Meet Ari Tison, a Bribri poet and storyteller who wrote her debut novel Saints of the Household with elements of folklore that had never been translated into English before. Ari’s writing highlights a story of healing for two teenage brothers who come from an abusive home. It publishes on March 28, 2023.
When describing Saints of the Household, what’s your elevator pitch?
Ari: Max and Jay have depended on each other for survival at home. But when the two brothers hear trouble in the woods, they find themselves beating up their high school’s star soccer player–who also happens to be their cousin’s new boyfriend–they have to face their futures and their own beliefs of who they are and who they want to be.
What inspired you to write Saints of the Household?
Ari: There are so many needed, beautiful books about abuse. It was important to me to depict what comes after the stopping of an abusive cycle—the messiness of healing which is difficult and complicated. I think oftentimes when something terrible ends it can feel like everything will get better, but we have our own healing to do and sometimes it’s just really hard and it takes time, community, art, and intentionality to take steps towards our own mending. But healing is absolutely possible.
Tell us about a librarian or educator who made an impact on you.
Ari: Ms. Constant, my 7th & 8th grade English teacher, introduced me to poetry and before I knew the words for it—the verse novel. We read Nikki Grime’s Bronx Masquerade in her class, and I remember it being incredibly transformative. Ms. Constant allowed us to write poetry from our places of pain, and that permission I think was ultimately what I needed to write Saints of the Household.
What is the first step in your creative process?
Ari: First things first, coffee 🙂
What advice would you give to young writers?
Ari: Keep the love of writing. Guard it best you can. There will be plenty to learn. There always is. But keeping the love is what you’ll need to remember your heart in this journey.
What was your favorite book when you were a teenager?
Ari: I was super into fantasy/sci-fi! I loved Inkheart, Graceling, and the Hunger Games. I remember towing around Inkheart throughout a NYC trip. In my memory, both were absolutely their own adventures.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ari Tison is a Bribri (Indigenous Costa Rican) American and African descended poet and storyteller. Her poems and short works have been published in Yellow Medicine Review, The Under Review, Rock & Sling, and POETRY‘s first ever edition for children. She was the winner of the 2018 Vaunda Micheaux Nelson award for a BIPOC writer with Lerner Publishing. She currently is the annual broadside editor for Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop where she gets to collaborate with the Minnesota Center for the Book Arts to bring incarcerated voices into the world. Saints of the Household is her debut novel.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Saints of the Household
By Ari Tison
On Sale 03/28/2023
Saints of the Household is a haunting contemporary YA about an act of violence in a small-town–beautifully told by a debut Indigenous Costa Rican-American writer–that will take your breath away.
Max and Jay have always depended on one another for their survival. Growing up with a physically abusive father, the two Bribri American brothers have learned that the only way to protect themselves and their mother is to stick to a schedule and keep their heads down.
But when they hear a classmate in trouble in the woods, instinct takes over and they intervene, breaking up a fight and beating their high school’s star soccer player to a pulp. This act of violence threatens the brothers’ dreams for the future and their beliefs about who they are. As the true details of that fateful afternoon unfold over the course of the novel, Max and Jay grapple with the weight of their actions, their shifting relationship as brothers, and the realization that they may be more like their father than they thought. They’ll have to reach back to their Bribri roots to find their way forward.
Told in alternating points of view using vignettes and poems, debut author Ari Tison crafts an emotional, slow-burning drama about brotherhood, abuse, recovery, and doing the right thing.