Paperback Cover Reveal and Interview: DIG by A. S. King
Today at Teen Librarian Toolbox we are very honored to get to share with you the new cover for the paperback release of Dig, the award winning novel by A. S. King. In January of this year A. S. King won the 2020 Printz Award for Dig, a novel that asks us to dig beneath the layers of several teens whose lives we find are intertwined in very unique ways. It was a well deserved honor for one of the best and most complex teen novels of 2019. In June of this year the paperback is being released with a new cover and a shiny gold medal sticker indicating this honor.
The Shoveler, the Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. These are the five teenagers lost in the Hemmings family’s maze of tangled secrets. Only a generation removed from being simple Pennsylvania potato farmers, Gottfried and Marla Hemmings managed to trade digging spuds for developing subdivisions and now sit atop a seven-figure bank account, wealth they’ve declined to pass on to their adult children or their teenage grand children.
“Because we want them to thrive,” Marla always says.
What does thriving look like? Like carrying a snow shovel everywhere. Like selling pot at the Arby’s drive-thru window. Like a first class ticket to Jamaica between cancer treatments. Like a flea-circus in a doublewide. Like the GPS coordinates to a mound of dirt in a New Jersey forest.
As the rot just beneath the surface of the Hemmings precious white suburban respectability begins to spread, the far flung grand children gradually find their ways back to each other, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name.
And now, the new paperback cover . . . You’ll note the shiny gold medallion for the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature from the American Library Association. Congratulations!! The cover is designed by Samira Iravani.
What a great cover! The Teen and I were very excited to not only host this cover reveal, but to have the opportunity to ask author A. S. King some questions. Our questions appear in bold and her replies follow.
Your writing is profoundly original, how do you get an idea for a book like Dig?
Oh boy. I have no idea how. The ideas are brought to me by the characters and they litter my desk and my dreams and my study table with scenes until they become a giant ten-thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle that I’m left to solve. Sometimes it takes years to figure out what I’m even writing about. With Dig, I knew I was writing about whiteness, but I had no idea how the pieces went together until the last one finally snapped into place.
I am presently in that pile-of-pieces place with my 2021 book, and it is not a fun process. But it’s mine.
Each character in Dig is so unique, how did they come to you? I know that I have seen you share somewhere, maybe on Facebook, a moment of inspiration for The Shoveler, for example. I’m curious to know what sparks creativity for you.
They all come at different times and are usually inspired by something to do with my life—even small things. I was shoveling a lot of snow when I wrote the shoveler. I worked the Arby’s drive-thru for a few years as a teen, like CanIHelpYou? Marla and Gottfried are like so many couples I see around my old home county, and the Marks brothers are lightly based on a set of brothers I knew when I was younger. And Mike the neighbor, tattoo and all, was my real neighbor once and really did loan me a shovel. Mike is the one that shows you where the inspiration comes from. I clearly am still thinking about him this many years later. I was so disappointed and angry that he was not who I thought he was.
What have teens said to you in response to reading Dig?
Teen response to this book has been incredible. Adult response has also been great. What’s uncanny about Dig, though, is that teens and adults are responding the same way. “How did you know so much about my family?” and “Oh, no. This is my family.”
How do you like this new cover for the paperback?
It was always going to be hard to beat Samira’s design for the hardcover. It was so spot-on. But now that the secret of the book is out, I am so happy the cover can be bold about what the book says. Whitewashing is the perfect visual for how we live in America. How we are taught to live, how we are educated, and how we are raised.
As usual, Samira Iravani nails it. I am so lucky.
Dig tackles a lot of big topics and asks readers to think critically about things like privilege, especially white privilege, and class and sexism. These are all important but big issue topics right now (and arguably always). Are you ever afraid to put something like this out into the world?
I was terrified. I’ve been terrified before, but Dig was the most terrifying book I ever released. I also knew that it was important to release it. If I could reach just one person and help them work out the realities of normalized racism in their family, it would be worth the fear.
Congratulations on your Printz Award! A well-deserved honor. Where were you when you found out that you were this year’s winner? And what was your reaction?
I was in my office on a Sunday afternoon, working. I freaked out. I sobbed. I screamed. I happy-cursed. The usual. I still freak out a bit when I think about it. I’m on a serious deadline and I was planning on putting off celebrating until ALA, but now that ALA is canceled for the year, I have decided to celebrate from now until next year. Problem solved.
Do you have any messages for teens during this very weird time we’re living in right now?
I don’t have a message, really, but I want them to know how much their teachers miss them. I want them to know how much their schools want them back. I want them to know that I know they miss their friends and their activities and classes. In short, I know you must get bored a lot and this is not an ideal situation. Look after your people. Check in and make sure everyone is doing okay mentally. Make sure YOU are doing okay mentally. It is okay to cry. It is okay to do really goofy things. Drink a lot of water. Exercise. Be kind to yourself. Learn to meditate if you don’t already—it will change your life. Special shout to the Class of 2020, this sucks, but you’re going to be okay. This is an anomaly. You got stuck in it. It happens sometimes. Allow it to fuel you to go live even brighter lives / to live the heck out of your lives / live like life is on fire.
But mostly, be safe, stay in, wash your hands, help do the dishes, and read books. Books make time disappear faster and make you smarter. It’s a win-win.
About A.S. King
A.S. King has been called “One of the best Y.A. writers working today” by the New York Times Book Review. King is the author of highly-acclaimed novels including her 2019 release DIG, 2016’s Still Life with Tornado, 2015’s surrealist I Crawl Through It, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, Reality Boy, the 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner Ask the Passengers, Everybody Sees the Ants, 2011 Michael L. Printz Honor Book Please Ignore Vera Dietz among others. She also writes Middle Grade fiction as Amy Sarig King.
She is a faculty member of the Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts and spends many months of the year traveling the country speaking to high school and university students, educators, and humans who care about the mental health of young people. After more than a decade living self-sufficiently and teaching literacy to adults in Ireland, she now lives in Pennsylvania.
You can find her at www.as-king.com
Pre-order your paperback copy of Dig, publishing June 30, 2020 from Penguin Random House, from your local Indie today. ISBN: 9781101994931
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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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