Hey All of you YA Lovers Around the Globe ~
As you may have picked up on, YA or Young Adult Books & it’s readers & writers & communities—are spinning webs around the world connecting us in new ways. As a way to appreciate that, I’ve asked some International and American authors to share what that means to them. This week and next will be filled with their responses! We would love to hear YOUR responses too! Either comment below or send me your response on my contact page. Read the original Global YA post here.
Today’s YA Author, Jennieke Cohen, is definitely more than one thing! She’s also my fellow PitchWars Alum and represented by Jennifer Unter. I’m excited for you to hear another example of how this world really can’t fit into a box–and how books can bring us more understanding.
So, Jennieke, What does global YA mean to you?
My parents have always had a healthy dose of wanderlust. My father attended no less than nine colleges around the world for his undergraduate education, and my mother moved to the U.S. from the Philippines when she was 14. Despite having no real ties to the Netherlands, they decided to name me after a Dutch model. They took me on my first trip out of the U.S. before I’d even turned a year old. Photos of me as an infant bundled up in a puffy, insulated onesie as I sat in my dad’s arms at the Eiffel tower are now faded with age. Even as a baby, I was a citizen of the world.
Throughout my childhood, my parents dragged my siblings and me on vacation after vacation, from country to country. On every trip, my dad would pull out his guidebook and find the best local bookstore. (Bonus points if they had a large English section or something for us kids to read!) One summer in Banff, when I was about thirteen, I found a book called The Nine Days Queen by Karleen Bradford at the local bookshop. I’d never seen it at the bookstores back home, and I honestly don’t think I ever saw it in a bookstore again. I’d never heard of Lady Jane Grey before (for any non-history buffs, she was a fifteen-year-old who ruled as Queen of England for nine days in 1553), and I had no idea that her life ended tragically, but I gobbled up the story. As we walked through the Canadian wilds, I’d whip out my book at every break and continue reading about injustice in 16th century England.
When I finished, I was bawling at the unfairness of it all; I can’t remember any book making me cry before that. In the following weeks, I couldn’t stop thinking about Lady Jane Grey and her short, sad life. When I’d traveled to England with my family, I’d never really enjoyed it. After finishing The Nine Days Queen, all I could think about was how I hadn’t appreciated so many of the places we’d visited in the UK. I started reading other books that took place in England: first Jane Eyre, then the Austen canon, then anything else that sounded interesting. (Not so coincidentally, my first YA book deals with injustices and gender inequalities in 19th century England.) I started reading adult history books about the Tudor era and the early 19th century, time periods rarely touched on in my middle school and high school history classes. I went on a foreign exchange to England in high school and spent a summer in college studying history at Cambridge University. And my conclusions then, as now, were that history informs our modern lives just as traveling with my parents informed how I understood the world and my own place in it.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you believe, as I do, that great YA books can make a difference. Had I not found that specific book in that small bookstore, I wonder how much of my life would have changed. For me, finding the right YA book in another country opened up new realms of knowledge. It inspired me to spend more time learning about other countries’ histories and cultures. In short, the right YA book gave me a better understanding of the world.
Jennieke Cohen (JEN-ih-kah CO-en) is used to people mispronouncing her name and tries to spare her fictional characters the same problem. Jennieke writes historical fiction for young adults inspired by real people and events because life is often stranger than fiction. She studied English history at Cambridge University and has a master’s degree in professional writing from USC. Jennieke loves exploring new locales but always returns home to Northern California where the summers are hot, the winters are mild, and life is casual. Read more on Jennieke’s website www.JenniekeCohen.com or find her on Twitter @JennikaCohen
YOU NEXT: What does Global YA mean to you?
Where and what are you reading or writing?
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