In the YA Diversity Book Club, we chat about the latest YA books that celebrate diversity. Our book club includes Sandie @ Teen Lit Rocks and Kristan @ We Heart YA. Each month we’ll focus on one book with a book review (our discussion chat) and bonus features.
Our February book club pick is Heidi Heilig’s THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE. This time travel pirate ship adventure transports the reader to 19th century Hawaii. There’s family drama, love, and plenty of excitement in this ambitious debut.
About the book:
The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Hardcover, 464 pages, Greenwillow Books, Feb. 16.
Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.
As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.
But the end to it all looms closer every day.
Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.
For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.
She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.
Or she could disappear.
Be sure to check out all the book club features:
And now I’m very pleased to welcome author Heidi Heilig:
Describe your book in a sentence or two.
Nix Song has lived her entire life aboard her time-traveling father’s pirate ship, sailing from history to myth using ancient maps. But all he wants is to go back to a time before Nix’s mother died–and before Nix was born.
What was your inspiration for writing THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE?
It all started with a newspaper article about a strange act of piracy in Honolulu, 1884, where a group of pirates plundered the town and the treasury without firing a single shot. I couldn’t find confirmation or explanation of what exactly happened, so I decided to make it up myself.
What kind of research did you have to do to make sure your characters were authentic?
The research was probably my favorite part. I looked through everything from contemporaneous newspaper articles to anthropological papers to shipping records to paintings and photos from the eras discussed. Of course, making characters themselves authentic people comes first from a place of respect, so I tried particularly to keep that in the forefront of my mind.
How did you come to incorporate the diverse elements in your book?
I honestly couldn’t imagine any other way! Growing up in Hawaii (the “melting pot” of the Pacific) and then falling in with the art and theatre crowd in NYC, my friends and family are a diverse bunch. But since this particular story is (in part) about colonialism, I was deliberate about including people from groups affected by it.
How does the diversity in your book relate to your life?
To be more personal, I myself am hapa haole (“half white”), like the main character is. I’m also bipolar, like her father, and the struggles between them reflect some of my own internal struggles–the fear of destruction, for example, or the feeling of being at the whim of an irrational force.
What are some of your favorite YA books about diverse characters?
Recently I adored THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US, a story about pirates and sea monsters with a diverse cast and a f/f hate-to-love relationship. I also loved BEYOND THE RED, a sci-fi story set on a desert planet featuring an alien queen, explosions, and a mixed race main character who struggles with having no place in the world.
What areas of diversity do you want to draw attention to or do you feel are underrepresented in books?
You know, it’s hard to chose just one: basically I’d love to see more diversity in books that aren’t about “issues.” Disabled main characters that go on adventures where there is no magical cure would be lovely. I also want more fat girls where the story isn’t about their fatness, and the ending isn’t about them losing weight. And I long for ever more black authors and main characters in genre fiction (THE LAST LIFE OF AVRILLIS by Bethany Morrow is on my radar for just that reason.)
About the Author:
Heidi Heilig grew up in Hawaii, where she rode horses and raised peacocks, and then she moved to New York City. Her favorite thing, outside of writing, is travel, and she has haggled for rugs in Morocco, hiked the trails of the Ko‘olau Valley, and huddled in a tent in Africa while lions roared in the dark. She holds an MFA in musical theatre writing from New York University. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, her son, and their pet snake, whose wings will likely grow in any day now. The Girl From Everywhere is her first book.
Hope you’ll read-along with us in March as we discuss IN REAL LIFE by Jessica Love.
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