on the dignity, intelligence, and craft of Patricia McCormick

Friday, May 11, 2012

A few years ago, at the invitation of Alessandra Balzer of Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins Children's Books), I joined a table of remarkable young adult writers and advocates in a famed Philadelphia restaurant.  Chris Crutcher sat to my left, Patricia McCormick to my right. I was, of course, lucky.

But only lately, reading CUT and SOLD, two of McCormick's rightly beloved books, have I realized just how lucky I was.  Patricia McCormick is—I'll use the word—a writer.  A writer with a moral heart and a social conscious.  A writer who has taken on subjects like cutting and the horrors of sex slavery, not to sensationalize, but to teach, not to exploit, but to help the rest of us understand what is truly at stake, what must be fixed.  And a writer who boldly experiments with form.  A writer of true and beautiful sentences.

There is an elegance to her work, a dignity.  There is great intelligence as she unpacks her stories. Everything feels real. Nothing feels forced. There is the bounty of genuine knowing.  Listen to this, from the early pages of SOLD, the story of a young girl forced to work at Happiness House.  These are the halcyon days.  This is before.  Lakshmi is poor, and she has a gift for seeing beauty.

At dawn, our hut, perched high on the mountainside, is already torched with sunlight, while the village below remains cloaked in the mountain's long purple shadow until midnight.

By midday, the tawny fields will be dotted with the cheerful dresses of the women, red as the poinsettias that lace the windy footpaths.  Napping babies will sway in wicker baskets, and lizards will sun themselves outside their holes.
Like CUT, SOLD never blinks.  It doesn't glance away from the hard truths. It doesn't gauze the facts with fairytale.  I read both books with my heart in my throat—heartbroken and also awed by McCormick's talent.

Patricia McCormick has a new book due out soon—a book called NEVER FALL DOWN, based on "the true story of an 11-year-old boy who survived the Khmer Rouge by playing music in the Killing Fields."  Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called the book "one of the most inspiring and powerful books" he's ever read. Our teens need books like these.  And so do we.


patty mccormick said...

Dear Beth,

Thanks for your incredibly generous response to my work. Yours is the kind of reaction that any writer would be proud to receive.

I'm so glad I met you and I'm so grateful for your comments.


patti.mallett_pp said...

So many thoughts: I have chills. You got to sit between the two of them?!!! Patricia's writing is...wow (and puts me in mind of another author. But you would deny it). Must go check the library website. (Sorry for the mishmash. It's my brain today.)

Serena said...

her books sound wonderful.

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