The #SVYALit Project Hangout: It’s the End of the World as We Know It with Ilsa J. Bick, Elizabeth Fama and Mindy McGinnis
Today as part of The #SVYALit Project we chatted with authors Elizabeth Fama (Monstrous Beauty, Plus One), Ilsa J. Bick (Ashes trilogy) and Mindy McGinnis (Not a Drop to Drink, In a Handful of Dust) about sexual violence in dystopian and post apocalyptic YA literature.
Some of the highlights of the conversation include:
Question 1: Do you think there are different challenges (easier/harder) in dealing with the issue of sexual violence or cultural misogyny in PA literature as opposed to contemporary.
Mindy McGinnis talked at length about some of the challenges she has had to NaDtD where men organize as a group and force women to barter sex for the goods they need to survive. But Elizabeth Fama reminds us that although this doesn’t necessarily happen in present day America, it does happen in other cultures around the world so it isn’t a far fetched idea of what happens when society breaks down so much as a reflection of what not only can but is happening.
Ilsa J. Bick spends time reminding us all that sexual violence is really about violence and power, it is a way for a person to assert their dominance over another person.
There was some very involved conversation about gender roles/norms and their part in sexual violence. This discussion also led to a discussion of whether or not our societal laws were the only things preventing many people from various forms of sexual violence. Mindy McGinnis talked about the need for their to be greater respect, particularly in terms of gender equality, to help curb the amount of sexual violence against women. The research tends to verify this need.
However, as Ilsa reminds us, woman can be and often are sexual offenders and men can be and often are the victims of sexual crimes.
Question 2: Elizabeth Fama asks if writers use sexual violence in a post apocalyptic world as short hand for this world is evil.
Elizabeth talks about the idea that sexual violence is a spectrum and how every woman she knows has received some type of unwanted sexual contact. She tells the story of how her first experience occurred at the age of 10 when a man pinched her on the posterior. She states that she thinks that when you consider the whole spectrum of sexual violence, the statistics are probably much higher than we currently believe. Again, the research tends to bear witness to this as well.
Question 3: We were asked to consider what we can learn about sexual violence from the point of view of the victim/survivor.
Mindy McGinnis spoke at length about one of the characters in her book who was already gang raped once and chooses to take her own life as opposed to be taken hostage by a group of men whom she knows will rape her again.
Ilsa J. Bick then takes a moment to remind us all that there is no one way – and no right way – for the victim of any type of violence to process what happens to them. This is something YA literature can do, remind us all that not everyone handles their trauma the same.
Throughout the conversation it was emphasized repeatedly that anyone can be the victim of sexual violence; sexual violence happens to people of every gender, every sexual orientation, every age, and whether or not the fit conventional standards of what is consider “attractive” by their current culture.
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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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