Author Interview

Meet Marie Marquardt and her project #ReadForChange

Meet Marie Marquardt.

I am an author of young adult novels, a college professor, and an immigration advocate.

How are these all connected? After many years as a researcher, service provider, and – most importantly – friend with immigrants to Georgia, I felt frustrated. I often spoke to groups about our broken immigration system and the need for immigration reform. And I realized something: people begin to care when they meet and get to know someone who is living inside this broken system. It’s been my great honor to have such relationships over decades.

So, I began writing fictional (but very real) stories based on my experiences. My novels bring readers into intimate contact with messy, complicated, political situations. I believe that, through story, we can connect to other people in a deep, meaningful way – which can be a powerful tool against the hate, fear, and misunderstanding that plague our society.

And now, the formal bits: I am a Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. In addition to DREAM THINGS TRUE, THE RADIUS OF US, and FLIGHT SEASON (available 2/20/18) I have co-authored two non-fiction books and written several articles on immigration. I have been interviewed about immigration on National Public Radio, Public Radio International, Voice of America, NBC, and BBC America, among other media outlets. I am honored to be the chair of El Refugio, a Georgia non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families.

I live in Decatur, Georgia with my spouse, four children, a dog, and a bearded dragon.

For more information, visit:

www.mariemarquardt.com

Twitter: @MarieFMarquardt

Facebook: @mariemarquardtauthor

Instagram: @marie_marquardt

Onto the interview!

2018 has just begun and #ReadForChange is in the works. What is the one thing you hope this project achieves as the year continues and later ends?My goal for the project is simple: to celebrate great stories that bring readers into intimate contact with issues that matter now. I hope #ReadForChange will encourage people who love these stories to dig in deep, explore the social issues that animated authors to write them, and then get to work (stay at work!) building a better world.

How can the book community, such as bloggers and bookstagrammers, get involved with and support #ReadForChange?

Thanks for asking! I’d love for bloggers and bookstagrammers to spread the word about the monthly feature and giveaway through their networks. I’m also hoping booklovers will pick up the hashtag to talk about other great books – fiction and non-fiction – that tackle the social issue at the heart of each month’s feature.  There are so many great novels out there. The hardest parts of this plan sticking to only one a month! I really hope that the monthly feature will be a conversation starter, not a one-time event.

Tell us about the story behind the creation of Read For Change and the birth of the hashtag.

Here’s my super-honest answer:  YA authors are expected be out there on social media, and I get that.  But I have trouble engaging authentically, in a way that feels natural to me. One day, I was brainstorming with a couple of other authors, and we were talking about who we want to be in that space.  It hit me that I want to be part of a community of authors, bloggers, and readers who feel deeply and think deeply about what needs to change in our society. And, voila! #ReadForChange! I was so thrilled when the wonderful people at Teen Librarian Toolbox steeped in to partner with me. They’ve really motivated me!

Did a specific event or circumstance ultimately help you make the final decision to tackle this inspiring project?

My first novel came out in September 2015. It was inspired by a couple of decades of work and friendship with undocumented immigrants in the South, and by my heart’s enormous desire to promote fair and just immigration reform. I felt some pushback – shouldn’t I be writing fiction for fiction’s sake? This baffled me. I’ll never forget one of my first events as a YA author, when a fellow panelist dismissed “issue books” as somehow inauthentic, not worthy, not real literature. What books, I wondered, are NOT issue books? But I kept my mouth shut.

When my second novel came out — just days before the inauguration of our current president – I decided to never apologize for what motivates me to write: a deep desire to see change in the world. I also decided to seek other authors who share that same burning desire, and promote their stories as a way to build community and work together for a better world.

Why do you feel authors are now writing novels that speak to the heart of today’s issues and problems vs. a few years ago when those stories may not have been readily accepted? What changed in the writing trend?

So much has changed since November 2016. I think many of us – including many in the publishing industry – have woken up and realized that we need to use our voices (We need to make use of everything we have!) to draw attention to injustice and to seek a more just and inclusive society.  Novels have always been a part of that project, because they are uniquely capable of building empathy and shared understanding. What’s changed is our willingness to openly claim that right and responsibility as authors, agents, publishers, and booksellers.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when, for 2017 YallWest, I was asked to be on a panel called “Writing the Resistance”. Sitting at that table, between fabulous writers who are committed to justice, and talking about how the desire for change motivates us, I felt like I had come home. I hope #ReadForChange will open this ‘home’ to many more people!

Is there anything you’d like to share with the readers today about the upcoming #ReadForChange launch?

Tomorrow’s the day! You can find it on Teen Librarian Toolbox, or — if you want the first issue to come directly to your e-mail inbox — you can sign up for the newsletter here.

Thank you Marie for sharing #ReadForChange with us!

Marie’s book, Flight Season, is coming out 2/20! Check out her website for more details!

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