Book Review: Fat Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo (i.e. a fangirl post)
So every time I go to the NCTE conference, I hope for three things: a session where I learn something I can take home and implement immediately; a new book to put into the hands of my students; and a meaningful interaction with new people. This post is how all three of those things converged in one person: e.E. Charlton-Trujillo.
The Friday morning session at the 2016 NCTE conference in Georgia consisted of a panel of authors: G. Neri, Jason Reynolds, Ibtisam Barakat, and Sharon Draper (who calls me her book fairy) who talked about the need for diverse books. The conversation was compelling and the message, summed up by e.E. was this: “All students deserve to know a character that looks like them, that loves like them, that lives like them.” What a simple, yet powerful notion. The other big message from this session was that we all have a book in us that only we could write. Sharon Draper repeatedly exhorted us to “write that book!”
After the panel, I went up to the stage to talk to e. because I was so moved by her comments–by everyone’s comments, really, but I hadn’t read her books or, quite frankly, known who she was before the panel. She took the time to chat with me before she had to go on to her next commitment. I vowed to find out more about this remarkable person.
Well, not only is e.E. Charlton-Trujillo an author, she’s also a filmmaker and an activist for at-risk youth. At her webpage, BigDreamsWrite, you can see more about her, but At Risk Summer chronicles her unconventional book tour where she “packs her belongings into storage to afford to set out on a book tour to empower youth on the fringe and redefine at-risk in America.” Seriously, the trailer alone will make you cry.
So I made sure I waited in line for e.E. to sign my newly acquired copy of Fat Angie. Right, this is supposed to be a book review of that book. Here you go: Fat Angie presents teenagers as real, as flawed, as complex. Her protagonist, Angie, struggles with her family (her mother is distant, and when she does pay attention she’s judgemental; her sister is missing in Iraq after being deployed; her adopted brother is angry; and her dad left). But Angie also struggles with a high school full of judgemental people who harass her regularly–until KC, a new girl, shows up and takes interest in Angie–because she truly sees Angie. The writing captures with great verisimilitude the rhythm of a teenager’s life and thoughts. Her integration of definitions transforms the way we read a scene:
But most of all, this book shows how one young woman struggles to discover who she is and what she is capable of, regardless of what the world, or her family, thinks of her. It is a powerful message, and an engaging story.
After I had my book signed, I kept running into e.: at the session to hear S.E. Hinton speak, in the exhibit hall. And she always had a smile, and a conversation for me. When I happened to run into A.S. King, Ellen Hopkins, and Laurie Halse Anderson on my way home through the conference center as they were headed to ALAN, I mentioned e. to them about how awesome she was and how cool it was to meet her and they all agreed. (Also, holy cow, I ran into the triumvirate of awesome.) When I returned from the conference, I was thrilled to see a follow-up email from e.E. with a link to her webpage, because I’d mentioned trying to have her as a speaker at our state conference. Every interaction with her confirmed her as awesome.
So read Fat Angie, and all e.E. Charlton-Trujillo’s other books. Watch her movies, have her come speak to your students. She’s inspiring and accessible. And she’s just a kind human being–and we need more of those.
Fangirl post done.