While reading Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, I couldn’t keep the situation in Burma out of my mind, which made the books all the more compelling to me. One of the nicest notes I’ve received from a teen said, “For me, Bamboo People was a meaningful, emotional, make-you-want-to-do-something type of novel. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if teachers and parents handed Bamboo People to eager Hunger Games readers, inspiring fantasy-lovers like me to affect change in the real world?”
Maggie at Maggie's Bookshelf-Bibliophilia interviews Marina Budhos (YA/MG author of Ask Me No Questions and Tell Us We're Home)
If you had one thing you hoped readers would take away from this book, what would it be? What has the reader response to this novel been like?
I like to write books that are slyly subversive; that turn things upside down a bit without you knowing it. In so many ways these girls are spies, anthropologists reading the cues, the casual privilege of the wealthy town they've been plunked down in. And so, for some readers, I hope this is a way of seeing your own life through fresh eyes. At the same time, I hope the novel also gives voice to a certain invisibleness that many can feel.
Reader response has been quite good and people are appreciative of the freshness of perspective and the timeliness of this story. I was thrilled to receive a great review in the New York Times, as a lot of people saw that. One of the interesting ways the book is being read is as a 'mother-daughter' book--I've had mothers who have read the book alongside their daughters, and they appreciate the conversation it opens up about privilege and 'outsideness' and seeing one's own town through the eyes of immigrants.
My favorite response was that of the son of a colleague--apparently he picked up the book and couldn't put it down and they would fight every night because he wasn't going to sleep and had it hiding under his pillow. What touched me about his response was that it showed that there are readers who feel compelled by the emotional journeys of characters, not just the external plot gyrations.
YA author Mitali Perkins discusses race, class and caste in The Hunger Games trilogy (I figured this was appropriate as more talk of the movie comes about even though it's about a year old)
I appreciate how smoothly Collins included and described different races, but wonder if she was purposeful about the interesting connections between physical appearance (i.e., race), occupation, and class in her story. Did her conscious mind invent those classifications or was her unconscious mind in charge?
I trust the movie makers at Lionsgate will cast the movie carefully. Will they pick actors with a range of accents? Will they represent the same distinctions between race and class as in the novel? If not, why not?
It makes me happy to see that at least some books by poc are getting noticed. There was a lovely review of Bleeding Violet over at This Purple Crayon. it seems to me that some books by/about poc get some publicity before/around their release date and then a few months later, you rarely hear about them. Not so with this book at least!
But what I loved most was not the strange story or fantasy setting or troubled characters but instead the way they were seamlessly intertwined. There was no moment of suspending disbelief for me here; I just went with each twist and turn as if it was all normal. That's how much Ms. Reeves pulled me in from the start. Wow. Just wow.
Finally, we have an interview with YA author Justine Larbalestier. Justine has been MIA lately due to a repetitive stress injury and her presence has been sorely missed. Check out her interview with Malinda Lo
ML: So you’re really interested in difference.
ML: Do you think that’s partly why you tend to include characters that are very diverse in your books?
JL: I think a lot of that has to do with my circle of friends, too. ... One of the earliest communities I was a part of that I remember very vividly was when I was like four or five, and my parents were living in the Northern Territory of Australia, and they were anthropologists. They were living on an aboriginal settlement, and so my close friends and the people I was hanging with at the time, none of them were white, and they were very different from the southern Australian city that I had been living in before then, and it really strongly changed the way I saw the world.
When we went back and we were living in Canberra ... I was new to a new school, and they would ask you where you’re from, what are you doing, and I would talk about this incredible experience that I’d just had, living up north, and I kind of got weird racist abuse for it. I think those kind of experiences really shaped how I think about people and the way they interact. A lot of it was horrible, but a lot of it was actually really positive. I think that definitely shaped the kind of stories I tell. And certainly listening to the different stories that I heard when we were up north and when we were down south definitely shaped the stories I tell now.