THE OBSERVER | WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 14, 2013
Mirroring real life in art: sex abuse & gangs
By Ryan Sloan Observer Correspondent At 25, she’s already written two fiction books. And while neither has yet been published — we’re certainly hoping they are soon — Lane Legend has tackled two topics that have gotten a lot of attention in the news media over the last few years: the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University and gang violence. In her books, Legend has borrowed from the reality of the two and developed two pieces that, in many ways, mirror reality but that are, indeed, fiction. And she does so quite well. The first book she wrote, “Ol’ State and Sensation,” is about a boy who goes to a state university — and who is molested by a coach just as it was to have happened at Penn State. (Of course, in the book, the university isn’t called Penn State). But there’s an added twist to the fate of the victim in the book. And it’s one that while we’re not sure if it’s happened to any of the victims in reality, it’s one that often does happens to victims of sexual abuse, Legend says.
“The main character’s name is Cory Calhoun,” she says. “And in the book, we see him in adulthood. There’s a cycle. The statistics say 70% of kids who are abused as kids go on to be abusers themselves in adulthood.” When we asked her why she was driven to write a book such as this — aside from the obvious … she’s also a Penn State alumna — Legend says she studied sociology at University Park. “And I’ve always been interested in how the mind
operates,” she says. “I’ve been interested in under-culture. Plus this was a very hot topic for a long time.” She says a lot of what she wrote about in the book and a lot of her general interest came to the surface recently with the Ohio case where Ariel Castro had, in his home, at least three kidnapped girls who became adults while in his captivity for a decade or more. Her other book, “The Boy of Black Wonder,” while also fiction, touches on yet another concept that’s constantly in the
news — gang violence. “It’s the story of a young guy, in 1980 in Spanish Harlem, who is involved in gang culture — it’s a play off the Latin Kings. He’s narcoleptic. He wakes up at 23 and realizes most of his life has been a dream,” Legend says. Because of the dreams, the kid, called Juan, has to decipher what’s actually real and what’s not. And, he’s faced with deciding whether he prefers the violent life or the more peaceful life. Why write books at 25?
Lane isn’t just a writer. At present, she’s also working to develop her career at an advertising agency. So why in such an intense world — what you see on TV about working in advertising is often based on reality — or how, really, does she find time to put pen to paper, to put fingers to keyboard, to do this? “Juggling a career and trying to get books published is very hard these days,” she says. “And it’s made even harder that so many are now selfpublishing.” But she doesn’t want to selfpublish. She knows she could create e-books and get them out into circulation. But there’s something about printed books, she says, that is incomparable to reading books on an e-reader. “I still think there are a lot of humans who want that tangible product,” she says. “But that also means it’s necessary to find agents. And finding an agent is not a simple task. It’s a hard market to break, but it’s one I am determined to break.” And we certainly hope she does, sooner than later. And we’ll let you know where and when you can buy her books as soon as they’re out.
Author explores at-risk teen girls’ behavior By Laurie Perrone Observer Guest Correspondent “Bad” is an intriguing young adult novel about teens overcoming risky behavior written by Jean Ferris. Since the dawn of time we have been analyzing and defining coming-of-age, yet we still come up short in finding any “absolutes.” With every generation there will always be something ugly about comingof-age catching us off-guard
thus leaving us to ask ourselves where we might have gone wrong. Jean Ferris, author of the young adult novel, “Bad,” first took steps researching the subject and interviewing urban teens in a girls’ rehabilitation center before writing this brutally honest book. Ferris does not promise any “absolutes,” but she does remain candid and thorough in her work. Through her main character, Dallas, Ferris illus-
trates how truly difficult it is for any young person to walk away from criminal patterns. Ferris uses the technique of story shifting well, depicting the realistic recovery process in rehabilitation. Parts of the story show Dallas slowly gaining momentum through personal victories only to abruptly slip into small relapses. Ferris shoots from the hip in her story-telling, demanding the attention of her audience, and capturing empathy from
those willing enough to examine and digest urban teen life against the backdrop of innercity blight. From beginning to end she is unafraid of exposing other gritty teen issues such as teen substance addiction, girl street gangs, teen pregnancy, amoral institution mentality, teen violence and inmate abuse. “Bad” is an excellent documentary-style novel that rivets the mind in unexpected ways, expressing how urban teens
must re-learn trust, love and self-respect in the midst of regaining stolen or lost innocence from years of tough survival. To see more about author Jean Ferris and her work, go to http://www.jeanferris.com/ my_works.htm. The author’s works have earned her many nominations and awards. Most recently, she was nominated for the 2008/2009 Children’s Choice Award by the Missouri Association of School Librarians.
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