Being Jazmine: it's more than a story about a deaf girl
This week my new novel, Being Jazmine, drops.
(I never knew that 'drops' was the word people use about new stuff like recordings and EPs until like, last month. Now that I'm using it, I feel cool, like I'm so up with the kids...)
But back to the book. What's it about?
Short answer: switching worlds. Don't worry: I haven't started writing high concept fantasy. I don't have enough smarts in the plot and imagination department for that. But yes, Being Jazmine 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've moved from city to country, or country to city, or changed schools, 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?
That's Jazmine's dilemma. And if you don't know where you belong, how do you know who you are?
To be honest, I was never going to write this third book about Jazmine. But then I got dared to do it by a book blogger who writes about deaf characters. She said, "Jazmine needs some deaf peers," and my heart sank.
See -- and this is full disclosure -- I don't know the Deaf world. And that's a bit controversial in itself because there are lots of questions about what authors 'should' do.
For example: can white people write about black characters? If I'm not from India, can I write a book featuring an Indian main character? And as a hearing person writing about a non-hearing character, aren't I exploiting Deaf Culture by stealing their stories?
It's called 'cultural appropriation' (two big words for today) and it's tricky.
Whatever you think on the debate, I truly hope I haven't gone into this project with arrogance. I certainly wouldn't have written it without encouragement and help from some deaf mentors. They helped me set up research questions and read it over at the end.
In the end, though, I don't think this book is just about a deaf girl. Most books - the ones that last, and that mean something - are about more than the story and the characters.
In the end, this book is about that human yearning we all have: that brave-hearted desire to find out who we are. And to find our place in the world.
I might not have felt confident writing about deaf culture, but I do feel confident writing about the bigger, underlying human story of not fitting in.
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.
My question for you is: where do you belong? Have you had to switch worlds? Where did you end up planting yourself? I'd love to hear from you.
And I'd love you to go grab a copy of Being Jazmine today. Read it and tell me what you think. Can you relate to Jaz? Is she a brave heart like you?