Recently I ate dinner with e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, who is brave. I say that not simply because she wrote Fat Angie, but because she came to San Francisco to meet a bunch of writers she didn’t know for dinner. Over the Bay Bridge. At six p.m.
Clearly, she’s not from The Bay Area.
But yet, Eunice set up a dinner – over the internet – with strangers, and drove up from LA – from the morning commute – to meet us. We brought the food. She ate it.
Not only is she brave. She’s trusting.
This dinner was one stop on Eunice’s “At Risk” summer. Rather than do a typical sign-the-title-page book tour, she is touring the country, actually meeting and interacting with her readers. She is taking some serious risks.
Although, I don’t think that’s what she had in mind by the term “at – risk.” I believe she meant working with kids who are “at – risk.” But her summer has put her in some high risk situations: driving rental cars in Bay Area traffic, meeting strangers in private homes, eating surprise food, and above-all-else, telling the truth about herself, to anyone who will listen. She puts herself at risk everyday.
To me, that’s the beauty in Eunice and her work. Her bravery encourages us.
That evening, Eunice did two things to make me braver. First of all: she spoke up. She simply sat at the table with us and told us about herself. Even though we’d never met. That was risky. Maybe we would have a different opinion or attitude. But she made herself vulnerable immediately, easily and with a laugh. Several laughs, actually.
Her honesty enabled me to speak up.
The second thing she did to make me brave was she listened. She paid attention to each and every person at the table. Listening is risky because you might not like what you hear. Or you might change. Or you might feel you have to respond. Eunice did respond. She asked questions after every story.
Eunice’s book, Fat Angie, may be a powerful force, but I believe its because Eunice is so gentle. She knows people so well because she can interact with us honestly. She can risk a conversation, risk her time, risk a change, risk a bad dinner, a different opinion, or a wrong turn. And laugh.
I hope you read Fat Angie. It’s about a girl who takes risks. She’s hurt, bullied and ostracized. But, ultimately, Angie’s efforts pay off. Angie is brave because she puts herself at-risk again, even though she’s been hurt in the past.
The book is a quick read because the characters enter your heart quickly, as if they simply sat down at your table and started asking you questions.
If you are a high school teacher, I’ve got a story sheet for your students on narrative structure (part of the common core). It’s free to download. Help yourself.
I’m subbing in a high school library for a few weeks. Before I started this job, when I mentioned it to parents, they would ask me, “Do high school kids even read?”
That question, naturally, made me a bit defensive entering this library. I’m writing YA, ferchrist’s sake. They better read.
Once I arrived at this library I did, indeed, discover that what the teenagers check out most is: computers. But that’s OK. They’re doing their homework.
But hey, I’ve only got a few weeks at this substitute librarian thing. I want to succeed at my future dream career as a YA writer/real librarian. I need these kids to read. So I did the best thing I could think of: what motivates each and every teen to read.
I put together a book display.
At least I picked a subject they might like: Uncommon Couples. That will motivate them to read. Right? Aside from the obvious chick lit, werewolf and vampire stuff, I included Marley & Me, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Double Helix, that sort of thing.
Then I hid behind the circulation desk and watched to see if any of them picked up a book.
I didn’t witness it, but later in the day, I saw Anatomy of a Boyfriend, by Daria Snydowsky, on the coffee table next to someone’s knitting.
But she didn’t check the book out.
From my spot behind the circulation desk, I saw another girl reading the same book the next period. But she, too, left the library without stopping at the circulation desk.
I wasn’t sure whether this counted as a win for me and books or not.
Then, during lunch, a co-ed group of teenagers had gathered around the coffee table. They were taking turns reading aloud to each other. Boisterous laughter ensued. This is a librarian’s dream, right? A library full of teens, sitting together, warmly conversing, laughing, sharing literature aloud, during their free time.
It is a substitute librarian’s nightmare.
What the hell book was that? It was not The Double Helix.
They were reading Daria Snadowsky’s Anatomy of a Boyfriend. That book was really getting around. Nancy (not her real name), the other librarian, and I quickly looked up reviews for the novel, which I had added to the display without reading.
“Oh, poop,” I said – not exactly what I said – as both of our screens filled with impassioned accounts of the book. I explained to Nancy how I innocently did a subject search for “dating” and found this cute cover. Then I naively stuck the book next to Anthony and Cleopatra, which no one had yet cracked.
Once lunch was over, Nancy retrieved the book from the coffee table. She opened it to a page – 151 – and read this aloud, “You’ve got a long night of bronco riding ahead of you, cowgirl.”
I frowned. “I’ve really enjoyed working with you, Nancy. I hope you like the new sub tomorrow.”
Needless to say, I took the book home and read it myself. You can see my GoodReads review here: link to review
I liked the book, so I put it back in the display. It faced a different direction, so I hate to say this, but it hasn’t been picked up since. However, I am pleased to report that some romance manga, Franny and Zooey, and Gone with the Wind have all been checked out.
And, I’m sure that Anatomy of a Boyfriend is available on any e-reader. You can check those out, as the kids know, at the library. Hey, maybe that’s why they’re checking out so many computers.