How Madeleine L'Engle Inspires YA Author E.K. Johnston To Keep Fighting Back
In the months since Donald Trump has become president, more and more people have become inspired to join the Resistance — whether that means volunteering, campaigning, donating, making calls, educating themselves and others on the issues, or otherwise. Bustle's 31 Days of Reading Resistance takes a look at the role of literature and writing in the Resistance, both as a source of inspiration and as a tool for action.
Author E.K. Johnston knows that YA literature has the power to change hearts and minds; that's why her four selections for Bustle's 31 Days of Reading Resistance are all young adult novels. As many educators, authors, and librarians already know, books for kids can be catalysts for action and resistance.
In her 2015 novel, Exit, Pursued by a Bear, E.K. Johnston unpacked high school rape culture through the story of Hermione, a cheerleader who becomes pregnant as the result of a rape. In her forthcoming book, That Inevitable Victorian Thing, Johnston transports readers to a near-future world where the British Empire never fell to the colonies and the United States was never born. The novel, told through the eyes of crown princess Victoria-Margaret, a descendent of Queen Victoria, may not sound like your typical resistance read, but it is a novel that preaches the power of small acts and their ability to change mindsets and the world.
That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K Johnston
So what does E.K. Johnston needs when she needs motivation to keep fighting back? Here are her picks for 31 Days of Reading Resistance:
Johnston says: "I think this might be the first book I ever where so many people actively chose the good, hard way. Yes, they are influenced by magic and time travel, but they are more influenced by love and by their desire to build a better world. It’s heavily idealized, but I don’t think that makes the driving concepts any less relevant: choose to make the world better, always, and you will help to make a better world."
Johnston says: "I’m not talking about Elian’s loud, unplanned, impetuous resistance, though I think that’s more the kind we’re used to. I love the way Greta chooses to resist, to take the system she’s grown up with, the system that’s made her, and bend it in the direction that she wants. This takes sacrifice on her part—a lot of it—but she does it because that’s her job, and she’s going to do her best at it, even if it kills her."
Johnston says: "What I love about this book is that Moriarty doesn’t cut her characters—and, by extension, her readers—any slack. She shows us how hard it is to change the world, how complicated and nuanced and difficult it’s going to be. She shows us that people of different backgrounds are going to have trouble relating, even when they’re all on the same side. She shows us that you’ll have to go outside the law, the government, your family, to get the job done…and then she shows us how to do the job."
Johnston says: "In a nutshell, these books are: how to deal with a government, how NOT to overthrow a government, and how to change a government for the better, only with magic, accounting, friendship, common sense, and alligator wrestling. Hale’s books are messy and complex, much like the world we live in, and seeing her clever girls learn to trust themselves and each other is something I never get tired of."
Follow along all month long for more Reading Resistance book recommendations.