Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Books That Creeped Me Out When I Was Young

I was a weird child (which you probably already know if you've read this post or this post), and today we're going to look at yet another weird part of my childhood behaviour...

So I've been working in a library recently and reorganizing the picture book shelves made me think of the books I read as a kid, in particular the books and fictional things that kind of creeped me out. If you didn't need yet another reason to think I'm weird, then just look at some of the things I was creeped out by:

1. The 19th story of Wayside school,  the one that doesn't exist

2. Heffalumps

3. Nova's Ark by David Kirk - For some reason, I thought the pictures in this book were fascinating but also kind of scary.

4. Time Flies by Eric Rohmann - In my opinion, that cover is still scary.

5. The wicked thought in The Red Racer by Audrey Wood - that big green monster struck fear in my young heart, I tell you.
I know these things aren't really that scary, but they genuinely did scare me when I was younger.  These fictional things and books actually made my insides twist and my heart speed up. (This is also why I don't read horrors or thrillers or anything, haha). Now, I kind of think it's cool how much of an emotional response these books got out of me, but it also brings up another point: every reader has different levels of what they can handle.

A lot of really intense books that you probably think are fluff would have terrified me if I would've read them even in middle school. I wasn't ready to read those kinds of books until now or a few years ago. But that's OK, because everyone is different and everyone reads differently and takes things in differently. Evidently I get taken in very easily by books and their fictional worlds, so they have, and have had throughout the years, a much stronger effect on me than other people.

Not every 13-year-old (or any age) is going to be able to handle all the same books that every other 13-year-old can handle. That's kind of why I think rating books is a weird idea. People need to "rate" books according to their own personal needs, and not make a general statement that everyone should follow.

What do you think? What books creeped you out when you were young?

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Fear of Writing Diversity

My sister has Down Syndrome. She has a hilarious personality, gets grumpy when she watches too much TV, and says funny things like, "[Bro], I have some advice for your driver's test. Cut your hair." She's a big and special part of my life, and I always sort of had the intent to write either a book about her or a book about a character with Down Syndrome.

But I couldn't, because I was sure I would get it wrong.

I was worried that I wouldn't be able to represent her properly as a character in a book. My thought always went along the lines of "I am not someone with Down Syndrome, therefore I can never accurately portray someone with Down Syndrome in a book, therefore I will not write them."

And I didn't.

But then I realized a few things.

1. People with Down Syndrome are still people.
2. Everyone is different.
3. I am a person.

I know writing a character with Down Syndrome would require some amount of research just because of the way a life is affected by that, but what I realized in realizing these things is that I'm not writing "Person with Down Syndrome", I'm writing "Person".

And I can do that.

I became unstuck from the thought of "what if I can't get my sister exactly right?" because I realized that yeah, my sister has Down Syndrome but she isn't THE representation of everyone with Down Syndrome, just like I'm not THE representation of 18-year-old white Canadians with curly hair. 

My sister is not a representation; she's a person. And if I chose to write a character with Down Syndrome, that character isn't a representation either. They are a person who is different than others with Down Syndrome and that's OK because people are different from each other.

The #yalitchat on Twitter the other day was about diversity in YA. And I think part of the reason why there is so few books with POC (Person of Colour) MCs or anything other than Caucasian MCs is because of this weird fear writers have (including me) that they're going to get it wrong or they're going to misrepresent someone along the way.

We have this mindset of "I'm not that, so I can't write that."

But I think that we need to stop worrying about that because people aren't just lumped into one huge group of White Canadian Females with Curly Hair that all have the same personality and charateristics and likes and dislikes, or one huge group of People With Down Syndrome who are all clones of each other and we've got to get our character-clone exactly right.

Stop being so afraid, and just write people who are different, because every person is different.

Because really, that's exactly what diversity means.

What do you think? 
(Also check out this awesome post by @ravenamo on writing POCs!)
(Also just so you know I did eventually succesfully write a short story that featured a character with Down Syndrome. ;) )


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