Today I have the absolute pleasure of welcoming I.W. Gregorio to the blog as part of the promotional tour for her YA contemporary release, None of the Above. This tour consists of 5 very special stops (please check the bottom of the post for the full schedule!) in which I.W. discusses bringing diversity into YA fiction as a whole while putting a spotlight specifically on a condition known as intersex. Not only will each stop have an amazing guest post and giveaway, but the bloggers will also each be helping to debunk a myth about intersex to by getting facts out there rather than fiction, so I couldn't be more excited to be a part of this tour!
WRITING WHAT YOU (DON'T) KNOW
This post can be summarized in three sentences, for the DRTL crowd:
1. Representation matters.A week ago at the NYC Teen Author Festival, I was super excited to be on a panel moderated by David Levithan on representation in YA. David asked all the right questions: Did we as writers ever feel the responsibility to write from our cultural experiences? When we wrote outside of our experiences, what do you have to do to ensure that your characters are as authentic as possible?
2. You don’t have to write what you know, but you should know what you write.
3. Check your work.
All writers have different processes, so it’s no surprise that the panelists disagreed re: the last question. While some writers approached their work organically, some of us thought actively about our characters’ diversity, and did a lot of vetting of cultures we wrote about. The conversation got pretty lively when one author said, in response to the latter group of people, “Wow, you guys work really hard.”
I took that statement as a compliment.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from the We Need Diverse Books campaign, it’s that representation matters. Diverse books change lives by creating empathy and opening people’s eyes. But, when done poorly, they can also perpetuate stereotypes and reinforce ignorance. This why a lot of authors–appropriately, I think–feel a lot of trepidation when they write outside their experience. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t do it. They just need to truly know what they write–and if you haven’t experienced something, you can’t truly know it until you do the work to research it.
Because I was acutely aware that intersex people are invisible to most of the population, I felt an enormous responsibility to do my homework when I wrote None of the Above. I felt this responsibility both from the literary perspective–because I wanted the details of the story to ring true–and from the moral perspective–because if I didn’t try to get things right, it was the worst kind of appropriation and exploitation. I would be further marginalizing a group that’s already shrouded in shame and speculation.
For me, homework entailed more than just research and interviewing–it involved taking that next step to have my work checked after I wrote it, but before the book was printed. I went to the AIS-DSD Support Group conference to meet actual intersex men and women, and I felt it important to get more than one beta reader from the group, because no one person is going to have the same experience. I’m glad I did, because my readers gave me crucial feedback that I incorporated in early stages, and as late in the game as second pass pages.
Even with all the work I put in? I’m sure someone will think I got it wrong, and that is absolutely my greatest fear. But if that happens, I know I can sleep at night, knowing that I did everything in my power to prevent it.
photo: Laura Silverman
I.W. Gregorio at the NYC Teen Author Festival
photo: Amber Jones
I.W. Gregorio at the AIS-DSD Support Group Conference
And here is today's myth about intersex, please check out the below blogs to learn the other four:
(click to enlarge)
NONE OF THE ABOVE Tour
The Midnight Garden - Tuesday 3/31
What is Intersex?
YA Romantics - Wednesday 4/1
5 Ways Writing is Way Harder Than Medicine
The Reading Date - Thursday 4/2
5 Inspiring LGBTQI Books That Can, and Will, Change Lives
Supernatural Snark - Friday 4/3
Writing What You Don’t Know
The Irish Banana - Monday 4/6
Interview with Lianne Simon, intersex author
• • • • • • • • • • • •
NONE OF THE ABOVE
(releases on April 7th from Balzer + Bray)
A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born intersex . . . and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.
What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?
When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him.
But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned--something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts."
Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?
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I. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired her debut novel, None of the Above (Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins). She is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books™ and serves as its VP of Development. A recovering ice hockey player, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.
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To celebrate the release of None of the Above, we're giving away a mystery box for 4 hot upcoming Harper Collins ARCs! They have some awesome books coming out this year, and the winner will receive some great titles. US/Canada only, complete rules are on the entry form.
a Rafflecopter giveaway