Fahrenheit 2017

This post was originally published on obraartifact.com.

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” – Ray Bradbury

 

My students groaned when I passed out the books.

“I thought you said we weren’t reading another novel,” said the kid in front.

“I was wrong,” I said. “We’re reading this one because I think it’s important with everything that’s happening these days. Like how we just studied fake news.”

They lazed in their chairs. A guy down front took a pull on his Dunkin Donuts latte, eyeing me like he couldn’t decide if I was up to no good.

“What’s it about?” he asked. Continue reading

Why I Write

In my first year of teaching, I gave my seniors the assignment to write about an event in their life that made them who they are. I read them all, surprised at what they’d been through, surprised too at the secrets they would trust me with, at what they’d put on paper. Domestic abuse, poverty, illness, one even witnessed a murder – these are the things that boiled under the surface of these people who I laughed with daily, who decorated my room, who sang me happy birthday, who wore me down to eventually have class outside. I had known them eight months already, or I thought I knew them. It wasn’t until April that we had this turning point, and I saw through to the other side. I realized that we are all a little broken. Every single one of us is on the mend. Continue reading

Review of The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

Full of turmoil, love, loss, and pain, Lindsey Lee Johnson’s The Most Dangerous Place on Earth is a complex meditation on privilege and the crucible that is adolescence. Set in Mill Valley, California, at the real life Tamalpais High School, the story centers on a fledgling teacher, Molly Nicoll, as she discovers and comes to terms with the complex lives of her students and her role (or absence) in their evolution as people. With perspectives that alternate between Molly and the main group of her students, Johnson weaves a series of interconnected life stories that create a portrait not only of the idyllic Mill Valley, with its towering redwoods and foggy views of San Francisco Bay, she creates a portrait from the inside, from the multifaceted and often breaking hearts of the teenagers who are beginning their lives there. Continue reading

Implications: On Writing Mental Illness and Why Representation Matters

Mental health advocacy is really important to me. In this blog post for Obra/Artifact, I talk about the importance of getting things right and loving your characters into existence, especially when they are not like you.

obra / artifact

A few years ago, my friend “Michelle” was kicked out of the house where she’d been living with her uncle and his girlfriend. Michelle didn’t understand what she’d done; she’s not exactly a trouble maker. She’s more likely to be caught at home with a novel on a Saturday night than out in a club. But a few months later, Michelle’s cousin related back to her all of the lies their uncle had spread: his girlfriend was afraid of Michelle. He thought Michelle might be dangerous. It was because she was “crazy,” and like everyone knows, “crazy people” are violent. At least that’s what popular media had led Michelle’s uncle and his girlfriend to believe.

When Michelle heard this, she knew what she’d done wrong. She’d confided to her uncle’s girlfriend about her struggle with bipolar disorder, a mental illness that, while creating some difficulties for Michelle, had not stopped…

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