National Book Festival and Suzanne Collins, or, why military brats rule

So this past Saturday the boyfriend and I went to the National Book Festival in Washington, DC.

We only stayed for a little while, as we had a birthday party (for a one year old! squee!!) and a family dinner to attend. So we first saw Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef fame in the Contemporary Life tent, where he was discussing his cookbook, two DC restaurants, experience on Top Chef, and his upbringing in a family of chefs and restaurateurs. He was funny and interesting and actually got Shane interested in going to his restaurant. After Spike, Shane and I went our separate ways, he to the book sale tent, and I to the Teens & Children tent where Suzanne Collins, of The Hunger Games fame was within 50 feet of me. (Double squee!!) A little about Ms. Collins:

1. She, like me, is a military brat. Her father fought in Vietnam when she was only six years old. She was sheltered from the truth of war until someone forgot to turn off the TV before the nightly news. At that moment she knew that her dad was not in a jungle with George and Ape. She spent the rest of her childhood and teens years moving around the world with her family.

2. The voice of Katniss is supposed to have a futuristic Appalachian accent. I really hope she enforces that in the upcoming films. I really need to hear what that sounds like. Furthermore, she made it seem as though she had some rights to the film. Like, she mentioned the great work of the casting crew, which she wouldn’t know about unless she were being consulted. By the way, I like fan fiction and fan art; Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire.

3. The Hunger Games “was always first and foremost a war novel.” That is clear, especially in the third book, but it is nice to hear that from her. Knowing her personal history really gives her credibility to write a war novel. This is not to say that only military folks can write war novels, but I do believe it makes a person more trustworthy. I know that Collins did not embellish just for the sake of a story. She knows the truth about war and wanted to start a dialogue between young readers and adult readers alike.

4. That being said…She said, “My stories are dark…but they create a dialogue.” When I tell people about the series they seem taken aback. Even Shane’s recently-graduated Soldier cousin scoffed at the theme of the novel saying, “This is a kid’s book?” Yes it is, and here’s why: kids are not stupid. They watch the news, the see their parents reactions, they overhear discussions and arguments about this thing called war. If they walk through Starbucks on a Saturday morning they see images of war. Kids. Are. Not. Stupid. Kids. Are. Not. Blind. So we need to stop treating them as if they were. Instead, have a discussion about the themes presented in The Hunger Games, such as child soldiers (Africa, Afghanistan, anyone?), starvation, imperialism, nuclear terrorism, and more.

I am very glad I got to see her speak, even if only for thirty minutes. The best part was, after having told the crowd, “Please do not ask questions with spoilers”, someone said, “So about the ending of the third book…” and the entire crowd yells “NO!!” Hysterical! Oh, and the largest pile of books in the sale tent? That would be Mockingjay.

On a related note: do not carry a pocket knife or mace with you while attempting to get back into your parking garage at the Reagan Building. You will be asked to leave the building.
…just saying.

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