Sunday, May 3, 2020

Brigit Young

Brigit Young, born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has published poetry and short fiction in numerous literary journals. She is a proud graduate of the City College of New York, and has taught creative writing to kids of all ages in settings ranging from workshops at Writopia Lab to bedsides at a pediatric hospital. Young is the author of the middle grade novels Worth a Thousand Words and The Prettiest. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughters.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title of my novel, The Prettiest, sets up the reader’s expectations for the focus of the plot, which involves a list of the top fifty prettiest girls in the eighth grade, and it immediately puts the reader into a competitive state of mind. However, this ultimately works as a misdirect, getting young readers to think about who “the prettiest” is and who decides such a thing before leading them to discover that such a descriptor doesn’t really exist in any objective sense.

What's in a name?

Names are so important to me that I just had my second baby and I’m tempted to have a third just so I can come up with another name. This passion for naming applies to my fiction as well, though I don’t follow the same formula every time. Sometimes a name simply comes along with the vision of a character, and sometimes the sounds are important poetically, capturing the inner song of the person. Most often, though, the societal connotation of the name is what matters. In The Prettiest, Eve is the main character’s name for three reasons: first of all, she embodies certain aspects of the female experience, and therefore the name of the “first woman” suits her. Secondly, she’s number one on a list of “prettiest” girls, so I’m playing with the idea of being first. And lastly, as is mentioned in the book, although the biblical Eve is often seen as merely a sinner, there’s another interpretation that depicts her as the “first rebel,” a reading Eve eventually embraces when she fights back against objectification.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

My teenage self would expect nothing less from future me than a feminist children’s book that sticks it to the man, but she’d probably be confused as to why there was so little cursing.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

If you’re a woman, you’ve probably been in a conversation at some point about whether you’re a Carrie, a Samantha, a Miranda, or a Charlotte, or which Golden Girl, Disney princess, or Spice Girl you are. The truth is that we are all of them. Each of my main characters express a piece of me, a sliver of myself heightened and highlighted.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

When I was writing largely short fiction, I found myself inspired by the melancholy of old French films like Jules and Jim and Contempt (yes, I can hear how pretentious that sounds). As a novelist of middle grade fiction, I’m influenced almost entirely by my own memories and the young people around me. When they speak to me about their daily lives and inner worlds, I’m immediately brought right back to the feeling of hurrying to my locker as I try to spot a crush or avoid a bully. Despite some changes in the world externally, like the advent of social media and texting, the emotions of tweenhood are universal.
Visit Brigit Young's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Prettiest.

My Book, The Movie: The Prettiest.

--Marshal Zeringue