In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

From memoirist to YA novelist

Dear Aunt Debbie,

When I was twelve, and we moved into the first apartment where I had my own room, I did some of my decorating with romance novel posters I snagged at an NYC Book Fair.  The tagline on one of them read: "Against Fate and Fortune, they found a Love that sealed their Destinies."  When I tracked down the book and read it, of course, the star-crossed lovers were barely star-crossed at all -- both from the same social class, with nothing much keeping them apart but attitude.  I wonder sometimes whether the writers of those back-cover blurbs have read any part of the book they're blurbing.  They're pretty fantastic, though.

I love the Beth Kephart piece you linked to about the promising future of YA novels -- several more titles to put on my reading list.  I know Kephart only from her first book, the memoir A Slant of Sun: One Child's Courage.  A number of years ago, our friend Beth Tascione adapted it as a one-woman show, which we saw at the NY Fringe Festival.  It was a powerful evening of theater, and afterwards I bought and read the book, which I found quite moving.  This was before I had children; I'd be interested to reread it and see how parenthood has changed (and, I'd guess, intensified) my reactions.

In A Slant of Sun, Kephart writes about raising her son, Jeremy, who was diagnosed at age 2 with a pervasive developmental disorder.  Her account of working through this diagnosis and learning how to bring Jeremy out of himself and reach for human connection with him is straightforward and honestly written, with some lyrically beautiful passages.  It's not a book for kids, but it is one for parents, of all kinds of children.

I'm interested to see that Kephart has moved to writing YA novels -- have you read them?  Her website (which is great) says she wrote five memoirs first, and this made me wonder about connections between the genres.  Does making meaning of your own life lead naturally to plotting the lives of others?  Is there something more direct and attractive about writing for teenagers than adults? 

Love, Annie

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