Monday, August 15, 2022

Q&A with Jen Barton




Jen Barton is the author of the new young adult biography Bernice Sandler and the Fight for Title IX. It focuses on activist Bernice "Bunny" Sandler (1928-2019) and her efforts to make it illegal for federally funded institutions to discriminate on the basis of sex. Barton's other books include What's Your Story, Amelia Earhart?. She lives in Pennsylvania.


Q: How did you research this book?    


A: I spent a lot of time reading; educating myself on the history of TIX, on how Bunny was involved in the law’s creation, and also on what it was like to live and grow up before TIX was law.


One of my favorite parts of research was spending a week digging through Bunny’s collected papers at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute. It was incredible to see so much history first-hand.


I also spent time with Bunny’s daughters and had the benefit of their invaluable insight into the more personal side of their mom, as well as with Bunny’s close friend and colleague, Margaret Dunkel, who was kind enough to write the Intro for the book.

Margaret knew Bunny, which is incredible. She ran in the same circles and was there fighting for Title IX with Bunny. She was an invaluable partner and it was an absolute honor to talk with her and have her involvement.


Q: What do you see as the legacy today of Bernice Sandler’s work on Title IX?


A: It’s really a workhorse of legislation. Bunny and fellow activists fought to make it illegal for institutions that receive federal funds to discriminate on the basis of sex.


Yes, that means equitable locker rooms and uniforms regardless of gender, but the law also protects pregnant and parenting students from discrimination. And it protects against sexual harassment—from a creepy hand on your shoulder to assault.


Title IX is a powerful resource everyone should be aware of. Kids should know they’re protected, that there’s a law making it illegal for them to be bullied because they don’t conform to a stereotypical concept of masculinity or femininity, that it’s illegal for sexual harassment to interfere with their education.


They should know their school has to have a Title IX Coordinator. Hopefully students will never have to make use of the coordinator, but they deserve to be informed.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m currently a graduate student at Hollins University in Roanoke, working toward my MA in Children’s Literature. I’m nearing the end of classwork, and am beginning to think about my thesis, which is tentatively a MG novel about a girl with anger issues who works in her mom’s restaurant. I’m excited about the project, but have a lot of work to do!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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