"My students and their fictitious doubles," in the Penn Gazette (One Thing Stolen)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Thank you, Trey Popp, for sharing this story about my students and the characters they inspire in the new as-ever-gorgeous edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette.

The focus of this particular essay is One Thing Stolen, a novel Chronicle Books released this past April. One Thing Stolen  takes place partly on the Penn campus and partly in Florence, Italy. Its  primary characters—Maggie Ercolani and Katie Goldrath—were named for students I loved (and love).

Meanwhile, in a forthcoming novel, This Is the Story of You, my Mira Banul, the star of that story, carries the last name of my student Sean Banul. Mira must be especially strong as a monster storm devastates her world. She has a cat that waves. Sean gave me both strength and a waving cat. He gave me willing use of his last name.

Some people wonder why I write so many books. The answer: Because so many people and places inspire me. Indeed, my most recent students are already transforming the landscape of my imagination.

An excerpt from the Gazette story is below. The entire piece can be read here.

To be a Penn student is a privilege, absolutely, but privilege isn’t necessarily or even primarily the natural domain of the young people I meet. They are emergent, they are bright, they are headed toward something, but few among them have had it easy. The students who gather around the table in that Victorian twin have lost siblings, parents, teachers, best friends, faith in the bedrock, parts of themselves. They have been diagnosed, they have been uprooted, they have stood in danger’s way, they have endured violence and prejudice. They are, at times, the first members of their family to matriculate in college. English is not always their first language. Home is a word they are still defining. I say that I teach at Penn, but that is a preposterous shorthand. I show up, and I’m profoundly educated.

I am inspired.


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