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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.

22 comments:

Janey Chapel said...

Rock on, sister.

Keta Diablo said...

Wonderful article, and you're a lovely writer. I so enjoyed the hopeful segments. Thank you so much for bringing more attention to this horrific pandemic our culture seems to suffering under right now. Please keep telling our youth "It Does Get Better," and make them listen and believe.

Best, Keta
http://thestuffofmythandmen.blogspot.com

Chris said...

What a lovely thing to do!

KnitTech said...

You are just amazing.

Louiz said...

That sounds like a really good thing. I was bullied at school, dreadfully. It has left me with a reflex to fight back if I perceive myself as being bullied. Not always the best choice

dawnkj63 said...

This is fantastic! What a wonderful blog and idea. :-D

kissmyfrog said...

It gets better for all of us - not just the bullied LGBT kids, but all the rest of us who are bullied just because we're weird and gauche and awkward and bookish. Chicken is so much smarter than I was - I didn't figure out the "fuck 'em" until I was nearly forty.

Catie said...

Somehow I didn't know that the suicide rate for GLBT youth was so high.

As someone who has been bullied, and has been suicidal, I think that the message you are promoting and voicing is a valuable one - and one that people need to hear - regardless of whether you think they need to hear it at that moment, because you don't know what they are going through.

Donna Lee said...

Working where I do, I often get to meet the LGBTQI folks who make it past their teens into adulthood. Their stories are not pretty ones but often there's one individual who gave them the courage to keep on keeping on. The person who told them "it'll get better" and kept them alive.

You are wonderful to try to be that person for some unhappy kids. I didn't know that Monday was National Coming Out Day. It should be interesting in my neck of the woods.

Anonymous said...

Behind you 100%, ecspecialy after the suicides this month - all children (and adults) are special, no matter their race, genderness -sexual preference). Love in any form (of .appropriate age), should be celebrated

Galad said...

Whim is a story of hope. ALL youth need to hear that message "It Does Get Better", but especially those who are bullied and feel so alone.

Thank you for continuing to share that message through your writing, your work and your life.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Kudos to you AND your daughter!

Every one of us makes a difference, too.

Katiebabs/ KB said...

Lovely! :)

So many it gets better stories.

Roxie said...

Is there anyone who has not contemplated suicide at some time? The most populsr girl in grade school and high school in my home town went away to college and drowned herself in a wading pool. Left a note and everything. No one has it easy and the bulies usually are acting out of fear. (hit back first, or go along with the power group no matter what you personally feel.)

When I worked suicide prevention hot line, the thing they told us to tell people is that suidcide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. IT DOES GET BETTER! You learn to accept that life is not just, fair, or kind, and to value the good that comes to you. You learn to look around and realize that lots of other people in the world have it even worse than you do.

Gay, geeky, freaky, poor, too smart, too dumb, too fat, too skinny, too ugly, pick a curse or name your own. It's hell being a human being, and the teens are the time we have to find a path through it all. It Gets Better!!

Geeze-you sure pulled my string.

jenna-hilary said...

I'll be buying your book on Monday. Lovely post!

ismarah said...

This is exactly why I like to read your books over many others - you do the dirty bits but you do the heartfelt, angsty, REAL bits too.

And yes, as (yet) another survivor, I am thankful that it gets better. It's a nice campaign

ElaineG said...

First, you ARE an amazing writer, and I am so lucky to have found you and your books.
Second, Chicken is a smart cookie for sure, and I know it has a lot do to with a mother that obviously pays attention, I wish we had all had that....go Chicken!
Finally, I will be purchasing Litha's Constant Whim (again lol!) because every little bit helps. Great thing you are doing Amy, I wish that I contribute more too.

DecRaink said...

WOOHOO. I'm so gonna buy another copy of Litha's Constant Whim tomorrow.
You're books really are important and do make a difference so GO YOU!

and a HUGE WOOHOO to Chicken for saying fuck 'em. That's the spirit :0)

Anonymous said...

Now I know why I didn't already buy the story. I just waited for the right opportunity. Guess I can stop waiting now...

Christina

Jenn C. said...

You know, I've been meaning to buy one of your books for an age now. Kept not getting around to it. This, though, got me off my butt and to my wallet. Go you for doing something with meaning today.

Chicken is a lucky girl to have a mom who would go to such lengths to help her find her place in the world.

Anonymous said...

Amy

It gets better because people like you are in the world !!!
grammy

Anonymous said...

amy

the world is better because you are in it

grammy