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Monday, July 22, 2013

The Public's Confusion Over Literary Fiction About Kids For Adults by Kara Weiss and Giveaway!

Kara Weiss is a new author for me, but this essay she wrote for us moved me profoundly—I needed to share this with you guys. It's about the pain of adolescence, and how suffering results due to lack of outlet. It's a rather serious post, and slightly dark in tone, but I guarantee you it's worth reading. If you have a moment, please help me welcome Kara, whose debut novel Late Lights is currently on tour with TLC Book Tours. You don't want to miss this.

Page Count: 123
Release Date: 13 June 2013
Publisher: Colony Collapse Press

Genre: Literary fiction, Adolescence

After spending his teens in juvenile detention, Monty is released to find he has nowhere to turn except back to the friends of his youth. But neither BJ nor Erin know how to have him in their lives anymore. As kids, BJ and Monty shared the anguish of being forgotten children, playing basketball and wandering the streets, but BJ has since aged out of her tomboy persona and into a sexually-confused woman in an adult body she doesn't understand, particularly when Monty is the first guy to view her as a woman. Although Erin Broder never gave up on her friendship with Monty, she doesn’t know where he fits into her upward-bound life, which is filled with professional parents, varsity track, and an Ivy League destiny. To the Broder family, young Monty was a charity case, a kid from the wrong side of Tremont Street, a novelty friend they hoped Erin would outgrow. So what happens when she doesn’t?

With sharp language and unflinching honesty, Kara Weiss depicts a complex reality where adolescent friendship is less like a two-way street, more like a six-way interchange with broken signals.
Buy the book at: Amazon | The Book Depository | Publisher

The Unheard Adolescent Story

"I mean, how many times can you read The Catcher in the Rye?" my father said a few days ago. We were talking about how few adult literary books there are about adolescents, and about the challenge I’m currently facing, confronted with a reading public who mostly think books about kids are necessarily books for kids. I’ve run into this misunderstanding repeatedly. As soon as people realize my book is about adolescents—kids—they often tell me about their voracious eleven-year-old reader. And I warn them: do not give this book to your child. She will totally piss the bed.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the confusion. The vast majority of books (and movies) about kids are for kids, so the assumption is warranted. And I absolutely love some of these YA classics' Roald Dahl’s The BFG, and Matilda were the first books I ever loved. And I loved them deeply. They made me laugh out loud, and I realized in those moments, deep under the covers, that reading really could be fun. A couple years later I read A Separate Peace and had the very sudden understanding that I was reading something that mattered. These books primed me for my love affair with Lord of the Flies in eighth grade, The Unbearable Lightness of Being in tenth grade, and the entire Cormac McCarthy catalogue in the years following. As I grew up, so did my books: the ideas became more nuanced, and the language became more beautiful (if not more difficult). I read widely and indiscriminatingly. I loved Amy Bloom as much as Jhumpa Lahiri as much as Jay McInerney as much as Vladimir Nobokov. I read about people my own age, and those much older.

And that’s the great thing about literature, right? It transports us to previously unknown places. It introduces us to people we would never otherwise know. And it illuminates the overlooked truths in our everyday lives. When literature is great, it takes nothing for granted.

Yet these oft-called "worst" years of our lives are relegated to the shoebox of nostalgia. We joke about the tyrant captain of the soccer team, about late nights standing around in the cold outside Dunkin' Donuts, about the unattractive girl who was known for the entirety of high school as Butterface (as in, she’s hot, but her face). But only silently, if ever, do you recount the day you arrived at school one morning in seventh grade and found out you no longer had a single friend. You remember and quickly move on from those streaks of blood found in the girl’s bathroom after an attempted suicide during homeroom. You joke about the acne, and the awkwardness of suddenly not knowing what to wear, but you don’t talk about the times you hid in the locker room during lunch to avoid the pain of publicly sitting alone.

And you never really consider what it might have been like to be called Butterface by your entire graduating class.

The thing is, adolescence can be awful—real, adult awful. And the worst part is that these adolescents are often stuck relying on the adults in their lives to help—because they’re kids—kids without money or wisdom or legal age status. They’re stuck at the threshold of adulthood, the chasm between where they are, and where they want to be, a frozen-over hell of an ocean.

Perhaps the most damning part of adolescence is the fact that most of us suffer silently. We aren’t violent, or drug-addicted, or abused. We attend school, and we do okay, by every measurable index. But many of us do suffer: by the hands of our peers, and the voices in our head. Adults scoff at the melodramatic complaining of adolescents, brushing them off as hormonal. So what if they are hormonal? If a kid is in anguish, does it matter the cause? And here’s what I’d really like to know: do you think these kids want to feel like this? Do you think it’s fun for them to walk around feeling angry, or sad, or volatile? If they could help it, don’t you think they would?

Imagine: simultaneously knowing with absolute certainty that you hate yourself, and that you literally do not know yourself.

The reality is that I don’t know why we don’t write more about adolescents. I used to think it was because of our tendency to belittle them. Perhaps, I thought, they don’t seem serious enough for literature. But I know too many writers with too much insight and compassion for that to be the case. So lately I’ve been thinking that maybe the real reason we don’t see more literature about adolescents is because they don’t have a voice. Their stories merit telling, but they don’t have the wherewithal to share them. So no one does. And they are silenced.

Imagine: It’s lunchtime at a conference. You spot your friends at a table and you walk over. Your friends look at each other and laugh. You know they’re laughing at you, but you don’t know why. You put your tray down, and your friends get up and move to another table. You’re alone. Everyone is looking at you.

Imagine: You live with someone who beats you, but you aren’t allowed to live alone. If you tell someone you’ll be forced to live with strangers, or you’ll be taken to a state facility. So you wear long sleeves in the summer. You make yourself small. You try not to make any noise. You get hit anyway. You’re scared all of the time. And angry. Everyone’s asking you to write papers and take exams, but you can’t write papers or study for exams. You’re edgy and shaky. You haven’t slept soundly in years. And then a teacher wakes you up in the middle of class and everyone’s laughing...

And then, maybe you explode.

About the Author

Kara Weiss grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts with her parents and two sisters. As a child, Kara tended to befriend the roughest classmates she could find (who weren’t really that rough, given that Brookline isn’t exactly the 'hood). Kara went to Brookline High School, and attended School Within A School (SWS), an alternative school within the public high school. There, she infamously convinced her classmates to incorporate a Great Books English class into the curriculum. She might have been the only one to enjoy it. Upon graduation Kara matriculated at Williams College where she was a philosophy major, and ultimately had the great fortune of studying fiction with Jim Shepard.

Kara did her graduate work at the University of Washington, where she won the Ingham Prize for fiction (the only fellowship available to UW MFA students). She’s been published in many literary magazines including Word Riot, Crab Orchard Review, The McGuffin, The View From Here, and The Ne’er Do Well.

Kara currently lives with her family in Salt Lake City where she teaches English at Westminster College, and works as a freelance writer.

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Kara, this was absolutely a masterpiece. You capture teen angst—and the imbued suffering that comes with it—astoundingly. The understated and underestimated "nostalgia" in adolescence you mention should definitely be in adult fiction more. It has the propensity to be, like your post, very powerful and very raw. Thank you so much for sharing with us! I can't wait to try Late Lights now.


We've got one print copy of Late Lights up for grabs to one lucky Books à la Mode reader! To enter, all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below :)

For FOUR extra entries, leave a comment below in response to Kara's question:
How do you remember your adolescent years?
Please make your comment meaningful and encouraging to the discussion. Comments consisting solely of stock responses or irrelevant answers like "Thanks for the giveaway" will not be awarded the additional entries. Kara and I really want to hear you guys' responses! :)
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to TLC Book Tours and Colony Collapse Press!
Giveaway ends August 6th at 11.59 (your time).
Open to US/CAN residents only. Sorry, international readers! Check out my sidebar for all the current giveaways that are open worldwide.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be chosen.
Although I do select winners (via on the Rafflecopter form), I am in no way responsible for the prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤ Plus, you get extra entries ;)
Good luck!