Friday, June 22, 2018

Letter to my Senator

Dear Senator Barrasso,
Since you are a medical man, I would be interested in hearing your opinion about what the immigration policy of separating young children from their parents is doing to them psychologically. Do you ascribe to attachment theory, for example? Have you ever medically diagnosed PTSD in children? Are you familiar with the medical and psychological effects of trauma on young children? If so, what do you think is the likely outcome for these children? Is their outcome unimportant because they are not US citizens? Does the hippocratic oath only apply to US citizens? Or did you renounce your oath to "do no harm" when you became a senator? I look forward to your response. 
Sincerely, Amy Amy Kathleen Ryan


His response:

Dear Amy, 

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about immigration issues. It is good to hear from you.


I noted your concerns about the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) policy to separate children from their families after crossing the border illegally. When family groups are detained and adults are referred for prosecution, children accompanying these adults are separated while the case of the adult is determined.

Children are hosted in DHS facilities for no more than 72 hours before they are transferred to the care of the Department of Health and Human Services. The children are then put in the care of relatives, sponsors, or foster families. Families wishing to apply for asylum and cross the border at legal ports of entry are not separated when family ties can be confirmed.  

I understand the concerns of those who support keeping family groups together. We must do more to fix our immigration system so that the process for legal immigration works. Please know I will keep your concerns in mind as I continue my work in the Senate. 

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I value your input.

John Barrasso, M.D. 
United States Senator

My response to Senator Barrasso:
Dear Senator Barrasso,


I wrote to you begging you to stop the horrific treatment of migrant children at our southern border, and you responded to say children are not separated from parents at legal crossings when when "family ties can be confirmed." Nevertheless there are 20,000 beds on their way to the warehousing facilities where the children continue to be sent. I'm thinking most of these desperate, terrified people don't have documentation. And so their children are taken. And the ones too scared to present themselves at a border crossing? We both know what happens to them. So in fact, the vast majority of people seeking asylum at border crossings, and elsewhere, have their children taken from them. Isn't that right?

I am sure you wouldn't dream of taking a child away from his/her parents without trying every possible means of determining familial relationship. If the parent fleeing gang violence doesn't have time to apply for a passport for their children, I am sure the US could provide speedy DNA tests to determine parentage. Of course as a doctor I am sure you would support any and all methods of determining "familial ties" rather than psychologically scarring a young child by subjecting him/her to the prolonged terror of being separated from their beloved parent in a foreign country after a harrowing journey. Because otherwise, it would seem as though the psychological scarring, and the terror, were the whole point of this miserable exercise.

The world is watching. At what point, Senator, will protecting children supersede your desire to be re-elected?

Sincerely, Amy Ryan

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Little Read Writing Hood.


Who knew there were so many wolves in children's literature?

A lot of people, apparently.

I brushed up against one wolf when he interviewed me for a teaching job at the university where I was a student. I left my one hour conversation with Mr. Wolf feeling nearly certain he'd offer me a part time teaching gig. Minutes after the interview he emailed to ask me out to dinner. I burst into tears when I read that email, then gathered my wits and politely declined, claiming I was busy.

He didn't offer me that job after all.

Later that week I ran into him and he said, "You didn't think I was..." The sentence fragment dangled in the air between us. He raised his eyebrows, and I swear I saw sweat on his brow. He'd emailed me proof, after all.

"Oh what? Sexually harassing me?! Yeah. That occurred to me," is what I should have said.

But he was an administrator at the university where I had a job and was earning a degree. I wasn't in a position to go to war with him. Besides, I'd heard things about his boss. They had sharp teeth, and I was a little girl in the woods.

I'm not naming names, or the university, (I have more than one degree in several fields, before you go digging,) because I haven't heard complaints from anyone else about this particular person, and it happened a long time ago. But if someone else comes forward who has a more recent story to tell, I will certainly back her up. Until then, I will grant Mr. Wolf the benefit of the doubt because I have some uncertainty about his motives, and because I'm not willing to publicly humiliate someone if his misstep with me was an isolated incident.

After reading this article and the alarming comment section: https://www.slj.com/2018/01/industry-news/childrens-publishing-reckons-sexual-harassment-ranks/, I realize how very common my experience actually is. These revelations have provided a new lens through which I view the past.

I've always felt uncomfortable at professional conferences around large groups of writers drinking and socializing. These settings make me feel anxious, which always struck me as strange. I love writers, and I love talking to them. Meeting a writer I admire and talking about our industry is always illuminating and energizing. But the big conferences have never been fun for me, and so I don't attend many. I used to think this was a stupid thing to do because according to conventional wisdom, I should be networking. Now, after reading the article posted above and the comment section, I feel avoiding those wine fueled conversations with other professionals was perhaps wise. My intuition was whispering to me that something wasn't right.

The few conferences I have attended felt skewed toward male writers. More than once I've felt dismayed at how males seemed to be praised more, appreciated more, offered more. Don't misunderstand. Most men that are celebrated in young adult literature deserve their success because they write excellent books. But the VAST majority of writers for young people are women, and many of them are writing excellent books too. So why does it feel like the men are somehow more visible?

Do we laude male writers more? Does all that admiration make predators feel safe in professional settings? Is that partly why they test the boundaries of acceptable behavior?

At one writers' gathering, early in my career, I met an older, famous male writer who seemed very happy to meet me. He gave me advice that I appreciated. I knew he was attracted to me at the time, and subtly hitting on me, but I wasn't interested and I moved on to other conversations thinking nothing of it. Years later I had a couple more books to my name and saw him at a large conference. I approached him when he was talking to someone else, waited for the other person to walk away, and told him how what he'd said years before had really helped me. He was openly hostile, completely different from years before. Was he hostile because I came up to him when he was hitting on a young woman, and she took the opportunity to walk away? Or did he remember me as a young writer who hadn't responded to his advance? I don't really know, which is, again, why I'm not naming names.

This uncertainty protects the wolves, and the wolves know that. Some of the wolves are women. Some of them are gay. This problem doesn't just belong to straight men.

These thoughts have been with me a long time, but I've been silent because I was afraid to seem like I was speaking out of jealousy, or sour grapes, or hubris. And so I hid.

Its time to drop the cape, pick up an axe, and be my own huntsman. I don't know what that means yet. But I'll probably be going to more conferences. I have a feeling I'll enjoy myself more now, partly because I'll have changed, but also because as a community, we're all a lot wiser.