Young adult writer Chris Crutcher takes the time to visit schools, and the banned book author’s message about writing for students is clear. His message is not about reading; it’s about using the necessary language to actually tell the story.
Crutcher told stories that he developed from his time as a family therapist during his visit to the library of Gadsden City High School in Alabama. Some of the students were familiar with his popular but contro9versial books. 68 year old Crutcher is the author of four books which appear on Booklist’s Best 100 Books for Teens of the 20th Century.
The subject matter of his books deal with controversial issues such as substance abuse, racism, death, abortion and homosexuality. Consequently, his writing is frequently challenged in school libraries because of these subjects, and the language in the books.
Crutcher was invited to speak at several venues because his books have been banned in some locations as part of Banned Books Week. Tomorrow, he will talk to members of the female substance abuse program at the Etowah County Detention Center.
Crutcher’s visit is being sponsored by the Gadsden Public Library, the Hardin Center for Cultural Arts and Gadsden State Community College.
Crutcher said to write about people truthfully, you have to “tell their story in its native tongue.”
One story in particular he shared had to do with the genesis of his novel “Whale Talk,” the story of a multiracial, adopted teenager who reluctantly agrees to form a swim team from the school’s rejects.
The story began 20 years ago, when he was counseling a five-year-old biracial girl who had been ostracized by her stepfather because of her skin color. Crutcher recounted how the girl would wash her hands with a scrub brush in order to remove her skin color in hopes her racist stepfather would love her.