Facing History is proud to partner with YALLWEST Book Festival, the only book festival on the west coast dedicated to young adult literature. YALLWEST has generously provided funding for buses to bring students from a handful of Facing History schools to participate in the festival this coming weekend in Santa Monica. They've also donated hundreds of novels and graphic novels for Facing History students.
I spoke with Margaret Stohl, co-founder of YALLWEST, about the festival and the big picture. Margaret co-wrote the internationally bestselling Beautiful Creatures novels, which draws some inspiration from the classic To Kill a Mockingbird. Margaret served as Honorary Chair of Facing History's Student Essay Contest this spring, and is a member of Facing History's Los Angeles Advisory Board.
What is the goal of YALLWEST?
YALLWEST has two really clear goals, and we've found we can't do one without the other. First, we want to get books into the hands of kids, and second, we want to say the words that are going to get the kids to open them. We have to show kids that they are included in our book community, that we share their fandoms and we get their jokes, that we are allies. Kids have to be able to relate to us, even trust us. So our programming is always full of panels like "That Time I Sucked" or "My Name Is Author And I Am A Basketcase" or even "History Is Not That Boring." It works!
Why is it important for young people to 'change the story'?
If we get a book into the hands of a kid, and then say the words that will get that kid to open the book, we know we don't have to worry about the rest. Opening a book opens up a mind and a world of opportunity. At YALLWEST we try to use our panels to celebrate critical reading. If you like a book or a show or a game or a comic, great -- now tell us why. If you don't like that book or that show or that game or that comic, what don't you like about it, and how can you demand better? We try to look at who gets to be a hero and who does not, who gets to be a playable character and who does not, who gets to tell a story and who remains silent. We want our kids to really consider cultural narratives that make them feel uncomfortable -- and to consider how they can rewrite those narratives, or shut them down.
What are you most excited about at the festival this year?
This year I'm the most excited to meet the 850 guests of the festival who will be coming to visit through our school partnerships, just like our partnership with Facing History. This is why we do what we do, and we're so grateful to Facing History for getting that. Teachers and students and administrators - we look forward to meeting you all!
YALLWEST takes place this weekend, April 29-May 1 at Santa Monica High School. Click here for the full festival schedule.