Today I am excited to be a part of the She Is Not Invisible blog tour, a book which I loved and highly recommend to readers looking for something thought-provoking and unique. Author of She Is Not Invisible, Marcus Segdwick, has written an amazing guest post about the title of the novel, his own life experiences that relate to the novel, and how those who are blind, like Laureth, have nothing but personalities to base others off of; they don't care about a person's appearance, but only who you are, and that was something I really loved about She Is Not Invisible. Below you will find information about the novel, and then after the jump, Marcus' guest post and a chance to win a copy of She Is Not Invisible, which the publisher was generous enough to provide. Enjoy!
Laureth Peak's father has taught her to look for recurring events, patterns, and numbers--a skill at which she's remarkably talented. Her secret: She is blind. But when her father goes missing, Laureth and her 7-year-old brother Benjamin are thrust into a mystery that takes them to New York City where surviving will take all her skill at spotting the amazing, shocking, and sometimes dangerous connections in a world full of darkness. She Is Not Invisible is an intricate puzzle of a novel that sheds a light on the delicate ties that bind people to each other.
Words vs Images
She Is Not Invisible. That’s the title of the book for good reason. I can’t take credit for it though; I found it after I’d written the first draft and was still hunting for the right title. That was a long search, as it sometimes can be. I MUCH prefer it when you have the perfect title before you write the first word of the book, but it can’t be forced. Eventually, I came across these four words in a quote by the Elizabethan philosopher, Francis Bacon. The full quote, which is about chance, or Fate, goes like this:
"Therefore if a man look sharply and attentively, he shall see Fortune: for though she be blind, yet she is not invisible."
What Bacon is saying here is that luck is impartial (in the same sense we say that justice is ‘blind’ – it should pass its judgments on rich and poor alike). This tied in neatly with a book that’s about coincidence, one which tries to work out whether synchronicity does indeed have hidden meaning, or whether it’s all just ‘blind’ luck.
The main reason I chose this title however, is because in the two years I spent visiting a school for blind and VI students in England called New College, the one thing that came up again and again was this: most of these young people have, more or less, comes to terms with their visual impairment; what drives them crazy is when people don’t talk to them, treat them as if they’re not there, as if they’re invisible.
The book is full of people who are not what they seem. Laureth, the book’s hero, is a 16-year-old who’s been blind from birth. She knows, as many of the students at New College explained to me, that very often it’s best if she does things to not seem blind; like turning to face someone who’s speaking to you. For a blind person, obviously that doesn’t matter, but sighted people find it weird if the person speaking to you doesn’t turn to face you. Try it and see.
There are other characters in the book who are not what they first appear. Somewhat rashly perhaps, Laureth makes a date via email to meet a man who claims to have her missing father’s notebook, which she hopes might lead her to him. When she meets Mr Michael Walker, he turns out to be a kid, younger than she is even. There are other examples, but I don’t want to give the game away too much. All I was trying to suggest is that we all assume things about people from time to time, and that first impressions aren’t always accurate.
I made many visits to New College while I was writing She Is Not Invisible, but the very first time, after I’d spoken to almost the whole of this small school, I came away richer. Why? For one thing, I was amazed by how honest, generous and articulate even the youngest students were when discussing their visual impairments. I also felt a little guilty because for the first time in ages I felt like I might actually be able to write a book I’d been struggling with on and off for years, and that they key was coming not from me, but from these amazing students. But finally, as I drove away, I realized I’d had a much more relaxing school event than normal, because I wasn’t being judged all the time by my appearance. Blind people, obviously, do not have the chance to judge you by how you look. Image is nothing to them. We in the sighted majority are all guilty of making snap judgments from time to time, I’m sure. One thing I think those of us who write books for young adults feel strongly is the sense of injustice that teenagers feel when the adult world pigeonholes them so quickly and frequently as lazy, or mindless, or whatever it might be this week. I meet amazing teens in schools every week who disprove that, but of course, sometimes it helps to get to know someone first, rather than making up your mind about someone just from the way they look.
The blind, however, cannot judge you by how you look. They get to know you by the things you say, and the things you do. And isn’t that who you truly are? Not the way you look? It was a salutary thing to be reminded of, and, I have to say, refreshing to be among people who value words, written and spoken, so highly.