I was a guest at the Chez Zee Author Series here in Austin recently and the host, Cari Clark, asked me probing and insightful questions, then invited questions from the audience. A woman stood up and said, “Your main character is a pre-teen, but the old man who befriends her is also very important. Who do you see as the audience for this book?”
It was a good question, and one I have thought about a lot. Because both CeeGee and Mr. Tindale are central characters in the book, and their friendships is at its core, I have always envisioned the book attracting an audience that reflects this, with both youth and adults reading the story and talking together about the meaning of the story. As I was growing up, once I was past the age where my parents read to me at bedtime, I read on my own. Writing CeeGee’s Gift made me wonder what my relationships and my conversations with my parents, grandparents and other elders would have been like if we had read books together, books that neither talked down to them or were out of reach for me.
I answered the woman in the audience by saying that, in my opinion, ‘CeeGee’s Gift is a book to be read and shared by young an old’ and noted this statement is printed on the back cover of the book. I would call it an ‘intergenerational’ novel, a book that raises topics that youth and their elders could benefit from talking about. It shows by example that an older person can be a great help to a gifted child in facing her challenges, while neither minimizing her gift or pampering the child. CeeGee’s Gift does not trivialize what goes on in Southport, and with Mr. Tindale’s help, experiencing the events in her community become an avenue for CeeGee to learn and grow and understand the purpose of her gift.
After the interview, many people from the audience suggested that ‘intergenerational’ should be a book category. Readers should have the opportunity to seek out books we can read with the youth in our lives as they grow and face important issues. I can attest to the value of this. I was the guest author at a mother-daughter book club in a public library several years ago to discuss the unpublished manuscript of CeeGee’s Gift and all members, mothers and their daughters, had read a copy of the manuscript. We had a powerful discussion, with the adults and the youth having equal voices. We talked about death, disability, brother-sister relationships, consequences of poor decisions, how a non-family member can be a valuable mentor, and more. So yes, perhaps it is time to start a new category for readers and claim this label – intergenerational. Books that are meant to be read and shared by young and old.