Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer of My Utah Writers: EVERYTHING IS FINE

After reading Ann Dee Ellis' book Everything is Fine, my husband and I discussed why people want to read sad books. Some readers have experienced sadness, and so they may reach a point where reading a book about fictional characters experiencing similar situations comforts them. But we also realized as we talked that MOST readers relate to horrific experiences because such times may not come into their own lives, but tragedy often enters into the lives of people we know.


For example, we both know individuals who committed suicide; we know people who died of cancer at way-too-young ages; we know women who have been raped; we know a friend whose nieces died of heat-exhaustion when those little girls climbed into the trunk of the family's car; we met a woman in our neighborhood who backed over her two-year-old son; and so it goes.

We are all affected indirectly when tragedy strikes - even when we read about it in the newspaper or see the story on television. If it happens in our family, neighborhood, city, or state, it usually touches us in some way. Even so, we hang around the periphery, safe from the really deep hurt. Until we pick up a book like Ann Dee's.

Oh my, the peek into the pain suffered by this fictional family was emotionally draining. I was so grateful that it was a short book. But I loved Mazzy and her karate chops and her obsession with breasts - her own developing ones and the developed chests of others; her relationship with the boy next door, and her love for her mother. Ann Dee does a marvelous job of developing this 12-year-old heroine!

I once heard Ann Dee tell a group of teens that reading House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros inspired her writing. Until then, she thought she had to fill up all the white space, but seeing and feeling Sandra's style, she decided she could write a book. And so she took a summer to do just that. This is What I Did was the result. Isn't that amazing?

I'm amazed by her determination, her persistence, and her talent!


Cat said...

I know that the kids I work with like books they can relate to, as well as books that help them escape whatever they have been through they vacillate between the two and all points in between depending on their process.


link2literacy said...

Hi Knittnkitten, Long time, no hearing from you. Hope your summer has been a good one.

I agree that kids often seek out books of fantasy, adventure, romance, and mystery when they are seeking escape literature. They may not be escaping from anything in particular - except maybe the required reading list from school - but they are in the mood for something different than what their world might be pitching at the moment.

I think there are a plethora of reasons for picking up realistic fiction, but I believe you nailed it when you said they are looking for something they can relate to. Even if the main character's problems aren't the same as the readers, just seeing how crises are handled by even fictional people is therapeutic. I think so, anyway.

Thanks again for dropping by.