Diversity in MG Lit #7: Violence and the Response to it
I am keenly aware as I write this post that we are near the one year anniversary of the Parkland school shooting. It’s such a difficult topic. I wasn’t sure how or whether to address it here. And then I found a book about how six eyewitness survivors of a school shooting navigated their recovery. It’s geared for 12 and up, which puts it at the upper end of the MG range. Still I think the book is well worth a read for anyone who is curious about school shootings and the grief that follows an act of violence.
It’s called THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED by Kody Keplinger.
In addition to a very thoughtful take on the school shooting crisis, THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED has one of the more diverse casts of characters I’ve seen recently. The main character, Lee, identifies herself as asexual, meaning an individual who is is not sexually attracted to either men or women. The other characters are: a religiously observant Christian girl, a non-observant Christian presenting herself in a goth style, a boy whose race was unspecified with parents in prison for addiction, a black boy who is blind, and a Hispanic girl who is a lesbian. The author treats each of these identities as secondary to the main action of the plot but still vital to the identity of the character. If you are looking for an example of “incidental diversity or casual diversity” this is a good choice.
My second recommendation this month is possibly the most uplifting book I’ve read all year. I love it because it’s lively non-fiction. Because it’s engaging and accessible activism. Because it gives me hope for a kinder yet fiercer future where people of all ages will dig into the work of living more peacefully. The book is called PUTTING PEACE FIRST: 7 COMMITMENTS TO CHANGE THE WORLD. It takes readers through concrete practical steps that other teens have used to make positive changes in their community. They include things like understanding the root cause of the problem you’d like to change and planning for bumps in the road. The young mentors profiled in this book include: a Muslim girl from California, a white boy from Arizona and one from Iowa, a young woman with cerebral palsy from Minnesota, a male Asian immigrant from Pennsylvania, a black boy from Maryland, a black girl from Georgia. Each one had a story of a specific goal they pursued in their community, from changing the social media culture of their high school to curbing gun violence in their neighborhood.
So many young people are not yet jaded. So many have energy and idealism and lack only mentors and the means to make a change. I’d love to see this book in every middle school and high school where it can have incredible impact.
Rosanne Parry is the author of a 4 MG novels and the forthcoming A WOLF CALLED WANDER and LAST OF THE NAME. She is a bookseller at Annie Blooms and teaches in the Masters in Book Publishing program at Portland State. She writes in a treehouse in her back yard.
From the Mixed-Up Files is the group blog of middle-grade authors celebrating books for middle-grade readers. For anyone with a passion for children’s literature—teachers, librarians, parents, kids, writers, industry professionals— we offer regularly updated book lists organized by unique categories, author interviews, market news, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a children's book from writing to publishing to promoting.