Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Anne E. Johnson: Kidlit and Self-Respect

Resilience: Stories, Poems, Essays, Words for LGBT TeensThis week marks the launch of a new YA anthology, called Resilience. Its purpose is use stories, poems, and essays to encourage LGBT teens to respect themselves, to help them overcome bullying and discrimination, and to be proud of their own identity. We authors, and the editor, Eric Nguyen, volunteered our time so that all proceeds could be donated to the Make It Safer Project.

You can purchase Resilience here.

The release of this anthology, and the sadly constant necessity to bolster self-confidence and self-respect in kids (not just LGBT kids), has made me think a lot about the role literature can play. There are many wonderful, moving examples of kids’ books where characters learn their own strength, and come to love how special they are.

Particularly poignant are stories about kids with troubled home lives, who overcome daily struggles to find happiness. I think the most powerful examples are those flooded the with humor and joy, making the character’s pain bittersweet rather than depressing. Linda Urban’s A Crooked Kind of Perfect and Leslie Connor’s Waiting for Normal are two tremendous examples of this approach.

And then there is the cartoonish, or fantastical, or metaphorical lesson in self-esteem. A classic is George Selden’s A Cricket in Times Square. Lost little cricket, tiny and alone at the Crossroads of the World, manages to make friends and even be a hero. Or how about Jeff Brown and Macky Pamintuan’s Flat Stanley series? Stanley gets flattened to half an inch thick. Does he give up? No! He saves the day in his special, flat way.

Some of the most affecting lessons in self-love come in the form of picture books. An extraordinary recent example of this is Claudine Gueh Yanting’s beautiful My Clearest Me, which is shows a very shy child taking flight and freeing himself through poetic imagery and richly colored paintings. And then there’s Shel Silverstein, who contributed so many illustrated poems on the topic of finding strength in what the world perceives to be our weaknesses.

I’m sure that one of the major reasons many of us write for kids is to have an impact on their lives. The impact can be huge, and it can be very positive, and need not be preachy. It can even be fun! Stories have magical potential.

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Anne E. Johnson's novels:

Middle-grade paranormal mystery, EBENEZER'S LOCKER, MuseItUp Publishing (June, 2012)

Spacepulp sci-fi, GREEN LIGHT DELIVERY, Candlemark & Gleam (June, 2012)

Middle-grade historical, TROUBLE AT THE SCRIPTORIUM, Royal Fireworks Press (July, 2012)


  1. In memory of Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Justin Aarberg, and a number of other young people whose lives have been cut short as a result of homophobic bullying, Resilience: Stories, Poems, Essays, Words for LGBT Teens is released with the intention of conveying pride to those who are in the process of claiming and revealing their identity. It is my hope that my contribution to this collection, Where the Children Play, helps fulfill this intention.

  2. I appreciate this. I am going to buy this anthology. It's nice to know there are people in this world who are working to brin these issues to attention. Just yesterday I read another story of a boy who took his own life in response to bullying. It's such a sad thing :(

  3. Thanks so much for your comments, Emma and magicmint. Valuing our true selves is one of the most important accomplishments in life.

  4. Thanks so much for mentioning My Clearest Me. Self esteem and Self respect are issues that require a lot more attention in classrooms. Literature can empower children to believe that they are strong enough to stand up for themselves, to help them explore and understand kids from different backgrounds, and to reaffirm their kind authenticity. I can't wait to check out the other books mentioned here!

  5. Excellent post, Anne - it's great to highlight literature for young people like this.

  6. This sounds like a great and much needed anthology. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Lovely comments, everyone. Thank you for stopping by to show your support. From the titles alone, this anthology sounds like a wonderfully creative collection, one that trimphantly provides the "magical potential" Anne mentions. Congrats to her, and to Emma, Claudine, and all the authors who contributed to Resilience.

  8. Pat, it's been an honor to join you on this plain of shining books.

    Thanks to all who stop by, whether you leave a comment or not. I know you're out there, and I appreciate it!