This Wednesday night, Oct 6 at 8pm, EST, I’ll be in conversation with Rex Ogle. He’s the author of the much-lauded YA memoir, Free Lunch, which was the YALSA 2019 Non-fiction winner. His newest memoir, Punching Bag, which explores abuse, mental illness, and family. Anderson’s Bookstore will be our host.
I don’t know Rex, so this is the first time we’ll be speaking together. I’m grateful to meet him during Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month (his mother was of Mexican descent) since mental health is so often a taboo subject in Latinx families. Seeking professional help is not the norm, or even financially feasible, typically. As a result, families under pressure continue their slow simmer with lasting, hurtful effects.
As his fans know, Rex’s work cuts close to the bone as he dives into the world of a family that is imploding. My own YA work – Burn Baby Burn and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, has explored similar terrain, except through fiction. It’s fair to say, though, that both of us have chosen writing as a way to make sense of what we actually saw as children and teens. The difference has been the vehicle.
Here’s what’s the same, though. When you write a book about painful family life through the eyes of teens, you’re virtually guaranteed some pushback. Adults have a strong distaste for these tales, although we all know that adults often fail young people in big ways and small. What follows is an urge to shame these works or to mark them as relevant only to very troubled people. ‘Sure, these things happen in those families, but not in good families like ours’. Or else, ‘All families have troubles. Why dwell on that? Why glamorize suffering?’
I’m curious to see what Rex has to say about writing memoir, about how he turned pain into a creative life at Marvel and DC Comics, as a children’s book editor, and now as an author. I’m curious to hear his thoughts on how these stories land on kids, in his experience. And, because sad things often press all kinds of buttons, I am also anticipating plenty of funny moments together.
Hope you can be there! Register now.