After years of reading the works of dead people (both literally and figuratively—Barthes’ “The Death of the Author,” anyone?), I finally made the incredible discovery that a living author who is accessible to readers can contribute an amazing new dimension to the dialogue about a story, offering a layered experience of reading and understanding. When I was coordinating a research project on the works of Chris Crutcher last semester, I was thrilled to correspond with him about his work as a therapist and an author and to get his take on recent incidents of “bullycide.”
Next week—January 24-28, 2011—is No Name Calling Week and because Chris Crutcher’s books usually deal with themes of bullying and harassment, I am going to post summaries of some of his books over the next several weeks.
Some info about the author:
Crutcher has been writing for young adults for three decades and is therefore a fixture in the genre of the young adult problem novel. His writing is witty and sarcastic and particularly appealing to the reluctant adolescent male reader. He incorporates sports into every one of his stories, delving deeply into the mind of the athlete, and within the entire body of his work, Crutcher features every major high school sport.
Crutcher’s books are frequently challenged or banned primarily for their religious perspective, homosexual content, sexual content, offensive language, or suicide. Crutcher calls these “human things” and he continually expresses his concern about the ways in which these human things are avoided in conversations with young people. He writes these elements into his books for the purposes of opening up dialogue. He believes that talking about stories, talking about a character’s issues is a great way to start conversations with young people.
This video in which Crutcher talks about censorship reveals why he is such an articulate advocate for the the freedom to read.
What is truly awesome about Crutcher is the way that he personally gets involved when his books are challenged. He writes letters, works with teachers, and even makes personal appearances. On his own website, Crutcher provides information about challenges to his books as well as his responses.
This article discusses the most recent challenge concerning Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes. I’ll put that title up first. In the meantime, check out this short booklist for other titles that deal with bullying.