The Biblioklept Interview: Eddie de Oliveira

Last month a local news station reported that Eddie de Oliveira’s book Lucky was being placed under review by the Duval Public School Board. Apparently an upset mother was disturbed by some of the content of the book; instead of calling the school directly, she allegedly went directly to the local news. I reacted by posting this blog, to which Eddie responded. We exchanged a few emails and I tried to contact some of the people involved in this story; I believe Folio tried to follow up this story also, but the leads go nowhere. I still haven’t been able to find out if the book really is “under review,” but I asked my department head (I teach English) if such a review list or “banned list” existed, and she said she’d never heard of such a thing. She then became alarmed and told me to “be careful” with what my classes read. This is kind of an unwritten rule of public education: don’t rock the boat. Play it safe. Books can be dangerous.

There’s nothing dangerous about Lucky, though, and I mean that in the nicest way–it is a book intended for teens, after all. Some down here in the beautiful South may still be alarmed or shocked by the subject matter of a sexually confused teen navigating identity in modern London. However, the real themes here are hardly subversive: Young Adult (YA) fiction has a legacy of exploring what it means to be an individual among a collective, and how young people are to negotiate a “proper” space in society. In the case of Lucky‘s protagonist Sam, that “proper” space is constantly under attack from all directions, as he is repeatedly prompted to identify–is he straight? gay? bisexual? In a way, the novel creates a meta-critique of those who would question its valid, “proper” space in a school library–unfortunately, those would-be censors will probably not read the book, preferring to simply highlight “offending” words.

Lucky tells an important story about the search for identity that all teens have to traverse, and I would have no problem suggesting it to any of my students. Eddie was kind enough to answer a few questions, which you will find below.

You can find both of Eddie’s books, Lucky and Johnny Hazzard, at Amazon or your local library.

luck.jpg hazz.jpg

Biblioklept: Have you ever stolen a book, and if so, could you
talk a little bit about that experience?

Eddie de Oliveira: I removed the Wide Awake Club book of Ghosts, Monsters
and Legends
from my school library when I was around
ten years-old. The Wide Awake Club was a Saturday
morning kids’ show, and this book was the bomb.

BK: Have you ever borrowed a book and never returned it
(on purpose)?

EO: I have not. I never checked out the Wide Awake Club
book.

BK: What are you reading right now?

EO: I’m reading Four Trials by Senator John Edwards. Amid
all the media hullabaloo about Hillary and Barack,
I’ve been impressed by the one candidate for the
presidency who bothers to combine policies with
explanations on how he’ll implement them. I’m also
impressed by Edwards’ manner, rhetoric and sincerity.
Four Trials was published in 2003, and, as the title
suggests, it recounts four of Edwards’ most defining
moments in the courtroom when he was a trial lawyer,
defending the powerless against medical negligence and
corporate giants.

Next up, I’ll re-read The Perks of Being a Wallflower,
which I first read way back when.

BK: What were your favorite books as a child?

EO: I loved Roald Dahl – especially Charlie and the
Chocolate Factory
and George’s Marvelous Medicine. I
re-read Charlie not so long ago and it really is
special. I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird and
Lord of the Flies at school and thinking they were
extraordinary – helped, perhaps, by having a brilliant
English teacher back then, Mrs. Martin.

Way before I was 13, I read The Secret Diary of Adrian
Mole aged 13 ¾
and The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole
several times. And, of course, the Wide Awake Club
book of Ghosts, Monsters and Legends
.

BK: You are currently an expatriate, living in Sweden.
Could you say a few words on this?

EO: London was pissing me off and in Sweden, most ‘things’
work very well. It may be colder, but the tap water
tastes like water should and the Stockholm air doesn’t
turn my white earphones black after two days.
Everybody speaks English very well (some better than
my compatriots) which makes learning Swedish rather
hard. Public transport is cheap and, for the most
part, reliable. The overwhelming sense here is that
the government actually gives a shit about its
citizens.

I’ve done some freelance journalism and continued
working on new books and film projects since living
here.

BK: Your book Lucky could be seen to fall under the
rubric of Young Adult fiction. What do you think of YA
as a genre, and was it your initial intention to reach
young people with your book?

EO: Yes, Lucky and Johnny Hazzard are both YA. I think
it’s an important genre and, thankfully, a growing
one. More and more books are being written primarily
with teens in mind, and those of us who write them
have a significant and serious responsibility. That
responsibility is to stay relevant and realistic,
avoiding some kind of The OC type representation of
what it is to be an adolescent. I read Melvyn Burgess’
Doing It, a YA/adult crossover title. He’s a good
writer, no doubt about it, but it really reads like a
middle-aged man writing about teens.

Johnny Hazzard is a love story written for teenage
boys. It’s a hard sell, because teen boy aren’t
renowned for their reading. Probably the finest
compliment I’ve ever received was on a 17-year-old
Texan boy’s myspace page. He listed dozens of bands in
the favourite Music section, a bunch of films in the
Movies section, and, in Books, it just said “I don’t
really read except this one book called Johnny
Hazzard
.”

If I ever stop knowing how a teenager thinks, I’lI
quit YA and begin writing cookbooks.

BK: As you know, a cranky mom in Duval County, here in
sunny Florida, has raised some objections to you book
Lucky having a place in her kid’s school library. Is
there any merit to her objections? If you could speak
with her, what would you say?

EO: There is no merit to her preposterous objections.
Censorship of any form is reprehensible. I don’t
accept that Lucky isn’t suitable for a child. It’s a
book about identity and figuring out where you fit in.
It is not a bomb-making manual.

If I could speak with her, I’d sit her down with a
fine Arctic Daquiri, served on a coaster with the text
of the First Amendment written over it. I’d ask her
what she’s afraid of, and offer her a signed copy of
Johnny Hazzard.

BK: How does one make an Arctic Dacquiri?

EO: Arctic Daquiri
———–
Lots of ice cubes
Winter fruits (berries)
Sugar water
Vodka

Put it in the blender. Absolutely wonderful.

BK: Are you an Edwin or an Edward (or possibly an
Edmund, or just an Eddie)?

EO: I’m neither, I’m an Eduardo. You also left out Edgar.

(ed. note: Biblioklept will now acknowledge an anglocentric bias that we didn’t even know we had!)

BK: According to your Myspace page, you and I are the
same age. How is it that you’ve managed to write and
publish two books, while I’ve accomplished so very,
very little in comparison? But no, seriously, how long
have you been writing? What kind of writing did you do
when you were younger?

EO: I’m motivated by guilt: Each and every day I feel I
haven’t achieved enough, and that motivates me to get
some work done. I have South American parents,
football was on the diet from a young age, and so I
look at my career like that of a footballer’s;
considering they hit their peak at 27 and tend to be
on the slide by 31, it’s not a constructive analogy.

I’ve been writing since I was small – I started out
with school magazines and little plays I’d put on with
my friends, then moved on to big plays I’d put on at
the Edinburgh Festival and in London, and then on to
the fiction novels, short films and journalism.

BK: You seem to be a big Beastie Boys fan. What draws
you to their music? What album is “the” Beastie Boys
album, in your opinion?

EO: The Beastie Boys are the most innovative and important
American band alive. They’re always a step ahead,
doing new things, mixing up genres and sounds. “The”
album for me has to be Paul’s Boutique, which did all
of those things I’ve just mentioned, but on a massive
scale. That record pioneered the art of sampling,
which is now a given in almost every modern musical
style.

4 thoughts on “The Biblioklept Interview: Eddie de Oliveira”

  1. What a fantastic interview. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve read any Young Adult literature. The standout novels were edgy stories about being fat or left out or angry… basically the opposite of the Sweet Valley High escapist narratives that privilege the books’ Aryan superheroes.

    Sez de Oliveira: “I don’t accept that Lucky isn’t suitable for a child. It’s a book about identity and figuring out where you fit in. It is not a bomb-making manual.”

    Classic!

    Like

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