Literature does not exist in a vacuum. Stories may be recorded on a page, but as I mentioned in my last Twitter chat review, they do not begin or end there. Nope–authors are people who experience the world, are products of culture, personal experience, social movements, and political climates. And so, we can see how literature also is shaped by and responds to these forces. At The Passed Note, we wanted to address some of the complications of a living in a post-fact era.
We began our chat with this question: In a post-fact era, what is your advice to young readers seeking truth in the books they read? Research and fact checking are important. This means checking out sources, and when things are suspicious, feeling brave enough to question. There is a responsibility to “write a letter to the editor” if the truth is misrepresented. Curiosity is an essential skill. We need to “interrogate how things are framed” and for what purpose. It turns out, we answered this question with more questions: “Who is influencing this version of the truth? Is it just those in power?”
This led to our next question: What are your favorite books that shed light on current events? Do you think certain genres are better at doing this? Dystopia was touted as being incredibly in touch with contemporary climates. We found that “Horror, post apocalyptic lit, and dystopia are kind of sibling genres that reveal a lot about cultural anxieties.” While “dystopian novels are great sources for young readers to learn how societies can and do work,” we anticipate other YA genres engaging with current affairs. Overall, we want to see “more realistic lit get into current events.” Books we mentioned:”Allegedly, The Serpent King, The Hunger Games, Lair of Dreams
We moved onto a craft question: As a writer, how do you do you part in creating accurate representations of marginalized people in your stories? Writers have a responsibility to not reproduce and perpetuate damaging stereotypes. Active listening is key in decentering your own perspective; a “lived reality” is at stake in every story. One strategy is to realize that “there is more than your own POV,” and collaborate with marginalized populations. Do not ever co-opt “someone else’s real, full life.” Do engage with a sensitivity reader. Be respectful.
Lastly: What is your advice for teenagers who might feel anxious and lost in this politically charged time? One of the most important things to do when anxiety wraps inky hands around you is practice self-care. This allows you to positively impact the world. We also really suggest that you “befriend books.” Engaging in creative endeavors–like writing, painting, the arts–is paramount. Getting involved in local communities and movements was another suggestion. In a similar vein, “talk with friends, teachers. Express feelings in healthy, creative ways. Know that you are not alone.”