Friday, October 2, 2015
Writing and the real world, what impact and responsibility do we have?
Yesterday was a beautiful fall day. I was going about my life just as most of the students and Umpqua Community College were going about theirs. Rose burg is a lovely town only about three hours from my home, and one of the places that my husband and his High School Music students have visited over the years. It feels like part of the neighborhood. To suddenly be hearing the news of another school shooting was heartbreaking, but sadly unsurprising.
Really, everytime we hear about this type of event, it is disgusting how quickly fingers start pointing to assign blame. But in our inability to be surprised anymore, there is the hopeless feeling of helplessness. Trying to place blame at least implies that we can stop this pattern if we can only figure out why.
I know the gun control, and the need more gun arguments. I know the blame the violent practice kids get in role playing being the shooter in video games. I know the suggestion that the idea comes from the movies, media and books that repeatedly tell the stories of violence over almost any other newsworthy choice.
What I don't know is the answer
Yet I feel some of the questions directed my way
because in a book I wrote with a 9 year old protagonist, I have a school shooting.
It is a mildly described event in my opinion, and I don't think it glorifies it. I certainly never imagined my readers sympathizing with the shooter, but I'm learning that some of them do. And I have him filled with confused emotions and hopelessness, because I can't imagine ever being able to do what he does unless I had no hope.
The shooting is only a small part of the story, but once I began being invited into schools to talk about it, it was a section I never read aloud, but explain in simple summary, "Duffy's sister is injured in a school shooting, and . . ." but if I am uncomfortable reading it to a class, maybe a couple reviews have sometime to do with that. One says "this book was too harsh and emotional and real for me too finish" and another, 1-star review says, "10yo brings rifle to school, killing or wounding several children including Duffy's little sister. Grief stricken, Duffy has a psychotic break..." and that is that entire review.
So what is an author's responsibility in describing actions that may inspire copycat behaviors? Do the books convince people that behavior is ok? should we never write about things that make us uncomfortable or fearful?
I don't think so. I think they might help us cope with it if it does happen to us, and it might help us realize the consequences before we ever have to try it for ourselves. I think the stories, in most people can teach empathy and make us less likely to think hurting others is ok.
But like I said, I don't know. I don't think my little books will ever have the reach or power to make a huge impact, but if they make one bullied kid realize that living a good life is the best revenge, maybe they do have some value in this world.
at least one reviewer thought so, "I thoroughly enjoyed this inventive book, which is sad, funny, touching and full of surprises. I loved the characters, especially Duffy, the parallel universe of Uhrlin complete with its own mythology, and the subtle messages about bullying and belonging. It is one of the few books I've read that are written from the point of view of a disabled child. It does a great job of making this point of view accessible and understandable to others. At the same time, it underlines the fact that everyone is in some way a 'freak', with his or her own unique way of looking at things. Everyone is lovable and worth making an effort to understand. It is a powerful message, and one that the world really needs to hear.