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April 4, 2016

#WeNeedDiverseBooks - Guest Post by Brynn Chapman

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Many of you are probably familiar with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign that started in 2014, with its mission to bring diversity to books by calling on all authors to reflect different races and culture groups in their writing. Although great strides have been made, the movement is far from over. In this post, author Brynn Chapman discusses her new novel, THE REQUIEM RED, whose heroine is an asylum resident who possesses an uncanny degree of perception that allows her to hear messages in music and see lyrics in paintings. If you're tired of reading about the same characters over and over again and would like to see an author delve into the experiences of people with disabilties, read on!

Okay, so this post will not be what you think…I am not about to discuss race. I am, however, going to discuss diversity in fiction. Diversity in reference to neurodiversity. Meaning, people with disabilities in novels --- and not just as side-kicks, but as the heroes and heroines.

It all began in childhood. I was around seven, playing at a friend-of-the-family's house. I knew the girl relatively well, (one of those, your moms were pals and you were thrust together sorta deals) but she typically came to my house to play. We were at her home, playing hide and go seek. I was running, laughing, opened up a door…and….Lying on the ground, like an infant on a blanket, was a girl about my age.

I stood rooted for probably a full 30 seconds before the mom arrived. It was the playmate’s sister.
She was deaf, blind, and had contractures of her arms and legs --- was unable to move. And no one had ever even told me she existed.

Even as a seven year old I was taken aback. Why hadn’t I known she even existed? I am sure it was due to the parent worrying it might frighten me, but on the contrary, I…was overwhelmed with not only a profound sadness, but a righteous, angry indignation. I was overtaken by a bone-deep desire to help her. Was she all alone in her mind? She couldn’t hear. Couldn’t see. Someone must be able to reach her.

Thus led to a long life of reading --- about the life of Hellen Keller and many others, on and on into
adulthood --- where I became a pediatric therapist…and  then a mother to a child with special needs.

Like the universe had eerily selected me at seven for this journey.

SO --- it bleeds into my fiction. Every one of my protagonists has some sort of specialty or oddity --- that subjects them to ridicule from the small- minded. And as in real life, strong, sensible people, see and love them for who they truly are. Helping them find the heroes within.

In my new book, REQUIEM RED, Jane hears voices. Specifically in music, and as it is in the 1800s, is incarcerated in an asylum at the age of three. But, all that is about to change.