Every summer my family would pack up the station wagon (first the brown one and then the plusher blue one with soft carpet like seating) and we would drive the 800 miles from Bardstown, Kentucky to Long Beach Island, New Jersey. It was the place where my mother spent all of her summers and as a Jersey girl, she wanted us to feel the weight of saltwater, the wild waves of the Atlantic, taste fresh peeled shrimp and scallops from the bay and feel the joy of hours spent doing nothing but building sandcastles and riding waves. So, my brother and I would pile into the backseat with a paper bag full of penny candy and the car window (along with Billy Joel, Sam Cooke and the Labyrinth and Grease soundtracks) to keep us entertained. I released those car trips as much as boogey boarding and submerging myself under water while feeling the ebb and flow of the tides. It was the journey and the destination all at the same time.
I was learning to save summer – those delicious months between the end and start of the school year. Summer is for taking a break from the everyday. It is a time for reflection, play and even being a little bored – so that you can find out what you love most. How will you spend all of those beautiful and long hours? There were so many summers where I spent the days figuring out what to do next. Reading, watching TV, playing video games and board games with my friends, pulling out the massive video recorder and lip syncing and doing skits, listening to music, learning new dance moves. There were long days spent catching crawdads in the creek bed and working on our treehouse. Time in our sandbox and putting out mud cookies to pretend serve the next day. Long bike rides around the neighborhood and time getting lost in my mind and not even worrying about a way back home. I was discovering how to use my days in the best possible ways.
SCROLL TO KEEP READING THIS POST
Then, as I got older, there was the summer I babysat almost every day and the summer where I was a lifeguard at the Bardstown Public Pool and spent all my hours making sure kids stayed afloat and had fun. There was the summer I was on the swim team and the time we won the state swim competition where I swam butterfly leaping and diving into the water. There was the summer I went to the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts in Louisville and got the chance to work with the best writers in my community and be on a college campus with new friends, discover different parts of myself and find a variety of ways to be in the world. It was glorious and life changing. There was the summer I sold the coolest shades at the Sunglass Menagerie in Beach Haven, New Jersey and met college friends who opened up my eyes to unique experiences and ideas. I was learning that summer came with fresh eyes and an open heart. I was changing and growing and those months of June, July and August were prime time for experimenting, falling in love and figuring out who I was.
Don’t Call Me a Hurricane was inspired by all of those beautiful and life changing summers. I wanted to write a novel in verse about strong friendships and young people rising up together. A book with environmental justice, the ocean tides, surfing, first love and family at its center because I wanted to hold onto those stories of my own past summers. It is a love story for the people and places we come from and a journey to preserve what we love most about home. It is a book about the summer when everything changes. When you read it, I hope you will be thinking of how to create and hold onto your own magical and life changing summer. Protecting the environment takes all of us showing up, raising up, sharing our assets, taking risks and fighting for what we love – together.
This summer especially feels primed for making up for lost time. You don’t need a lot of money. In fact, try finding joy in the unexpected. A run through the sprinkler, homemade ice pops with juice and trays. Maybe you make an art gallery in your bedroom or in the corner of your home that feels like yours. Be a kid again. Share dance moves and bags of chips. Tell ghost stories or do a spice taste test with your cousins. Look through your closets and try on old clothes or make new ones out of recycled materials, because here’s the thing: Life moves at hyper speed. Things can change any second. Nothing is guaranteed. Not even the next minute of your life. You can think of that in a scary way or you can open up your mind to all the possibilities. You can jump into the water even if you’re not sure of the temperature. You can join a group and meet new people even if you’re so nervous it’s hard to take that first step. Try it anyway. Surround yourself with people who you, build you up, tell you the truth, share their vision and create real change – together, encourage. The ones who encourage you to jump in, try out that new dance move, spin, twirl, learn a new language, fight for what you believe in.
Here is to a summer with so much daydreaming that you get lost in your own head. That you imagine yourself dragon and mermaid, monster truck and renegade. Time for you to stare out of any window of any moving vehicle. Maybe you will submerge yourself in the city pool or learn how to ride a bike as fast as you can down the hill in your neighborhood. Maybe you will run through sprinklers in the park on your block or race your cousins from one house to the next. Maybe your granny will teach you how to crochet or bake her famous cornbread. How about you and all your friends find a way to try out all the ice cream from the Mister Softee truck. My hope is you will find a librarian who knows you and the books you love most by heart and will hold books especially for you so you can sit in all that air conditioning and get lost again and again.
SCROLL TO KEEP READING THIS POST
This summer, take charge of your life. My hope is that you will read Don’t Call Me a Hurricane for the love, and the friendships and the moments of seeing yourself with your best friends having fun and fighting back at the same time. My hope is that this book will ignite you too, and will make you want to seek out the people who make you laugh and who make you hungry to do things – the ones who rise up alongside you – like a wave, like the ocean , like a movement, like the best summer of your life, like making something last, like making a lasting change in the world. Here is to the summer you have been dreaming of.
Meet the author
Ellen Hagan is a writer, performer, and educator. Her books include: Don’t Call Me a Hurricane, Blooming Fiascoes, Hemisphere, Crowned, Watch Us Rise (co-written with Renée Watson) and Reckless, Glorious, Girl. Her work can be found in ESPN Magazine, She Walks in Beautyand Southern Sin. She received a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in poetry in 2020 and has received grants from the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. www.ellenhagan.com @ellenhagan
About Don’t Call Me a Hurricane
An affecting and resonant YA novel in verse that explores family, community, the changing ocean tides, and what it means to fall in love with someone who sees the world in a different way.
It’s been five years since a hurricane ravaged Eliza Marino’s life and home in her quiet town on the Jersey shore. Now a senior in high school, Eliza is passionate about fighting climate change-starting with saving Clam Cove Reserve, an area of marshland that is scheduled to be turned into buildable lots. Protecting the island helps Eliza deal with her lingering trauma from the storm, but she still can’t shake the fear that something will come along and wash out her life once again.
When Eliza meets Milo Harris at a party, she tries to hate him. Milo is one of the rich tourists who flock to the island every summer. But after Eliza reluctantly agrees to give Milo surfing lessons, she can’t help falling for him. Still, Eliza’s not sure if she’s ready to risk letting an outsider into the life she’s rebuilt. Especially once she discovers that Milo is keeping a devastating secret.
Told in stunning verse, Don’t Call Me a Hurricane is a love story for the people and places we come from, and a journey to preserve what we love most about home.
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 07/19/2022
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years
Filed under: Guest Post