Upper Schoolers Speak with Author Patricia Forde

On October 7, Upper School students posed questions via Skype for author Patricia Forde, whose novel The List was this year's all-school read. The book takes place in a community devastated by a climate apocalypse, where speech is constrained to five hundred words. Those who speak outside the approved lexicon face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice, Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language. On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, but when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language, she realizes that it’s up to her to save not only words, but also culture itself.

The virtual Q&A was held in the Trustey Family Theatre, where students asked Forde about the ideas in her novel and her career as a writer. The author, who lives in Ireland, explained that as a bi-lingual speaker of Irish and English, she's sensitive to the fact that many words in the minority Irish language are fast disappearing, and the story of The List has its origins in her wondering about how many words are needed in order to survive.

Students were curious about Forde's dual career as a novelist and a writer for television. She compared and contrasted the solitary work of a novelist with the highly collaborative world of television writing. Upper Schoolers also had questions for Forde about the sequel to The List, titled Mother Tongue. She offered a preview of the just-released novel, in which the battle to save language and culture continues when a new leader develops an even more sinister plan to prevent children from gaining knowledge.