TDSB teacher gives inner-city kids a voice in new young adult novel

Nelson Mandela Park Public School teacher Mary Jennifer Payne has just released her first YA novel, Since You’ve Been Gone (Dundurn Press). The book explores issues of child and spousal abuse, poverty, racism, and how the legal system often fails the victims—heavy topics for a young adult novel, but ones that unfortunately resonate with many children.

“The stories and voices of our marginalized youth are important. They need to be heard,” writes Payne in an article for the Ontario Ministry of Education. Edie, the main character of Since You’ve Been Gone, embodies the challenges and voicelessness Payne refers to. While smart, streetwise, and independent, Edie must face the most difficult situation of her life when her abusive father returns and her mother goes missing.

Payne celebrates the official launch of the book at Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park on Friday, January 30th. Books will be sold by Another Story Press, with a special performance by spoken word artist Mustafa Ahmed. “I’m thrilled to have the generous support of the Toronto Arts Council and Daniels Spectrum who have made this book and launch event possible,” says Payne.

Since You’ve Been Gone hit shelves on January 25th, and you can be sure to find a copy at your favourite bookseller.