Saturday, June 7, 2014

Stotan All the Way

It's no surprise to anyone that Chris Crutcher is my hero and my all time favorite author. And
maybe as librarians, our favorite authors bare slightly more weight than for the average person. As librarians, sometimes our favorite authors change, sometimes there are just too many authors to choose from and sometimes who we read personally is different from who our "favorite" is professionally. In every single situation, Chris Crutcher, is my favorite. (He's even the password for my bank login) 

I follow him on Facebook. He doesn't post a ton. I'm okay with that because with his level of talent, I'd rather see him spending time writing books, speaking to kids and being a therapist to others who need him. This morning, he posted this letter. 

At the risk of blowing my own horn (like THAT would be a surprise to anyone) I'm posting this as WEAPONRY against the censors. My contemporaries could fill the Heritage House Hotel LOBBY with emails like this.
Dear Mr. Crutcher,
At the risk of being too presumptuous, I’m gonna go ahead and call you Chris. How’s it going Chris? Writing some good stuff over there? My name is (withheld), friends call me (withheld), I’m 21, maybe a little older than most of the kids who write to you, but I thought it was high time to do it. I’ve been home from my junior year of college for about two weeks now, and have been making my way through your books for the umpteenth time, and, in between tearing up every other chapter of Deadline, and getting pissed off at nearly every adult in Chinese Handcuffs, I started thinking (quite a feat for me) about how much your books have meant to me over the past eleven years.
I picked up Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes when I was in fourth grade, mostly due to the swimmer on the cover (I began swimming competitively when I was 8), and didn’t get into it right away. I think it was a little heavy for my ten year-old psyche, but about a year later I opened it up again and was hooked. I began a search for everything else you had written, in the library, and various bookstores in various cities. I was probably that kid that teachers both loved and hated during those years, annoyed that I wasn’t paying attention but happy that I was at least reading under my desk. It’s funny, though I’ve read each one at least six times, I can remember the first time I read each of your books. Chinese Handcuffs was read during a snowboard trip over winter break of my eighth grade year. I stayed up half the night finishing it, just weeping by the time I got to Dillon’s last letter to Preston: “God, how I wish you’d stayed.” That line haunts me, man. I probably almost screamed when I found Angry Management in a Portland bookstore when I was sixteen, and read it in between driving shifts with my mom on the drive home (to California). And Stotan, god, my copy of that has been through the wringer, and more often than not I think about it during long training trip swim practices. Sent a copy to my coach, even, as payback for giving the college team summer reading assignments.
I don’t think it was until this time around that I realized why I feel your books in my bones. These characters are me, Chris. Switch out a chromosome and you have me. I see myself in TJ Jones’ anger at the world, In Willie Weaver’s frustration with his broken body (though nowhere near as severe, I have a shoulder injury that messes with swimming all the time), in Dillon Hemingway’s need to fix everything, and Ben Wolf’s need to know the truth past what they teach you in school, and in their inability to keep their mouths shut when they should.
Your books have changed, and saved my life. The Sledding Hill helped me on my way to coming out, The Crazy Horse Electric Game helped me start to heal my own depression. And, to be honest, I’m not really sure why I’m writing this; I’ve never written to an author before, but I want you to know how much your books have meant to me, and I want to say thanks. For everything. And I already can't wait for the next one.
Stotan, all the way,

Censorship and Intellectual Freedom and the right book for the right kids are very very close to my heart. As much as I adore Chris, I would probably haven't suggested his titles for anyone younger than high school. But sometimes, kids find what the need when the needed despite grade levels and age appropriate content and all the other jargon that we use to "guide" kids. 

If you've never read one of his books. Do yourself a favor, pick up Whale Talk. I promise, you won't be sorry. 

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