MacKids Spotlight: Ari Tison

AuthorSpotlight 2

Can you tell us what inspired you to write SAINTS OF THE HOUSEHOLD?

It came in two parts. First, I share a similar history as the boys and so personal experience seems to always come out in creating whether or not I want it to! But two, I really love experimenting with form. I adored HOUSE ON MANGO STREET’s form of vignettes and the verse novel LONG WAY DOWN before I wrote SAINTS, and I wondered about what it would look like to combine the forms.

What was the writing process like, switching between dual narrators with distinct voices?

I loved it! Jay’s whole narrative came first in vignettes and then Max came along and because he was a painter it just felt like he had to be in poetry! I loved getting to explore painter’s voices and listened to a lot of videos of artists talking about their work and took notes on the phrases and types of diction they’d use to describe their work which was in conversation to how they saw the world.

Do you have a favorite scene from the book?

Oh this is hard! I actually really love Melody sitting on a swing set in the trailer park. It’s based off of a piece of art by Gregory Crewdson that I had seen and wanted to reimagine in Saints. I feel like the swingset captures being a teenager and being maybe stuck in this space between adulthood and childhood in a mundane yet really beautiful way. I still love swinging (we have an adult sized one at our farm). I also remember when I was younger realizing that I wanted to capture the world with words and thoughts on a swing. Apparently, they are an endowed object for me. 

How do you hope this book will be used in classrooms and libraries?

I hope the book will be paired with resources for young people in abusive situations. Living or being in spaces of abuse as a young person can feel like a secret because it’s so hard to feel safe to share. I know books were huge for me and they modeled to me that I could speak and share even if it felt scary or had so many questions attached. They told me that there could be healing or goodness on the other side. And for me, it’s true there can be healing and goodness even if parts of life did feel impossible. I truly believe that books can be a first step in voicing that which we feel we cannot voice ourselves. From there, they can help us be brave to do the same in our own lives.

Tell us about a library, librarian or educator who made an impact on you as a child (or as an adult!).

I absolutely love Swati Avasthi. Her knowledge of craft is brilliant. She taught me a ton about systematizing craft, finding confidence in knowledge that we can both name and develop, and she’s also just a marvelous friend. I owe her so much! 

What advice would you give to aspiring young writers?

Keep the love! Sometimes writing will feel hard or difficult, but know yourself and make sure you’re keeping the love and intrinsic desire to write. Some folks turn off the electronics and write in the woods to tune the world out. For me, I’m on my crappy laptop and working at coffee shops like I used to do as a teenager. It gets me in a space where I want to create and enjoy it. I make it a priority in my life, make sure it’s done in spaces I love, and it tells my brain, this matters, now let’s get writing. Knowing yourself as a writer will serve you well for the long haul. It’s worth so so much. 

What was your favorite book when you were a young reader?

Because of Winn-Dixie. The book still reads like real life and magic all the same time. Kate DiCamillo is also from Minnesota, and I remember how much of a *moment* it was when I got to meet her. I still have a signed copy from her that I cherish on my bookshelf! 


Ari Tison 3

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 ReviewThe Under ReviewRock & 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.


saints of the household 3

Saints of the Household

By Ari Tison
On Sale 3/28/2023

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.

This stunning debut graphic memoir features page after page of gorgeous, evocative art, perfect for Tillie Walden fans. It’s a cross section of the Korean-American diaspora and mental health, a moving and powerful read in the vein of Hey, Kiddo and The Best We Could Do.

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