SZ: Why do you think there are so few mainstream YA books that feature characters who have a positive relationship with their religious faith and/or traditions?Hurray Donna! This is exactly why I enjoyed The Possibilities of Sainthood so much.
DF: That’s a great question and one I feel I have to be careful about answering—though I am going to be honest. As a professor of religion, I am well aware how uncomfortable talk of religion is to many people, never mind an encounter with a person who is practicing in a tradition. . . . I think this situation is unfortunate because so many teens do practice a faith tradition and not everyone is disaffected. I’m not sure we (YA authors) do such a good job representing these teens and this aspect of their lives. Then also, to me, religion really can be lighthearted and filled with life and comedy.
I got my grubby little paws on the book at the ALA conference this summer, and this is how: I walked by some MP3 audio company, and they had a big, beautiful poster of the cover. I screeched to a halt and took a mental note of that book, knowing that I was gonna hafta read it. All axioms aside, I love a great cover. Then I actually found an ARC at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux's booth, and leaped on it like a hungry wolf. I think I scared the publisher's rep. Sorry 'bout that.
When I read it, I was delighted to see that the Catholic content wasn't played for mockery or shown to be hollow and meaningless, but that Antonia Lucia Labella is very strong and joyful in her faith. It was the second book I'd read in about a week's time with Catholic content (the other being Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's Leap of Faith.) At the same time, it was a completely different story--much more like chick lit, but still showing a girl who drew strength and guidance from her beliefs without being betrayed by them or being a mindless sheep.
Identity is comprised of many, many things for teens: sexuality, politics, fashion, music, sports . . . the list goes on and on. Faith and religion (similar but not identical concepts) are just as much a part of that list, and I hope to see more novels that address that in a variety of tones.