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WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT I KNOW, by Sonja Solter
April 1st, 2020 by Liza Wiemer

An Interview with Middle Grade Author, Sonja Solter

Description from Goodreads:

A sensitive, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful novel in verse about one girl’s journey in the aftermath of abuse.

One day after school, on the couch in the basement, Tori’s uncle did something bad. Afterward, Tori tells her mom. Even though telling was a brave thing to do, her mom still doesn’t believe her at first. Her grandma still takes his side. And Tori doesn’t want anyone else—even her best friend—to know what happened.

Now Tori finds herself battling mixed emotions—anger, shame, and sadness—as she deals with the trauma. But with the help of her mom, her little sister, her best friend, and others, can Tori find a way to have the last word

From debut author Sonja K. Solter comes a heartbreaking yet powerful novel that will strike a chord with readers of Jacqueline Woodson and Tony Abbott. 

Buying links: IndieBound |B & N | Amazon

STILL WEIRD: (A poem from the book)

Mom laughed

 a short, barky laugh. 

Her anger kind of 

whooshed out of her 

like when you let go 

of the end of a balloon.

And then she laughed 

some more.

And I laughed too.

She’s back, she said, 

my girl, I’ve missed her.

And then I started crying 

(tried to pretend I was 

only laughing, 

let my bangs fall over my eyes)

because it all reminded me 

how things are 

Still Weird.

Interview:

Share with readers a novel secret—something that readers will never know just from picking up the book. It could be a place you included in the novel, a name you gave to a character inspired by another person, special research you did.

Answer: Even though the story isn’t meant to take place in Colorado, there is a poem early on where Tori, her mom, and her sister go to feed the fish at a pond. That was based on the pond at Fox Run Regional Park in Colorado Springs, which is my favorite place in the whole world, and which is also the same park where the first poems came to me. 

Question: Often the topic of sexual assault is written about for older children. Why did you feel it was important to share this for younger MG students?

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, children are the most vulnerable to sexual abuse between the ages of seven and thirteen. We more and more emphasize body boundaries and this kind of safety for younger students with informational presentations, which is great, but it’s also important to share with the more personal approach that a novel makes possible. As with other stories, readers come away with increased empathy, but, in this case, it’s extra important because the topic has been taboo. It’s absolutely appropriate that we feel discomfort that child sexual abuse exists, but that shouldn’t extend to the survivors and their ability to speak out. I hope that readers in other tough situations will also find hope in a story that is realistic about how difficult things can be, but also about the long-term, hard-won light at the end of the tunnel. I should also note that there are no details of the abuse; the focus is on the emotional response and healing journey that Tori goes through as a survivor.

Bonus round: What do you prefer?

Best vacation? Beach, Disney, Big city going to museums and historical places, skiing? Big city going to museums and historical places- also monuments, temples, ruins, even if not in a big city– you get the picture (And-yikes!- downhill skiing terrifies me even though I live in Colorado.)

Laundry, dishes, dusting, vacuuming? Laundry- I find it extremely satisfying. 

Flying, sailing, walking, driving? Walking- my favorite form of transportation and recreation

Movies at home or movies in a theater? In a theater, but I hardly ever do it! 

Peas, carrots, Brussels sprouts, spinach? Brussels sprouts- roasted just right! 

About Sonja:

Children’s book author Sonja K Solter spent her childhood summers in her mother’s homeland of Finland and traveled the world extensively with her family. She read so voraciously as a child that she once brought over 70 books on a trip. (Her mother is still trying to figure out how that slipped by her.) Sonja graduated with an interdisciplinary degree in Human Biology from Stanford University and has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. Her master’s critical thesis was on writing trauma in middle grade and young adult realistic fiction. She is currently a creative writing mentor to youth with the Society of Young Inklings and enjoys writing poetry and prose for children of all ages. She has also been a Music Together® director and teacher, where she especially enjoyed the collaborative improvisation aspect of the program. Sonja lives with her husband and two children in Louisville, Colorado, and enjoys nature, travel, and yoga.

Find Sonja here: Website |Twitter | Facebook


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