Dear readers, I am thrilled to present my sixth novel, The Lighthouse between the Worlds! As you probably guessed from the title, it’s a portal fantasy. This one’s for readers ages 8-12. The setting is the Oregon Coast, where I grew up. (At least, […]
musings & newsy things
Where: everyone on this world is eligible! Who: must be age 13 or older to enter When: starting……now! Each person who preorders The Lighthouse between the Worlds by November 12 will receive the Everyone’s A Winner! swag pack including: 1 Lighthouse between the Worlds bookmark 1 Lighthouse […]
The story that follows is an excerpt from a keynote speech I delivered recently at a book festival.
A new study released in January demonstrates that as early as 6 years old, girls’ perception of their own gender’s intelligence shifts; all that subliminal messaging and systemic sexism out there has both boys and girls believing boys are smarter.
When I look back at my own life, it was 4th grade when I began to realize that being a girl meant my voice was valued less than that of my male peers. I was attending a public school in a low income neighborhood, but the teachers didn’t let that stop them from giving us amazing learning opportunities—they took us to the coast to study oceanography, they sent us to outdoor school to learn about the forest, and they applied for grants so we could put on a play every year at the city’s performing arts center. That year it was a musical production of Peter Pan.*
Now, everybody wants to be Peter, right? Well, I was cast as Wendy.
I took it hard. I remember my teachers consoling me, saying that the role of Peter had to go to 5th grader. It wasn’t that I wanted to have the most lines or be in the spotlight for the whole play—it’s just, I wanted to be the hero of the story.
Don’t we all?
(That’s me in the silky blue nightgown.)
You might be saying—hey! You had a starring role—speaking parts—and a song to sing. And while all that’s true, Wendy’s role in that story is to mother and scold and idolize Peter while he and the lost boys adventure. And in our particular production?
Peter, Michael and John got to fly. But Wendy didn’t.
I remember watching my classmates swinging from wires high above the stage during rehearsal—and that feeling—of being stuck on the ground while others got to fly, that’s what my own life was beginning to feel like, being a girl in a boys’ world.
So I found my solace in stories. I was drawn to fantasy because (obviously, dragons are super cool) but also, I wanted to live in worlds where sexism didn’t exist. Or if it did, it was something that could be conquered.
It wasn’t an easy thing in those days to find novels where the girls were the heroes. Thankfully, there are so many more today. But still, you’ll find people saying this book is for boys and that book is for girls. Or that a book for a school-wide or city-wide read has to have a boy protagonist because boys won’t read stories about girls. Or that books written by grown-up boys are more valuable than books written by grown-up girls.
I hear those things and I cringe on behalf of all the girls out there getting the message loud and clear that they are worth less.
I hear those things and I cringe on behalf of all the boys out there getting the message loud and clear that girls and stories about girls are worth less.
I changed during those Wendy years, those late elementary school days when I first recognized that everyday sort of sexism. I stopped writing. I stopped telling my own stories. I would try—I’d write a few pages, but then later, when I’d pick it up to begin again, I would rip what I’d written to shreds. Every time. Believe me when I say that internalized misogyny is poison.
I didn’t write my first novel until I was nearly 30.
All month long, on the #kidlitwomen facebook page, individuals have been discussing different aspects of this problem: the double standards that exist for men and women in our industry, how teachers and librarians can help, how male creators in our industry are at a distinct advantage, how these biases are linked to sexual harassment, how the movement will fail without intersectionality, how binary language in these discussions falls short, and much more. The month is up and there’s still more to say.
More importantly, there is more to do. We’re trying to make our world a better place. Won’t you join us?
*There is a great deal (in addition to the sexism) that is problematic with Peter Pan, as this article by the Smithsonian Mag illustrates.
I am over the moon to share the first reviews for my new YA. First, there was the excellent Booklist review, where the journal’s cover is a full-frame image of my book cover. Isn’t it stunning? And then came three starred reviews! First, from Kirkus, who calls […]
Many thanks to School Library Journal for this lovely starred review of Three Pennies! Some of my favorite parts: “The language of this short and intense story is spare and evocative, and the chapters are brief and impressionistic.” and “This tender tale of human frailty […]
ARCs are out in the world, which means reviews are on their way in…
The first review for THREE PENNIES is a wonderful one—a star from Kirkus! I won’t share the whole text here because, of course, spoilers. But the last line is my favorite. Kirkus says THREE PENNIES is:
“A beautifully written and thoroughly modern family breaking-and-making story.”
And I couldn’t be happier!
We have a cover! I am always so grateful for the many, many hours the design and editorial teams spend to carefully wrap my words in an artistic rendering of what lies within. So very grateful! For a book description and preorder links, click here: AN […]
I love it! Isn’t it fantastic? Here’s the panorama of the whole jacket: Feeling very fortunate over here to have such a thoughtful editorial and design team at Atheneum making these gorgeous covers for my books! For more about Three Pennies, including release […]
I admit, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment. You write a book, you research and research and research and you wring your hands, hoping you are able to bring honor to the person, and to the life that has inspired you, that is your story’s subject. Wringing hands doesn’t actually do anyone any good, so you research more, deeper, and you revise and revise and revise and revise.
And then you send the book out there; you wish it well on its journey, and as my literary agency likes to say, you wish it into the hearts of readers. AUDACITY went out into the world on January 8, 2015. A year and a week later, a flood of announcements washed in. AUDACITY has been honored with the following:
YALSA Books for Young Adults list (a Top 10 pick!)
Amelia Bloomer List (a compilation of the best feminist titles from this year)
Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book list (from the discerning BCCB)
and last, but certainly not least, a shiny sticker from the Jewish Book Council
I have a locket that I wore to the Audacity book launch a year ago, with a picture of Clara inside. On days when I need to be brave or bold, or when I need to step outside myself and the minutiae of daily life that so easily overtakes us to remember our real purpose here–to make the world a more just, joyful, loving place–I wear the locket. I’m wearing it now.
I am humbled and honored and so very grateful for these awards and accolades. But this book and the recognition it is getting is about so much more than me. It’s about my agent, who insisted this story had to be told when I was beginning to doubt. It’s about my editor, who brings passion and absolute commitment to the stories she chooses. It’s about the Philomel Books family and the larger Penguin Group who designed, copyedited, vetted and championed this book, who gave it a stunning cover and enthusiastically shared it with the world.
And more than any of us, it’s about Clara: her descendants, her story, her struggle, her legacy. May she and those who fought with her on behalf of all of us never be forgotten.
I’m so pleased to tell you all about my newest book! It’s a middle grade this time, and a fantasy story–my first! Just today, Kirkus posted their *starred* review online and I couldn’t be more excited by what they have to say: This lyrical story has a […]