Sunday, August 31, 2014

"A Blind Spot for Boys"

Justina Chen is the acclaimed author of young adult novels including A Blind Spot for Boys, Return to Me, North of Beautiful, and Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies), which won the Asian Pacific American Award for Youth Literature. She is a co-founder of readergirlz, the online book community for teens, and lives in the Seattle area with her two children.

Chen applied the Page 69 Test to A Blind Spot for Boys and reported the following:
From page 69:
“You are standing in Huacaypata, the Square of War and Weeping.”

War and weeping. That, I understood. Just the idea of my final conversation with Dom was enough to make me want to war and weep against the memory of it.
Sometimes life packs a particularly hard punch. An unexpected betrayal. A loss of a soul mate. Unimaginable heartbreak that lands you in the Square of War and Weeping.

I’ve never really had the luxury of staying in the Square of War and Weeping—a place of self-pity and anger. Not when I grew up with parents who are of the when-life-hands-you-lemons-you-bake-lemon-bars variety of people. Making lemonade out of life’s lemons was nonsense. No, you create something more filling, something more sustaining.

My lemon bar parents immigrated to America for my father’s PhD, arrived with no money, lived on eggs since they were cheap, and to this day, never complained about their rough start. The life lesson: some how, some way you eke out something good from your hardships. And if that’s impossible, you keep trudging forward until you’re out of the Square of War and Weeping.

(This lemon bar attitude, however, is a particular challenge today when the new house I moved into just two months ago has sprung a leak from a malfunctioning sump pump. Carpets torn up! Sheetrock cut! I am telling myself through gritted teeth that this may open up a new story idea.)

So a few years back, I found myself startled to be in a relationship with a man who brined himself in resentment. At first, he had seemed like a lemon bar kind of guy: all grins and good-natured teasing. Fast forward a few months, and he started replaying all the wrongs other people had committed against him. Over and over, I’d hear about the same stolen ideas. The same unfair business practices. All true, all terrible, but at the same time, life was twinkling and opportunities spooling before him. And he was missing it all, refusing to move from his own personal Square of War and Weeping. That was more tragic than the previous tragedies of his life.

With A Blind Spot for Boys, I thought it would be interesting to contrast the lemon bar people with those who rage against their lemon juice life. The ones who are resilient versus the ones who are resentful. So meet Shana, the winner of the genetic lottery with her trifecta of naturally blonde hair, long legs, and willowy figure. After a devastating break-up, the man magnet puts herself on a Boy Moratorium. But when her dad finds out that he only has six months before he goes blind, her family packs up to see the world. And there, trekking to Machu Picchu, she sees the truth about herself, her parents, and her past. And only then is she able to see the path out of her Square of War and Weeping into the wild world of life.
Visit Justina Chen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue