2008 National Book Award Young People's Literature Finalist E. Lockhart Interview

E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks


Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Interview conducted by Rita Williams-Garcia.

Rita Williams-Garcia: Frankie is a ground breaking heroine. We can’t help but admire her gamesmanship and ambition. Who, in the fictional or non-fictional world would she admire?

EL: I'm glad you admire Frankie -- I think there is much to admire in her -- but I also think she's a problematic person, not a role model so much as a character whose internal and external conflicts remain unresolved.

She might admire Jessica Mitford, the famous "muckracker" journalist and author of The American Way of Death. Not for Mitford's communism, but for her fearless intellect. She would also admire the late David Foster Wallace for his linguistic pyrotechnics.

RWG: Invisibility and being seen in the wrong light by family and peers is at times a grace, an advantage, and a pain. I can’t help but feel Frankie wants to be known for her abilities more than she wants to be a part of any group. My sense is The Order would lose its fascination if she were let in—unless she could become its head dog.

EL: Yes, that's true. At least one reviewer wrote that Disreputable History was a book about wanting to belong -- and I thought, "No, Frankie doesn't want to belong. She wants to lead and have followers!" It's quite a different thing.

Frankie makes use of her invisibility, but at the same time, she resents it hugely.

RWG: While some of the characterizations might have felt familiar, they certainly weren’t typical, starting with vocab hunk boyfriend, Matthew Livingston. Tell us about him, or another character in Frankie's sphere.

EL: Thank you. Matthew is a better-looking composite of many guys I knew in high school and college. (I went to prep school and then to Vassar, both on scholarship). I wanted to write about the strong appeal that some extremely privileged people have; not because they are wealthy, but because they are so deeply secure in their social position. Their status affords them a lot of leeway to be goofy, to be relaxed, to be generous -- and they are very compelling as a result. I met a lot of such people in the schools I went to -- and I wanted to explore their social power, both the pull of it, and the negative elements of it. Matthew's "inner copyeditor" is probably the only trait he and I share. Giving him that quality was a way of getting myself to identify with him and the unconscious condescension he practices in dealing with Frankie.

Rita Williams-Garcia is the author of six distinguished novels for young adults: Jumped, No Laughter Here, Every Time a Rainbow Dies, Fast Talk on a Slow Track, Blue Tights, and Like Sisters on the Homefront. She has also published a picture book and has contributed to numerous anthologies. Williams-Garcia's works have been recognized by the Coretta Scott King Award Committee, the PEN/Norma Klein Award, the American Library Association, and Parents' Choice, among others. She recently served on the National Book Award Committee for Young People's Literature and is on faculty at Vermont College for the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program. Rita Williams-Garcia lives in Jamaica, Queens, NY and is the mother of two daughters.