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'Dreadful Young Ladies' Mixes the Ordinary With the Strange


Readers would be forgiven if they believed Kelly Barnhill’s latest collection of stories is aimed at children.

Barnhill is a previous winner of the Newbery Medal, given to children’s book authors, and the collection, called Dreadful Young Ladies, features a delicate dragonfly on its cover. But the stories it contains are full of dark and mature themes, not meant for adolescents or the faint of heart. 

Even though this work may not be for children, she doesn't restrict herself with categorizations. Barnhill says of her writing: "I allow it to be whatever it wants to be."

"[I value] being attentive to the work itself and being attentive to the myriad of concerns that present themselves... the world, the central questions, the essential conflicts for the characters, the necessary consequences of each character's actions, as well as the sound of the piece," she explains.

"So I think I don't really ask myself about audience really at all, until the very end," she laughs, "when I hand it to somebody else and say, 'Ok, which direction is this looking?'"

Barnhill, who lives in Minnesota, will talk about the book Thursday, February 29 at Boswell Book Company.

Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2016.