Some controversy over Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book Jumpstart the World was brought to my attention by Danielle from There’s a Book. From the information that I have read online, I’m not even sure I can understand fully what’s going on between Catherine Ryan Hyde and her sister nor do I feel that I can pass judgment as to whom is more justified in the argument. What I can do is remark on my thoughts about the book from the perspective of a teacher and a reader and about writing in general.
First of all, having recently read the book, I can say I thought it was such a well-written book. Hyde does a good job of capturing the main character’s spirit. Personally, I don’t feel like it’s easy to portray a teenager who comes across as being so real. It’s amazing how this book can address topics I myself have never experienced before but at the same time explore feelings that I would venture to say every teenager has had to cope with: identity, independence, parents, friends, love. Through these topics, Hyde is able to address the topic of people who are transgender.
To be completely honest, to my knowledge, I have never met someone who is transgender. My knowledge of transgender comes from an episode of Oprah, seriously. I do believe it is a topic that deserves more attention, simply from the perspective of a person living in a world that I hope is one that recognizes different people and accepts them. By having a transgender character in her book, Hyde is making her reader’s more aware of people who are transgender. I believe this awareness can lead to learning more and knowing more can lead to understanding and acceptance. I applaud her for incorporating a character who is transgender into her book while still making the book so real and accessible to readers.
On the idea of writing, it seems that the issue between the author and her sister is that the sister feels that this book isn’t Hyde’s story to tell. I’m not sure how much of the character named Frank does portray Hyde’s sister nor do I know how much of the story parallels her life but I do feel that any writer has the freedom to write about what he or she wants to write about. I’ve heard various authors say that it’s a good idea as an author to write about what you know. It makes sense that if you are going to write about a topic, then you should have a good grasp of that topic. Having said that, I’ve also heard authors talk about the amount of research that went into writing a book. For example, Sharon Draper explained that it took her ten years to research and prepare for her to write Copper Sun. People who write historical fiction especially need to know enough about the time period or the person whom they are writing about if they are to write a book that is true to the time period and that represents that time period or character. Should Catherine Ryan Hyde have an understanding of individuals who are transgender in order to write a fairly accurate account? I think so. Does it mean that she has to be a transgender person in order to qualify to write a book with a character who is transgender? I don't think so. Truly this is something the author will have to address on a personal level with her family member who is upset. What's most important to me is spreading the word about this book.
I feel like I have to say, "I am a reader-teacher-book-blogger, I speak for the books!" While I do talk mainly about books, I feel like this particular book deserves to be read apart from all the discussion going on about the behind-the-scenes issues. If I had read this book without having read anything from the sites that Danielle lists on her post I would have thought it was a great book that brings awareness to people who are transgender. What I admire even more about it is that while it addresses this topic, the main character learns a lot about herself and grows a lot throughout the book. This book could easily be offered to an 8th grader or older student. If you haven't read it, I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Have you heard of this book? Have you read it? Have you read all the commentary surrounding it now? Does it change your perspective? What do you think about the book (all the controversy aside)?