on reading Small Damages through the eyes of an emerging critic

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Earlier this afternoon I had the opportunity to sit and read an academic paper written by Jess Ferro, a young woman studying children's literature at the University of Florida who is also the voice behind Alice in Baker Street, a blog focused on books and art for the young.  Jess's paper—beautifully crafted and surprising at so many turns—took, as its central focus, voice, agency, and the use of the pronoun "I" in two young adult books.  One of those books was Judy Blume's Forever.  The other was my own Small Damages.

It is not my place here to share Jess's conclusions; they belong to her.  I would, however, like to take a moment on what is a gray and cold day in these parts to thank Jess for such a close and generous reading of Small Damages.  Teen years are complex; they are hard.  They are shaped by lonely convictions and accidental conversations, by fathers and friends.  I have made it my business, in the stories I write, to represent all the influences, good fortunes, mishaps, and genetic codes that generate character and precipitate both action.  Some novels move quickly.  Some take a little time—make room for back story, strip black and white to grey.  I'll err on the side of time taking each novel out.  It feels far more true to the life that I know.


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