Listeners, I’m going to ask you to bear with me on this one. This is one of my favorite episodes we’ve ever recorded because, in it, you’ll hear students at U-32 school in Montpelier, Vermont, get to bring their questions about the book “Dig”, by A.S. King, directly to the author.
If you haven’t read it, “Dig” is a powerful young adult novel talking about white experiences of white supremacy in the United States. And from the questions these students brought author A.S. King, it resonates deeply with students as they work to dismantle racism in this country.
So why am I asking you to bear with me?
We recorded this conversation over Zoom, and all the students in this episode, along with fabulous librarian Meg Allison, were in their school, so all were masked. Let me draw you a picture, listeners: A.S. King in her attic bower, me in my lovely home recording space, and Meg and her students gathered around a library table in the school library in Montpelier. As the students all come up to the laptop to talk with King, you may hear chairs scraping or shoes scuffing, the laptop being jostled — the whole deal.
That’s why we’ve also made this episode available as a full captioned video on our YouTube channel, so if that’s more your speed, you have that option available.
Thanks for bearing with us and remembering how much educators and students have to bear right now.
I’m Jeanie Phillips, and this is Vermont Ed Reads, talking about what educators and students in Vermont are reading.
Meg: To be able to talk to the author of Dig! We have spent the last month talking and reading about it, and it has sparked so many conversations. Students are invited to come up and ask a question. Really, thank you so much, Amy, I want the kids to take this away.
Amy (AS King): I have a question, though, for you. What made you decide to do this? What made you like it, what started this whole thing?
Meg: After I had read this book, I found it like it’s an essential book. It’s an essential book for young people to read. And so, we are hosting book groups here as well. It’s just, I think it actually should be like a part of our curriculum. And I know some of our students are going to talk to you about that. But especially in Vermont, we are a school that flies a Black Lives Matter flag out on our flagpole.
Amy: That’s why I want to move there Meg, that’s why I want to move there.
Meg: We’re a school that successfully raised a student-led campaign to ban the Confederate flag on our campus, not just the parking lot, but on campus. And it sparked conversations in our school. And as we evolve in these conversations towards equity and racial justice, really thinking about like, what is our role as white students, white people, white humans? And in your book, just like Jeanie, and I were speaking before you get on the call, we can’t think of another book that unpacks the roots of white supremacy and the way that you do. So, this is a conversation sparker that we hope continues throughout our building.
Amy: Awesome. All right, let’s give it to the students. And thank you for that explanation, because I didn’t know where exactly this started. So good morning, guys. How’s it going? How’s Vermont today?
Amy: Awesome. Throw questions at me. Ask me whatever you want. I’m an open book, no pun intended.
Elijah: Yeah. So I’m Elijah. And so my question basically comes down to this. So I’m currently talking with English teachers here about putting this book as part of our curriculum because it’s far better than some of the other books we’re reading. But I want to know about your decision to write it as a young adult book?
Amy: Ah, brilliant question. Excellent. Thank you. Nice to meet you, Elijah. Great question.
Well, here’s, here’s the deal. It’s funny. I found myself writing young adult literature. I’ve been writing books for 15 years, and it took me, well, took me 15 years to get published. And so I’d written about eight or nine novels. And at that point, I was getting rejected a lot, because my books were weird. And I am female. And it sounds like a very strange combo. But it’s very realistic for me to explain to you that this book, like this book, will not make me much money come into the future. You know, I’m saying. It’s not, it’s not a business in that way for me, because I am a woman and I write books like this. If I was not a woman, and I wrote surrealist or strange fiction, it would be a little different now. Anyway, shoot, what was my point?
Anyway, so when it came to how I ended up in young adult literature, is that one of my books when I finally got an agent, was very weird. And somebody called him up and said, you got anything weird? And he said, yeah, I got this book. And he sent this one weird book called The Dust of 100 Dogs to this, this editor, but the editor published ya work, young adult work. And so we got on the phone. I had been writing for 15 years thinking I was writing adult work, which I think I am, I think it’s a mix. And I think my main characters are teenagers. And there’s a reason for that. And he, his name is Andrew Carr, the person who bought that first book, and also the person who published this book.
Okay, so we had a bunch in between where I was with different publishers, but I came back home to Andrew, he is, he is my favorite, and he understands me. But we define and he defined at the time young adult work as being about young adults versus for young adults. And for me, my original plan,
when I first wanted to be an author, I was in eighth grade, and I wrote down on a legal tablet that I wanted to help adults understand teenagers better and help teenagers understand adults better.
And I believe that that is exactly what my work does, because if fully formed adults, whether they be grandparents or parents. And if adults would read these books, then they would get a glimpse into young adult literature, not like most things are young adults’ life should say. And like most things teen in our culture, we roll our eyes, right.
And also young adult work can also be, you know, a little bit like snack food in spots. But so can adult work. Like go in any bookstore, there’s snack food everywhere. But then you’ve got your shelves where there’s more, more thoughtful, I don’t know, not more thoughtful everybody, it’s hard to write a book no matter what kind of book you write. But when it comes to why this ended up in young adult, it’s a. because I was there and b. it’s the one place a weird woman can publish, Elijah. Okay, I’m really being serious, I would not be able to publish my surreal books. And like Switch, which came after it, are those sorts of more surreal ideas. If I wasn’t in young adult literature, because women don’t, aren’t usually allowed on that playing field.
But the biggest one is because I care very much about teenagers, the mental health of teenagers. And I believe that your generation, a generation15, if you start thinking you’ve already been thinking about social justice issues you’ve already been thinking about, about equity and inclusion, you’re already thinking about that. My generation doesn’t care.
We’re Generation X. And we’re like, we were losers from way back. We want this to happen, but we seem to have no power or control. That’s how it feels. We’re all in our 40’s and 50’s. So it’s like, for me, the reason I want to love up teenagers so much is because I think the more support that they get from adults, the more likely they are to change the world and continue to move forward. And I just refuse to roll my eyes. I actually write this for teenagers, because I know you’ll understand it. And many adults instead will write a review that said this makes white people feel bad and do not understand how ironic that review is. Now I will shut up. And thank you for that question.
Elijah: Thank you.
Amy: Thanks for that question.
Jeanie: That entire answer was quotable.
Amy: Oh, good. Let’s go to it.
Esther: So. Hi. Hi, my name is Esther.
Amy: Hi Esther.
Esther: And I just wanted to ask about like, kind of like, books we read in school and curriculum and what your take on reading the classics is? I know that in U-32 right now, there’s a lot of debate over which of the classics are acceptable to read in class. A specific example is Heart of Darkness, which was recently removed from the curriculum. And we also wanted to know, just like, where you think a book like Dig could fit into a curriculum, and if there’s a genre of the classics that it could replace?
Amy: Okay, great question. Okay, so I might have an antiquated or controversial view of the classics. And because the classics can cover so many things, like I mean, we are not talking about Shakespeare, we’re talking about largely, I think, dead white men, you know, I think that’s what we’re talking about 20th century and a lot of times, white dudes. I think, I think they fit in, in a weird way.
You know, here’s the deal. I love teaching grammar, so I can break the rules. I love teaching what good writing what acceptable or good writing rules are so that we can break them. And so in a way, I think that we wouldn’t understand a book like Dig if we didn’t have a read-along, if we didn’t have something else, right. So To Kill a Mockingbird is a fantastic example. It’s a beautiful book. I’m sorry, it is. It is now steeped in white saviorism. It’s steeped in so many things that we have words for now that other people had words for then, but we didn’t use them, white people didn’t use them then, you know. But To Kill a Mockingbird is a beautiful story but it’s got problems. We’ll use that that Bo Burnham problematic word. It’s problematic for a bunch of different reasons. However, I think it’s still worth reading as long as we read it with an eye with the lens right with the be able to look at it and then discuss what is problematic about it. So for me, when we read classics, it’s good to be able to look at what’s problematic.
For example, if we read John Updike, which most people don’t. I come from John Updike country, but, you know, we should talk about his problematic representation of women and in fairness most of those books, we should talk about the problematic representation of women and people of color. So it’s good to have a little bit of knowledge of the classics. as for where Dig would fit in, I think it’s nice to read it alongside something. It has been read alongside To Kill a Mockingbird in at least two schools from what I understand. It’s certainly more modern, it’s edgy, it’s going to be tough to get past certain, you know, certain people where we are at the moment, all of our schools but I know here in Pennsylvania, we’re really dealing with this large uptick in book challenges and things like this. So even if there’s a swear word in it, there’s a problem, let alone if there’s any sexuality discussed, or any sort of things like this. But more importantly, if white supremacy is discussed, it’s also getting banned, which is really quite disheartening, but also telling. Let’s be fair, I mean, we know what fight we’re fighting, right? We can say states’ rights all we want when we talk, you know, people like the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, it was about states’ rights. And this is kind of the same thing. It’s like this is about appropriateness because of the books. I don’t think it is if you’re banning books based on the fact that the author is, you know, is black in the case of, say, York, which is just over the river.
But anyway, I think it has a place in schools, and probably upper grades, because of the content. I would definitely say, you know, not to say that ninth-graders can’t read it. But some ninth-graders might not be mature enough to have the discussions that we’re having now. And it’s not no offense to ninth graders, either. I have one, a son, he’s very mature. But I think that it’s upper grades. And I think that it’s, I don’t know, it’s right now being used as a freshman summer read for a good few college programs. And I think that’s a really great way to walk into college to understand what college you’re walking into, to think about your own privilege before you get on a campus is a really great thing to have. So I think that though, that would also transfer to where we could use it in schools. So but as for classics, it’s funny, and there’s some that we really need to let go of. And I think that classics heavy curriculum canon for like, if you’re looking at like 9 to 12. And if it’s if there’s more than 50% classics, I think that we need to rethink that because it’s not, they’re not going to connect as much with today’s teens, more so than even us. Like for me, I could read a book from the 40s and connect more because I still had a phone connected to the wall. I still, I was walking down the street in New York this week. And the amount of times my son and I were like, oh, I wonder what that was. And I just said, Hey, Siri, blah, blah, blah, and ask the question, and she answered it. It’s a different world now truly a different world. It’s not just that we move forward, it’s that it really is a different world. And I think that our literature and our canon needs to reflect that.
Esther: Well, thank you very much.
Amy: Hey, thanks, Esther. Great questions and I’m going on and on. But that’s me.
Maya: Hi, I’m Maya. And a few years ago, we spoke with another author. And she talked about using sensitivity readers before publishing her book. And I was wondering if you have any sensitivity as readers before publishing, because you take a lot of characters and a lot of different perspectives. And yeah, I’m just wondering how you dealt with that?
Amy: I’m very lucky to have the editor I have. Andrew Carr is incredibly conscientious when it comes to all of those things. And we talked about sensitivity readers more than once. The character in the book, Ian, who’s really the only character of color in the book, that was intentional, because I wasn’t talking about race in the way that I you know. I’ve been wrestling with this, I just want to say this, like, I’ve been wrestling with the idea of race and whiteness, and what to do about racism since I was a very young kid growing up where I grew up, because it was very, I luckily had a very anti-racist parents and because I had anti-racist parents, I certainly noticed this stuff more. And, before I graduated high school, I’ve seen people in full Klan robes, you know, you need to understand, in fact, before I graduated high school used to deliver pizza to the grand dragon of the Pennsylvania Ku Klux Klan, so, and to meetings in his house where he had, you know, Nazi flags, and he was also a member of the American Nazi Party and, and had portraits of Hitler and things like this. And so I have been grappling with race a long time, so give me a second. Sometimes my grief brain gives me what was your question again, Maya.
Maya: If you use any sensitivity readers?
Amy: Thank you. Okay. Thank you. Alright so, when it came to Ian’s role, I was terrified when I published this book. Cause I didn’t know if anybody was going to, you know, take the opportunity to run me through the painful machine of Twitter, and other places like that. But we didn’t use a sensitivity reader. I suggested it more than once. Andrew read it. We combed it pretty well. I think he probably had a few people maybe to bounce some ideas, but maybe not. I honestly don’t know. Between the two of us we realized what needed to be done to make sure that it was exactly what we wanted it to be. I tend to not write out of my lane very much. The experiences in the book beyond just Ian are things that either I’ve experienced or are close to me via the volunteer work that I do. I’ve written or I’ve worked with, I’ve worked with a great many survivors and I am a survivor of a great many things. And so because of that, I feel that I can write points of view like Loretta’s family, or Malcolm’s family or Malcolm’s you know, and even just the completely fractured family that the whole family is. I have lived through that. And what’s interesting is that I wrote the book, it came out in March 2019, right.
And in December of 2018, so only three months prior, my entire family was exploded, my birth family. And my own family was had exploded that the year prior, through meddling with, like, it’s funny, I tweeted today something about how we were all taught, we’re taught that a good life is uncomplicated and free of villains.
It is not. You will have villains in your life, you will have people in your life that really screw with you, that really stir the pot and can in fact decimate your family. And that is what happened to me. I had one agent decimate both my family and my larger family. So when it comes to sensitivity readers anyway, about those sorts of traumas, I don’t need them, because I’ve experienced them. And I work with people like that. And then I’ve worked with people like that for decades, decades and decades.
Maya: Thank you.
Amy: You’re welcome. Thanks, Maya.
Kristen: Hello, I’m Kristen.
Amy: Hi Kristen.
Kristen: So, Dig has so many layers and small intertwined details. So I was wondering, like, was your writing process to write the book and how many drafts did it take?
Amy: Oh, boy. Well, Kristen, a trillion drafts, a trillion drafts. So it started okay. The writing process was pretty simple. It was the usual Amy stuff. First of all, I use, I didn’t realize it was surrealist writing that I wrote, like, 27 books before I have a student interview me and told me about the surrealist writing process. But basically, I sit down, I have a feeling, I make a character out of my feeling. I often say basically, that my characters are thesis statements. If you wrote an essay about something you cared passionately about, my characters are those thesis statements personified. Sounds weird, right?
Anyway, so I started writing exactly the order it’s in. Marla and Gottfried and then the Marks brothers, who, you know, are loosely based on people I knew and went to school with. And then I started writing The Shoveler. And then about 60 to 80 pages in The Shoveler,
The Freak showed up and everything and bummed the cigarette off of them and all that stuff from the early scene. The Shoveler stopped telling me stuff. I was like, super bored. I was like dude, you are not even telling me stuff. So I threw the book out. I was like, forget it. I have to start, I have to write another book.
So I started reading another book another week. And it’s it was about this girl named Can I help You. And she worked at the drive-thru at Arby’s, and everything was great. And she goes off with her friend and into the park. And then this kid shows up with a shovel, and he’s shoveling, and there’s no snow and I’m like, that is an A.S. King novel, pull The Shoveler back out of the trash can, and then try and figure out how they all fit together.
So honestly, the early parts I can’t even tell you, like, I don’t even remember when Malcolm showed up. And I don’t know if he showed up in order. I think he did. I think he showed up in order. Suddenly, the book started to come out in order, but I didn’t know where it was going. To give you a good idea of how clueless I am when I write my books, this book took about three and a half years to write. And still at the, like, late two-year mark, I keep notes and track changes for myself. And there was a note next to; I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but there was a note that said, “who is this girl?” And that’s it that was to do with The Freak. Who is she? And then only a few pages later, it said, who’s the fifth cousin? Why do you keep saying five cousins? Who is the fifth one? So that’s how clueless I am in a way as I’m working through a book, right? A lot of that has to do with the fact that I had to pull myself out to teach every month which I’m not sure serves a book and or me very well.
But either way, you know, the layers. I also do really, if you want to see a visual let me just do I have a visual. I have, yeah, let me show you.
I do things like this, Kristen, that and this wasn’t for Dig. This was for the book that followed it: Switch. Dig’s was ginormous. It’s actually, if you go to the there’s a place called The Horn Book, it’s a review site. They have this online, with me holding the one for Dig. But, and Dig had a lot more colors. In fact, I ran out of colors because they only make so many highlighters, right. But each part would be color coded. These are the names of chapters. Okay, so this is just a table of contents. And that’s how I do it, right. So I log the timeline like, because we have to stick into a calendar, right, we still have to do time inside of stories, right? I do all that. But then these are each threads, each one of these are threads.
With Dig it was different points of view. So Marla and Gottfried got a certain color, but again, a different color. So revision is everything. And I’ve always said this all my writers. Revision is the sport. And so for me, that’s where things come together. And that’s what I really learned about the book. So when it comes to how many drafts every day is a draft, like every five minutes is the draft, you know. But with this book, I trusted my gut. That’s the biggest thing, having the confidence to trust your gut. And from there, it was just three years of a mix of everything, writing new stuff, and revising and getting whole new ideas, cutting huge chunks, all of it.
Maya: Thank you.
Amy: Yeah, you’re welcome.
Addy: Hi, I’m Addy. I was curious about the tunnels in Dig, and just like, how they operate like, are they a metaphor for like an actual place? And like, they seem to kind of mean different things to each character. So like, yeah, how does that work in the story?
Amy: Excellent. So I didn’t catch your name because things glitch out. What’s your name again?
Addy: Oh, Addy.
Amy: Nice. Hi, Addy, all right Addy, tunnels. Funny you say that. Alright, so let’s go straightaway just to the really obvious one. So when The Shoveler, Marla also has it too, when the, The Shoveler talks about things that really stressed him out the blocks of text get smaller and smaller. Okay. So when I was first writing this book, and I wish I had the little notebook near me, but I don’t. When I first started writing this book, I thought that it would be in shapes. Not concrete poetry, really. But I just thought that maybe there’d be shapes and tunnels running along the bottom of it, which is funny because I think that might happen. The book I’m writing right now, a lot of my books have tunnels in them. Because I think we live a lot of our lives underground. And I do believe that’s a quote from another one of my books. But that we live our lives underground, again, because often we’re pretending something isn’t happening when it is happening. And that is a story of my life, which is I don’t want other people to have a lifelike, that’s part of the reason I write. But um, so the tunnels meant different things to different people with The Shoveler and Marla in those parts that were very visual. They were meant to represent anxiety and, and panic. I had suffered from panic disorder for just a small period of time.
And I certainly had situational anxiety for quite a bit of time. And it always felt a little bit like I was in a tunnel that was getting smaller, a little bit like when I first tried and first and last one time tried spelunking, that was the end of that as the as if somebody has shoulders my width? Or with shoulders this wide that is not made to be a spelunker.
But other than that, they really the tunnels represent a great, that’s a great question. Because I mean, there are many in my books that you don’t know that Addy, but like they are in many of my books. Tunnels represent where we live our lives, I think, where we really live our lives, I guess it’s a metaphor for everything, everything from the way we think about ourselves, what we really think of ourselves, what we think we deserve, what we do, what we do behind the scenes to ourselves and to others in our own minds. I think the tunnels might, I think the tunnels might actually be a metaphor for the mind. I don’t even know now that you’ve asked this. I’ve usually asked more, more kind of concrete questions about them, but on a wider level.
Like, I wrote a book called Gloria O’Brien’s History of the Future, and people can people keep mentioning that this week due to the Supreme Court situation at the moment and women’s rights. And in the end, the women, the women who were eventually forced out due to many different laws, forced to live on their own in the forests and eventually fight a war in the tunnels. That’s where they fight the war.
So I think we fight wars in our own minds all the time. You know, I think that’s what the tunnels represent. So one of the funny part about this, about Dig was that sinkhole at the end. And it’s funny because my entire town is built on sinkholes. In fact, our high school is built on a sinkhole. I think that’s hilarious, and that will come into a book one day, but my car really got swallowed by a sinkhole in front of my house a few years ago. And that’s why I got interested in sinkholes. So when that happened and this, you know, I don’t know. And he could look down there and The Freak could find that egg. You know what I mean? And all that stuff. It’s a connection between the terrestrial world where we have to be good people and, and not good people good. We have to look good. We have to look good, right? So in the terrestrial, it’s all about curb appeal. It’s all about what you’re wearing, right. But in real life, I think the real-life is lived in the tunnels. There you go. You just so you just heard me work out an answer to a question and work out my own metaphor right in front of you, because you asked a great question, Addy. But yeah, that’s what it represents. But it also represents anxiety, depression, anything that puts you in a place that’s you that we’re not allowed to talk about. Right? And we’re not allowed to talk about this. And we do now we talk about them, but we people still look at us kind of funny, right? Like, I’m normal. What about you? It’s like, we’re all normal. What’s normal? So, yeah.
Addy: Thank you so much.
Amy: Yeah. Thanks for that question. Eye-opening as always. It’s always eye-opening questions from people that make me understand my own work better. Thank you.
Jeanie: Thank you for mentioning Glory O’Brien.
Amy: Oh, hey, I’ll show it to if you want. It’s right here. Just saying I got more letters about this book in the last week. Well, first when Donald Trump got elected, I got a lot of letters about this book. Anyway, alright, Elijah is back. What you got.
Elijah: Because what you just said in the last two questions was too interesting. So okay, let’s see if I’ve got my notes correctly here. So you were talking first off about how characters are your theses and that you really write as you go along. So and also that you like this, this this theme of tunnels that you talked about, you share across a lot of your books, and a lot of your books have the same idea of tunnels running throughout them. So how do you work out the, it’s easy to say that Dig has a lot of symbolism and thematic elements to it. So how do you tend to work those into writing processes? And how do your books share these ideas and these symbols and thematic elements across each other?
Amy: Great question, Elijah. All right, so here’s the deal. I never try when it comes to theme. When it comes to theme, if I’m trying, it feels shoehorned. It feels fake, right. And I refuse to feel fake. It’s one of the things that freaks people out about me. It’s one of the reasons I’m divorced, that’s for sure. Like, hate to say it, but it was like, I but it also is one of the reasons I have lasting friendships that are 45 years old. It’s because if there’s a problem with something, I’ll go, hey, there’s a problem with something and my friend go oh, oh, okay. Whereas, you know, some people aren’t as willing to, to work out just real stuff. Honestly, that takes place in real-time and can be sorted out in five minutes. But some people will make a big deal out of that. Some people like hiding that anyway.
But when it comes to sitting down, so I don’t fake it. And when the tunnel shows up, or when a metaphor shows up, I roll with it. Like at the moment, Elijah, I’m writing a book. Speaking of tunnels, that was based on this drawing right here, it says system, it’s a hamster tube. And then inside the hamster tube, there is a chair. Okay, that’s all you need to know. I’ve been staring at this for a year, it’s been here for a year. And I’m like, I know what this means. What this means is that I’m going to write about a woman who’s sitting in a dinner chair that’s in a system of pneumatic tubes that are human-sized. And that’s how she is carried around her home. It’s a metaphor for when you’re living with a controlling or abusive person, they take control over you – they emotionally separate you from your children.
It’s a very, very common thing that happens in an abusive household. And so mom then is like, in this case, it’s a metaphor for mom being in the tunnel and everybody going, “Why isn’t mom available? Like this is ridiculous” But in actual fact, mom’s there the whole time. It’s just, you know, in this case, dad has has made the children iffy on her. So that metaphor is just bam, right? It’s obvious. It’s like, it’s like a punch in the face that one, like if you look at it, and this now as it’s coming out, it’s coming out even more brutally on the page than I expected it too. But honestly you trust it? So here? Here’s an interesting one. All right so that book that I started writing, see those? Okay, that looks like a plotting sort of thing, and it kind of is but it’s not. It’s just a lot of different ideas that are kind of in order like I’ll know something has to happen. I haven’t written the end part and I haven’t been any post-it notes up there yet. Right. But for me, every single thing that’s written on those post-it notes was there from that day that I sat down and went blah, that I sat down and just sort of vomited out my feelings, my words in character, though, like so we go back to that thesis statement, I’m very upset over this idea that abusive men separate their children from their mothers. What effect does that have on the mother? What effect does it have on the children? Go.
And so immediately it comes out in a character. And there’s this character named Jane and she is pissed. She is so angry. And she has just discovered at age of 16, that this happened to her and that her mother was there the whole time. But she just thought the wrong crap about her, she is so angry. And yet she knows she’s going to take her dad down. And she knows she’s going to rescue her mother somehow. She knows all this, but she doesn’t know how yet. And we’re about to find out. And so am I, because I haven’t written the I’m only 17,000 words into the book, right?
But every single idea that’s up there is already in the book from that moment when I flushed it all out of my system, they’re all hints, and they’re all there. Right now I’m 70 pages in. Everything I need to know about that book is already in it. I have to go in with my archaeologist tools and find it. So I know, “I do not lie to God” is her first line, right? But then it says, “my father is a liar, a thief, a traitor, a brute, and a killer.” And I’m like, a killer that could be a mystery. That’s a fun book. And if you know my books, Dig included, they are kind of strange mysteries in there, like who did this? And you know, how did that happen? And so all of those are hints that are already in the book. It is a cosmic process for me, Elijah, I have to trust what comes in through my crown chakra, and my brain sends to my hands, and I write it down. And then I go from there. So it’s truly cosmic. I trust in an untrustworthy world. It’s gotten me into a great deal of trouble in my life, but it’s also brought me the most joy.
Elijah: Okay, I’m going to ask one more question. I’m going to take more time for myself. So people often thought about reading books, or like a lot the entire works of an author, right? So they can like look at the author’s, like, changes and thoughts over time, look at how these books connect. What would you think about your books being used like that, or taught like that? Or what, what do you think with that with this, these connections of themes? And also, how, what, do you do with all of that?
Amy: Wow, well, I mean, I would welcome that. I’d probably say, hey, bring me in, zoom in, like I did now. Um, but also, I mean, I do have people who do that, not in classes, I have academics who do this. And I do have academic, I have academics who teach me in their young adult literature classes, and they might teach three or four, two or three, three, usually three titles of mine. And probably absolutely talking about those things. But yeah, that’d be fantastic. I mean, what would I think of that? That’d be awesome. And I think that they would discover a great many things. I mean, now I’m only 51. So I’m like, look, I got at least another 30 years of writing and me so this is going to be interesting. Especially now because I’ve become very empowered over the last few years and I feel a prolific bout coming on. And if I’m to believe my astrologist I believe that’s what’s about to happen and so I don’t, I don’t know where it’s going to take me hope maybe I’ll finally find my way out of the tunnels. Elijah, what do you think?
Elijah: Thank you. I’ll go back to letting other people talk to you as well.
Amy: Don’t apologize for your space brother never apologize for taking space.
Avery: Oh, hi, I’m Avery.
Amy: Hi Avery.
Avery: And I was sort of connected to like relationships and Loretta. Actually, The Ring Mistress, and like I’m very curious about what’s the deal with the flea circus, like is that magical realism or is that actually happening in the book?
Amy: In the book, it’s actually happening. Flea circuses are a real thing and they do still travel around America. And there’s actually there was one recently here and I didn’t go and see it which I kicked myself. Oh, it was COVID, that’s why. I don’t even know if it oh, I don’t know if it came but I think it did but it was mid-COVID.
You know I don’t know where the flea circus came from. I wish I knew. I wish I knew where half of these ideas, they just came, they come up but I’m part of it is because I mean I know a circus family, and I spent a lot of time at the circus in Ireland when I lived there. So, I, having been behind the scenes, having been nearly stepped on by an elephant once, having been and also seen you know different elephants being very sad and you know standing in one place rocking. and just tiger escapes and all that but also sequins and you know all the different talent, the different acts over the decades. So I think circus life is amazing, but I think it was for me I think it was a metaphor for obviously, you know, trying to escape and what she was in. But the flea circus itself I mean. Well, do you want to hear the deep metaphor behind that that just came to me? Here you go. You got Loretta right. Loretta is in this horrible household, let’s call it horrible, there’s really no other way to put it because that’s really quite full-on abuse that’s going on in that household. Not to say other abuses and full on like the one I just described and the pneumatic tubes also full on but not as brutal right. This is out and out brutal. And what does Loretta have? She has fleas. What do they do? They eat her blood.
And when you come from a household like Loretta’s, you are primed to land with people who will absolutely feed off you. Those people I mentioned earlier, the villains, there are villains in our lives. And there are people who attract the villains. I didn’t know this until I attracted so many villains myself. It made me stop and go, what is wrong with me that I keep attracting these people? It could be a little bit of codependence, it could be because I’m just massively nice and I mean that in the nicest way. I’m that nice to everyone. But now, I’m sort of like I have my boundaries. I know how to draw them. But I also refuse to be a dick. If I’m allowed to say that on podcasts. Okay, I can? Okay, good. I don’t want to be one of those. So but with Loretta, that I think that was an unintentional or at least fell into place metaphor for the fact that she’s preparing herself for what she’s about to endure. You know, I mean, a lot of people are like, oh, Lord, I can’t wait to save her. I’m like, well if you save her, you better buy her, like, a decade’s worth of therapy. She’s going to need it, you know, some deprogramming and other things. But I think that that’s really the deal with the flea circus.
Yes, it was real. Yes, it kept her. It gave her friends, it gave her companions, it helped her. Having that audience that was in her mind really helped her. I think it helped her understand that what was happening in her house wasn’t normal. But what’s about to happen to her and what she really is, is she’s going to be fodder for other people if she doesn’t watch out. She’s going to walk straight into it, probably like the rest of us. Most survivors of early childhood trauma walk straight into it.
So yeah, deep, but deep, but there’s my answer.
Avery: Thank you.
Amy: Hey, you’re welcome. Thanks for a great question. I love talking to people who read books, because like I said, I end up learning more about my own books. It’s fantastic. This is the best part of being a writer. That’s why, that’s why, I’m like, hey, zoom me in and I can learn more about what the heck I put in that book.
Kate: I’m Kate. And I was wondering about, you’ve been talking a lot about how you write with like surrealism, and I was wondering how that helps. That writing technique helps you unpack the themes of white supremacy, and patriarchy, and all the other themes in Dig. How do you use that to your advantage?
Amy: Well, you know, great question. The surrealist writing method is about two things. Now that I understand it a bit better and again, I don’t want to call it that. It’s almost like giving Andre Breton and the surrealists credit for what I did for like 26 years, without even knowing about them, right.
At the same time, one of the images I want to give you about the surrealist writing method is this. Okay. Andre Breton and Louis Aragon were in a field hospital in Paris during World War I. Now try and smell that for me. Try and see that for me, right. It was bonkers. It was horrific. World War I was a bloody war. All wars are bloody wars. But World War I was particularly gross. And so there they are. And there’s a great, like, drawing of this somewhere, there are a few of them. You can actually look it up somewhere online. But there are all these dudes, all these soldiers on the floor and on, you know, litters probably on little, you know, we call them litters is the best I got anyway. And they are in different states of disarray. They are wounded soldiers that could be missing a leg, that could have a belly wound, there could be whatever, and they’re all bandaged up. And in the front of the room is a stage and on it is an upright piano, and someone playing it. And somebody else has like a top hat and a cane and they’re entertaining. Stop and tell me how messed up that is. That’s the most surreal thing ever.
And yet, these men on the floor, the trauma they’re going to carry with them is bonkers, right? It’s huge. They’re going to come away with PTSD, complex PTSD, so many different things that I mean, they could split. The mental health issues the soldiers have are A. very serious, B. very ignored in our world, which is why we keep having wars but then not having to deal with this. It’s amazing. The guys, who start the wars, never have to really deal with the PTSD, or anything else.
But anyway, so for me, go back to why do I write? I write because I live with trauma. I’m still living through trauma. I also write because I care very much about other people with trauma.
And I like to talk about trauma because in our culture, we don’t talk about trauma, and then it trips us up and we go through our lives thinking that a good life is an uncomplicated drama-free life.
How many people talk about oh, no drama, really? What kind of interesting life are you living? Really? What kind of lie are you living? Every one of us has drama and weirdos and villains come in and out of our lives. So when I want to talk about trauma, especially with young people, one of the best codes, right, is in surrealism because young people are willing to go what the heck is this about and dig deeper versus go, this is stupid, I feel bad for being right on putting it down and clutching their pearls and walking away.
But when I want to talk, I want to talk to young people about their trauma because most adults don’t. And they don’t take it seriously. And because they didn’t take their own trauma seriously. And this, again, has to do with our generations, right, we go back to generations 11 and 12, and then mine 13. And now yours 15. And we get to this place where it’s like when are we finally going to take the intergenerational trauma that we’re all carrying with us seriously. And if we want to take that away, I want to be able to shift that here we are, we’re white people, okay, for the most part, I’m no offense, I don’t want to make any assumptions. But we’re all you know, I’m a white person. Now imagine the intergenerational trauma that comes with being a person of color in America. Imagine the generation to generational trauma that comes from being a native person, an indigenous person in America. And I believe that the pain in the blood and is in the soil, and here’s the deal, it seeps up through our feet. So if you’re a person of color, that’s a different type of feeling. If you’re indigenous, that’s a different type of feeling. But if you’re white, there’s a lot of shame and guilt, and trauma in the fact that our ancestors did what they did. So that we can say we’re the greatest nation on Earth, which is a bunch of bunk if you ask me, we’re a good nation, we could be better, we could be so much better.
And so the reason I use surrealism is to touch the trauma. It’s one of the best ways to get into trauma. It’s one of the best ways to talk to young people about it and to get to all readers. I mean, this is one of them. And this family, when I think about this family, this family is trauma from the very top, what happened to Marla was so minor, but that Uncle laughing at her and how it all went down and how that affected her shame because we’ve walked around with it. So we’ve got this big shame organ and one person goes ping when we’re eight, like, pings it, right, flicks it. And next thing you know, for the rest of our lives, we’re an asshole. Imagine if we could at least go oh, we have this shame. Oh, the shames because of this. Oh, okay. And then be better off instead of being a jerk about it, you know?
And that’s why, that’s the long answer and short answer of why I use surrealism in order to talk about trauma, because trauma needs to be talked about and I will go to my grave screaming that because it’s how we get better. And it’s how we do live good lives. We can live good lives by facing the complications and facing the villains in our lives. And then moving forward despite them.
Kate: Thank you.
Amy: Awesome, thank you. I want to stay here all day talking to you guys.
Jeanie: I am in love with this conversation.
Amy: Great. I am too.
Jonah: Hi, I’m Jonah. I want to ask if you experience any backlash for Dig or like white rage fighting back.
Amy: All right. Hey, Jonah, how’s it going? Here’s the thing I did on April 10, 2010. I stopped reading online reviews by amateurs. The only reviews I read are those from trade magazines. And in those, I saw nothing.
I did happen to go to Amazon one day, this is way back, like soon after it was published. And I went to grab something else from that page. And for some reason, I saw there was one one-star review. And I did this thing I hadn’t done since 2010. I was like well if it’s really long and really bad, you know, I guess I’ll just check it out anyway, and it was very short. And all it says is don’t read this book because it makes you feel bad about being white or something. And I thought, “oh good, I did my job.” Other than that, I have not received any hate mail as of yet.
On the banned book list from the guy, the representative in Texas that’s been circulating through, I would call them hate groups actually, I don’t know what the name of their group is. But it’s basically to destroy things versus build beautiful things. But one of my books landed on that but Dig did not which shows you that they’re not reading, they’re just, they’re just pulling books off of other lists. So I have not gotten any backlash yet. But let me tell you Jonah the minute somebody reads this from that crew, I will be I’ll let you know, but it’ll come at some point, and or maybe I finessed it enough. I mean, this is the thing. Like I’m not really here to say these people are bad. I’m more just to say here are these people, what do you think? In a way right and you guys read it went oh, okay. These people — these people, you know, these people have problems. They do have problems. But you know, I don’t know, I get a lot of love for this book from 70 years old to 14 years old saying, “well, how did you know my family and I’m so glad you wrote this.” So I get more of that. But so far no backlash, yet. But I tend to be soft censored. This is the other thing I should say. Like, when I’m censored in a school, or banned, I’m banned softly, which means they’ll go on to Amazon or another place like that. And if they’ll read the one-star review, specifically, to see if there is any like, is there F words? Are there this or that? Is there any sort of sexuality? Oh, no, none of that for the teens- because that never happened. Like, I roll my eyes or other things, you know, but because it’s about white supremacy, I think somebody is going to get their hands on it one day, but let them clutch that their pearls. So far, it’s been okay, but I don’t know other than that, except I stay in a very safe little bubble so I can continue writing books about trauma for young people to free them. I prefer to stay in my bubble. Yeah, great question. Thank you.
Jeanie, my stomach is growling and you’re probably going to pick it up. Good. I’m glad your mic isn’t picking it up. Hello.
Elly: I am Elly. So, my question is if politeness is wielded as a tool of white supremacy culture in two very different ways. In Marla’s case, it is kind of used for control. And in Can I Help You’s case it kind of gives her a sense of worth. So was that intentional and could you talk about it?
Amy: You said politeness, right? I’m just making sure.
Amy: You guys have great questions. Um, politeness? Well, I mean, Can I Help You is a fantastic rep. Like that’s a metaphor right there for politeness. Right. And her mother has the bell, which I actually have downstairs. I did not smash it with a hammer yet. I’ve yet to do it. COVID came and for some reason, the bell lived. But not to say,I had written anti-racist parents. That came from a grandmother who wasn’t so anti-racist. But politeness is used constantly. Actually, it’s one of the reasons well, polite, polite conversation, let’s go into that. Let’s go into that term. Right. What is polite?
Yes, Jeanie asked me, the bell is real. It’s downstairs. It’s very small and very touristy. It’s ridiculous.
Anyway, polite conversation. Let’s think of that. Polite conversation. Well, we just talked about trauma. Can’t talk about that in polite conversation. Racism, can’t talk about sexism can’t talk about that. I actually mentioned the other day that I was, had had a man published, and Switch or any of my surrealist titles that they would be lauded for. And I’m not saying I’m not lauded. I’m not here to like, I don’t care. I don’t mind. I like writing the books I write, I’m very happy with my life. I’m just saying that the business and the culture would elevate a male writer for writing what I write and they wouldn’t kind of bench him. As far as they concerned
they think YA is a bench I think it’s actually a hot air balloon that takes me higher and higher.
But most of the things I talk about period are not polite conversation. And so I think that’s one of the things that keeps everybody down, but keeps white people in a place of privilege, keeps men in a place of privilege. Absolutely. But politeness, on a whole, is the reason we don’t talk about things. And I honestly, to me, that is the most bizarre idea that I can’t even argue against it. It’s just sort of like looking at somebody going, what are you talking about? Like, I kind of just have this horrible look on my face. Like what like, ooh, like, who would? How are you interesting? What do you talk about, then? Just the nice, you know country music or something. And, you know, I don’t know what people talk about if they don’t talk about problems. If we’re not talking about our problems. I don’t know. But you’re right. And that’s not considered polite. And so that’s how we wield it, I guess.
I mean, we wield it by saying, well, it’s not polite to talk about race. It’s not polite. I mean, that’s been said many times, oh, you can’t talk about race because we’re all white people. So we can talk about race, actually, we can very much talk about race. All white people are concerned about whiteness, which is our race. If we have to check a box there’s a box it says it, you know. I like a lot of times it says Caucasian. I’m like, that’s not actually what that word means. By the way, there’s a place in Asia that those people come from and that those are Caucasian people. We are white. Let’s just call it what it is, but we don’t like that. We politely call it something else. How weird.
So, we already know there’s a problem with it. That’s why we put Caucasians on the thing. But we don’t want to talk about the problem with the word white. Because we’re white. It’s so weird. It’s just to me like that. That is like I love your question. But at the same time, the idea of it right the concept of it is just so bizarre and not bizarre, there’s a better word for it. Farcical, the idea is so farcical that I want to leave it over there where it belongs? Yeah, kind of, in a way, I don’t know what to say about it. Because I just don’t live that life. I never have it’s one of the reasons why I have the friends I have and the people surrounding me or the people surrounding me, you know, I’m saying by this age, the people know what they’re dealing with. I’m a real in Jamaica, they call it real, real, real, not just real. I’m real, real. And it’s true. And but I don’t like hopefully I don’t bring like downer conversations to Thanksgiving either. I also can have fun. But it’s real fun. Because I’ve already dealt with the trauma. See, it’s not fake fun. That’s the reason we do this right. I help you. I got another I got an idea. I’m running do it to it.
Jeanie: Well, there’s this contrast, I don’t know if Elijah is going to mention this, between not politeness is not talking about something and gimme.
Elijah: That was exactly what I was going to ask about.
Elijah: So, I mean, yeah. So, there is this contrast between the politeness of Marla which is exactly what you talked about, but there’s also this whole thing with Can I Help You like wanting people to say please. And then talking about this whole thing with gimme, gimme in, and also that whole code word with please, to buy weed? Yeah. And so, just how does that factor in? Because I mean, I call that, like, I think I’d use the same word, but I think they are two different two entirely different things. So it may not make sense to use the same word for them. But how does that factor in with this?
Amy: Okay, I think I think you’ve nailed it. I mean, Can I Help You? I mean, don’t forget she is not? She doesn’t like those gimme people. Well, I mean, look, that’s a privilege, right? And it’s so funny because we’re all taught to say please, and thank you. But then we get to the drive-thru. And I know this because I listen, and I used to run a drive-thru at Arby’s, but I didn’t sell weed through the window. Because that’s, that’s the fun part of writing fiction. I wasn’t, I didn’t think about that then. But anyway, just kidding. We are gimme gimme people. We are. I had a person, you know, I had a guy step right in front of me recently. And I had a guy who decided he was going to get in the carwash line in front of me just like just to do it. And then he sat there, and he didn’t move forward and go into the – he didn’t even know I was there. He didn’t know I was there. And so I think that I mean, gimme is I mean, that’s a privilege – that’s privilege right there. You know, and yet politeness, it’s funny because we live a double standard, all of us, for the most part, okay. And that’s one of the things that drives me a little bit bonkers about a lot of things.
I mean, I can go off on it when it comes to my relationships with men we’ll say. Why am I making it sound like there was more than one? There wasn’t, I was married a very long time. But yeah, I was married a very long time. But in that relationship, you know, you’d look at that sort of privilege and what people expect – the expectations. And the expectation in my life was that I wasn’t going to talk about the truth, which makes no sense. Because if you know me, you know, I’m going to talk about the truth. And that would, but it was it’s always framed as that’s politeness. You know, it’s polite, and you’ve hurt me if, if you’re talking about the truth, and I’m like, that’s weird, because you’re hurting me if you’re not talking about the truth.
I feel like almost there’s two different types. It’s a little bit Star Wars, right? It’s a little bit black and white of me to say this, but that there is like they’re the people who are willing to talk about this stuff that’s happening because people who aren’t and what we do, though, to shame the people who are willing to talk about what’s really happening as we said, it’s impolite. As for the gimme people, they’re the first people to complain when somebody doesn’t say please or thank you. They didn’t send me a thank you note for the gift I gave them. Really are you literally saying gimme to a child because you sent them a gift? In my world, a gift is something given. You don’t give gifts to get thank you notes. If you give gifts to get thank you notes you’re bonkers and you’re overdoing it. You know, there’s no reason like I’m sorry. There are times to send thank you notes. Absolutely, I will send you a thank you note at the bottom of my heart when I want to thank you. If you don’t give a gift because you’re giving it what are you doing? You’re manipulating? Right and that’s exactly how politeness is used. Right? It’s manipulating all the time.
Its constant manipulation. We are manipulated so much by every corporation, every politician, sometimes every family member, every person we meet. Manipulation is kind of the backbone of our language, right? When we speak, how we speak, how we do things, because why? Because we want to get things because technically it’s gimme, underneath all of that is gimme. And it’s interesting because the same person that uses that manipulation will turn around to you and say, you know, you really should be more polite? Or are you going to mow your grass? Or, or, you know, use a few leaves in your flower bed. I live in a town now. It’s so weird. People are so worried about leaves. I used to live on a farm. No one cared about my leaves before. People care about my leaves. Now, I’m like, and I do that once a week, like when the truck comes in, sucks them up, which right there also hilarious to a farm girl like – a truck come sucks up leaves. Mind blown, but I get it, and they have to manage their town. It’s wonderful.
But this is the thing – people think that me sucking up my leaves is polite. But talking crap behind my back about, say, my life, my situation. People talk badly about my household because my daughter died. How about that one? We don’t talk about death enough in this country. So that and people want sympathy when their mom goes or when anybody goes. But when I lose my daughter, suddenly it’s like, oh, well, that’s a sin, first of all, and it must have been a very nice home. Like that is the first thing we do. I don’t mean to like drop that information on you. But it’s just a very interesting way to look at the double standard of politeness. Because these people want politeness and then they’ll treat my family like this. It’s so weird.
But they don’t understand that that can happen to them any day, either. I know this because I work with people who’ve lost, same as I did. And they don’t understand that. Oh, that can’t happen to my family. Oh, oh, that’s not true. And that’s the problem. Eventually, it catches up with us. But I don’t know if I just went off on that. But yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s it. That’s, that’s how they that’s how they work. It is a double standard. It’s just a massive double standard.
Elijah: I think I’m actually done
Amy: One more question. Alright, cool, because I got to go to a training session.
Avery: So when I was reading it, obviously reading it with the book group, but my mom was really at the same time as me. And there’s so much to dig into. And even though like she’s older, and some people will say wiser, we still had like, the equal amount of talk about. So what would you say to people who mistakenly believe that YA literature is too easy and doesn’t have rigor?
Amy: Oh, boy, well, I will say that people who say that YA literature says is anything haven’t read enough YA literature. I teach YA literature. And I teach literature for young people. And what you’ll find if you actually study it is that there is as many different types of literature for children as there are for adults. So, if you want to walk into a bookstore and say all books suck, then that’s your that’s you’ve been oversimplified. That’s what I would say to that person. You’re you know, if you’re saying all YA literature is blah, that would be like saying, All literature for adults is whatever, I guess to put down romance the most right? Or fantasy or paranormal romance or God knows, I don’t know, whatever, whatever they want to put down, they’ll put it down.
Adults will put down things for teenagers before they’ll put down anything else, though. They will roll their eyes at you faster than anything else they will they will make you small. I don’t understand it. You are only coming into your adulthood and your lives. The whole point of our existence as adults is to lift you up, not to bring you down. So the first thing I’d say to anybody who’s saying that is wow, you don’t respect teenagers. What a shame for you. Why are you working with them?
That’s the first thing I would ask them. Why are you working with teenagers? Why are you on a school board? You clearly do not understand teenagers, nor do you care about them. You see, you see them as so small.
It’s the exact same as if they want to make fun of, I don’t know, I’ll say Justin Bieber, but that’s not what kids listen to anymore. But you know, what, whoever it is, they’ll roll their eyes and in my days it was Culture Club or Prince. Oh, God, you know, like, like none of us understood what Prince was talking about. Every single one of us knew what Prince was talking about. You can put a big sticker on the front of it and saying parental warnings, Prince says stuff that you already do. Whatever.
Anyway, as for people thinking that books written about young adults shouldn’t be in schools being read by young adults especially. I’ll say literary novels, I would consider this a more literary novel. If we wanted to put subcategories the way that we do in adult work which we should I don’t know what to say to them? With a, you know, you’re going to get your Shakespeare, you’re going to get to read The Merchant of Venice, you’re going to get to read perhaps Mockingbird, perhaps oh, I don’t know, whatever classics are in your canon. The idea is, is that teenagers feel seen.
The idea of reading a book is to feel seen. The idea of reading a book is to open your mind to a new world because you see yourself in it, if that makes sense. And also, to learn about other people, right?
I would hope that people who read something like Dig might read something that’s certainly more commercial, more popular. But something like The Hate U Give, which was published only, I think, maybe two years before it. And allows you to see and feel what it feels like to be a person of color and a community where you know, where the world is different, that’s for sure. For human beings that live in the same place as we do. And we’re so privileged, we don’t see that. So it’d be a great conversation, both for adults and teenagers. But I don’t know. The idea that people would think that something like Dig wouldn’t be for teenagers makes me understand that I already know this. I hear this lot. They don’t understand teenagers, and they don’t want to. They don’t want to stop and understand that teenagers, you know, the idea that people don’t, here’s one for you. But if someone says the word sex in front of a teenager, everybody freaks out. First of all, without it, those teenagers wouldn’t exist. Let’s start there. None of us would. It’s like periods, people freak out over periods. Why? Without them, none of us would exist. Makes no sense. But we freak out over it. And not only have that, like 51% of, let’s not go there. But they have them you know, but like, this idea that we can’t talk about drugs, oh, don’t talk about drugs.
Really, we used to have, we used to have commercials with a frying pan and an egg and this was your brain on drugs. Like, and then I have my kid we were walking around the other day. And he was like, so like, how come you can, people can like have a drink, but then they don’t become alcoholics? But then people say don’t touch heroin, because you’re going to get addicted, like what’s the deal? And like, he didn’t know the basics about drugs, because we’re no longer teaching it in health classes anymore, because oh, we’re too polite to do that. Which to me goes back to what young adult books are really doing? They’re delving into the ideas, and the things that teenagers need to discuss, to have healthy lives. So whether it’s something and a lot of times its heavy material, yes, there’s death. Yes, there’s even like, oh my gosh, suicidal ideation, self-harm, mental illness, but also race, but also love, also maybe some, some relationship abuse, or maybe a really great relationship. That’s what books are for – to model really good things for us and to warn us of the bad things and to help us see what’s really going on.
Why you would want to keep that from teenagers, I do not know. That would be someone who as far as I’m concerned is anti-intellectual, anti your intellectual freedom as young people, which is why public libraries and libraries and schools and librarians are heroes because they care about your intellectual freedom. Teachers as well. For the most part, depends on where you are, I guess, because not all teachers, I guess, would but I would think young adult books are for our for young adults because you’re going to see themselves and I think young adults are for adults because they’ll see their teenagers in them and better wake up and understand that the world has changed, and they might better be able to have better conversations. And better relationships with their teenagers, which is incredibly important, and as someone who lost a teenager who had a really great relationship with my teenager, I knew the situation with my daughter, she struggled for a very, very long time. And we talked a lot. And I do this work, you know, I’ve done this work for a long time, long before I lost my daughter. And I would not have been able to have the conversations I had with her had I not had an open mind to the teen experience. The idea that we were all perfect as teens is ridiculous. But the fact that we’re still trying to snow them into believing it, it’s not new at all. They’ve been doing that for generations. So what would I say? I would say, oh, grow up. That’s what I would say. To anybody saying that young adult books shouldn’t be read in schools, I’d say grow up.
Avery: Thank you.
Amy: Yeah, thank you. I got to go get trained. I’m going to go down to Mental Health America and be trained to run a support group. Otherwise, I would sit here Jeanie, and talk to you all day, you guys, students that just ask me questions. I know people are going and coming. But thank you very much for your questions. Meg, wow!
Meg: I’ve got tears in my eyes, I’m shaking. I mean, what a champion you are for our young people, Amy. You are a gift to us, your gift to librarians where I can give a book to students with my whole being and my whole heart and open a door to the world that you create and honor them through, by being real, by being fun, by being honest and telling them the truth that they’re not hearing in other places. So thank you so much.
Amy: Thank you so much for supporting me, it’s a huge deal. I got a lot of, a lot of teachers and librarians who back off of me and I’m cool with it, I get it. But…
Meg: We’ve got all your books spread out on the table. We’ve got your whole collection here. Maybe Elijah and I will design the A.S. King curriculum.
Amy: Well, listen, whatever happens when you do anything A.S. King again, let’s just do this, let’s zoom me in. That’s, that’s what I do. I like to connect and I’m about to be on the road again and do stuff. I think I’m just going to like staple an N95 mask to my face and just start traveling again. I miss being with young people and going into schools and talking. And just being able to talk openly about stuff and blow their minds in what I call the trauma comedy show. But they don’t know it and I don’t want to ever bum anybody out. You know, I always just want to help. I always just help.
Jeanie: I really appreciate what you just said because when rereading Dig I laughed so hard. And I also am aware that you’re writing about trauma and, like, the capacity to hold both the humor and the trauma in one place is really powerful.
Meg: Thank you, Amy.
Amy: See you guys. Thanks for your great questions. Thanks for reading the books. Thanks for being champions. You’re amazing.