Lizzie Skurnick II (BSS #302)

Lizzie Skurnick is most recently the author of Shelf Discovery. She previously appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #13.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Sacrificing his manhood to fight the patriarchal overlords.

Author: Lizzie Skurnick

Subjects Discussed: Bridge to Terabithia and class distinctions, the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, issues surrounding mothers working, reader perceptions vs. authorial intentions, how much an author has to do with the work, concern for redheads, The Moon by Night, The Gift of Magic, a streak of redheads in the Skurnick family, Pippi Longstocking, redheads as outsiders, Skurnick’s propensity for ALL CAPS, modesty vs. competent performance, Are You In the House Alone?, sitcoms and oblique references to rape, Hunter, The Facts of Life, very special episodes, afterschool specials using YA novels as source material, Mariel Hemingway, Judy Blume, Lois Duncan, reviewing many books by one author vs. spreading reviews among several authors, Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Post-Birthday World and similarities between Match Point and Double Fault, The Shining, reviewing The Clan of the Cave Bear twice, not having a definitive word on a particular subject, on not getting caught up with writing about too many authors, the YA category’s birth in the 1980s, Robert Cormier, “Shelf Pleasuring”, Scruples, Jaws, Graham Greene, market categorizations, Scholastic book fair sales, the Weekly Reader catalog, books for the 25-35 age demographic, read-a-thons, David Simon, M.A. Orthofer’s criticisms, Choose Your Own Adventure, Robert Heinlein, on boys reading books designated for girls, Flowers in the Attic, ghettoizing women writers, The New York Times Book Review, Mary Rogers, Freaky Friday,Superfudge, Louise Fitzhugh, merging of the sexes in previous generations, trivia competitions, sexism among college boys, women gravitating towards publishing jobs, the potential reception for Shelf Discovery, writing Sweet Valley High novels for 17th Street Productions, patriarchy vs. general elitism, Oz books by L. Frank Baum, on books with young men making the front page of the NYTBR, what books are taken seriously, Jacob Have I Loved, Portnoy’s Complaint, Wifey, hysterical vaginitis, Kin Flicks, women having a hard time getting satisfaction, gonorrhea as punishment, Pretty Woman having a “happy ending”, sex & shopping books with nuanced roles about men and women, Island of the Blue Dolphins, bad accents in period pieces vs. overly formal internal monologue, Sherman Alexie, being strategic towards a market that does not exist, blogs as a new form of writing, pressure of wanting to be like the pretty girl, today’s teens needing to be little adults to be as interesting, Naomi Wolf, training kids to make a nation, the problem of well-rounded individuals, The Babysitters Club and Gossip Girl as part of the book packaging factory, Meg Cabot, cruel mothers, Daughters of Eve, The Red Pony, The Old Man and the Sea, a documentary on To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout’s loneliness, and the quietness of childhood.


Skurnick: You know, you make up a story for what you’re trying to do later, but who knows what you were trying to do?

Correspondent: Well, then I’m going to go ahead and put my own particular question of interest to you.

Skurnick: Go for it.

Correspondent: Okay. The concern for redheads in your review of The Moon by Night.

Skurnick: Oh.

Correspondent: The author who has the redheaded stepchild in A Gift of….A Gift of Magic. Yes. I’m sorry. My handwriting’s terrible. But I found out last night that there are, in fact, a streak of redheaded people in your family.

Skurnick: Yes.

Correspondent: And so, as a result, I must put forth the psychological question to you, Ms. Skurnick, over whether this preoccupation with redheads reflects this familial genetic scenario.

Skurnick: Okay. It’s hilarious. Because if you — I don’t know if you notice this at the party. Because not all of my friends were at the party. But my Grandma Dora was a redhead, my father is a redhead, my Aunt Francine is a redhead. Growing up, one of my good friends Becky was a redhead. I think I have another good friend who was a redhead. And throughout my life — it’s hilarious — two of my dearest friends — Casey and Jane — were redheads. I have dated many redheads. And my new nephew Asher is a redhead. So I think that certainly I have a huge streak of redheadedness in my life. And I could not tell you why. And it is actually funny. Because whenever I write about Meg’s boyfriend — Calvin is redhead — and there’s quite a few redheads in L’Engle, in general. You know, Polyhymnia is a redhead. Calvin’s daughter. And when you write about it, there’s always a few girls in the comments who will go, “Oh, Calvin, I love a ginger!” Like if you do it with Prince William and his brother, you’ll get that too. So there is — that is a theme in my life. But it is also a theme in YA.

Correspondent: Yeah.

Skurnick: It’s a huge theme in YA. And I don’t know. I guess it’s because — I’ve never understood this because, like I said, there’s zillions of redheads in my life. But redheadness in society does always — it’s like you are marked as a very different thing. Everybody looks at redheads. You know, when Asher, my nephew, was born, it was the first thing five people told me. And then when people looked at him, they would say, “He’s a redhead.” You know, that’s like the first thing. And so I guess it’s often a little bit of what the author is talking about. You know, the sense of being deliberately put outside. And then what do you do with that? What do you do with the fact that you are an individual. You know, redheads are forced from a very young age to be individuals in the way that we are not. And I think maybe that’s…

Correspondent: I was a redhead, you know.

Skurnick: Really?

Correspondent: Yeah, yeah. You’re drawing a generalization here. But I’ll let you continue. I am very curious to hear your answer.

Skurnick: Well, all of the redheads in my life are actually like fire red. You know, it doesn’t go away. Like I actually have some red in my hair, although you can’t tell right now. Because it’s wet.

(Image: Tayari Jones)

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