Welcome to the first day of 2012 Summer Blog Blast Tour. This week eight bloggers will be sharing various interviews, all of which will be linked back to Chasing Ray.
Nalo Hopkinson is an award winning fantasy author, The Chaos her YA debut has received three starred reviews. I was very excited when I heard about this book back in December. With there being so few YA fantasy authors of color, when an established one decides to write one, its a reason to cheer.
NH: Thanks for the welcome! Now, I suck at synopsizing my own work.Easiest for people to read the publisher's blurb. Basically, my protagonist, Sojourner "Scotch Bonnet" Smith, is a 16 year-old Toronto girl. Her nickname comes from the Jamaican scotch bonnet pepper, one of the hottest peppers in existence. Scotch is biracial. Her parents transferred her from one high school to another because she was being slut-shamed by the girls in her previous school. She's just broken up with her boyfriend although she still cares for him. She's also begun seeing things that no-one else can see, and there's something chasing her.
Why is Scotch self conscious about not having a Caribbean accent?
NH: Scotch's mother is black middle-class American, and her father is white working-class Jamaican. She's proud of what she is. People who have eyes to see can tell that she is black (though not everyone has eyes to see!). So she feels as though she's representing for the maternal part of her heritage. But no-one can see her Jamaicanness, i.e. her father's side of her heritage. She thinks it would be more obvious if she had a Jamaican accent. She also thinks it'd be something clear and simple that she could claim. Everything about her is so hybridized that although she's not ashamed of it, she doesn't have any easy markers of authenticity. She feels the pressure of that.
She doesn't have an easily definable identity, and that can make a person feel lost, like they don't belong anywhere, like they can't claim affiliation with any one group. Canada as a nation wrestles with what it means to be Canadian, so that comes into play a bit, too. It's most obvious in the scene in the bar where Scotch is scoffing at the MC who tries to seem more authentically black by talking in something like an American accent and by name-checking only black American musicians and musical stylings. It's a dilemma for many -- not all --young black Canadians as they try to self-define. On this continent, blackness is seen as synonymous with black Americanness. If they don't look and act like what people associate with American blackness, they get seen as weird, inauthentic.
After the Chaos everyone is changed in some way. What says more about a person, the transformation or whether or not they are accepting of it?
I think it depends on the transformation and on the person. The woman who's now sprouting roses even though she's allergic to them might not be so sanguine about her new biology. And Scotch's change --i.e. the appearance of the creature that's stalking her -- she could be hurt.
A rolling calf and Baba Yaga, are a part in the story. Caribbean and Russian folklore fusion was unexpected but works. Why did you decide to blend the two?
I'm glad that you think they work! I also invoked the firebird, the phoenix, the roc, the simurgh, the kappa, Anansi, Brer Rabbit, Tinkerbell, and Sasquatch. Others I just plain made up. People from the cultures all those mythologies are from live in Toronto, so it made sense to mix things up. Like Scotch's life, mine is also hybridized. It rarely makes sense for me to just pick one thing.