A letter to A. S. King
This morning I went for a walk. Headphones in my ears, arms pumping, and there stood one lone yellow flower in a field of green grass. Technically probably a weed. But I looked at it and slowed . . . marveled for a moment. In the midst of all those green blades of grass sat this burst of yellow sunshine, staking its claim.
On Friday I read Ask the Passengers. All day long I sat around and read, turning the pages furiously. I thought of all the teens that I have worked with over the years, how hard they fought to be able to love themselves – for their friends to love them. For their parents to love them. For me, for us – the adults in their lives – to love them. Unconditionally.
I remember being a teen. It sucked with a raw sewage suckage that makes us all gag and cough and squirm and hide the truth of us in our hearts because we just want someone – anyone – to tell us that we are special. That it is okay to be truly ourselves. That’s all most of us want, to find a way to be at peace with ourselves. To find a way to be a bold yellow flower that stands out in a field of green.
To be honest with you, I went to a conservative Christian college and have an undergraduate degree in youth ministry. I am still trying to work out my thoughts and feelings about some of the issues you present in Ask the Passengers. Even as an adult, I am still a work in progress. Still learning to love with abandon, still learning to accept others, still learning to be a positive force in this little home to 7 billion people we call the Universe.
But . . . I found Ask the Passengers to be truly amazing. It touched me and made me think, really think, about these games we play in life. This is a book I will read again and again and like Pandemonium, which some people may have heard I love, it makes you think and ponder and reflect – and then you have to make choices. Who are you going to choose to be? How are you going to choose to live in this world? I hope that like Astrid, we all choose to truly accept ourselves so that we can be in the position to live in the world with love. i think that we can’t really love others until we can be at peace with ourselves. That is why the good Lord says that we must “love others as you love yourself” . . . it’s hard to love when the core of you is full of self loathing.
You really hit the nail on the head of truth in your book: “Everybody’s always looking for the person they’re better than.” Or how about: “What matters is finding the truth of our own lives, not caring about what other people think is the truth of us.” I loved the way you incorporated Socrates into this work and discussed the shadow self; sadly, many of us – many teens – are living in the world of shadows. I hope that they read Ask the Passengers and choose to step into the truth of self.
So, anyhow, until the next book – I send my love to you and out into the universe.
Ask the Passengers by A. S. King comes out in October of 2012 and is published by Little Brown. I think that everyone who works with teens and is a teen should read this book, even though many people will struggle with some of the issues presented. This is a thoughtful contemporary piece and a great addition to the GLBTQ bookshelf, although it is so much more than that and I hope that everyone will read it. I have not yet read Everybody Sees the Ants – I know, I know – but Stephanie assures me that it is one of the best bullying books out there and everyone should read it, too. And, of course, just Friday author Jenny Torres Sanchez told us all that we should read Please Ignore Vera Dietz. So what are you doing sitting here? Get reading!
It has been almost a month now since I read Ask the Passengers. In the days following I took my tween for a walk and showed her a little yellow flower in the midst of a field of green grass and we talked about what it meant to be comfortable being yourself; how it was important that she allow herself to be the yellow flower and be at peace with it no matter what the green grass told her she should do or be or think or feel. She seemed to really get it. Every day when I take my walk I snap pictures on my cell phone and think of this book. I was going to Tweet all the pics to A. S. King, but that is more annoying than even I am comfortable being (she probably thanks me for that). I am re-reading Ask the Passengers though to find an amazing quote to put on one of my pictures though to print off and frame for my tweens room. As she begins her journey into the tween and teen years, and we all know how difficult that journey can be, I want her to be inspired by Astrid’s journey and come to a place where she can say “I’m f@*king gay”, or whatever it is she needs to say for herself. And whoever it turns out she is, I want this world to be a safe place for her. I want this world to be a safe place for all my teens, who in many ways all become my children. In case you were wondering, I am still loving this book. There is deep, important truth in the pages. Remember to share the love.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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