#FSYALit: Authors Need Grace Too, a guest post by Jackie Lea Sommers
Part of the reason that Ally and I wanted to host and dive into the Faith and Spirituality in YA Lit Discussion was because we wanted to hear a variety of voices talking about a variety of faith experiences in their YA literature and how it related to the real life experiences of teens. When I first began working as a YA paraprofessional while attending college and majoring in youth ministry, I struggled a lot with reconciling my belief system with some of the books that I was putting into the hands of teen readers. Over time, as a I talked with and really engaged with my teen patrons, I came to understand that they were thinking about and often living lives much different then my own and the best way that I could serve them – to minister to them if you will – was to respect the different paths everyone’s life took and to provide them with the largest and most diverse collection that I could. This means not only having a variety of books on a variety of religions, and on teens who choose no religion at all, but it also means recognizing that there is more than one way to be a Christian. It also means recognizing that many Christians, especially teens who are in the midst of very real self discovery, struggle in very real ways with what that means. YA literature allows our teens to struggle intellectually with questions that we all ask but in a safe environment. One of the topics that can be hard for many adult readers, especially religious parents, is that of sex. There is no shortage of essays about sex in YA literature. But at the end of the day, many teens do in fact have sex. Yes, even those of a conservative faith and upbringing that implore them not to. Today we are proud to host author Jackie Lea Sommers who writes about being an author from a Christian faith background and having sex in her books. The book being discussed today is Truest, which was released in September of 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books.
Silas Hart has seriously shaken up Westlin Beck’s small-town life. Brand new to town, Silas is different than the guys in Green Lake. He’s curious, poetic, philosophical, maddening– and really, really cute. But Silas has a sister– and she has a secret. And West has a boyfriend. And life in Green Lake is about to change forever.
Truest is a stunning, addictive debut. Romantic, fun, tender, and satisfying, it asks as many questions as it answers.
Authors Need Grace Too . . .
It was a Friday night not long after my first novel TRUEST had been released when my dear friend said to me, “Why all the cursing and the sex scene though? I don’t think I’d ever let my girls read that!”
I suppose it’s a fair question. I, the author, am verbal about and unashamed of my Christian faith—plus, the characters in TRUEST are also learning to navigate those same waters. My friend rightfully wanted to know why I would include questionable material in a novel written by a person of faith and about teens exploring faith.
My answer is simple: because that’s what real life is like. Real life is this beautiful, devastating mix of holy and profane, of miracles and joy and sadness and desire and grace, of choices and outcomes. Real life is gritty and raw. And I love that about real life. So, of course, I wanted my book to reflect that.
Will it be offensive to some Christians? Yes. It that okay too? Yes. Does it sometimes hurt? Well, yes.
That Friday was hard, I admit—it was the first time a friend had really called into question my choices regarding my novel. But the following day, I ran into another friend, who said to me, “I loved your book. I can’t wait for my daughter to read it—or for the discussion that we’ll have afterward.” It was exactly what I needed to hear that weekend.
I wrote TRUEST with God as my co-author, and he had all the best ideas. I love the way that TRUEST turned out—an authentic look at teenage faith with characters I’d be proud to have as friends. They don’t always make all the “safe” choices that their parents might make for them, but that’s part of their growth too.
What is an exploration of faith if not a lesson in grace? In my life, they are one and the same.
Jackie Lea Sommers lives and loves and writes in Minnesota, the home Duck Duck Gray Duck and passive-aggressiveness. She’s the 2013 winner of the Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult Writing. TRUEST is her first novel. She writes about faith, creativity, and OCD at www.jackieleasommers.com.
Filed under: #FSYALit
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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