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Mirroring real life in art: sex abuse & gangs

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By Ryan Sloan
Observer Correspondent

(Updated)

At 25, she’s already written two fiction books. And while neither has yet been published — we’re certainly hoping they are soon — Lane Legend has tackled two topics that have gotten a lot of attention in the news media over the last few years: the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University and gang violence.

In her books, Legend has borrowed from the reality of the two and developed two pieces that, in many ways, mirror reality but that are, indeed, fiction. And she does so quite well.

One book she wrote, “Ol’ State Sensation,” is about a boy who goes to a state university — and who is molested by a coach just as it was to have happened at Penn State. (Of course, in the book, the university isn’t called Penn State).

But there’s an added twist to the fate of the victim in the book. And it’s one that while we’re not sure if it’s happened to any of the victims in reality, it’s one that often does happen to victims of sexual abuse, Legend says.

“The main character’s name is Cory Calhoun,” she says. “And in the book, we see him in adulthood. There’s a cycle. The statistics say 40% of kids who are abused as kids go on to be abusers themselves in adulthood.”

When we asked her why she was driven to write a book such as this — aside from the obvious … she’s also a Penn State alumna — Legend says she studied sociology at University Park.

“And I’ve always been interested in how the mind operates,” she says. “I’ve been interested in under-culture. Plus this was a very hot topic for a long time.”

She says a lot of what she wrote about in the book and a lot of her general interest came to the surface recently with the Ohio case where Ariel Castro had, in his home, at least three kidnapped girls who became adults while in his captivity for a decade or more.

Her other book, “The Boy of Black Wonder,” while also fiction, touches on yet another concept that’s constantly in the news — gang violence.

“It’s the story of a young boy living in 1980’s Spanish Harlem whose cousin is the lead of a violent gang – it’s a play off the Latin Kings. In youth he suffers from a rare form of narcolepsy that results in him being asleep for 80% of his life,”  she says.

Because of the dreams, the kid, called Juan, has to decipher what’s actually real and what’s not. And, he’s faced with deciding whether he prefers the violent life or the more peaceful life.

Why write books at 25?

Legend isn’t just a writer. At present, she’s also working to develop her career at an advertising agency. So why in such an intense world — what you see on TV about working in advertising is often based on reality — or how, really, does she find time to put pen to paper, to put fingers to keyboard, to do this?

“Juggling a career and trying to get books published is very hard these days,” she says. “And it’s made even harder that so many are now self-publishing.”

But she doesn’t want to self-publish.

She knows she could create e-books and get them out into circulation. But there’s something about printed books, she says, that is incomparable to reading books on an e-reader.

“I still think there are a lot of people who want that tangible product,” she says. “But that also means it’s necessary to find agents. And finding an agent is not a simple task. It’s a hard market to break, but it’s one I am determined to break.”

And we certainly hope she does, sooner than later. We’ll let you know where and when you can buy her books as soon as they’re out.

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