In September, the community filed into Allen Theater for a moderated discussion with E. Lockhart, the author of Berkshire’s 2021–22 All-School Read, “We Were Liars.” The suspenseful young adult novel thoughtfully examines consequences, privilege, and the power and pitfalls of family.
Dr. John Hyland, chair of the All-School Read committee, welcomed Phoebe Smith ’22 to the stage to officially introduce Lockhart to the students, faculty, staff, and viewers watching the livestream. “Introducing E. Lockhart gave me the responsibility of establishing the vibe of the All-School Read event.”
During E. Lockhart’s presentation, she joked with the audience, moved furniture around, and sipped a can of seltzer, all in a successful effort to make students feel at ease. She shared four stories related to the plot of her book, all of which were connected to Lockhart’s personal philosophy or childhood.
As she discussed coming of age in a commune, her grandparent’s house on Martha’s Vineyard, and her mother’s collection of old fairy tales, Lockhart provided a contextual understanding of herself as a writer and person.
DeVon Thompson ’22, Samantha Bernstein ’22, and Phoebe Mulder ’22 joined Smith and Lockhart on stage to talk about her writing process and details from the text. The student moderators worked with Dr. Hyland in the weeks leading up to Lockhart’s arrival to solidify their understanding of “We Were Liars” and craft engaging, leading questions.
The moderators also asked questions that were not pre-planned. “The author claimed that for art to be good the creator must have emotional inspiration,” Thompson said. “I asked the author if writing something that stemmed from negative emotional inspiration is hard. Her response was simple: ‘Yes. But, those hard emotions are what makes the art pure!’”
Emotion in art was a common theme of the evening. Lockhart shared that she finds literary inspiration in the intersection between two conflicting emotions. When she draws upon feelings of anger and love at the same time, for example, she can create some of her best work.
Other themes of the night included privilege and wealth. The main character, Cadence, is an heiress to a large fortune and the first-born daughter of a prominent, wealthy East Coast family. Cadence’s reckoning with her place in both the world and her family encourages the reader to reflect on white privilege and class privilege.
Lockhart ended the evening with a reminder to all: be a little kinder than you have to—a reference from “We Were Liars” and advice which falls in line with much of what was discussed in her presentation and the student-led panel.