Why Write a Story About a Child Like B?

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In my writing group, we often share ideas and thoughts on where our stories come from and why we’ve chosen to write about certain subjects. One of the wonderful teachers, Carmen Bernier-Grand who teaches in the MFA Writing program I attended at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts gave me  great advice which I have taken to heart and never forgotten. “People will tell you you can only write about what you know,” she said. “Don’t listen to them. Instead, write about the things you want to learn.”

This has been on my mind these days because I have a middle grade novel that which has two protagonists, two different girls who tell parallel and intersecting stories 30 years apart. One girl is white, the other black. And I suspect there are some who would say should I really be writing from the POV of a little black girl? Well, for that matter, should a white male author ever write from the POV of a woman? Should an adult ever write from the POV of a child?

My answer would be yes. Writers write about the human condition, human emotions and struggles that are common to all people. And come to think of it, we also write from the POV of animals, at least for children! It’s when we begin to divide and segment humanity into narrow little slices that we start to get into trouble. That’s a long introduction to what I’d like to share with you now.

Since B’s campaign on Kickstarter began, only two short days ago, I’ve received messages of support from many folks, and happily not one piece of hate mail. I’m going to be sharing some of them with you over the next few weeks since they reveal better than I could ever say it, why we need a story about a child like B.

“I can’t tell you what it would have meant to T, his mom and me to have had B in our lives when T was little, and he’s one of the lucky ones who has a family that was happy to support his journey.  Some of the other gender fluid boys we’ve encountered along the way haven’t been so lucky, in particular (in our experience) where their dads are concerned, and I’m sure they grow up feeling awfully alone and divided even from the people closest to them.  Having a well-written, entertaining book about a boy just like them will be a glimmer of affirmation for a lot of these boys in a world that often judges them harshly, even at home.”

“There are many books that have tomboy characters or at least female characters who straddle the line between being “boyish” and “girlish”, as G used to say.  Harriet The Spy, Nancy Drew, Ramona from the Henry Huggins series, even Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, to name just a few of the most obvious examples, are all female characters who were deeply involved in exploring more traditionally male behaviors, activities, and dress. But I honestly cannot think of even ONE male character in a child-appropriate book who is really engaged in exploring his female side and struggling with what it means.”

 

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