more on books

Pause. Okay it’s summer AND I’ve been deep into working on an article for School Library Journal about the representation of sexual abuse survivors in fiction for teens.

It’s something I’ve been watching for decades now, how survivors are depicted in film, on the news, and in literature. In the article, I won’t be getting into the history of it. My editor at SLJ has given me 1,700 words–not a conjunction more–to state my case so I am focusing on how to evaluate new books.

But historically, it is interesting. I’ve seen waves of stereotypes: Pitiful Victims, Damaged Goods, and of course the psychological Monsters of murder mysteries and legal defense strategy (Kate Atkins’ Case Histories is a recent example–a child is murdered by–tada!–the kid who was being sexually abused!)

But I am also seeing something totally cool happening which is that, in young adult fiction at least, competent, active survivors are also being portrayed.

Gigi Boudokian in Chris Lynch’s Inexcusable is one. Even though the story is told through her rapist’s eyes, Gigi is so firm in her truth that when she says, “You raped me,” we believe her not the narrator. In The Place Where the Losers Go by Beth Goobie the two main characters are dealing with dissociation and PTSD, yet they are able to help each other figure out their lives. They are heroes, not victims.

And there’s a new book coming out in January, Such a Pretty Girl, by Laura Wiess, with a very strong survivor at its core.

The article is slated for October publication. As soon as it comes out I’ll post a link here.


I’ve learned to live with blog spam. Comment function is turned on again. As always, there’s a delay before your comment goes up. That’s when I okay your words and delete the ads for Xanax and low rate mortgages.

By |2017-06-13T20:45:39+00:00August 28th, 2006|books, writing|3 Comments

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  1. Dj August 29, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    I just stumbled upon your site today. I have to say I’ve never heard of you or read any of your books (sorry). But I did find it interesting that someone is addressing the stereotypes of “abuse survivors” in media. Bravo! I recently read, as I am sure has most of America, about the girl that was abducted at 10 years old at recently escaped from her captor. I believe she is now 18 years old. The story is….chilling, almost surreal, but what I find particuarly interesting is the media focus on “sexual contact” et al. I would be interested, if you have time, to hear your perspectives on how this young girl might be best served as a survivor and how the media could approach reporting on this situation without targeting the “sexual” angle.

  2. Carolyn Lehman August 29, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    Her story has certainly interested me, and I’d assume a lot of other survivors, too.

    I think that her request to be left alone to figure her life out is reasonable and just. And–though it may seem strange to others–I can understand her not wanting to be folded back into the family she had when she was eight, not until she can figure out the world today and who she is in it. I hope there is a safe place for her to come slowly into herself. And to go through some of the physical growth that was denied her, too.

    If people can leave her alone and give her space, she may someday have an important story to tell. One only has to remember Steven Stayner to see how badly things can go for a child hostage trying to return to “normal” life.

    Catherine Atkins’ novel When Jeff Came Home explores a year (I think) in the life of a boy returned after a four year abduction by a pedophile. The length of the book passes before he is ready to begin to confide in his loving father.

    There’s another thought provoking book, Raised in Captivity, which explores the powerlessness of children in families. I can’t help but seeing the parallels between this girl’s ordeal and the most abusive of households. I’m so glad she was able to walk away.

  3. Carolyn Lehman August 29, 2006 at 3:18 pm

    You might be interested in a thoughtful article about Natascha’s statement at:

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