Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Interview with Jenny Meyerhoff

Jenny Meyerhoff
I'm excited to share my interview with Jenny Meyerhoff, author of Queen of Secrets with you. I really enjoyed this book...a YA novel that is loosely based on the book of Esther. I'll have my review for you tomorrow, but you might be able to tell some of the reasons I liked it through this interview!

Religious identity is a fairly major theme in Queen of Secrets. Why do you think high school can be such a tough place for a teen who holds strong religious convictions?

Hmm…this is an interesting question. First of all, I think high school can be a tough place for anyone who holds convictions about anything that are far outside the norm of his or her high school group. Religion is just one of those things, and if, like Micah, adhering to those belief requires you to wear something that makes it obvious to anyone looking at you that you have different beliefs than they do it can be much harder. I’m sure that there are lots of students who simply keep their beliefs to themselves. That said, clearly not everyone at Pershing had the reaction to Micah that Harrison did. And Harrison’s reaction was about so much more than just Micah’s religion. In the end though, religion became an easy thing for him to latch onto and to target.

I’ll also add, that in high school, we don’t get to pick, for the most part, the people in our world. Sure we can choose from among those attending the same school as us, but it’s not the same as when we are adults and have a lot more freedom to search out others who share our beliefs, passions, hobbies, etc. When you can tailor your group of friends and acquaintences to your own preferences, it becomes a lot easier to live in a world where your choices aren’t met with fear and skepticism.

Did you set out to tell a story based on Esther or did you realize later that your story was similar and tweak it?

I absolutely set out to write a story based on the Book of Esther. The whole thing came to me one day when I was thinking about the biblical story and realized that though we talk about Esther as a woman, in reality she was probably in her teens. I started wondering what it would be like if she was a teen today and the book came from there. Most of the tweaking I had to do involved moving away from the biblical story to create a story that could also stand on its own.

So who's your football team? :)

For college football I love University of Michigan. Go Blue! For NFL, I’m a Lions fan even though I now live in Bears territory.

I read on your website that you read four books a week! What's the last great book you read?

I really loved The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. That book just made me feel so intensely, which is one of the things I think great art should do.

Queen of Secrets

I really appreciated the exploration of a sort of religious persecution (intolerance) in this book. Why do you think people are so intolerant of devout people like Micah?

It’s hard to get inside the minds of others, but I know that whenever I start feeling threated or condescending or angry with a person really different from myself (which, though I wish it wouldn’t, does happen) I know now it’s because something about their life is provoking me to examine something in my own life that I didn’t want to examine. It’s much more comfortable for me to feel that all the choices I’ve made about who to be and what to do with myself and my family are the “right” ones. But when I meet someone doing it totally differently and their life also feels “right” then I have to call into question all the choices I made.

Ultimately, the place to get to is an acceptance that there is more than one path, and we can all live in harmony amongst our differences, right? But this is so much harder than it sounds. If every choice is equally valid then our choices are infinite, which can be overwhelming, and if you are like me, paralyzing. So having a very narrow path to follow makes an individual’s life much easier, but makes accepting others much harder.

Whew! That got lofty, didn’t it?

I read on your website you’re a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Angel or Spike?
Spike! 1000% Spike.

Well Jenny has forever endeared herself to me with that answer! Come back tomorrow for my review of this book.

(photo credit of Jenny Mindy Garfinkle)


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