On Friday, September 19th, Deborah Ellis hosted a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) session. We want to thank everyone who participated for the wonderful, thought-provoking and even controversial questions centered around feminism, ideology and Deborah’s fantastic novels. For those of you who missed it, we’ve rounded up some key questions from the discussion:
Q. In your opinion what’s the most progressive welcoming, women equal country based on opportunity and general equality?
A. I’ve heard that Iceland is very good. Women all over the world have talents to bring forward, and the more chances they get, the better their countries become.
Q. I teach The Breadwinner series to my 8th graders, and fell in love with your book Kids of Kabul last year as a read aloud. That book really showed my students how lucky they are just because of where they are from, and that they can do so much to help other kids in this world. What is the biggest thing you have taken away from your experiences with children in Afghanistan? Do you believe that there is hope to return the country to the way is was 60 years ago?
A. There is always hope. If we get off the backs of the young Afghan people by ceasing military interventions and give them the resources they need to rebuild their country.
Q. What does feminism mean to you?
A. Opportunities for women and for everyone to live the life that they want to live.
Q. When writing The Cat at the Wall, did you travel to the West Bank to talk with people about their experiences?
A. Yes, I traveled to many places in the West Bank including Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah. I met with young people of all ages in different circumstances. They told me about dealing with the Israeli military and wishing they could make friends with Israeli kids.
Q. Do you have a specific process that you follow for writing a novel?
A. I usually start with a question that I want to answer. What if something happens? Then I try to answer it. For example, what would is it like for children growing up under the Taliban? I wanted to try to understand that, so that’s why I wrote The Breadwinner.
Q. Any movie or book in the world, which one do you wish that you’d written?
A. wish I had written From Anna by Jean Little. It’s a book about a family escaping WWII, but it’s also the story of a little girl trying to figure out who she is. It’s written with simplicity and dignity.
Q. Deborah…you have gifted readers with your amazing insightful stories. The latest one that I have recommended and sold is Moon at Nine. What inspired you as a writer to record the real stories of young people seeking some kind of justice to their predicaments?
A. The book Moon at Nine is about two teenage girls who fall in love in 1988 Iran. It’s based on a true story. I met the woman whose story it was, and she asked me to write it for her because she still has family back in Iran. She couldn’t write it herself because it would put them in danger. I’m drawn to stories of courage because they inspire us to have courage in our own lives.
Q. You seem to travel a great deal. When did you decide to venture beyond Canada and write about the world beyond North America?
A. When the Taliban took over in Afghanistan, I wanted to find out more about what those women were going through and how we could be useful back in Canada. So I spent time in the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan meeting with people and hearing their stories. That was the first time I’d ever done anything like that.
Q. What does it feel like to fight for the oppressed and weak? Also, do you think that human’s can ever control their vices like greed, power, and jealousy which lead to evil actions.
A. I’m honoured to be able to meet so many courageous people around the world. About vices, there is a difference between being human and all the things and go with it and making it legal to drop bombs on people in other countries.
Deborah Ellis, best known for her Breadwinner series, has donated more than $1 million in royalties to Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan and Street Kids International. She has won many awards, including the Governor General’s Award and Sweden’s Peter Pan Prize.
Her new novel The Cat at the Wall centers around Clare, a young girl who finds she has been reincarnated as a cat on the West Bank.