whether or not they talk to
anybody about it. Just to know that you’re not alone
with your suffering is another to let you get through
another day sometimes.>>Joan Kaywell: Thank you. But the rest of you, how do you
realistically portray a trauma that you may not have directly
experienced yourselves?>>Meg Medina: Well, I start
with questions for myself. And first, I’d like to
say when I’m writing about really difficult things,
traumatic things, I’m also aware that I’m writing for young people. And it’s not the same
as writing for adults. When I’m writing for young
people, the question, or the way that I’m thinking
about it is not how I dumb it down or how I make it prettier or
how I make it less hurtful. That’s not the answer. The real issue is, how
do you communicate this? How do you represent this
realistically, and at the same time, be respectful to where
they are developmentally. With the tools that they have
at 15, at 16 at 17 at 12, when they’re coming to the page. So it’s this long sort of exercise
in tact, in how I say something. And I have to be aware that this is
maybe the first time they’re coming to experience this with me. It may not be the reality
of their family, but it is of their friend’s family. So, it’s just this really delicate
balance of being respectful of where teens are as they
grow up and staying honest. I think the biggest disservice we
would do would be to be dishonest, to clean it up and make it less, reflect less what’s
actually happening.>>Barry Lyga: I think one of the
things we always have to remember is that even though, as human
beings, we are incredibly good, almost addicted, to
organizing ourselves into groups so that we can define
who isn’t in the group. The fact of the matter
is, we’re all individuals. We all experience the world
only through ourselves. And so I think it, when you
talk about portraying a trauma that you haven’t experienced,
there’s a temptation sometimes to think, well I haven’t
gone through this so how can I talk about it. But anybody who’s gone through
a trauma is going to react to it differently, whether
greatly or slightly, than somebody else who’s
gone through a trauma. So, you look for sort of
a core common humanity, and you extrapolate from that. And what I’ve always done is I
can only, I can only liken it to method acting in a way. I mean, you know, in Bang, Sebastian
was four-years-old and got a hold of a gun and shot and
killed his baby sister. I have never done that, thank God. But I can sit down and think to
myself, what would that feel like? What might that be like? How would I react if
I had done that? And I’m a human being, so my
reaction is going to be a human one and hopefully will be recognizable
to other people who read it. And I think that you can’t aim
for 100% fidelity, but you can aim for [inaudible] and hope
that you’re close enough that you hit the common notes that
most other people will recognize.>>Joan Kaywell: All of your
books have been censored some way. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist
to figure out that some teachers, librarians, people would be afraid
to have them in their classroom. I looked up and in Virginia,
Meg Medina’s talk was cancelled after the principal
refused to allow her to reference Yaqui Delgado
Wants to Kick Your Ass. Wouldn’t let her show the cover. Barry Lyga’s been censored
all over the place. An also a lot of self-censorship
with his. You know, you’re going to bring
in I Hunt Killers, you know, a kid who’s been raised by a
serial killer for a father. Laurie Halse Anderson’s books have
been challenged so many times, so many times, that she’s
become the spokesperson for intellectual freedom
around the country. She’s a force to be reckoned with. Go to her website. Kekla, she’s written a book
about it called Media Censorship. And Jarrett, Lunch Lady
series, he’s been censored because he’s written comic books,
and that’s not real literature. And Barry, of course, could talk
to about his comic book collection and how it’s messed
him up for life, right.>>Meg Medina: It’s
so sad about him.>>Joan Kaywell: I know.>>Barry Lyga: I’ll
never amount to anything.>>Joan Kaywell: So all of you, what
do you tell teachers and librarians who are facing a censorship
situation? And I’ll have Laurie go last.>>Meg Medina: Thank goodness. Yeah, because she really
is the queen bee on this. She really has her stuff. I mean, here’s what I say. Fear not, right. You’re not alone, first of all. It’s happened to other people. And I feel like, A,
please have read the book. So you know, you can
discuss why this book matters to your students and your school. Why it’s literary merit is there. I think you should
reach out, certainly, to the Office of Intellectual
Freedom, to the NCAC, because they have all kinds of
materials that you can use to shore up your relationship with your
principal and your response. And certainly, tell the author and
alert the author and the publisher. Because they can also send
letters of support and so on. But mostly know, I mean,
I feel so bad sometimes when a librarian will say, you
know, we’ve got this challenge to your book because
here’s how I’m thinking. There’s paperwork. There’s phone calls. There’s people with
pitchforks, right, saying things like you’re
not, you’re not a moral person or what are you doing to my child. And this creates so much pain,
really, for the librarian, for the parent, for
the kid, you know. And I feel for you. But I feel like it’s so
important to give kids books that really reflect
what they’re up against. That’s it worth the fight. What do you think?>>Jarrett J. Krosoczka: I
was scheduled to be at a bunch of schools that required air travel. And this one librarian
that was intending on hosting me brought
a copy of Lunch Lady into her principal’s office and
said, we’re going to get this guy to our school, and we need to
make sure we get the funding. And the principal just took one
look at it and said, you know, I spent my childhood with my
face in the pages of comics when I should have been
reading real books. So I’m not going to
have that man come to our school and promote comics. And all I could think of was
like, was her goal in life to be like superintendent? But all those years with Archie
and Jughead held her back? And now she was stuck
as the lowly principal. And there’s a lot to
sort of analyze in that. You grew up reading comics, and now you are an elementary
school administrator. That is a noble job. And so, you know, I do speak to a
lot of librarians who say like, oh, there’s a parent or
there’s a teacher. And this isn’t a generational thing. This is younger, middle age,
older educators, parents, who say only let my kid
check out real books. No comics. For me, you know, my
mother was a drug addict. I didn’t know my father. I didn’t meet him until I was 17. I was raised by two very lovely
grandparents who drank a lot. But I had Garfield in the
newspaper every single day. And I was, I would get
to the comic bookstore and I would get Spiderman
and X-Men comics. And those were my lifelines. You know, those were my escape
portals for what I was dealing with. So if you’re telling your
kid not to read comics, maybe you’re taking the only life
jacket they have in that moment.>>Barry Lyga: I think, I
mean, you asked how we respond. I always am very careful to say
to the librarian or the teacher or whomever has contacted
me, look, I can be as loud or as quiet as you want me to be. I can raise a stink and try to reign
hellfire down on your district, or I can say nothing and just wait
for you to tell me what to do. Because I think our first reaction
can sometimes be a very defensive one, like you’re banning
my, screw you. I’ll show you. Do you know who I am?>>Jarrett J. Krosoczka: I speak
at the Library of Congress.>>Barry Lyga: I speak at the
Library of Congress for God’s sake. [ Laughter ] There’s video. Look at>>Jarret J. Krosoczka:
One p.m. RSVP at hashtag.>>Barry Lyga: Hashtag
resilience in literature. But you know, I remember in one
case Boy Toy was being challenged somewhere, and the teacher told me and then begged me not
to say anything online. And said, you know, the principal
is talking to the parents, and it’s sort of this very delicate
back channel cold war diplomatic pouch type of thing. And, you know, like a
Jeffrey Archer novel. And, you know, if you
make a big stink, then it could all go
curflewy [phonetic], but I thought you should know. And I said okay. And I didn’t say anything. And a while later I happened to
be in that area and a woman comes up to me at a signing and
goes, by the way, we won. And I was like. And that’s something too. You know, Boy Toy’s been challenged. I Hunt Killers has been challenged. My graphic novel Mangaman was
challenged for a sex scene where there is no nudity
and nobody has sex. Which really is stretching it. But anyway, that all happened. And, you know, they’ve never won. Which I think speaks to the folks at
the Office of Intellectual Freedom and National Campaign Against
Censorship and people like Laurie who have been just freaking
trailblazers in this. And thank you for that, for
standing up so early and so often so that schlubs like
me don’t have to. And I think yeah, you
know, when you’re told about this you give
them the resources and you say I am here
to do whatever you need. And I’ve always said that
if the censors ever win, I’m going to buy a million
copies of that book and send it to every library in
a 40-mile radius.>>Joan Kaywell: Chris
[Inaudible] does by the way.>>Barry Lyga: Yeah,
that’s where I got it from.>>Joan Kaywell: Kekla?>>Kekla Magoon: Well I don’t
have, actually interestingly, considering what I write about,
I don’t have any direct examples or experience of my books
being censored or challenged. Which I find interesting because
I write a lot about civil rights. I write a lot about violence. I write a lot about, you know,
race relations and everything that you would think
would be challenged. And I suspect that my books tend
to subject to acquired reform of censorship with people not
ordering them to begin with or fearing the censorship
conversation that might happen if they try to use it
in their classrooms. Which I think is of equal
concern to the books that are being actively challenged
but much harder to quantify. And so that interests me as
part of the conversation. And then just to say the book
that I wrote, Media Censorship, is part of a series of
educational books for middle school about controversial issues. And so it’s a book that presents
a debate about media censorship and when do we ban books and
why and how do we choose sort of what gets presented
by introducing teenagers to that conversation right at
that age when they’re first able to move beyond concrete
thinking and recognize that people hold different opinions and how do you navigate
those issues. So because I think the debate
itself is important, you know. At every stage of publishing,
at every stage of library usage, you know, people are
making decisions about what material is presented,
what material is published, what gets into the collection, what
doesn’t get into the collection. When is that a personal choice? When is it censorship? When is it protecting? And when is it hurting, you
know, all of those things, those shades at different places.>>Meg Medina: And those
weird conversations where people decide who’s the
right audience for your book. That happens for my books
all the time, you know. Oh this Latino girl would love this
book, but nobody else, you know. It’s like, so that’s kind of strange or having permission slips
or where they keep it. Like all that soft censorship
stuff is really dicey.>>Kekla Magoon: Yes. Yes. Agreed.>>Barry Lyga: And
I brought that up. I was asked about that when Boy Toy
came out that happened with Boy Toy where people just weren’t buying
it and putting it on the shelf because they were afraid of it. And so I talked about that. And I didn’t think I said
anything horribly controversial. I was just saying this
is what happened. And I had some librarians
attacking me saying, well, you know, I have a limited budget, and my
kid doesn’t care about your book, but they want Harry Potter. So are you saying I shouldn’t
buy Harry Potter just to prove that I’m not a censor? And I said no, that’s not
what I’m saying at all. I’m not talking about you. Like if your kid doesn’t
want to read my book, don’t buy it, that’s fine. But if you’re not buying Kekla’s
books or Meg’s books or my books or anybody up here’s books
because you’re afraid, then you should think about it.>>Joan Kaywell: The queen.>>Barry Lyga: We can
all take a break now.>>Laurie Halse Anderson:
The big mouth, right. It’s funny, because when I was a
kid I was always asking questions and getting into a
lot of trouble for it. And I was convinced as a child that
there was something wrong with me because I didn’t understand the
world around me which is why I had to ask all those darn questions. And you should know that
I’m a preacher’s daughter. So I was raised and I understand
the conservative mindset with a lot of love and deep understanding and
incredible frustration sometimes. When they first started to pull my
books and call me a pornographer and censor what I had written,
boy wait until you have to tell your mom that, by the way. That was in a newspaper article. You think I can get pissed off. I took it very personally. I was like what? You know, I cried a couple of times
because it was like people thinking that I wanted to harm children. Which is the exact opposite
of what we try to do and what all you guys try to do too. Over the years I’ve learned
a couple of things though. It’s never about me. And I’ve actually learned
how to love the parents who try to censor my books. I don’t love the politicians
who use those parent’s fear for their own political
ends and games. They can go to hell. [ Inaudible ] But what I’ve learned
is that the parents who bring censorship challenges
love their kids every bit as much as I love mine and you love yours. And you love the young
people in your lives. But they’re terrified. Because they don’t know how to talk
to their child or their children about the subject of
that particular book. And for people on the right wing of
politics, that’s often about things that are sexual behavior. For people on the left
wing of politics, sometimes it’s eating disorders
because I’ve gotten censored by everybody, and everybody
in between. So when I see a censorship attempt,
what I see is a scared adult who probably didn’t have people
in their life when they were young to talk to them about things. And it’s, you know, when I’m cranky,
it’s still pretty early in the day, if we were having this
in the evening, I would call this failed parenting. Because that’s exactly what it is. As a parent, your job is to
step up and do the hard things. And to do your job better
than your parents did theirs. And that means having to
learn how to talk about things that your child is going
to experience in the world. Please God, please all the
gods, no child ever has to go through any of these things. But that’s just so
completely unrealistic. And even for those kids whoa
re super lucky and they can get through adolescents in this
incredible bubble of privilege and become unscathed, they’re
the kids who go to college and fall apart because
they’ve never had that experience of
building resiliency. That’s what these books are for. These books give comfort to
the children who are struggling with pain that they
don’t know how to go to. And it gives knowledge
and compassion to the kids who haven’t experienced it. Speaking again as a preacher’s
daughter, I’m going to start swaying up here in a second, trying to
figure out where my Amen corner is. Okay, good. [ Laughter ] Now I’m totally off track. I should never make jokes
when I get heated like this. Speaking as a, what I know, particularly from my
faith background is that in our sacred
text of Christianity, Jesus did not tell us don’t. Jesus told us stories. In His wisdom he shared stories. And I think every sacred text of
any religion that I’ve ever studied, which is certainly not all of
them, you see storytelling, because that is human
wisdom at its finest. Distilled. Distilled. And you tell a story and the
listener or the reader takes that story into their soul, applies it to their
spirit and grows from it. That’s why these books
are so important. So, summarizing, everything
they said was right. And I think that if we paid
attention, recognizing the place that the censors themselves are
coming from, and actually trying to operate out of love
and respect for that. Because they’re hurting. Imagine if you had a
15-year-old child you know that the world is a
very scary place, and you don’t know how
to talk to your kid. Or you’re so afraid of screwing
up, you don’t talk to your kid about the super important things
you know you should be talking to them about. That’s not a fun place
to imagine yourself in. So I think there’s a lot of room
for all of us to learn and grow and having discussions about
these books is a really good place to start.>>Jarrett Krosoczka:
May I add something?>>Laurie Halse Anderson: Please.>>Joan Kaywell: Oh yes.>>Jarrett Krosoczka: So my daughter
read Raina Telgemeir’s Smile when she was about five-years-old. And she wanted to buy a copy of
the book for her friend’s birthday. Her friend was turning six. So at the birthday,
the birthday opened up the book, and she was elated. She had always wanted this book,
and the parent shared a look of, oh. Because they had had a discussion
about how they weren’t going to have Raina’s books in their house
because of the things they read about how these books
were inappropriate. And so I pulled them aside,
I said well, in the book, in this particular book, some of the Raina characters’
friends are really mean to her. And then in another book,
there’s a character who is gay. So if you think that your kid
is going to go through life without these experiences,
you know, why not, you know, introduce the thought that your
kid is going to have some friends that aren’t kind to them. And how, like we were all saying,
have these conversations now through the book and to sort of piggyback off what Barry
was saying too is I think a lot of the way to broach
these conversations is to have these gentle
one-on-one conversations. Because sometimes, when you
come out all guns a blazing, it might not be the most
effective way to do it. So I love what you said about trying
to see where that librarian is at and what they need and how we
can best support your community, you know, let the authors
know what you need from us. Like, we’re so happy to help, be
it a personal letter or a tweet or something that could
start a bigger conversation.>>Joan Kaywell: I’m going
to switch the question to the opposite in a way. In my generation, we were never
allowed to talk about issues. You didn’t air your dirty
laundry out in public. I mean that was just, uh-huh,
you’re not going to talk about it. Uh-huh. And these folks
write about these issues. And I have been saying for my
entire career that books save lives in a time when it wasn’t even
politically correct to say that and to be here at the Library of
Congress with a theme of that. Just is beyond, I’m just so happy
that we’re talking about it. So put it out there, you know
I believe books save lives. And I’ve had conversations
with a lot of you all about how the life-saving
power of books. Can you give us a specific example
of how your books have saved a life that you know about or when it does? And I want everybody
to answer, please.>>Meg Medina: Well,
for me, I think that all of our work collectively
removes the isolation and shame that accompanies traumatic events. And those of you work with kids who
are, you know, victims of trauma. And there’s so many ways
to think about trauma now. I’m so encouraged by all of the
end roads being made on trauma in the form of teaching practices
and school practices and so on. But there’s something comforting
about finding, even in fiction, a person who can give voice to
those things you’re afraid to say. The things you’re afraid
to admit are happening. The things that you are too
painful to utter out loud. And I think that is a sustaining
way of building resilience in kids. That’s how I think they,
I mean, I don’t know. Maybe someone has been on the brink of doing something terrible reads
my book and decides otherwise. But I think it’s a
more subtle thing. I think it’s an acknowledgement of
the complexity of people’s lives and how families are complex. And how you can be in a family
and love very deeply a person who also hurts you very deeply. And how that exists. It’s human. That is I think what saves lives. It removes the shame and the feeling
that there’s something you’re living or something about you that
is really impossibly ugly. It’s human.>>Kekla Magoon: I agree for sure. I mean I think when I hear
the question, you know, has your book saved
a life, you know. The story that you
want in a sense, right. It’s like Barry’s story where,
you know, somebody says.>>Barry Lyga: Literally.>>Kekla Magoon: I have child,
called and literally says, you know, I was reading your book and
that’s why I didn’t kill myself. I mean that’s sort of
the extreme, right, of how a book can save a life. But I’m, as a writer and
also, I think, as a person, as interested in the very nuanced
way that something can save a life or something can change somebody. I have had numerous teenagers say,
oh, we had to read this for school. It’s the first book I finished
all the way to the end. That is, like I say it and even
still it gives me chills to think about being the book that somebody
finished, like to give somebody that experience for the first
time, knowing that they came up and told me that when I met
them, they’re probably going to go find another book and try
to get to the end of that one. Or, at least think it’s possible,
right, that there are books out there that might intrigue
them all the way to the end. That, to me, is a life
changing small thing. I mean it’s huge, right, in
it’s potential ripple effects. But it seems like a
small story for somebody to say this is the
first book I finished. But when you’re 17, to say this is
the first book I finished all the way through, and that’s
happened more than once in several of my books, you know. And I know that, you know, other
writers have had that experience. And, you know, for me, that’s a life
change, which is some ripple effect down the road could be a life saved.>>Barry Lyga: Yeah, I’m sorry,
I only have the one story. [ Laughter ]>>Joan Kaywell: Don’t be greedy.>>Barry Lyga: I guess
I’m not doing my part. I know. But sort o in keeping with
that theme, I think that, I think, you know, one of the
interesting things, people ask me a lot why do
you write for teenagers, and my answer is I don’t. I write about teenagers. I don’t really think in
terms of who my audience is. I just write the story. But one of the interesting things
about the fact that it tends to be predominantly teenagers who
read my books is the knowledge that a book can change that
person in a fundamental way. Adults are set. We’re done. We’re set in concrete. Every now and then
somebody reads Eat, Pray, Love and changes their love. But that is extraordinarily rare. That’s the only one I can think of that’s extraordinarily rare
whereas you can have 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17-year-old kids who read a
book, one book, a single book, and go oh, now I know
how my life goes. Now I get it. And whether it’s something as
comforting as a gay kid who’s afraid to come out reading a David Levithan
book and goes oh wait, it’s safe. I can do this. Or whether it’s, you know, the girl
who read my book and said I want to help people and growing
up to be a therapist. Whatever it is, I think that’s sort of the amazing humbling
gratifying thing about the fact that teenagers read what I
write is that that’s possible. Whereas, with stodgy adults, I mean, you can you can give me
the best book in the world. I’m not going to change, I’m not
even going to change my clothes after reading it, you know.>>Jarrett J. Krosoczka: That’s
because you work from home.>>Barry Lyga: That’s true. This is true. Odds are, I’m probably
in my pajamas. So, yeah.>>Jarrett J. Krosoczka: I, you
know, I do hear a lot of stories from adults who will share stories about how my books turn
their kids on to reading. You know, these goofy, silly
books about farm animals who are in a punk band or platypuses
that are cops or lunch ladies that fight crime. But I feel what might be more
pertinent to your question is that I think a lot of kids
might be able to see themselves in my experience, my
personal experience. I delivered a Ted Talk a few years
ago where I was very open and frank, for the first time publicly,
about my mother’s drug addiction. About being raised by parents who
were alcoholics, by not knowing who my father was, let
alone I didn’t know his name or what he looked like. And so I visit a lot of
schools, and I’ll visit schools where the tuition is 30,000
a year for elementary. I’ll visit schools where it’s
99% free and reduced lunch. And every school I walk into I am
told that there is a kid there, and sometimes I get to
meet them on the sly, that is in the exact same
position that I was in. And I’ve been doing a lot of reading up on what the current
statistics are. See when I was a kid, I didn’t know
other kids had drug addict parents. I was the only one being raised
by their grandparents, you know. And today about eight million
kids in our country have at least one parent that is
suffering from an addiction, alcohol or drugs or both. And every time I’d put myself
out there either with a Ted Talk or a feature on NPR or a
very honest Facebook post, I get so many private messages,
sometimes public messages too, of people who are just,
they’re so relieved to know that they weren’t alone. That this guy who is writing
these books, he has to and had to deal with this as well. And sometimes they’re
people I’ve known for years, and they will then
confide this in me. So, will that save a life? Perhaps. But certainly, it will
make someone feel less alone, and that’s always a good thing.>>Joan Kaywell: Before Laurie
answers, I wanted to, Jarrett and I have become pretty
good friends now. We’ve shared our Ted Talks. I also have a Ted Talk on the
life-saving power of books, because books did indeed
save my life. I’m on sabbatical this year. I’m going to be writing my memoir. Well, I probably won’t
call it my memoir, but it will be titled I Could
Have Been a Serial Killer, but Instead I’m a Professor. Hence, the attraction
to Barry and his work. But at any rate, I know that books
were a healthy escape option for me. And because I could read books,
I could, my vocabulary developed. And because I could read books, I could read lots of
books on parenting. So I was able to break the cycle,
not to complain about my parents, but they didn’t have a
manual when I was born. But we do have manuals now and
books on how to raise kids. And I, as a professor,
went to all of them. I have the most wonderful son in
the world, who I love and adore. And so books do save
lives, change lives. And I’m so glad that
we’re talking about it. And I wanted to finish with saying
that when I worked with abused kids, the kids, more than anything in
talking with me, said to be able to see me as a professor and
happy, they go the message is if you’ve been abused you’re
going to become an abuser. And I go well that’s
true, unless you can read and learn what to do differently. I said but if you can’t read and
you can’t learn other ways of being, you only know what you know. And that’s what you believe
is normal, and it’s not. So anyway.>>Jarrett J. Krosoczka:
But again, books save lives. Comic books save lives. But also, empty sketch
books save lives.>>Joan Kaywell: Yeah.>>Jarrett J. Krosoczka:
Because you can either work through your feelings, or you can
just create an alternative universe for you to live in for a while. So you can either consume
that alternative universe or you can create that
alternative universe.>>Meg Medina: Well, I wanted
to say this to you, Jarrett, because I remember the day
that I watched your Ted Talk. And I have always loved your
books because they’re playful and they make me laugh
so that milk snorts out of my nose and things like that. And that’s always good. But it was a very sobering talk, and it was so fulfilling
in such a very deep way. And mostly because I felt like
your life as a writer now, your happiness, the fact
that you have this baby and that you create these joyful
spaces for people, that that is in and of itself the message. And so kids come up to me all
the time who are in the middle of being bullied, who find
aggression at school or at home or they’re in violent
situations at home. And they want me to tell them
what to do or how do I solve this. And the truth is that they
can’t un-see the trauma. They can’t, their life’s
work is going to be unpacking that and making sense of it. But we can, if we hold
on, get through it to the place of happiness. And I think that’s
what is so powerful about your work and your Ted Talk. And that’s it. That’s the end of my
fanning for you.>>Jarrett J. Krosoczka:
Well thank you. I appreciate that. Thank you.>>Joan Kaywell: Laurie.>>Laurie Halse Anderson: Yeah,
I want to build a little bit on what Kekla was saying. But before I do that, you all have
to read How It Went Down, okay. You just have to read this book. It is a masterpiece of a book. It’s a very, very important
American story. Beyond that, if anybody here wants
to learn how to write or wants to learn how to write better, you
need to read that book because it is in itself a master class about
writing and point of view. And it’s just a genius,
genius piece of work.>>Kekla Magoon: Thank you.>>Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Can
she print that on the back?>>Barry Lyga: Writing it down.>>Joan Kaywell: There is video. [ Laughter ]>>Laurie Halse Anderson: But
she was, she brought up something that I’ve experienced a lot too. We get these great emails often
written at 3:00 in the morning from kids who say, Dear Miss, I
just finished reading your book. I haven’t finish reading
a book since fourth grade. Sometimes third grade, you know. And that’s just such
a great compliment. But it makes me wonder that that
to me points out a responsibility that this community of people who
love America’s children and think that literacy is a way to strengthen
all of our kids in our country, we’re failing them a little bit. If our kids aren’t getting books in
fifth grade that they want to read to the end and seventh grade that
they want to read to the end. And especially for those kids who
are dealing with daily traumas. Things like that are often
characterized as escapist fiction, graphic novels, comic books,
God forbid fantasy, whatever, that gets so judged
often by educators. You know, that’s not quite
what we want, no, is it. Here, young person, read
Old Man and the Sea. [ Laughter ] Please.>>Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Unless
you’re like an old fisherman.>>Laurie Halse Anderson: Unless
you’re an old, dead white guy for whom the book was
written, right.>>Jarrett J. Krosoczka:
Exactly, yeah. The Gordon fisherman.>>Laurie Halse Anderson:
That’s right. So I think that when we use the term
save a life, we have to remember that there are indeed some readers
whose lives are saved and changed because of what they
find in these books. More significantly, though, is
that especially a young person who finds those books that start
to speak to her or his condition, and they find that
that’s a safe place to go for whatever their needs are. That is a life saved from despair. Because we all know way too many
adults whose bodies are still alive, but their spirit’s
been gone for decades. They are, and they’re often living
lives or they’re doing hard things to themselves and the
people around them. So we want to save
lives from despair. And that’s the function of
literature and storytelling. And you always know
when you [inaudible] if you’re dealing personally with
something hard, you have somebody, that character, to sit next
to you in your discomfort. To sit next to you in your sorrow. And that, just there,
that’s often enough. So I wish that we could, we all
have this responsibility to kind of scratch our heads a little bit
and figure, start thinking of books, you know, not as a
way to pass the test. Look, I didn’t curse, right. Because this is being videotaped
and I know, Daddy wouldn’t approve. But books are that tool. It’s that tool of integrity that
our children are so hungry for. And once they know that that tool
is there and it can be trusted, because we haven’t shoved too
many books that don’t speak to their condition
down their throats. We’ve allowed them the
dignity of choosing the books that are speaking to them, right. We’re honoring their choices. We’re respecting their choices. Then, now we start raising a
literate generation of Americans who can finally fulfill
their destinies.>>Joan Kaywell: Thank you. [ Applause ] Now it’s your turn. This has gone by really
quickly, and we’re going to give you 20 minutes’ worth of
question and answer time from you. There are three microphones there. If you could just kind of line
up there behind the microphone that you want to, and
I’ll acknowledge you. And we’ll get through as many
questions as we possibly can. So, I’m going to label the
microphones one, two and three. We’re going to go with
microphone number one first.>>Is it on?>>Joan Kaywell: Yes. Go. If not, I’ll repeat you.>>Testing, one, two. Nope.>>Joan Kaywell: Nope.>>But I’m loud, so
I’ll try to [inaudible].>>Joan Kaywell: Now try. Okay there, perfect.>>So a little bit earlier. First of all, I just want
to say thank you so much. This is like Christmas for
a high school librarian. Thank you for this opportunity. So earlier there was a question for
Barry Lyga about how does he write about a character who’s done
something that he’s never done. I think it was the killer or
the child who shot someone. So, and you all do it. How do we reconcile that with
issues of cultural appropriation when we’re taking a look at authors
who are writing about someone from perhaps an underrepresented
cultural voice or some other type of experience? And they do not belong
to that group. So we talk about their humanity. Yeah, they’re trying to
connect to their humanity. But then there’s always
that other side. I was just hoping that some
of you could speak to that. Thank you.>>Barry Lyga: I worry
about that constantly. You know, in the I Hunt Killers
series, Jazz’s girlfriend, Connie, is African-American. And I worried what people
would think of me trying to get myself ahead of a
17-year-old black girl. Who knows better than me? In Bang, Sebastian’s, the person who
becomes his best friend is Aneesa, a Muslim girl who has moved to town. I’m not a Muslim. So these are things I worry about. You know, you hope
that you approach these with as much empathy
as humanly possible. You do your due diligence. You do your work ahead of time. And you have to understand
that you’re never, number one, you’re never going
to get it 100% right. But you’re never going to
get anything 100% right. And number two, and this is the
toughest lesson for me at least, because I’m something
of a perfectionist, and I want people to like me. You’re never going to
make everybody happy. And I’ll give an example. I’ll take a moment
to give an example. In the I Hunt Killers series,
there’s moment where Jazz and Connie are out of town. They’re in a hotel room together. They’re sleeping. Jazz has a nightmare. He wakes up, and he looks over
and Connie is next to him in bed and she’s wearing a
silk sleeping bonnet. And I read a review of the book, something I recommend
authors not do. But I read a review of the book
where somebody, this person took me to task for othering Connie. That bringing up that detail
was making her alien or exotic. I should say I have no
idea of the race or gender of this person who wrote this. I do, however, know the race
and gender of two other people who wrote to me about this. I happen to know they were
both African-American women who were thrilled with that moment. One, in fact, said when she
got to it she laughed out loud because she was reading it in bed and was wearing her
silk sleeping bonnet. And was thrilled beyond belief
that I had bothered to do the work and recognize that and
put it into the book. And it was at that
point that I went. So you can’t make everybody happy. And, you know, if I had
taken that moment out, I would have pleased the one person, but these other readers
would have lost something. So, I think you, you know,
especially, you know, Jarrett and I are the straight
white men up here. Especially for those of us who have
those privileges, you really have to go into it with
a lot of humility. And not think, I can do this. Which I will admit
early in my career, my attitude was, I can do this. And it takes a lot of time for
you to realize, you know, what, these are people’s lives, and you
really have to think about this. And I don’t know the answer. I’m waiting every day for
somebody to come down on me for it. I’ve been lucky so far.>>Kekla Magoon: I would say there
are two things I think about. Because this is a question
that is asked, you know, I’m asked this question often. And I have two sort of
conflicting answers, right. One is that, you know,
we should all be able to write whatever we want, right. It’s an exercise in empathy to try
and stand in somebody else’s shoes and write a story that’s about
somebody else’s experience. We’re always writing about something
slightly different than ourselves. What lines is it okay to cross and what lines is it not
okay to cross gender. Okay, I can write about
boys, but can I write, you know, a Latino boy, you know. All these things, you know,
why does it seem harder for us to cross some lines than others. These are all good questions. I think as writers we should be
able to write anything we want. I think we should be
able to experiment. We should be able to
try to empathize. We should be able to learn. I think that’s how we grow. I think that’s how
we build our craft. I think the tendency when
people ask this question, and I don’t mean you specifically,
but just the question in general. There seems to be an inherent
assumption that if you write about a thing, it’s going to go out
into the world and be published. And that’s where the question, you
know, the issue comes in, right. It’s like how does this
book enter the marketplace? Is it okay for me to talk about
this like sort of publicly, right? And to me, those are two
separate issues, right. What you write about to explore. What you write about to learn. The book that you want, you know, if
there’s something burning, you know, a burning desire to write about a particular issue
that’s different from yourself. But what of that writing
belongs in the marketplace. For me, that’s a separate question because we have a situation right
now in publishing where it’s much, much easier for white
middle-class Americans, particularly men, to
get published, right. And so what that means is that
there’s an inherent assumption, right, when, you know, a white
person, let’s be general, when a white person says, oh I
kind of write across my culture. There’s an inherent assumption that
that book is going to be published and that book is going to go
out into the world and that that book might be criticized
for being out in the world. Like those are all sort of
assumptions buried there. And I, as a black write, can’t
make those same assumptions. I can’t assume that my book
is going to be published. I can’t assume that anyone is going
to want that story from me, right. And so I think we have to sort of
look at all the different layers of what it means to, not just
write, right, because you say if I can’t write about
anything I want, that’s sort of censorship
in one way. But the marketplace is sort of
already censoring people, right. So when we talk about
what’s okay to write, I would argue it’s
okay to write anything. A separate conversation is
what needs to be published. What do we need to hear more of? And what we’re missing right now
is what we’re calling own voices, right. So people writing about
their own experiences. And there’s going to be, you
know, blurred lines there too. I can write a novel about
Malcolm X. He’s black, so we have that in common. But it’s different because
he grew up in the 1940s. Then he’s a man. And he became a public figure,
all these things, right. So why is that okay and
other things are not okay. You know, it’s a little bit murky. But that’s a story that sort
of I got to write, right, because of my experience and because
of my sort of study of this history, right, and what you’re talking
about in terms of research and putting a lot of sort of
background and experience into it. But what I worry about
is when people who come from a more privileged sort of
position in publishing, right, want to sort of tell those stories
because they’re needed instead of sort of allowing
space for other stories. So I think those, I think
those should be two separate conversations, and they never are. They’re always one conversation. Because I think the assumption is if
you write it, it might be published. And I think that’s where we need
to sort of unpack that difference.>>Joan Kaywell: Sir in
the blue shirt, mike two.>>Hi, my name’s [Inaudible]
Edwards, and I taught for 28 years. I guess the mike’s not
on, but I’ll speak up. I taught for 28 years in the
area at Crescent schools. Now I’m studying positive
psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, so I’ve, oh thanks. Hi. So I’m really interested in
the intersection between the latest in psychology and literature. And there are a lot of
great people out there, Karen Reivich has done a
lot of work in resilience and had a lot of success. Someone named Rich Tedeschi,
posttraumatic growth. Has anyone heard of
posttraumatic growth? These are really important
concepts I think in literature. And how does kind of the latest
in psychology inform your work, especially since you
have such a big impact?>>Meg Medina: I wish I
could say to you that I’m up on all of that research. But the fact is that when
I’m writing the story, I’m going inside my own
questions that I had growing up. Going back to feelings I
had about unresolved things, making connections between those and what I’m seeing
happening with kids now. Like it’s not, I’m not
reading the psychology on it or teaching practices
and creating text. However, in the process
of researching the book, any book really, and how would this
character resolve this, etcetera. I could speak to that with Burn
Baby Burn, Hector, of course, is a character in this book who’s
an arsonist who is a young man who some readers will write and
say oh that brother, you know. We hate him. He’s the bad guy. But I think I try to draw a
young man who has mental illness. Whose parents have abdicated
their role as his parents and who’s not getting
medication or care. That’s what that looks like
when it is allowed to roll. And so I try to, in any kind
of character that I’m drawing, try to draw it with
integrity to the psychology, the reality of the person. But I wouldn’t say that I study it
head-on unless I’m really wresting with a character. For Hector I did sit down
with a psychologist and say, when would Hector detach
from his mother? And she said, three. So, if you go back to this book,
you’ll see that in pages I’m looking for what happened when
Hector was three.>>Joan Kaywell: And I think I can
answer, to some degree I can answer that question as a teacher-educator. I think what’s happening is
with reader response theory in these books that now kids
are disclosing more and more than they have ever
done historically and society that’s
ill-equipped to deal with it. And so as a result of
that, our schools are in a learning curve write now
on how to address these issues. But meanwhile, back at the ranch,
one of my doctoral students, for example, used Deadline by Chris
Crutcher and did remarkable things with a group of students
labeled at risk. And when we call them at risk we
mean at risk for failing school. But mainly because they’re
being presented with curriculum that doesn’t mean a
thing to their lives. But you bring in a book like
this that’s speaking specifically to what’s going on, and Deadline in particular has this guy
is going to die in a year. And so he lives life fully. And in there there’s
a service project, and he reads just everything
he can get his hands on. And these kids were labeled at risk
modeled their lives after this kid and what they would do
and kept journals of it. Significantly changed these lives
of these kids to the point where, ready for this, all of them
graduated from high school, and almost all of them
went to college. And these kids, according
to predictors, would have dropped
out of high school. One book. So that’s, it’s emerging. We’re living through that. So I hope that helps. We’re at least having
the conversation.>>Yeah, thank you. And I love that you’re
going to a psychologist, that’s great and what’s happening. Thank you so much.>>Hi there. Hi there, I’m Karen [inaudible],
and I’m a school counselor. So kind of piggybacking off
the theme of mental health and the stigma that we’re
up against with a lot of these mental health disorders. So I’m just wondering, because
all of your books present such deeply complex issues, what
opportunities might there be to partner with like the mental
health community to help, you know, our readers to unpack
these very complex issues and to process what they’re
reading and to really delve into the emotions that
they’re confronted when they read these stories.>>Laurie Halse Anderson: In my
experience, it works best when, you know, the teachers
have a chance to read ahead of time, you know, read the book. Never read one of these books
first with your students. I’ve heard about that happening and it never ends the way
the teacher wants it to end. But to recognize that, you know, and
it’s often that you’re always going to have, you know, in a room of 30
kids, we know statistically how many of them have thought
about self-harming. How many are struggling with
all these different issues. And it’s going to feel
very raw for a kid. So I have heard from many
teachers who have partnered with their school guidance
counselors, if their school has
a guidance counselor. Or emotional counselor. And worked with even health
teachers to make sure, for example, that there’s posters in
the bathroom, you know, over the urinal stalls with
telephone numbers and websites where people can reach out. And not necessarily put them
in the classroom, right, because nobody’s seeing that class, wants their friends seeing them
writing down that phone number. But there’s a lot of different
ways a school can be supportive of those kids who are struggling
and looking for a place to go. But also important, too, I think
for educators to remember is that because you have some kids
who are going to be struggling, it’s important to sensitize the kids
for whom this is all new material. And that’s a really important
life lesson for them to learn about how do we have conversations
about these characters, whether they’re making good
choices, bad choices or whatever, in a way that aren’t
going to make some of those more fragile kids
feel judged or shamed. Does that make sense to you?>>Yeah, thank you.>>Kekla Magoon: I’ve definitely
seen that handled really well in some alternative schools
and some juvenile facilities and various places that I’ve visited where they’ve done really
cool discussion groups around. Like [inaudible] for example,
and you know, I’ve had a couple of conversations going in
with either the educators, the librarians, about how some
of the material can be triggering for those students and how they
have been dealing with that sort of separately, right, from my
presentations I’m coming in to talk about the material and that. I’ve never had a problem in my
group, right, but it is the kind of material that can spark somebody
to sort of open something, right. And that can go really
well, or it can kind of be distressing,
right, to a student. And so I’ve definitely seen some
really creative things happening with art, you know,
combining art with the reading where they’ve done collaging
around like some of their feelings around the book or pulling
out passages that they like or like collaging around
a character. And some different things like
that to try to connect different, the conversation with sort of
other ways of processing emotion.>>Joan Kaywell: And at the
University of South Florida where I teach teachers how to teach
English, we do a statistical survey of the issues affecting teenagers. And then after that, I always
go into where do you go for help if something happens and you think that your administration
is feeling this kid. There becomes a moral issue then
on do you let the kid be failed or do you know who to call
for assistance at that point. So, thank you for the question. Yes mam.>>So my question is
about hope and when you as writers are crafting stories
about a traumatic experience. How conscious are you of crafting
to or writing to a hopeful ending? Do you feel any obligation, perhaps
especially in the middle grade book, to create a hopeful ending or not? Or do you feel that hope is perhaps like the Bible stories you
were referring to before, hope is just a part of
the human experience. And so the ending will
sort of resolve itself in that direction at any rate.>>Laurie Halse Anderson:
I feel a moral obligation to write towards hope. But I think that’s because in
adolescence and even in your 20s, you’re still point towards hope. Bad things can happen, terrible,
horrible things can happen to people But at that age, you’re
still resilient enough that you can start reaching. And the more you have that
experience in hard times of reaching for hope, the deeper ingrained
that wonderful habit becomes. So that’s where my compass points. I don’t know about you guys.>>Meg Medina: I feel the same way,
and I also feel like the business of growing up is really about
being able to take control and have agency, right, over
what’s happening to you. Over how you’re going to respond
to the things that happen to you. How you’re going to take control. So when I’m ending a book, it’s
always such a problem, right. But when I’m ending a book, I feel like the ending
has to be satisfying. Nothing has to be tied up perfectly because that’s now how
problems get solved. Sometimes, the solution
is just the best of several really lousy
options, right. But it has to feel satisfying. And I feel like the
character has to move to this place where they can speak. Or where you get the sense
that they’re on the path to the next level of saying no. This is how it’s going
to run for me. Do you understand what I mean?>>Joan Kaywell: Lady in the back.>>Hi. We’re from Digital Harbor
High School in Baltimore City. I brought my students. [ Applause ] We got the runaround, so our
children got the last end of your talk, and because the police
kept sending the bus in circles. But we want to know, the students
want to know if you guys do come to the schools to talk to students. They’re very interested in
your stories and your books. So.>>Joan Kaywell: Field trip.>>Barry Lyga: Field trip.>>Jarrett J. Krosoczka: How
many seats do you have open on the bus for the way?>>We have a couple. You’re welcome to come any time. We’d love to have you.>>Barry Lyga: Yeah, we all,
I think every single one of us does school visits. I mean, probably easier, we each
have different ways to get in touch, but probably start at our websites. Does everybody have?>>Meg Medina: Yeah.>>Barry Lyga: Contact
info on their websites? Yeah.>>Laurie Halse Anderson:
What’s your name please?>>My name is Olivia Smith. I’m the library media specialist. These are my students.>>Laurie Halse Anderson: Yay.>>So thank you.>>Joan Kaywell: And the good
news is that this was recorded, so you’ll be able to
show this to them.>>Excellent. Thank you so much, and thank you
for the privilege of coming to this.>>Laurie Halse Anderson:
We’re so glad you guys made it. We were worried about you.>>John Kaywell: Up front.>>Thank you.>>The website’s on here.>>Joan Kaywell: Oh, the
website’s on your program there. And that’s where you
go to watch the film.>>Jarrett J. Krosoczka:
And it’ll be on the YouTube as well,
I think, right. The YouTube?>>Meg Medina: We’re
the YouTube sensations.>>Joan Kaywell: Yes mam.>>Barry Lyga: Go to>>Thank you. So as an author working
on a manuscript based in my own childhood trauma. I’m really curious how
from a process point of view you kind of make it work. You take the trauma and make it
work for you in your writing process versus letting it be
something scary that kind of keeps your cursor blinking.>>Kekla Magoon: For me I tell
myself there’s always revision. That’s one of the kind of
reminders that is helpful to me that the first thing that
comes out doesn’t have to be the way that it ultimately is. The first thing that comes out, you
know, nobody ever has to see it. That’s your sort of
private expression, whether it’s the cursor
blinking at you or whether it’s the notebook open. You know, sometimes even just
going back and typing the previous, retyping the previous paragraph, you kind of get back
into the flow of it. Things like that remind
yourself what’s there. And letting it be okay that
it’s uncomfortable at times. You know, I think we all kind of
write through tears at times or, you know, get sort of a I need to
step back now and come back later and all of that is okay
and that it unfolds in your own time in your own way. And I suspect usually the
first draft when you’re writing from your own experience is
more raw and is less polished. And you go back and sort of
figure out what is the story from this that I can pull out. You know, and it becomes
a separate thing. So if you recognize that first
draft as a protected thing that nobody’s ever going to see that’s your own
sort of working draft. It’s your studio, you know. It’s the rehearsal as
opposed to the performance, right, in terms of a play. If you can see that as a protected
and safe space for yourself to express, I think some
more things will come out. And then know that you can mine
that for an actual draft later, depending on how far in
the process you are now.>>Joan Kaywell: Last
question of the day.>>I wrote my question down so I
wouldn’t forget what I was going to say. I wanted to go back to
something that Kekla mentioned about soft censorship, about
this parent who won’t buy a book for their kid or a kid who
self-censors when they see a book on display, but they’re not sure
they want to take it or not. I wonder, how do you as authors
try to reach across that sort of soft censorship line to get books
that could help children transform to those children, even though
they might not necessarily find or receive those books?>>Laurie Halse Anderson: I
think, in terms of a child or a teenager choosing or
not choosing to read a book for themselves, that, in my
opinion, is 100% their choice. Kids are really, really good at
knowing what they’re ready for. And sometimes a kid wants to go,
oh, this sounds really interesting and then go, yeah, it’s not for me. And God bless them for doing that. That’s so smart, right. That’s self-care, radical
self-care right there. So I wouldn’t worry at all
about that kind of stuff. They get to judge when
they’re ready for it. In terms of encouraging librarians
and teachers to buy the books and put them on, I think these kinds of conversations are
really important. Thank you, again, everybody
for coming and joining us. You know, this is the
follow up in social media that I hope we’ll all
be experiencing at the end of this session. And I think social media in itself,
the ability to reach out and connect with authors and other readers, to
kind of be strengthened a little bit in your role as a gatekeeper to
recognize that actually your job is to open the gates to both readers
and books, not to keep them closed. What do you think?>>Barry Lyga: Yeah, in
a lot of cases, there’s, in many cases there’s very
little we can do as the author. I mean, once it’s published, so
much of it is out of our control. We were talking at lunch about,
you know, we don’t even know for the most part, did somebody
in Saskatoon buy my book? I have no idea. You know, did people
in Texas like my book? I don’t know. We don’t know that. And so I think what the best thing
we can do is make the best book possible that hopefully gets
the reviews and the attention and the word of mouth
that will make people say, I wasn’t sure about that. But everybody seems to be
saying that this is interesting, and this is important,
and this is good. So maybe, I love the way you put
it, maybe I’ll open the gate instead of closing the gate for this time.>>Jarrett J. Krosoczka:
Which we all are so thankful for the brave educators, because
you guys are on the front lines. You guys are the ones
that have to have a lot of those difficult conversations
face-to-face with people. And you want to create
that space for your kids so that maybe they can connect
with something they see in and of themselves of what they’re
going through in these books. So thank you for doing
what you guys do every day.>>Joan Kaywell: And that’s
a nice segue in for me to do a little housecleaning
before you thank the authors for their wonderful contributions. I’m just going to ask if you be
respectful and allow the authors to leave here and go down
there so that they can get set up for their book signing. That way they can go there
in an orderly fashion. And their books are going to
be sold out there for you. But with that said, now,
will you please join me in thanking these wonderful authors. [ Applause ]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at

local_offerevent_note October 12, 2019

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