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SHOUT

Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 1 year, 11 months ago

15 November 2018 SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson, Viking, March 2019, 304p., ISBN: 978-0-670-01210-7

 

“As I walk this land with broken dreams

I have visions of many things

But happiness is just an illusion

Filled with sadness and confusion”

-- Jimmy Ruffin, “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted”

 

“in the name of love

 

When he was eighteen years old, my father

saw his buddy’s head sliced into two pieces,

sawn just above the eyebrows by an exploding

brake drum, when he was in the middle

of telling a joke.

 

Repairing planes, P-51s, on an air base in England,

hungry for a gun, not a wrench, my father

pushed an army-issue trunk into his mind

and put the picture of his friend’s last breath

at the bottom of it.

 

Then they sent him to Dachau.

Not just him, of course, his whole unit,

and not just to Dachau but to all of the camps

because the War was over.

But not really.

 

Daddy didn’t talk to me for forty years

about what he saw, heard, what he smelled

what he did about it;

one year of silence for every day of the Flood,

one year for every day from Lent until Easter.

 

The air in Dachau was clouded with the ash

from countless bodies, as he breathed it in

the agony of the dying infected my father,

and all of his friends. They tried to help

the suffering, following orders, took out their

rage in criminal ways while their officers

turned away. My father filled the trunk

in his head with walking corpses who sang

to him every night for the rest of his life.

 

One day Daddy watched a pregnant woman

walking slowly down the road near the gates of Dachau

he matched his steps to hers,

then stopped as she crouched in a ditch

and birthed a baby.

 

My father, a kid on the verge of destruction,

half-mad from the violence he’d seen

desperate to kill, to slaughter, to maim,

watched that baby slip into the world

between her momma’s blood-slicked thighs

and it healed him just enough

that he wept.

 

He wrapped the newborn in her mother’s apron

and helped them both to the Red Cross tent

set up for survivors.”

 

Twenty years after the publication of SPEAK, Laurie Halse Anderson now shares the true life stories that inspired her powerful, unforgettable YA classic. Told in the same prose poetry style as SPEAK, SHOUT is the verse memoir of Anderson’s life, “highlighted” by her rape at age thirteen. There are stories here about her parents and grandparents; about lessons Anderson learned in becoming a writer; and stories about her interactions, as a well-known author, with young people.

 

I first read SPEAK in my capacity as the children’s/YA buyer for a small bookstore chain headquartered in the North Bay community I called home. I embraced and championed the story of Melinda Sordino’s freshman year of high school, and I hand-sold many, many copies to young people and adults. Beginning a couple of years later, as a teacher’s assistant at the local middle school, I read SPEAK aloud to a succession of eighth-grade English classes.

 

SPEAK is a cautionary tale that all middle schoolers should read in advance of being tossed into the cauldron of high school. It is a book that has saved lives, and wrong-minded administrators who have tried to censor or ban it--and there have been plenty of them over the years--should be brought up on educational malpractice charges.

 

Two decades after first reading SPEAK, and after traversing mountains of other books, I still consider SPEAK one of my absolute favorite YA reads.

 

I want to now get the word out about SHOUT, both to today’s young people and to twenty years’ worth of Laurie Halse Anderson fans who were as moved by Melinda Sordino’s wry observations and travails as I was.

 

For all of us old fans, there are scores of ‘Wow!” moments in SHOUT when we encounter the real people, situations, and events in Laurie Halse Anderson’s life that she incorporated into SPEAK. There’s also a good measure of Anderson’s humor here, such as a hysterically funny scene involving translation gone awry when Anderson struggles to learn the subtleties of a new language as a high school exchange student in Denmark.

 

While providing valuable nuggets about the craft of writing and her early stumblings, Anderson shares the roadmap of her path to becoming a writer. We learn how she spent time working as a reporter. Her observations of an unrepentant sexual predator, whose trial she covered, melded with her nightmares and memories as a rape victim, providing the impetus for writing SPEAK.

 

After the book was published, Anderson was named a National Book Award finalist and, in another pivotal moment, grasped by observing fellow finalist Walter Dean Myers, her solemn responsibility to her young readers.

 

Taking this lesson to heart, Anderson has stood on the front lines for the past two decades, teaching young people the principles behind what has more recently come to be the #metoo movement:

 

“collective

 

a what? of teens

a wince of teens

mutter of teens

an attitude, a grumble, a grunt

a disenchantment of teenage girls

a confusion of teen boys

 

when I talk about Speak to a class

or an auditorium full of teenagers

there’s always that guy

in the back row wearing a jersey

soccer or lacrosse or football

he’s a good boy, he asks

the first real question --

 

‘Why was Melinda so upset?

I mean, it wasn’t a bad guy with a gun

who dragged her down an alley;

she liked the guy, danced with him,

she kissed him,

so what’s the big deal?’

 

a kiss of boyfriends

a dance of rapists

 

what’s the big deal?

asked at every kind of school

all over the country

curious boys honestly inquiring

their friends squirming

 

a quest of knights errant

a smirk of dudes

 

the question is born out of true confusion

no one ever told him the rules of intimacy

or the law, his dad only talks about condoms

with a ‘don’t get her pregnant’ warning

his mom says ‘talk to your father’

so he watches a lot of porn

to get off

to be schooled

porn says her body is territory

begging to be conquered

no conversation required

you take what you want

 

an occupation of men

 

those boys taught me

to talk about consent

get real about consequences

respect the room enough

to tell the truth

cuz, lordy lord, they need it

 

other boys pull me aside for a private

conversation, they say one of their friends,

a girl who was raped

is depressed and cutting and getting high

to forget what happened, they want to help

make it better, they want to kill the guy who did it

they’re trying to be righteous, honorable

but they’re not sure how

 

a vengeance of puppies

 

some boys talk about being abused by men

of becoming a locker room target

of never using the bathroom in school

not even once in four years

cuz that’s a dangerous place

if you’re not an alpha running with the right pack

 

a few become bullies

tired of being teased, beat on,

made to feel small, left out in the cold

they attack the quiet boys

the isolated, who walk in the shadows

some of the bullies are homebred monsters

built by Frankendads, limb by limb

filled with regret and juiced by shame

 

a retribution of scars

 

my husband did the math, calculated

I’ve spoken to more than a million teens

since Speak came out, those kids

taught me everything, those girls

showed me a path through the woods

 

those boys led me

to write Twisted,

my song of admiration

to young men paying the price

for their fathers’ failures

 

the collective noun I’m seeking is ‘curiosity’

we have a curiosity of boys

waiting on the truth

and when their questions

go unanswered

the suffering begins for

 

an anguish of victims”

 

Laurie Halse Anderson concludes SHOUT with nods to some of her other works and characters, as she shares bittersweet experiences of her parents’ final days. I love how the book begins and concludes with the two people who brought her into the world.

 

As noted in a recent New York Times article, Laurie Halse Anderson was a true pioneer in writing for and talking with young people about sexual abuse and consent. SHOUT left me breathless and teary-eyed.  As the brother to a sister, the father to a daughter and, now, the grandfather to a granddaughter, I urge you to read and widely share SHOUT.

 

Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Pickshttp://richiespicks.pbworks.com

https://www.facebook.com/richiespicks/

richiepartington@gmail.com

 

 

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