The Rebellion of Lori Lansens
It started with a bra–or, more specifically, lack thereof. Lori Lansens was in eighth grade when a nun at her Catholic school pulled her and her friend aside and shamed them for “tempting the boys” with their braless chests. They were instructed to go buy bras at the local Zellers to cover up with. Lansens felt humiliated.
Decades later, while (most of) our society embraced body positivity and shut down the over-sexualization of women’s breasts, Lansens again found herself facing a similar situation. This time, it was directed at her teenage daughter. She had been “skirted” at her alternative high school, a practice wherein the length of a girl’s skirt is measured with a ruler to see if it fits the school’s dress code. They told her daughter that her skirt was an inch too high and that she had to buy a new one.
“You might think, C’mon, this happens… but I felt sick about that,” Lansens says. “I called the school and enquired, What is this? Is there a similar sort of humiliation for boys regarding dress code? Of course, there wasn’t.” Her daughter didn’t stay at the school beyond that year, but the moment stuck with Lansens, and she knew right away that she wanted to write something inspired by these experiences.
And so, This Little Light was born. Set in the year 2023, the story focuses on 16-year-old Rory Ann Miller, a student at Sacred Heart High in Calabasas, California. Rory–a girl that doesn’t exactly follow the local status quo–and her BFF Fee have been accused of bombing their school’s chastity ball. Now, they’re on the run from the police, bounty hunters, and religious extremists who want to see them captured (and worse).
Calabasas is known for its high-profile residents (think Kardashians and Jenners) and is a world away from Lansens’ hometown of Chatham, Ontario. She lived in Toronto for a couple of decades before moving to Southern California, but she still felt a culture shock when she arrived. “Moving here opened my eyes and made me aware, and angry, and riled up,” she says. “Particularly about women, and how we see ourselves, and how we’re seen. You could say [LA] is one of the birthplaces of ageism and sexism, so it’s definitely changed what I’m writing about.”
In This Little Light, Lansens imagines what could happen in our society, specifically in the United States, if we stay on our current course. It’s a Black Mirror-esque world where UberCopters take wealthy kids to and from their private schools while drones police the area looking for “Probationary Citizens” (AKA “Procits”), a designation for those known, in our reality, as Dreamers.
“None of us thought we’d be here,” Lansens says, referring to the current state of the US. “Even since I’ve written the book, we’ve seen the rise of the religious right, we’ve seen this racism and antipathy towards immigrants. Imagining that we stay on this path felt honest. Frighteningly honest.”
While writing This Little Light, Lansens drew from her life and her feelings of rebellion, which have only become more clear to her over the last few years. “It kind of felt like a teenage rebellion,” she says. “I’m having those same kinds of passionate feelings and reactions to what’s happening in the world–to what I’m seeing happening to women, to the LGBTQ community, and to immigrants–that maybe I felt too busy to feel passionately about and react passionately to in the past. The book really is a response to that.”
Lansens considers herself to be a private person, but through This Little Light, she’s putting a lot of herself and her beliefs out there, electing to push that privacy aside and stepping up to the proverbial mic. “At a certain point in one’s life–and maybe it’s true with many women my age or many authors at a certain point in their careers–there’s this desire to speak out. To speak out and be heard in a different way.”
Hear what Lori Lansens has to say when This Little Light hits the shelves August 17th, 2019, and keep an eye out for the TV adaptation–the book has already been optioned for a series by Universal, with actress and screenwriter Kathleen Robertson signed to write the script! You can order your copy of This Little Light here.
If you’re looking for a book that will no doubt stir up some fantastic conversation at your next book club event, we recommend This Little Light. See how easy it is to put together an event on our Host Page.
Shannon Hodgen is a lifelong writer, DIY enthusiast, and homebody. She satisfies her need to put pen to paper–or, more accurately, fingertips to keyboard–as an agency copywriter, blog contributor, and freelance editor in Toronto.
Favourite Book: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Favourite Brunch Spot: Dirty Food Eatery in The Junction