I wrote a new book: it's about switching worlds

 

Yeah, nah, I haven't started writing high concept fantasy novels. (I don't have enough smarts in the plot and imagination department for that.) But yes, my new novel is about changing between different worlds.

Because lots of us have to do that, don't we?

If you're an immigrant kid, you've got one foot in your parents' culture, and another foot in the culture of the new country.

If you're a third culture kid, you feel like you don't belong in either your parents' world, or the one you're living in.

If you've moved from city to country, or country to city, you have to make some big adjustments.

If you're deaf, living in a hearing-dominant culture and you discover that there's a whole deaf-dominant culture out there that you never really knew about, where are you supposed to belong?

Yes, my hard of hearing character, Jazmine, is back.

After two books, Invisible and Invincible, I wasn't going to write about her again. (Plus, how many viable words beginning with 'In' and ending with 'ible' to use for titles are there? I dismissed 'inviolable' and 'invulnerable' as inappropriate and couldn't think of any others.) But then I got dared to do it by possibly the only person in the world who has a blog about Deaf Characters in Literature. She said, "Jazmine needs some deaf peers," and my heart sank.

See -- and this is full disclosure -- I don't know the Deaf world. Not really. I've never learned sign language. I don't have deaf friends. And right now, there's a huge debate going on amongst creatives about who can tell whose stories. Can white people write about black characters? Can non-Aboriginals create an Aboriginal protagonist? Isn't a hearing person writing about a Hard of Hearing girl just engaging in 'cultural appropriation': the powerful exploiting the less powerful, by stealing their stories?

It's a big debate. And normally I hate getting involved in debates, but it's one I suppose I've dipped my toe into, by writing a book about Jazmine discovering Deaf culture and making deaf friends for the first time. 

But, I truly hope I haven't gone into this project with arrogance. I certainly would not have written it, if it hadn't been for the encouragement of Professor Sharon Pajka from Gallaudet University, "The world's only university designed to be barrier-free for deaf and hard of hearing students," as they say on their website. 

Professor Pajka helped me to set up some research questions and shared them with her students, who were incredibly helpful in allowing me to mine their experiences. Several of their stories have been used in the novel.

I also wouldn't have ventured into the project if it hadn't been for the secondary encouragement of Rodney Adams, who is an Adjunct Lecturer University of Newcastle (Auslan - Diploma of Languages) and who works with Deaf students through the Department of Education.

After reading my first novel about Jazmine, he invited me to speak at a day conference for Deaf Students, despite my protestations. I learned plenty that day and felt incredibly privileged to be able to share my story with the students and teachers.

The thing I do feel confident writing about is the bigger, underlying human story of not fitting in, and how to find your place. I've lived that. I'm still living it. Like so many of us are. So while this is a 'Deaf' story, it's more than that. It's about who we are, where we belong, and how we figure that out. It's about grief, secrets and new beginnings. And it's about where we plant ourselves, and how we grow.

Being Jazmine launches on 12 July on Amazon. Paperbacks will follow in August. To order your copy, click here.