All YA Love: Guest Post by Debut Author, Swati Avasthi

Filed in All YA Love , Guest Post , Swati Avasthi , The Monster Lover Posted on March 3, 2010 @ 9:14 am 8 comments

I’m excited to be here on Book Lovers Inc. Thanks for the invite. My debut novel, Split, will hit the shelves in March 9th and is narrated by 16 year old Jace Witherspoon, who has just run 1300 miles after hitting his father back. He hasn’t seen his brother, Christian in five years, but with nowhere else to go, he shows up on Christian’s doorstep with bruises and a secret. Split is about what happens after you get out.

When I first spoke to my editor, she said that she promised herself she wouldn’t ask me whether I had any personal experience with domestic violence and I realized that I was going to get that question a lot. Luckily, my answer is no. The follow up question to that is then, why did I choose to write about it. As the question implies, I do usually write because of something that I can’t let go – a situation that haunts me, and Split was no different.

Split was borne out of my professional experience, coordinating a domestic violence legal clinic. For three years, I listened to stories of people –usually women – who came to our office seeking orders of protection against their abusers. When I would tell people what I did for a living, the question I unerringly got was, “Why does she stay?” It was so at odds to the experience of listening to these people bravely tell me their stories, bravely accuse their abuser, and bravely ask for the law to help them. “Why does she stay?” is the wrong question.

Domestic violence is typically seen as a women’s issue, but I think we need to re-frame it as a man’s issue. After all, the people who have the clearest line of sight to ending domestic violence are the abusers, most frequently men. Even when the woman is brave enough to escape, the man will go on to abuse another woman. The question we should be asking is, “Why does he hit her?”

Once, a woman came to the clinic and told me about a particularly brutal incident while her two children – a boy and a girl – were in the room. I told her an intern could look after her kids. She replied that they had seen the abuse. I looked over at them and wondered what it would be like kid in that household. The boy who was in front of me was losing a tooth when I knew him and proudly wriggled it at me. How could he grow up to be a man when he watched his dad beat up his mom, and what kind of man would he become?

You can see why that would haunt me. (It still gives me chills.) So, I gave that problem to Jace and to readers, to see what they can make of it.

About the book: 

16-year-old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father’s fist), $3.84, and a secret. It is about what happens after. After you’ve said enough, after you’ve run, after you’ve made the split – how do you begin to live again?

About the Author:

Swati Avasthi has been writing fiction since she read Little House in the Big Woods at age five. Emily Bronte, Harper Lee, and many others furthered her addiction. She institutionalized her habit at the University of Chicago, where she received her B.A., and at the University of Minnesota, where she is currently studying for her M.F.A. She has received a Loft’s Mentor Series Award, a Marcella DeBourg Fellowship, University of Minnesota’s GRPP, the Thomas H. Shevlin Fellowship, and her fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her work has or will appear in numerous publications, including The Portland Review, Water~Stone Review, and Special Gifts (Wyatt-Mackenzie, 2007). Her first novel, Split (Knopf), will be published in Spring 2010, and her second novel, title still pending (also Knopf), is scheduled for 2011. She lives with her riotously funny family – two large dogs, two small kids, and one (but worth two) husband(s) – in the Twin Cities.

(Photo credit: Ann Marsden)

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Join the Discussion
  • Thuy March 3, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Congratulation on your book! I'm definitely adding this to my TBR list.

  • holly cupala March 4, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    An excellent post – I can't wait to read SPLIT and am so proud of you, Swati!

  • annoynomous March 4, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Mel. This was so much fun! What a great question to get me started. I have a link up on my blog as well! –Swati

  • sharimaurer March 5, 2010 at 8:39 am

    I read and LOVED Split. Hearing about your experiences with DV makes me understand how you so perfectly captured all the nuance of this situation. I think you are right though, the question is "Why do they hit?" And how we can get them to stop. Congrats on a wonderful book!

  • Leah Cypess March 5, 2010 at 11:22 am

    What a sad but fascinating post. I had a brief stint working with legal issues at domestic violence centers, and the thing that chilled me the most too was when kids were watching (complicated by the whole knotty issue that the mother could be penalized for letting her kids see abuse). What does happen to those kids? It's a frightening question and I can't wait to see SPLIT's take on it.

  • Janet Fox March 5, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    This is such an important topic and I can't wait to read this because I'm sure, just from hearing what Swati says, that she's handled it beautifully.

  • Bonnie J. Doerr March 8, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Great interview. The inspiration for Split was so powerful that I know the book has to be a heart breaking eye opener and a fab read.

  • bianca_riot March 9, 2010 at 5:19 am

    great interview! congrats on your book, cant wait til i read split!

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