Kiran was born in London in 1990. She completed her undergraduate studies in English and Drama with Education at Cambridge University, also performing in Footlights smokers and plays. She graduated with distinction from the Creative Writing MSt at Oxford University, and was President of the Poetry Society there.
She is an award-winning poet, with three collections published and work appearing in international journals such as Room, Agenda and Magma. She was a Barbican Young Poet, and has performed her work internationally, from Banff to Tokyo. She lives in Oxford with her artist boyfriend and writer friends.
‘I’m interested in portraying the world as it is…’
by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
My cousin Sabine loves books. She is funny, curious, kind, a beautiful dancer. She won’t read something that bores her just because everyone else is (a feature most children have, that as an adult reader I am hugely jealous of). She is Indian and lives in New Delhi, and I wanted a way to show her I was thinking of her. So when I set out to write a book, I wanted to write for her, and children like her.
Because, where were the characters that looked like her? I couldn’t recall more than three books, besides the comics of Indian myths I devoured, which featured a brown-skinned girl, let alone centred around one. Often they were token characters. What’s more, I hadn’t read any books where such characters were allowed to just ‘be’. They were exoticised: plot points hinged on their difference. These books were not, and are not, diverse to me. I was not interested in othering or fetishising my characters. I wanted to write a book where the colour of the character’s skin was allowed to be just that.
And so Isabella, a mixed race girl with brown skin, a serious case of curiosity, and a thirst for adventure, came to life on the page. Her best friend Lupe was also mixed race, her mother being the only white character in the book. In the first few drafts I felt no need to spell any of it out, but after my editors assumed most of my characters were white, I described them in more depth. The first draft of my US cover depicted Isabella as pale skinned, and thankfully my editor rectified this immediately. Whitewashing and other forms of erasure are too easy: it’s important to be vigilant.
My second book centres around an island in the Philippines, and so as with the Governor’s wife in THE GIRL OF INK & STARS, it is only remarkable when a character is white. Diversity means many things, and book two has also turned out to contain an antagonist with OCD, a character with a congenital hand difference, and queer characters. What is essential is that none of these characteristics are tokenistic. I’m interested in portraying the world as it is, in all forms and all colours. To adapt Flavia Dzodan’s famous phrase: my diversity will be intersectional or it will be bulls**t.
Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.
When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.
But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.
The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave is out now in paperback (Chicken House) Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com
You can read Luna’s review by clicking on the link here