How Laura Elizabeth Hernandez Modeled Her YA Dystopia on Real Life
"We’re living in a time now where people are scared to speak up for what they believe in," says the author.
When the news is as bad as it often is these days, you'd think that most people would turn to lighthearted entertainment — hearts, flowers, puppies, etc. — to take their minds off the horrors of the real world. And while plenty of people do just that, still others crave apocalyptic tales of doom (ask anyone who's been streaming Contagion for the last two months). If you're the latter type, then it might be time to check out Laura Elizabeth Hernandez's Braintown, a dystopian young-adult novel about a society where women are trained from birth to be subservient to men.
"My whole life it has just been building in the back of my mind," Hernandez tells CHICA of her inspiration for the book. "When I [was growing up] I played basketball, and I started to see things that I thought could be injustices. I would go to the basketball court and every time I went, 15 other guys would take over the court and they would kick me out because I was a girl. Then I'd have to prove that I was good enough on the court, and once I proved myself to them, they would let me play. But why did I have to prove myself to play on a court that’s for everyone?"
Braintown tells the story of a young woman named Alice Garcia, who wakes up on her 17th birthday with the realization that something's not right about the way everyone around her caters to men — her friends, her mother, her teachers. "In Braintown, the girls are oppressed," Hernandez explains. "Their freedom of speech has been taken away and Alice is fighting for that."
Alice faces further oppression for speaking out, but decides to fight for a better life anyway. Her plight will ring uncomfortably true for anyone who's ever called out a friend for telling a sexist joke, or dealt with criticism from a family member for being too "outspoken." "We’re living in a time now where people are scared to speak up for what they believe in," Hernandez says of the story's parallels to the real world. "The story mirrors our current dystopia."
Though Hernandez thinks things have improved for women since she was a young girl trying to prove herself to the boys on the basketball court, she still sees a long road ahead. "These ideas don't die," she says. "We keep teaching these things over and over, and it eats at your self-confidence when you're trying to achieve great things."
Braintown is available for purchase here.