I read an article in The New York Times this morning that referenced another youth sports organization that has been embroiled in sexual abuse scandals involving both coaches and players. While I was already planning to write about The Wolves are Waiting this week, the Times story made this book seem even more important to highlight. Natasha Friend has authored a book that perfectly captures the sense of invincibility that seems to be communicated to athletes–often male athletes– and those around them when they are beloved by their communities.
The Wolves are Waiting tells the story of Nora Melchionda, the fifteen-year-old daughter of the local university’s athletic director. The university, its athletic teams, and the fraternity that many of the athletes belong to, are all adored by the town in which they reside. It is not uncommon for the community to attend the “frat fair” during rush week and the last thing Nora remembers before awakening on the golf course the next morning, is that she was drinking a root beer to wash down some funnel cake. She has several questions: How did she get to the ninth hole of the golf course? Why does she have such a headache? How did her underwear get onto the flagstick and why is there a number 9 written with Sharpie in a very private place on her body? Sometimes the simplest explanation is exactly the one we would most like to eliminate, but Nora does not have that option.
Nora is surrounded by people who love her–her parents, her siblings, her best friend, and the young man who chased off her attackers on the golf course. What makes The Wolves are Waiting such a unique story, is that one of these people deserves at least part of the blame for what was done to Nora and it happens to be the one person who she never would have suspected. We never expect those that we love to do things that are so unquestionably wrong. Unfortunately, sometimes they do.
The Wolves are Waiting is a particularly impressive young adult novel because it carries such powerful truths. Truth #1: Sexual assault is an act of violence in any circumstance. Period, the end. Truth #2: That doesn’t make things any simpler for those impacted.
Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards:
Justice 14: I am aware of the advantages and disadvantages I have in society because of my membership in different identity groups, and I know how this has affected my life.
Action 17: I take responsibility for standing up to exclusion, prejudice and injustice.
Action 19: I stand up to exclusion, prejudice and discrimination, even when it’s not popular or easy or when no one else does.