Imagine a world where snow and ice have not existed for many generations and water has become such a limited resource that wars are fought for it. Such is the setting in author Emmi Itaranta’s “Memory of Water.” The award-winning novel has been translated into about 20 languages. On March 7, Itaranta visited Peterson Middle School and spoke to students about her work.
“The author talk promotes reading and the love of literature; every year Silicon Valley Reads offers authors, such as Emmi Itaranta, to come out to schools,” says Nicole Piscionere, a teacher and librarian at Peterson Middle School. “We are also doing a cross curriculum project-based unit with the eighth-graders on weather and how it affects their lives over time.”
Itaranta’s “Memory of Water” addresses issues related to climate change, particularly drought, a topic Californians have been hearing a lot about.
“‘Memory of Water’ is a story set in a future world where climate change made the world quite a different place,” Itaranta explains to students gathered in the school cafeteria. “The main character of the book is a 17 year-old girl named Noria who lives in a remote village in the far North. She’s studying to be a tea master under her father’s guidance. At the beginning of the story when she turns 17 and comes of age by her society’s standards, she must take the responsibility for protecting a secret fresh water source in her village that her family has been guarding for many generations.”
Itaranta went on to explain that in her story the government is seizing water sources. So Noria has to decide whether to help the others in her village by sharing the spring or to continue to keep the spring a secret.
When audience members were invited to ask questions, one student wanted to know when Itaranta decided to be a writer. Itaranta recalled her days as a student laboring over her university dissertation. To find relief, she began writing fiction on the side. When asked what inspired her to write her book, Itaranta replied that climate change interested her long before it became a popular media subject.
“The world of ‘Memory of Water’ is an imaginary version of the future,” Itaranta says. “But it is based on what we know about the science of climate change today and I tried to create a credible future.”