Sexual Violence in YA Lit: Chat #2

Sexual Violence in YA Lit: Chat #2

Figure 1. Charm & Strange (Kuehn), Canary (Alpine) and The Gospel of Winter (Kiely)

Figure 1. Charm & Strange (Kuehn), Canary (Alpine) and The Gospel of Winter (Kiely)

Here’s the link for our second #SVYALit chat with authors Rachele Alpine, Brendan Kiely and Stephanie Kuehn!

Rachele Alpine is the author of Canary, which beings with Kate going to a new school where basketball is untouchable and the athletes are protected and entitled, on and off the court.

Brendan Kiely is the author of The Gospel of Winter, a story about a boy named Aidan trying to understand himself as a victim and survivor of sexual abuse by his priest.

Stephanie Kuehn is the author of the 2014 Morris Award winning Charm & Strange,  where a boy named Win believes he is actually a monster as a way of coping with past traumas.

All three books deal with speaking about the unspeakable, the nature of victimhood and claiming it as an identity, the role of emotional manipulation and isolation, the scope of betrayal caused by sexual assault and abuse, the impact of secondary traumatization on victims who speak up and the notion of hero or institution worship, whether that be the school athletics, the Catholic Church, or the concept of the modern nuclear family.

All three books are beautifully written, complex, painful, and full of mesmerizing honesty. They are great contributions to the field of YA lit in this respect and I recommend all of them to anyone interested in the topics of sexual violence and sexual abuse.

Figure 2. The Sexual Violence in YA Literature project #SVYALit

Figure 2. The Sexual Violence in YA Literature project #SVYALit


A few quotes:

“I don’t think liking Win has anything to do with the story.” – Stephanie Kuehn

“Part of the reason why my book is written as a mix of poetry and straight narrative is because intimate moment or moments of really hard times for Kate – I didn’t feel that writing it in the narrative form was really true to her voice.” – Rachele Alpine

“I knew I wanted to do a story that honored in my mind the real courage, the whistle blowers of that community, who spoke up and bore the responsibility of that on their shoulders. Which was young people, originally.” – Brendan Kiely

“There are games, pep rallies, there’s walking around with the athletes’ jerseys on. It doesn’t necessarily mean to be a bad thing. But it’s the athletes that are celebrated and exalted, that assemblies are called for. Leaving a victim as, ‘me against everyone else.'” – Rachele Alpine

“Many people put so much into an institution, that when an institution gets attacked, they feel like on some level that they are being attacked, too.” – Brendan Kiely

“The idea that within this family that there isn’t any safe place to speak up…and the idea that it’s your father, somebody that you’re related to, it’s part you; there’s something really awful about that, that the one person who made you is the one victimizing you, and so what’s wrong with you.” – Stephanie Kuehn

“When you do find the courage to speak out, it might not be the first, or even the second person, who will listen to you.” – Rachele Alpine

“Many of the priests who were abusing children were in fact abused themselves; there’s a perpetuation of this cycle. What may be odd or not odd about this, is that in some cases, some of them experienced this abuse while in the seminary.” – Brenda Kiely

“There’s a lot of pressure to not be vulnerable around adults, for lots and lots of reasons.” – Stephanie Kuehn

“It’s important that she gets to the point that she recognizes that these aren’t her friends and manages to separate herself from them; for her that’s part of the growing process.” – Rachele Alpine

“When a relationship’s violence is tied to sex, then it’s like you’re either a victim or a victimizer and there’s not any room for people to be equal. If you don’t want to be seen as a victim, then you need to be the victimizer. You need to be the one with power.” – Stephanie Kuehn

“If we’re going to do our best to honor the life experience of victims of sexual abuse, it seems to do them an injustice to paint them into this rosier picture as opposed to allowing them their full humanity.”    Brendan Kiely

“While it is consent, and she does agree to it, for her, it’s another thing she has to do to stay with Jack.” – Rachele Alpine

“For any kid who’s victimized, we should care about them, whether they’re the nicest cutest little kid or the worst screaming little brat. It’s up to us as adults to care about them, be compassionate, and protect them at all costs. And when we don’t, it says a lot more about us than it says about the child.” – Stephanie Kuehn

“If we rely on cardboard versions of people, it’s like we have no faith in people. By reading and devouring these stories with people with flaws, people who are flawed who are still trying to do the right thing, to me, that’s a reflection on the human spirit. That’s a great story to celebrate. It’s celebrating how we emerge from the muck.”  – Brendan Kiely

Links to two other books mentioned:

Inexcusable by Chris Lynch
Salvage The Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Another recap at Teen Librarian’s Toolbox, courtesy of Karen Jensen.

It was a great conversation – thanks to Karen Jensen of Teen Librarian’s Toolbox for organizing and hosting, and Rachele, Brendan and Steph for participating.


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