Insignificant Events In the Life of a Cactus: Young Women Demanding to be Seen and Heard

By Dorea Kleker, The University of Arizona

As an educator and parent, the recent shooting in Parkdale, Florida rattled me. Again. Preventable, senseless deaths. Again. Mourning families and communities. Again. I scroll through the photos of 17 beautiful faces who walked into school on the morning of February 14, 2018 and didn’t come home. I read the details of the survivors’ accounts of a nightmare they will never shake. I hug my son a little tighter and think of all the mothers who are afraid. Again. Again. Again.

Insignificant Events In the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

We have been here before. Too many times. And yet, this time–for the first time–I feel hopeful. The aftermath is not just thoughts, prayers and talk. The aftermath is young, organized and loud. Young people are rising up, taking action and demanding to be heard.

Emma González, a 17-year-old survivor, gave a powerful speech pressuring lawmakers for gun control. I watched with tears running down my face for the raw pain that no young person should ever have to feel. Through the tears, a smile was also plastered on my face for the words she so meticulously crafted, the power behind these and the conviction with which she spoke them. If you haven’t heard her speech, you should take a listen.

In Insignificant Events In the Life of a Cactus, Dusti Bowling introduces us to another teenager we want to listen to. Aven Green is a 13-year-old musician, soccer extraordinaire, detective and aspiring blogger. She also happens to have no arms. In her old life, this wasn’t a big deal; it just was. However, Aven’s family recently moved to Arizona where she is clearly different. The kind of different most people have never seen. While sometimes painful, and often messy, Aven navigates her new life and friendships with honesty, humor and compassion. She refuses to be defined by what others see as the tragedy of her life and holds others accountable to the same standards.

I struggled to come up with a catchy, thought-provoking theme for this month’s WOW Currents. I knew little about these four titles before I read them. I selected them because their authors would be present at the Tucson Festival of Books and they are (relatively) easy to get to my current home in rural Panama. I didn’t anticipate the many connections across the books, the themes and the characters. Whether within their families, at school or out in the world, Julia, Dimple, Mia and Aven don’t fit the mold of what others expect. They wear their identities proudly and are honest in their struggles to do so. These four strong female protagonists also offer previously unheard voices within the real world of children’s and YA lit. These young women and their female authors have important stories to tell and they make us want to listen.

Women have been in the news a lot lately. We’re initiating and leading important conversations and movements. Our young, brilliant female voices are louder than ever and they are demanding to be heard. The world would be wise to listen.

* Dusti Bowling will participate in two panels at the Festival of Books: Meet 8 Authors in 60 Minutes and Launching Your First Book.

Journey through Worlds of Words during our open reading hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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