Author Chat with J. Albert Mann (The Degenerates), Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to chat with J. Albert Mann author of
Read on for more about J. Albert and her book, plus an giveaway.
Meet J. Albert Mann!
J. Albert Mann is the author of several middle grade and young adult novels, including The Degenerates and What Every Girl Should Know. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in writing for children and young adults. She prefers books with unhappy endings to happy ones. Visit her at JAlbertMann.com.
Meet The Degenerates!
In the tradition of Girl, Interrupted, this fiery historical novel follows four young women in the early 20th century whose lives intersect when they are locked up by a world that took the poor, the disabled, the marginalized—and institutionalized them for life.
The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded is not a happy place. The young women who are already there certainly don’t think so. Not Maxine, who is doing everything she can to protect her younger sister Rose in an institution where vicious attendants and bullying older girls treat them as the morons, imbeciles, and idiots the doctors have deemed them to be. Not Alice, either, who was left there when her brother couldn’t bring himself to support a sister with a club foot. And not London, who has just been dragged there from the best foster situation she’s ever had, thanks to one unexpected, life altering moment. Each girl is determined to change her fate, no matter what it takes.
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~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
All my life I’ve played a What if game—relocating myself to other moments in history. For example—What if I had been born in a hunter-gatherer society? As a woman, I’d have been a gatherer. This always makes me so happy because there is nothing I love more than a long walk with a purpose.
I began writing The Degenerates by playing this game. What if I had been born during the height of the eugenics movement in the United States? As someone born with an orthopedic disorder causing extreme body difference, I might very well have been institutionalized for life along with Alice, Maxine, Rose, and London.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
London. I love her strength, her power, and her ability to act. Although more than these, I love her propensity to take life as it comes.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
There is a short scene with London and Alby (a boy she falls for) alone together in a basement where she tells him a strongly held secret. This scene always reminds me how the big moments in our lives are often not weddings and graduations but those instances where we open up to others. Alby doesn’t fully understand London down in the basement, but this doesn’t matter. What does, is that London took a chance.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
My next novel—FIX—is a young adult contemporary fiction from Little, Brown. It’s the story of a friendship between two teens with physical difference whose relationship is stretched to the breaking point by their own ableism.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
Spoiler alert here, the most difficult scene to write was London’s miscarriage. London had so many feelings about her pregnancy, and none of them had been worked out before it ended. Disbelief, anger, guilt, sadness, relief…so many emotions to get into a single scene where there also has to be extreme physical pain.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
Alice AND Rose. Writing two experiences far from my own took a lot of research and expert reader advice. Alice is a young black woman. I’m white. To help me bond with Alice, I gave her an orthopedic disorder because I also grew up with an orthopedic disorder. This small thing helped me begin to build a connection with her. Rose was born with Down Syndrome, an intellectual disability that encompasses a wide range of experiences. I connected to Rose through both research and by reaching out to the self-advocacy community for loads of help. Writing outside your own experience isn’t rocket science, it’s a lot harder. (And unless you’re actually in the rocket, a lot scarier.)
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
Usually my answer is revision, but with this book it was definitely drafting. I did a mountain of side-writing on the characters before I began: their backstories, their outlook on life, how they viewed one another, their thoughts about their parents (or lack of), what they saw when they walked down the street, etc. I knew my basic plot, but when I began to draft, the characters just took over—and with more than any other book—the story flowed out of me. If you struggle as a writer with drafting, I highly recommend side-writing!
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
Seeing a project through to the end. Sticking power is my superpower. There are many times within the writing process of a novel (especially historical fiction) where I think, there is no way I’ll understand this time period or this historical event well enough, and other times where I’m completely bored with the time period/historical event, and firmly believe everyone else will be too. At times like these (and many others), I want to give up. But I never do.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
We Need Diverse Books! When Ellen Oh tweeted out her first hashtag (#WNDB), I was there watching. I’d been a disability advocate for many years and was thrilled when the movement took off inside of kidlit. Two years later, Corinne Duyvis coined #OwnVoices, and it felt like I was taking a long, hot shower. Everyone seemed to be talking about everything I cared about. Although, as we saw with Lee & Low’s latest Diversity Baseline Study, we still have a long way to go. I’ve been volunteering with WNDB since the beginning, and I’m passionate about its mission. Volunteer with us! Support us!
By: J. Albert Mann
Release Date: March 17th, 2020
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's
Two winners will each receive a hardback copy of The Degenerates (J. Albert Mann) ~ (US Only)
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The diversity of the girls and their tell-take expressions and body language really make this cover something else. I truly enjoy well-written YA fiction about mental health hospital, and I can tell this one is very promising!
This one is high on my TBR. I was so bummed when I was denied for it on Net Galley because ahhh I am all about disability related reads.
Love the cover! Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. The plot sounds new and intriguing, I'm excited to read it!