Horn Book answers the question with shout-outs to some fantastic books. A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend gets a mention; besides that, I heartily recommend The Difference Between You and Me, Ask the Passengers, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You, Boy Meets Boy, Sister Mischief…
No slight intended to any books I haven’t had the chance to read yet!
Ever since I’ve been writing Sparks and Ashes, which mostly takes place in a silk spinning factory, I’ve been more interested in New York’s own history of workplace tragedies and labor activism.
102 years ago, on March 25, 1911, 146 garment workers — mostly young women — died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. And since 2004, this public art project has been writing the names of those who died in front of their former homes.
I recommend “Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and its Legacy” by Albert Marrin, for a nuanced and well-researched look at the history and the issues.
June 15th, 2010, less than a week after my first book, A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, came out, I woke up to my computer’s hard drive making weird noises. Woke up to error message after error message. Dragged it in to the best Apple repair shop in New York City, as I realized that I didn’t actually have a backup for the last two months of writing that I’d done.
After one failed recovery attempt, and months of high-speed writing trying to make up for lost time, I turned in a draft — I was on my third draft at the time — only to find out that it didn’t really work, after all, and I was going to have to write it all over again.
I won’t pretend that these things weren’t hard on me. They hurt a lot. Even after all this time has passed, it still hurts when I remember what those days were like — the conviction that I had failed utterly, the conviction that I would never get out of my 6th-floor studio apartment with its broken elevator and leaking walls.
But as my fellow Montrealer Leonard Cohen says, “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”
Sometimes you never know, until you have failed utterly, what it means to say “I’ve lost this, and I will go on. I’ve made horrible mistakes, and I will go on. I am going to get up, and get up, and get up, even if I don’t have the strength to do it anymore.”
You look back, footsore and exhausted, and you’re amazed at the distance you’ve traveled.