posted on March 23, 2020 by Laura Brown

Writing with Intersectionality

When I started writing Matzah Ball Surprise, I knew at least one of my main characters would be Jewish. I also knew at least one of my main characters would have a hearing loss, since that’s part of my brand. Both of these traits match me, as I’m both Jewish and Hard of Hearing. But a funny thing happened when I sat back and thought about it: while I knew plenty of people with dual marginalizations, having a hero that’s both Deaf and Jewish is a bit of an anomaly.

Publishing is coming a long way in regards to diversity, but we’ve still got a longer way to go. Diverse traits don’t exist in a bubble, many people have more than one. I happen to have four. These traits intersect and create the rich fabric of our lives. And yet so often we are showing one, alone.

I’ve been to a Deaf Seder. I’ve missed a ton not being able to hear the hearing Seders of my youth. Both these shape me and my experiences and who I am. I’m not one, I’m both.

With Matzah Ball Surprise I got to show a little of that, how my two main characters, both Jewish, experience the Seder in different ways. There are so many more levels that can be explored here, as Judaism varies person to person. But that wasn’t where I wanted this story to go.

I saw a reader excited about my book because of the dual diversity. I hadn’t really thought about it prior to this, as being both has always been who I am. To see it resonate with readers shows how important this is.

I could have written a story with Jewish characters who did not also have hearing loss. However my initial concept stemmed from a comedy with a Deaf hero. The Deafness came first in this case. I was trying to come up with a fake date scenario. And a wedding has been done time and time again. I wanted to come up with something different. That’s where the Passover setting came into play.

Because when we look at intersection, when we play up the many wonderful diverse elements we have as humans, then we have so many new and unique twists on concepts to explore. And since diversity has been sorely lacking for so long, there are a lot of different combinations to explore.

Each one will be different. Change the holiday, change the disability, and there’s a new story here. Or add in a different diverse element (same sex relation and/or nonbinary characters, for example) and again the story changes. And when the story changes, the reader learns. The reader has a chance to explore a world different than their own. A chance to see how others react to a situation. Change any of those elements and the story is new, because the elements interact in different ways.

I’m going to do my part to bring diverse stories into the world. And I’m going to support other voices when they write about their experiences. That’s how we’ll begin to see the complex puzzle that makes up humanity, and realize how altering even a small part of a person changes the shape, modifies the fit, and makes the experience unique. Especially in romance. We deal with tropes, we love our tropes, but we also want to make them fresh and interesting. Diversity is how. Intersection is how. Those two elements are ready and waiting to revamp those well-loved tropes and breath in some fresh air.

Who’s with me?

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Laura Brown

Laura Brown

Laura Brown lives in Massachusetts with her quirky abnormal family. Her husband's put up with her since high school, her young son keeps her on her toes, and her two cats think they deserve more scratches. Hearing loss is a big part of who she is, from her own hard of hearing ears, to the characters she creates.

2 thoughts on “Writing with Intersectionality”

  1. Avatar flchen1 says:

    I’m totally intrigued, Laura–I love when authors allow us to experience another person’s life through their stories, especially when they live one that I might not otherwise get to experience. As a hearing Gentile, I wouldn’t likely have the chance to experience the characters’ world in Matzah Ball Surprise–I look forward to getting to vicariously!

    1. Thank you! I feel the same way, I love reading books from authors different than me, for the reasons you mention. It allows us to open our worlds and enjoy something new!

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