Brooklyn writer takes on teen tech-addiction

Writer and Brooklyn resident Maddy Lederman has recently released her debut novel, “Edna in the Desert,” which is now available at The Community Bookstore in Park Slope. The coming of age tale chronicles a tech-addicted teen stranded at her grandparents' cabin in the Mojave Desert without cell phone service, Internet or television.

“It's ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ meets ‘Little House on The Prairie,’" Lederman explains. "The idea came to me after I did an interview with a couple in Wonder Valley, about 30 miles from Joshua Tree, Cali. They had no cell phone or email. I kept leaving messages on their answering machine and waiting days for a response. I wondered how a modern teen might take to this lifestyle because all my friends’ kids are permanently attached to their phones.”

Lederman's character, Edna, is a troublemaker who keeps getting kicked out of private schools. Her therapist advocates medication, but her parents come up with an alternative cure: Edna will spend the summer with her grandparents.

“Naturally, she’s not going to take it, so she runs away. Anyone who spends time in the desert knows this is very dangerous,” says Lederman. “[Edna is] terrified, completely unconnected for the first time in her life, but she finds out that she can survive it. Later she meets a local boy and tries to get to know him without the help of messaging or social media. It seems impossible. She wonders what girls did in past centuries when they liked a boy.”

Lederman is a graduate Brooklyn College's MFA Theater Program and her work in film and TV is what first brought her to the Mojave Desert. "There are a lot of survivalists in the desert who want nothing to do with the outside world. They don't know what Facebook or Twitter is. On the other end of the spectrum, I see city kids who are so sophisticated and every moment of their life is documented, tracked and planned,” said Lederman.

“It's an interesting clash in the same society. I know teachers in Brooklyn who say their students don't think they have to learn anything anymore because they can look everything up on their phones. I wanted to take a kid like that and see how she fares without technology and then combine this with the calming effect of the Mojave's mysterious landscape."

“Edna in the Desert” debuted as a short story in Desert Stories, an annual spoken word event at The Hi-Desert Playhouse in Joshua Tree.

Lederman explains, “Everyone wanted to know what was going to happen to Edna and so did I, so I decided to write the book. It’s about the widening gap between generations and how technology is changing our culture. There's a lot of books about technology in the near future and I'm a huge dystopia fan, but in many ways this contemporary, realistic story is more eerie than a fantasy.”

“Edna in the Desert” was released in Sept. 2013 by Electio Publishing and is available at both The Community Bookstore in Park Slope and online.