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Acclaimed Author, Teen Therapist to Visit Marlette High School

By Shauna Lester
Marlette Schools

Chris Crutcher

Save the date: Thursday, May 23rd, 6 pm.
He’s written fifteen novels for young adults, but Chris Crutcher also has decades of experience as a teen therapist. All elements of his books are inspired by the teens he’s met.
“I see [kids] struggling with the same mental health struggles they’ve always dealt with,” says Crutcher. “It seems as if those issues were magnified during the pandemic,” Crutcher says, “and a lot of teens have had a tough time finding their way back to ‘normal.’ There are so many pervasive issues haunting kids right now: school shootings, the unpredictable happenings around climate change, and so many more.”
The renowned author has traveled to schools in all fifty states and more than a dozen countries to promote his books, meeting teens whose struggles are incredibly similar to those of the characters in his stories. He’s visited Marlette twice before, in 2014 and then 2018, to talk to juniors and seniors about his books.
“I’ve always written about issues I dealt with working at our regional mental health center and as a teacher, then director, of a K-12 alternative school in Oakland, California back in the 1970’s,” Crutcher explains. “One client urged and urged me to write a story about what she felt hadn’t been written about, telling me, ‘If I had read a book about a girl like me, I’d have known I wasn’t alone. That’s all it would have taken for me to tell.’
“I can’t tell you the number of ‘This book saved my life’ emails I’ve received over the forty years I’ve been writing. In most cases it’s not literally true, but when a kid can’t find a witness in real life, the right fictional character is a good second bet. For a kid, it’s knowing that you’re not alone and coming away from a story believing that you can have an influence over what happens next to you.”
Several of Crutcher’s books, most notably Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, have been taught for fifteen years in Marlette to 10th-12th grade students. “They’re always well-received,” claims English teacher Shauna Lester, “and I can’t count how many times a reluctant reader has told me, ‘I read the whole book last night,’ when I assign just the first chapter. I mean, I can only pretend to be mad that they read ahead,” she jokes. “It’s amazed me over the years, the process of reading his books with students. I mean, I just look up, and no one’s falling asleep; no one’s trying to Snapchat their friends. I hear 28 kids turn the page at the exact same moment. They’ve got their books open, fully engaged, following along. It’s just the best thing I’ve ever experienced as a teacher. That simply doesn’t happen with most books.”
Crutcher will be in Marlette on Thursday, May 23rd, speaking with individual classes and at afternoon assemblies. The general public is invited to attend his talk that evening at 6:00 p.m., in the Marlette Jr/Sr High School gymnasium.

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