When I set out to write Stone Girl I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to say and definitely didn’t know how I would say it. I opened a blank page and started writing. All I knew was that my version of this story was demanding I tell it and it would be about the experiences of kids in care and how they were tough and strong and capable, not despite but, because of their experiences.
When you are forced to face the world without the support system of family and a stable home you transform in ways others might find difficult to understand. You are both more sensitive and more resistant. It’s a difficult thing to explain. Kids in care find their own way through and it makes them into a very different person than they might have been if they grew up in a sheltered environment. I don’t speak for everyone. I can only express my opinion.
I recently read that only one percent of kids who grow up without parents go to university – this is a vastly lower percentage than the rest of society. However out of home care kids who make it to higher learning tend to be very high achievers with terrific outcomes. I might have had no education when I left the homes but I was so grateful when I struggled my way and got a place at university that I ended up graduating in the top ten percent. I took nothing for granted. I still don’t.
The point of this is not to gloat about my achievement, though I am proud I was able to do this. My point here is that there are so many kids who leave care without an education or life skills. It’s the nature of that word. It’s transient, troubling and an unsafe environment and for many education is not the main focus, survival is.
What has any of this to do with feminism in YA books?
Readings Books added Stone Girl to its list of feminist YA books this week and I was beyond thrilled. Sophie is strong. She fights back. She experiences some very shitty things but she saves herself. Fails and tries again. That’s what kids in care do, they try really hard and even those who can’t find a way out, they keep trying. All they need is support to keep them from a life of homelessness and mental health issues. Feminism isn’t just about victory and being smart and effortlessly admirable. It’s about raising your face, lifting your chest and refusing to be defined by someone else’s judgement.
Here’s a link to the Readings Book Teen picks for Feminist YA: https://www.readings.com.au/collection/teen-picks-for-feminist-ya