Laurie Halse Anderson
November 15, 2010
I haven’t had such enthusiasm for seeing an author live since I saw Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, speak at Unity Village. I had the pleasure of attending an event with the wonderful writer Laurie Halse Anderson at the Reading Reptile in Brookside on October 20th. She is the author of Wintergirls, Twisted, and the most recognizable title, Speak. She was in Kansas City doing a promotional tour for her latest book Forge, which is the sequel to Chains. She visited a local library that morning, and students from local schools came to see her. The presentation was very informal; children and teens sat on a carpeted floor, while adults sat in kid sized chairs. Ms. Anderson walked out of the backroom to a full crowd, and sat on a small step in the performance area of the bookstore while she was being introduced. Right away, I knew she was not like some of the other pretentious authors I had seen speak recently. She was extremely comfortable and relaxed during the whole talk. She exhibited such confidence in what she did, was steady in her words, and opinionated. She explained her passion for history and the importance of both understanding it and remembering it. She discussed the reasons why she wrote Chains and now Forge; both books deal with slavery in New York during the American Revolution. She expounded on a topic that is rarely talked about in our history books and is usually an uncomfortable discussion, but she handled it with ease. She told the small crowd that slavery was usually taught from the time of the Civil War thru the Reconstruction period, but history teachers fail to mention it was going on long before that time and that it took place in the Northeastern states. Ms. Anderson told the crowd that she does the research first, before sitting down to right the novel. She loves adding the different historical tidbits she finds in the books she writes.
Ms. Anderson briefly spoke about Speak, her most famous and most censored book. Speak is the story of a teenage girl who goes mute after being sexually assaulted during a party. Ms. Anderson said the story is loosely based on something that happened to her. When her youngest daughter was entering middle school, she was then inspired to write the story and give voice to her own pain. One interesting question asked of her was about her book Twisted, and the reason she wrote it. Ms. Anderson explained that she had received many letters from young boys who had read Speak for class assignments. Many of the guys have poured their hearts out to her about their worries, hopes, and thoughts. It was because of those letters that Twisted was written. Most of Ms. Anderson’s young adult books deal with heavy issues like suicide, perfection, sexual assault, and eating disorders. She handles the topics with honesty, sarcastic teen humor, and the ability to tell these stories without judgment. I highly recommend any of Laurie Halse Anderson’s books.