Portland, Oregon

High Stakes: Rebellion & Resistance

April Henry, Tehlor Kay Mejia, and Renée Watson discuss activism, community, and bravery in this YA panel from the 2019 Portland Book Festival.

The 2020 Portland Book Festival, presented by bank of america, will take place November 5-21, and will be presented virtually with most events available to view for free. For more information, including our lineup of authors & presenters, visit: literary-arts.org/pdxbookfest

In this episode of The Archive Project, we revisit a panel discussion from the 2019 Portland Book Festival. The panel, titled High Stakes: Rebellion & Resistance, features Young Adult (YA) authors April Henry, Tehlor Kay Mejia, and Renée Watson, with moderator Emily Suvada. The three authors’ books center on young women who find themselves in precarious situations in which they must decide whether or not to take the risk and step up to the fight—be the fight against an active shooter, a corrupt regime, or a high school principal.

The joy of reading these works and listening to these authors in conversation is that they all meet their young characters where they are. This is a conversation about activism and the role of art, the meaning of community and family, and about the sometimes indirect and messy ways we arrive at new levels of awareness of who we are, and who we want to be.

For more information about the books discussed in this episode:
Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson


 “You can be an activist and still have flaws and still have some learning to do. That’s an important part of learning how to advocate for people. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be willing to learn and open to listening.” – Renée Watson

“I want people who read my books to feel like they could do brave things even if they don’t feel brave. You don’t have to feel brave to act bravely.” – April Henry

“It’s okay to love your culture and love your people but also want your expression of that identity to evolve.” – Tehlor Kay Mejia


April Henry is the New York Times bestselling author of many acclaimed mysteries for adults and young adults, including the YA novels Girl, Stolen,The Night She Disappeared, Face of Betrayal co-authored with Lis Wiehl, and Run, Hide, Fight Back. She is from Oregon.

Tehlor Kay Mejia is an Oregon native and the author of  the YA novels We Set the Dark on Fire and We Unleash the Merciless Storm and the middle grade novel Paola Santiago and the Drowned Palace. Her short fiction has appeared in the All Out and Toil & Trouble anthologies from Harlequin Teen.

Renée Watson is a New York Times-bestselling author, educator, and activist. Her young adult novel, Piecing Me Together received a Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor. Her books include Ways to Make SunshineSome Places More Than OthersThis Side of HomeWhat Momma Left MeBetty Before X, cowritten with Ilyasah Shabazz, and Watch Us Rise, cowritten with Ellen Hagan, as well as two acclaimed picture books: A Place Where Hurricanes Happen and Harlem’s Little Blackbird, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Renée grew up in Portland, Oregon, and splits her time between Portland and New York City.

Emily Suvada was born and raised in Australia, where she went on to earn a degree in mathematics. She previously worked as a data scientist, and still spends hours writing algorithms to perform tasks which would only take her minutes to complete on her own. When not writing, she can be found hiking, cycling, and conducting chemistry experiments in her kitchen. The third book in her This Mortal Coil series, This Vicious Cure, was released in winter 2020. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and son.

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