April/May #163 : Positively Page Turning - by LaToya Johnson

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The Education of Miss Universe

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La Educación de Miss Universo




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Positively Page Turning

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Put a Little PEP in Your Step




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April / May 2010


Positively Page Turning

by LaToya Johnson

Author Courtney Sheinmel imprints her teen readers with messages of sexual safety—and acceptance of people living with HIV.

In Positively, young adult author Courtney Sheinmel eases HIV stigma among preteens and their parents with a fictional story about a 13-year-old girl learning how to cope with being HIV positive.
 
Why did you write Positively?
I’ve worked with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation since I was 13—that was 19 years ago. For years, I imagined what it was like to grow up living with HIV, to lose people and to continue fighting. The story was stewing inside me for a long time, but it wasn’t something I necessarily wanted to write because I’m HIV negative and I felt like I didn’t have the right to put that story down. But my agent convinced me to write it. So I did. A friend of mine, who’s HIV positive, also lent support.

Why was it important for you to write a story about a 13-year-old girl living with HIV?
I generally write for that age group. It’s a voice that comes naturally to me. It’s easier for me to get in the head of someone who is 12 or 13 than someone who is my age. I remember so many of the books I read in middle school. I read them and internalized them and can recite parts of them back to you. There’s a power that comes with children’s literature.

What do you hope people learn from reading your book?
I don’t [normally] set out to teach a lesson. [But] I wanted to show kids it was OK to be friends with someone living with HIV. And hopefully, when my 12-year-old readers are older and making their own decisions [about sex], they’ll be smarter about protecting themselves.


Search: teen, readers, sexual safety, acceptance, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation


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