Amy Fellner Dominy is the author of OyMG (Bloomsbury). The book jacket reads, "Jewish Girl. Christian Camp. Holy Moly." Ellie Taylor is passionate about speech and debate. So much so, she attends the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts in hopes of earning a scholarship to Benedict High School. The only pickle is that Ellie is Jewish and her Zayde doesn’t think a Jewish girl at Christian camp is such a good idea. Ellie has a warm and loving relationship with her Zayde, who loves to cook and peppers his speech with yiddishisms. Life gets complicated for Ellie as she swallows any personal concern and focuses on her goal of beating out her competition in the final tournament at speech camp. OyMG is a thought provoking, humorous book that will appeal to tweens and teens.
Amy worked as a copywriter in the advertising business for twenty years before leaving to earn her MFA as a playwright. Her plays for adults and children have been staged in various cities around the country. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband and two teenage children. OyMG is her first novel and I'm thrilled tohave the chance to ask Amy a few questions about OyMG.
What was your inspiration for writing OyMG?
Because I grew up as one of the only Jewish kids in my school, I was always aware of being different. I was proud of my faith, but at times it was hard. Like many teens, I wanted to fit in. I think that’s always been a universal challenge—how to be true to ourselves even when there’s pressure to conform. The question is how far will we go to fit in? What part of ourselves are we willing to hide? From that question, Ellie Taylor and OyMG came to life.
Have you experienced the type of anti-semitism Ellie experiences?
Though the situation was much different, I did experience anti-Semitism when I was the same age as Ellie. I had a week-long babysitting job, and the family fired me when they discovered I was Jewish. It was my first experience with that kind of hatred, and I do think it made me wary. When you’re faced with something like that, it can be tempting to want to hide the part of yourself you don’t think people will like or accept. That experience has never left me, and I imagine I drew upon it in many ways as I wrote OyMG.
How have young readers responded to OyMG?
One of the best parts of this whole experience has been the response from readers. Kids have told me they loved Ellie, and the book has made them want to stand up for themselves in their own lives. (That’s about as good as it gets!) I’ve also been thanked by teens for writing a book about a Jewish girl that’s not Holocaust related, since they read so many of those books. And finally, I hear from all kinds of people—teens and adults—who appreciate that this is a book that raises issues of religion and faith without feeling preachy. I’m very happy about that, as well.
What was your greatest challenge in writing OyMG?
In the beginning, I struggled with how to write about this religious issue without being heavy-handed. Then, I realized I wasn’t writing about a religious issue. I was writing about a teenager with a problem. Once I focused the story on Ellie, and let her deal with the situation, the book really came together.
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