Saturday, October 9, 2010
Of Course It Gets Better
Okay, one of the things I never wanted to delude myself with was the idea that I write "important" books. For the longest time, as I was working on Vulnerable, I called it "my trashy vampire mystery", and referred to my work as "writing dirty books," semi-facetiously, and a little self-consciously. "I can do better," I tried to imply, "but, you know, this is what I *like* to read."
And then it occurred to me (after a couple of fan letters that left my hands shaking and sent me howling for kleenex, ice-cream, and a comfort movie in a juggernaut of angst) that I really WAS kidding myself, if I thought my books WEREN'T important--at least to the people who loved them, including myself. A book that moves you is a book that moves you, regardless of genre or what puckered angry white men tell you that you *should* be writing. Some of the most *important* books to me, both growing up and as an adult might never make it to a college class for interpretation, but they stayed in my heart and made the real world a better place, just by the tiny imaginary world they created.
So, in the end, I simply wanted to create people that felt real (regardless of real or imagined species), and people who feel real, sometimes have problems that feel real. That's why, when I was done with my first round of horror and disgust and (sadly) complete lack of surprise over the September suicides of bullied GLBT youth (google it if you haven't heard about it--there were nine of them across the country, all of them tragic and infuriating), I was only a little surprised to see that I'd touched on this matter--if a little superficially--already in my writing.
Charlie, one of the heroes in Litha's Constant Whim, starts out the story as a (from the blurb) "very young, very desperate human." In fact, on the Litha night in which he first meets Whim, he is contemplating suicide. GLBT youth are three to four times more likely to attempt suicide--it's a common statistic, one I'd heard before, and one that must have triggered something in me, some sort of protective wish, I guess, for kids out there to see that SOMEONE in the world will love them for themselves. (It is this theme right here that makes so many of my students, gay or straight, love The Little Goddess series as a whole--it assures them that despair, drug experimentation, or sexual exploration does NOT mean they are unworthy of love--and un-condescending love at that. It is, sadly enough, a message they don't seem to be getting from their churches, schools, or parents these days.)
Charlie, obviously, does not commit suicide. He meets Whim, and IT GETS BETTER.
Now, the IT GETS BETTER campaigns is one of those things (and not much does this in the political or grass roots movement arena--I am a little jaded, I guess) that sort of touched something inside me. Some of you may remember my worries for my beautiful daughter, Chicken, when she was in junior high. She was bullied--TERRIBLY bullied. Get food thrown at you, bullied. The whole class makes you their target, bullied. "Should I go emo and cut myself, mom?" bullied. (Horrible conversation. If there's any mercy in death, that will be one of the first things I forget.) (And shall we remember her prickweenie ex-soccer coach, who just exacerbated that whole situation by about a thousand, may he die of boils and locusts thank-you-very-much!) Anyway, it was a terrible time for me to watch-- I'd do anything to help her know that it would get better.
I'd offer to buy her clothes we couldn't afford, move her to another school (which we REALLY couldn't afford) and gave her pep talks. At one point, I let her skip Valentines Day (the ULTIMATE popularity contest) at her school, and took her to mine, where an especially wonderful AP class assured her, "It's all right, baby. It gets better."
She took the lesson to heart. This year she's having a STELLAR year--she even smiles (but don't mention it--it might go away.) Of course, the real change came at the end of her freshman year. I asked her what she wanted to wear, what we should buy her for school clothes, and she said, "Jeans and basketball shorts and T-shirts."
"Really? Didn't you want the other stuff? Try and see what everyone's wearing this year?"
"No, mom. Fuck 'em. If they can't like me for who I am, they can go to hell."
*sniff* That's my baby. Buckets and buckets of extra-spicy, extra-crispy, extra-special awesome.
But not everybody has a dorky fat woman to listen to them and drag them to AP classes and make ill advised attempts to buy clothes to help a person fit in. Charlie didn't, until he found Whim, and that leads me to my point, sort of.
Monday is National Coming Out Day, and in celebration, I've asked Elizabeth, the EIC at Dreamspinner, if I could donate my cut of Litha's Constant Whim for that day (from www.dreamspinnerpress.com outlet ONLY--it's the only way to keep track) to The Trevor Project. (This is a hotline for bullied and suicidal teens.) It's not a lot--I mean, I'm hoping it will BE a lot, but I don't fool myself that people will flock to buy this little story for this. (Okay. It would be nice. I'm not gonna bullshit you. But I'm a realist. I'm NOT the person people follow into the rowboat--but every now and then I like to rally there anyway!)
But I've got the GSA planning to make a video for It Gets Better, and that should be really powerful, and I've got my own kids to convince that It Gets Better (because Big T and Chicken aren't out of the woods yet, and the little guys are gonna need me for some time to come) and we'll be lucky to have McDonalds money this month (because birthday month is a killer) and, well, I've long since learned that sometimes, the only sure way to create a better world is when I create one in my books.
It's just nice when my books can make the real world a better place too.