Friday, February 29, 2008
Discuss Amongst Yourselves -- Jay
The E.B. White Read Aloud Award was first given in 2004, then divided into two categories a couple years later (one for picture books and one for older readers). Being a rather new award, it’s still building name recognition, and not one I imagined seeing my name attached to…until now.
No, I didn’t win the award. But Thirteen Reasons Why has been nominated for it. Quick! Guess which category!
The nomination got me thinking about an aspect of writing which I never thought about while working on 13RW…or any of my previous (and still unpublished) novels. See, I always wanted lots and lots and lots of readers. Primarily, I wanted to entertain them. And secondarily (if that’s a word, and even if it’s not), I wanted to present opportunities to think about the world from other points of view…and not necessarily my point of view.
But I never considered that amazing D-word: discussion.
Because of 13RW book clubs popping up across the country, schools and bookstores and libraries are bringing teens and adults together to discuss the issues raised in the book. Those discussions allow for even more points of view than what I presented in the book. Which is amazing!
I’ve also heard from parents and children, boyfriends and girlfriends, and best friends who read the book aloud to each other (one person reading as Clay, the other as Hannah). Those discussions led to even deeper understandings among already close readers. Which is amazing!
Why this has me so excited is because it brings me back to my high school days. I remember one teacher, Mr. Miller, who often brought up “contemporary issue” discussions in his classroom. Some of the issues were controversial. But when he raised the issues, he never offered his own opinions. He simply wanted us to hear what other students thought. And I was very opinionated about some of those issues. In response to my opinions, his most common question was, “But why?” And he never accepted, “It’s just how I feel” as a legitimate answer.
After hearing other points of view in that class, my opinions changed quite a bit on quite a few issues…though I rarely admitted that in class!
So whether Thirteen Reasons Why (or future books) are read aloud among close family members and friends, or discussed by large groups in a safe environment, I am beyond thrilled…because discussion is always a good thing. At the very least, even if your opinion isn’t changed, it allows you to know why other people hold differing points of view.
And that, I know, has made me a much better person…and writer.