A couple of days ago I read and reviewed the wonderfully unique Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams. Today I am lucky enough to have Suzanne to stop by herself to talk about those books she wishes she had read as a fifteen year old. Get ready for some fabulous suggestions folks - I am in love wither her list!
You asked which YA books I would give my fifteen year old self to read. I read more when I was fifteen. I had demanding teachers, a voracious reading appetite and a lot more time than I do now. I put away a lot of books back then. I’ll never forget Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. These are books, by and large, that speak to social justice and, if there are women characters, they are powerful. Looking over this list it doesn’t surprise me that I was driven to write Bull Rider – which is about the real cost and sacrifice of war. These days I’m still drawn to that type of book.
So what books do I wish I’d read then that I’ve read since? Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson because it’s beautifully written and puts such an accessible and female face on slavery. Reading that book might have helped me see that some people are really, really bad. As a teen, I knew some ideas were bad, but it took me a long time to accept that some people turn out mean. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie because it honestly portrays a world on the reservation that I didn’t know existed then – and that’s always a good thing. And Freeze Frame by Heidi Ayarbe. It presents a giant question and no answer – why did Kyle shoot and kill his friend? He can’t remember and through the book the reader has to decide what is important about the event. Everything is gray, no black and white answers here. That might have helped me understand some nuances of morality.
But here’s the book that I most wish I’d read as a teen – The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter. I love this book because it speaks to valuing what is important to you, not what the greater society says you should be. And then it shows how regular folks might actually act on those values and create a life that makes sense to them. I wish I’d known that then. I’m learning now.
Wow! Thank you again Suzanne! I'm going to have to track down both Freeze Frame and The Education of Little Tree - both of which I've never read but seem like ones I shouldn't miss out on.
So now for a chance to win your own copy of Bull Rider just fill out the form below. The giveaway is open to US residents only and will run until December 17th. For an added entry (or anyone feel free to chime in with this one -- I'm curious) answer the following question: What books would you have given your fifteen (or twelve) year old self? Good luck!