World's Oldest Fledgling

The blog of Stephanie Wardrop, Y A Author

You’ll Catch More Flies with Agave Nectar

on October 15, 2013

Why Georgia’s a Vegan (and answers to other burning questions on my book birthday)

It is aliiiiiiive!

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And to celebrate the book’s birthday, I am answering reader questions. (Which I will happily do, any time, by the way).

Last week, a writer friend asked, “Why did you make Georgia a vegan? That’s such a hard diet to follow!” And I guess there is enough Georgia in me, despite my denials, because I thought for about half a second “It’s not a diet. It’s a lifestyle! It’s an ethical choice,” but I would never say that to anyone. It’s snotty and exemplifies why Georgia, despite her best intentions, is a pretty lousy spokesperson for veganism since she turns everyone off with her snarky dismissiveness. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, I want to tell her.  And if I did, she would say, “Honey is not vegan, moron. Try agave as a substitute.” images-2

Back to the question. As I told my friend, the short answer to why Georgia is a vegan is that I am one. Mostly. Unlike Georgia, I am not as hardcore and that used to make me feel guilty, like I was a disgrace to the cause or something. But in recent years, I have learned to let up a little. It is hard to find vegan food when you’re out and about, so I will, on occasion, eat a muffin or a scone or even a piece of cheese if I am about to turn into some un-funny version of the Snickers ad in which people are not themselves when they’re hungry.  Image There’s no score card at the end, as far as I know, and I am still saving animals with 95% of what I eat. I don’t know that Georgia would appreciate that yet, but she’s learning. She’ll get there.

And that’s another reason I made her a vegan. It’s not a very Jane Austen trait to have in a character based on the heroine of Pride and Prejudice. (Although Lucy Briers, the actress who played Mary Bennett in the 1995 BBC version, is a vegan.)

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But Elizabeth Bennett was awfully sure she knew what was what and had more than a little bit of a self-righteous streak. So my “Lizzy”, Georgia, has her heart in the right place, and believes in veganism for all the right reasons, but she judges the eating habits of those around her a little too freely. And I can tell you from experience that being a veg*n (vegan or vegetarian) in a community of carnivores causes unintentional tension all the time. The daily decision about what or where to eat can devolve into a three-hour debate during which everyone just gets so tired they end up chewing on raw ramen noodles just to settle the whole thing. And if you think of veganism as being about more than what you choose to eat, but also about how you look at the relationship between people and animals, and even between people and other people, then you’ve got one character with a really disparate worldview from nearly everyone else around her –and especially, in Georgia’s case, very different from the conservative preppie let’s-hit-the-Cape-and-throw-a-lobster-into-the-pot view of her nemesis/love interest/lab partner, Michael.

A last reason Georgia’s a vegan? There are a lot of teenagers who are becoming vegans, either experimenting with it by cutting out meat and animal products, or who embrace the life wholeheartedly for its health benefits as well as for ethical reasons. I wanted to represent them.  And I don’t see a lot of vegans in popular culture, period, but certainly not in YA novels. Carolyn Mackler’s Vegan Virgin Valentine is the only one I can think of, and it disappointed me that for the main character, being vegan turned out to be a temporary fad, something she did in part to punish herself or to gain a sense of control over her life. I know that happens a lot in real life; I know plenty of fine people who sheepishly tell me, when they find out that I’m a vegan, that they tried it, they really tried.  And that’s okay. Again, there’s no score card being kept.  But I wanted to portray a young vegan whose choices were made very consciously, with reason and knowledge, and who has made those choices for life.  She just needs to lighten up about the fact that not everyone’s made the same choice – that’s part of what she has to learn.

In part three of the series, Pride and Prep School, Georgia teaches Michael to make stuffed shells with tofu ricotta

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as they both begin to recognize that seeing another point of view can be liberating and fun. And tasty. Check it out now at Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble.

And if you have any questions about the books or being a veg*n, send them my way! I’m not a proselyte like Georgia – I’m not out on the street corner preaching the gospel of animal-free eating.  But if you want to talk about it, I’m always happy to do that. And if you’re a teenager thinking about going vegan, then check out resources like the Vegetarian Resource Group, which has a great section on their site about Being Vegan and Vegetarian in High School, or PETA or PETA2, which also helps out parents who aren’t sure what they’re kids are getting into. I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about great resources for recipes, and vegan teenagers can join TeenVGN on Twitter. They’re “fueled by compassion!”

Image   PETA’s sticker and Tshirts rock, and these wristbands are from TeenVGN Image

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