An excellent panel on Mental Illness in YA at the 5th Annual SLJTeen Live! online conference this August 10 served as a reminder to continue to expand our collections to reflect a wide range of diverse experiences. These thoughtful authors called attention to the fact that everyone deserves to see themselves in the pages of a book, including those who live with disabilities and mental illness.
The following panel of five authors with recent books featuring characters with a variety of mental illnesses and disabilities was insightfully and admirably moderated by Natasha Razi, editor of the blog Disability in KidLit:
- Nyrae Dawn, Turn the World Upside Down (depression)
- Stephanie Kuehn, The Smaller Evil (anxiety disorder/ADHD)
- Jennifer Niven, Holding Up the Universe (prosopagnosia), All the Bright Places (bipolar disorder)
- Teresea Toten, Beware that Girl (sociopathy), The Unlikely Hero of Room13B (OCD)
- Susan Vaught, Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy (bipolar disorder)
Their fascinating conversation dealt with topics including the responsibility of authors writing about marginalized groups they are not a part of to research for authenticity, responsibly writing about the tricky subject of medication, and the personal reasons why these authors chose to write about these oft-stigmatized topics. Jennifer Niven summed up the importance of including these kinds of books in our libraries when she said, “Books remind readers they are not alone, they matter and they are being seen. They tell readers, ‘you are wanted, you are necessary, you are loved.’” Let’s make sure all our students can find themselves on the shelves.
To hear the full conversation, access the recorded archives here.
Be sure to check out all the other great sessions from the conference here, including those on new nonfiction, genre-bending YA, and keynote speakers Meg Medina and Maggie Stievater.
Author: Cassy Lee
Cassy Lee is a middle school Teacher Librarian focused on education equity, empathy, and empowerment. She is the recipient of the 2020 AASL Roald Dahl’s Miss Honey Social Justice Award and the 2018 SLJ Champion of Student Voice. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, son, and a steady stream of foster dogs. You can find her on Twitter at @MrsLibrarianLee and at CSLA in February!