I Wrote a Book About the Pandemic. I’m Scared No One Will Want to Read It, a guest post by Sara Saedi
Early on into the pandemic, I started to experience a bit of an identity crisis. I’m sure a lot of women did. I was sheltering at home, in Los Angeles, with my husband and my toddler boys (aged 3 and 1 at the time), my job as a TV writer on The CW show, Katy Keene, was put on hold indefinitely (the series would later get cancelled, in great part due to Covid), and I was living in a constant state of anxiety that I was, well, going to get sick and die. I equate the emotions to the days, weeks, and months following 9/11.
“What is even the point?” A voice in my head kept asking.
It didn’t help that all my writer friends (sans kids) were thrilled that quarantine allowed them uninterrupted time to work on their books and screenplays and TV pilots. The only thing I had time to work on was banana bread. My situation wasn’t unique. It wasn’t even dire compared to so many, but it became clear to me that in order to be a somewhat sane mother to my children, I needed a creative outlet. If I was going to survive lockdown, I couldn’t let go of my identity as a writer. Even if that meant giving my kids unlimited screen time.
A month later, I’d written the book proposal for my latest novel, I Miss You, I Hate This. The story follows two teenaged girls and best friends, dealing with a fictional global pandemic during their senior year of high school. One that impacts their age group disproportionately. Yes, while trying to escape our own pandemic, I came up with the brilliant idea to write about one. At the time, I thought it was important to write a book that would serve as a time capsule for what teenagers were going through. I had so much empathy for high school seniors that were missing out on milestones like prom and graduation, and I wanted to write a record of their experiences. I had no idea that two and a half years later, Covid would still be a topic of conversation. And that we’d all be exhausted from living it, discussing it, reflecting on it.
Over time, when people asked me what my book was about, I would often respond with a self-deprecating: “Unfortunately, it’s about a pandemic” or “No one’s going to want to read it, because it’s about a pandemic.” I made those comments, because I was bracing myself for premature disappointment. But then, I had an aha moment from the woman who made aha moments famous: Oprah Winfrey. I read an interview she did with the LA Times in April 2022, and here’s what she had to say about the pandemic:
“I don’t recognize a country where you’ve lost nearly a million people and there hasn’t been some form of remembering that is significant… Who are we that there is no acknowledgment, profoundly, in our society that we have lost our loved ones? And at times, we’re not even able to bury our dead. Who are we that we don’t recognize the significance of that acknowledgment?”
Thanks to Ms. Winfrey, I had a perspective shift. I realized that I shouldn’t shrug off my work, because it’s about a pandemic. Maybe instead, what I did was write a book that acknowledged the pandemic. My hope is that I Miss You, I Hate This helps young people process all the loss they’ve endured the last few years. The book tackles the ups and downs of growing up, and more specifically, the mental health struggles teenagers face today— in an era where suicides rates are the second leading cause of death among 15-24 year-olds. It’s about two young girls who are trying to find themselves, sometimes at the expense of their friendship. It’s about first love, family struggles, and paralyzing fears and insecurities. It explores the notion that our fear of death is in direct proportion to our will to live.
I am proud of the book. It saved me during a time when I was unraveling. And I’m done bracing myself for premature disappointment. Instead, I just hope people read it and find some catharsis by the end. We could all use a communal exhale these days. If I can help provide one, then I did my job right.
Meet the author
Sara Saedi is the author of the memoir Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card and the Never Ever series. She is also a television writer, most recently working on the upcoming Green Lantern series for HBO Max. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons.
About I Miss You, I Hate This
Five Feet Apart meets Kate in Waiting in this timely story of two best friends navigating the complexities of friendship while their world is turned upside down by a global pandemic, from the author of Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card.
The lives of high school seniors Parisa Naficy and Gabriela Gonzales couldn’t be more different. Parisa, an earnest and privileged Iranian American, struggles to live up to her own impossible standards. Gabriela, a cynical Mexican American, has all the confidence Parisa lacks but none of the financial stability. She can’t help but envy Parisa’s posh lifestyle whenever she hears her two moms argue about money. Despite their differences, as soon as they met on the first day of freshman year, they had an “us versus the world” mentality. Whatever the future had in store for them—the pressure to get good grades, the litany of family dramas, and the heartbreak of unrequited love—they faced it together. Until a global pandemic forces everyone into lockdown. Suddenly senior year doesn’t look anything like they hoped it would. And as the whole world is tested during this time of crisis, their friendship will be, too.
With equal parts humor and heart, Parisa’s and Gabriela’s stories unfold in a mix of prose, text messages, and emails as they discover new dreams, face insecurities, and confront their greatest fears.
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 10/11/2022
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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