Tag Archives: moms

Why We Need More Books Like Jennette McCurdy’s I’M GLAD MY MOM DIED

15 Aug

Controversy erupted in publishing last week when child star Jennette McCurdy released her memoir I’m Glad My Mom Died. Ever since, I’ve seen various discussions being bounced around online. Some supportive; some not. 

I get it. I do. There’s lots of folks out there who cannot imagine disliking their mother so much that death feels like a reprieve. But this is one of those times that folks need to step back from their own lived experiences and listen to the voices of others. 

While my mother was a supportive, nurturing person, she definitely had her faults—faults that eventually led to her overdose and untimely death. There were many other women who entered my life after her death that also had major faults. When I set out to write a middle grade verse novel about my mom’s death, I made it a point to include more than one female character who was not supportive and, in fact, discouraging. 

Why?

Media all too often shows moms and women as naturally nurturing people when many aren’t. Unfortunately, many, many children are abused by their mothers. But when we show abuse in media, we tend to lean on physically abusive men, alcoholic men, absentee men, etc. We rarely acknowledge moms can do the same thing. For that reason alone, Jennette McCurdy’s book is resonating with a lot of folks. 

These types of stories have been going unseen for a long time. I myself had beta readers tell me I should add more positive female figures to my book (though there already are two. I didn’t exclude positivity altogether, but it certainly was not my focus). 

My relationship with women from a young age was unhealthy. It took me a long time to understand my trauma and how it unfolded in my personality. It took me even longer to find female role models and friendships that I felt safe relying on. And though I know I’m not alone in that, publishers and directors alike tend to shy away from stories involving negative depictions of mothers and motherhood. (The most popular mom trope we get is the burnt out mom who wants to go out for a night on the town with her mom friends. Usually this appears in a comedy of some sort. Trying to pursue a drama? Good luck.) 

Granted, I’m not saying stories with depictions of abusive moms don’t exist. They do, but sparsely, and they tend to be in the adult sphere of entertainment, including Jennette McCurdy’s recent release. 

I’m making a call to publishers to have more books where moms aren’t perfect in kidlit fiction. 

One of the main reasons I set out to write my novel-in-verse about my mother was because of what happened to me at the bookstore when I was a kid. Shortly after she died, I found myself lost amongst the kidlit bookshelves, unable to find anything that I could relate to anymore. There were no stories about addiction or grief stories about losing moms…and so, I ended up in the young adult section at 11, where I found One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones. I immediately felt seen. 

I promised myself right then and there I’d write my story for 11-year-olds like me, and that it would go in the middle grade section. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that it ended up being a novel-in-verse, too. But that’s a story for another day. 

I’m in the middle of querying it right now, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed about my pending fulls, but regardless of where my story ends up, I hope publishing is taking note of people’s reactions to Jennette McCurdy’s book.   

Moms aren’t perfect. They can, in fact, be our biggest adversary. By showing that through storytelling, we can help empower readers to recognize that in their own lives. Who knows? They may even find the strength and resolve to share their own stories with the world one day. 

~SAT 

Marking Mother’s Day with Bookmarks

11 May

Special thanks goes out to Tony Jaa, actor and martial artist, for quoting my latest novel, Seconds Before Sunrise, on his official Twitter page. Known for Ong-BakFast and Furious 7, and his stunt work in the Mortal Kombat Annihilation, visit Tony Jaa on Twitter and Facebook.

tonyjaa

Check out my latest interview with Confessions of a Book Geek! I explained the specifics of my book covers, and I also invited five of my characters to lunch. It was a great time, so read it by clicking here.

Today is Mother’s Day – and as many of you know, my mother passed away very  suddenly when I was eleven years old. It’s not difficult for me to write about it necessarily, but there is this peculiar heaviness that happens on days like these. I say “peculiar” because it shifts every year. Sometimes, it is crushing, and other times, it is a wave, but it’s always sad. So I find myself doing what I do every year – and that is to find a way to celebrate her life and her love. And I did.

Bookmarks. 

She was the definition of an avid reader. In fact, when she passed, we donated most of her novels to a half-price bookstore, and they joked that an entire library – not a family – was donating. My mother was a library. We had these beautiful, tall oak bookshelves, and she layered the shelves with enormous collections of trinkets. (Hence why I always talk about trinkets.) But she also kept bookmarks, and I reflected on that today – thinking of what bookmarks have meant to me.

A Bookmark is a Memory:

asleep“This is where i fell asleep” is my oldest bookmark. It was my favorite when I was a kid. I believe I read all of the Dear America books and the Magic Tree House series with this bookmark slid in the pages. I even remember getting it at a book fair. (I think they were cheaper because of the grammatical error, but I’m not sure? I think the i” was definitely on purpose and probably didn’t go over well with parents.) ANYWAY – I loved animals, so this was perfect for me. It used to even have a little puppy attached to the top, but that didn’t last for very long [obviously]. I don’t use it anymore, but it sits on my shelf of accomplishments. (Yes, I have something as egotistical as a shelf of accomplishments ::sigh:: It’s how I stay motivated.) But this bookmark reminds me of childhood and how I lost myself and found myself in novels, whether it was my first You Choose the Story Scooby Doo books, Goosebumps, or The Journal of Scott Pendalton Collins: A World War 2 Soldier. (My favorite Dear America book.) This bookmark is a memory because this bookmark represents my childhood love for novels that continued into my adult life.

A Bookmark is a Friend

badass“i may appear harmless…but inside i’m completely badass” This is my current bookmark, and I love it so much. (And I also just realized the I have a thing for “i” being lowercased.) This bookmark was a gift I received from a wonderfully talented painter, and it brings a smile to my face anytime I open a book and read the words. Just as a friend does, it makes me laugh, smile, and enjoy the time ahead (in this case, a novel.) Also, who couldn’t love the phrase? If you still need coaxing, it’s a magnetic bookmark – so it never falls out. This is good for clumsy readers such as myself. And – once again – like a friend, it is prepared more than I am. It knows I’m clumsy, even before I remember I am. The fact that it is also a gift reminds me of how much a gift can warm a heart up, no matter how small it is. This bookmark is a friend because this bookmark reminds me of laughter and staying true to myself.

A Bookmark is a Lifetime

mom“A hundred years from now, the world may be different because I was important in the life of my child” This bookmark is the most important bookmark that I own. It was my mother’s, and she was actually using it when she died. I keep it in a memory box to keep it safe, but this bookmark reminds me of how much she loved her family and how much she believed in all of our futures. On the most difficult days – like Mother’s  Day – it shows me how she would still be encouraging me if she were still alive, and in a way, she does encourage me by leaving behind a bookmark like this one. I may not be able to live up to the bookmark. I may not be able to change the world in 100 years. But I can at least try to change the world around me by encouraging and helping others to follow their dreams just as my mother encouraged me to follow my dreams.

Bookmarks don’t only mark a stopping place in a novel. They can symbolize parts of life and remind us of all the strength and passion we have to live for.  For me, they mark places in my heart , but they also remind me of where I left off so I can begin again.

~SAT

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