Diversity and Mixed Ethnic Narratives: Looking for Lucie by Amanda Addison

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Looking for Lucie

By Amanda Addison

Author Amanda Addison on celebrating multiple ethnicities in YA storytelling.

Looking for Lucie is a YA novel in which the key protagonist, Lucie Hansen, is forever asked the question: Where are you really from? This always makes her feel like an outsider, and not completely included in the rural community she grew up in. Lucie isn’t sure of her heritage, but knows that with her brown skin she is of mixed ethnicity. Her search for answers and belonging sets in motion a story where young people with brown skin take centre stage and celebrates what the multiple ethnicities in the story have in common.

When I was younger, there was very little in the way of mixed ethnicity characters in storytelling. The great work publishers such as Neem Tree Press and Lantana are doing where they are truly seeking out diverse books really makes a difference.

Even as writers, I think the lack of representation has rubbed off on us. Since we never saw them represented in the past creating a vicious cycle of non-representation. I attended a talk on this topic by the children’s author, Candy Gourlay, at Book Trust Represents. She discussed how it took her some time to centre non-white characters in her own writing, something which she achieved in Bone Talk, a coming-of-age story set in a remote village in the Philippines, dealing with topics such as: growing up, discovering yourself and the impact of colonialism on native peoples and their lives.

The Truth About Origins: Debating the significance of uncovering one’s roots for young people.

The need to know about our ancestors seems to be a primal urge. We see it across different times and cultures, from totem poles to oral storytelling, and more recently in the popularity of ancestry television shows and websites. Photography and the power of the photographic image is a theme which runs through Looking for Lucie. Family photographs are a way of looking for visual clues of our ancestors.

The book and film Lion, by Saroo Brierley, depicts how even with a happy childhood in Tasmania there is nevertheless the need to search for answers. ‘As a five-year old in India, I got lost on a train. Twenty-five years later, I crossed the world to find my way back home.’

Origin stories are complex and often focus on difference. The first part of Looking for Lucie, does just that. For she has been made to feel different and uncertain about her identity which propels the storyline forward. However, as the novel progresses (without giving any spoilers!) other ideas of shared humanity come into the storyline to give a more nuanced and multi-faceted view of all our origin stories.

I chose to tell this story as a coming-of-age novel, as it is a time in our lives when we seek to establish an identity outside of our family – making Looking for Lucie especially suitable for a teen reader. However, the significance of uncovering one’s roots cuts across all ages and makes this novel also suitable for book groups interested in discussing this issue, especially as some sections are told from the perspective of the adults in Lucie’s life.

Cultural Connections through Art and Artefacts: How artworks and artefacts can connect us with our heritage and identity.

As an artist, as well as an author, art and artefacts and the way we can tell stories through them runs right across age groups and different communities. Trading connections were a source of inspiration when I worked as a creative facilitator at the National Centre for Writing’s in their Stories from the Quarter project. Alongside primary aged children we explored Norwich’s trading history and Dragon Hall’s role as a merchant’s house alongside more recent stories of people coming to Norwich, such as the Bengali community.

In this project my starting point was to discuss objects which had been handed down to us as an unbroken connection to our past and place. I used a family heirloom of a jam pan and spoon as an example. While others brought in prayer mates and a saree. In a museum setting we often write about objects as prompts for storytelling, and Neil MacGregor’s book and series A History of the World in a 100 Objects has been a source of inspiration. I explore a little of Norwich’s global textile heritage in Looking for Lucie.

My real love, like Lucie in the novel, is textiles. I have always collected fabrics, loving their colour, decoration, and functionality. I used saree ribbons to create an installation for a local sculpture trail, and start a discussion about textile links between the UK and Indian subcontinent. Last year I visited the Singh Twins ‘Slaves of Fashion’ exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum. I was lucky enough to attend a talk by them at Norwich University of the Arts which brought up further questions of our entwined and entangled histories between the UK and Indian subcontinent. The Singh Twins and their work reflect Lucie’s own story as she studies art and textiles and goes on to tell her highly local and also global history through her artwork.

(c) Amanda Addison

About Looking for Lucie by Amanda Addison:

Looking for Lucie

Looking for Lucie is a contemporary YA novel that explores identity, self-discovery, and newfound friendship as an 18-year-old girl sets out to uncover her ethnic heritage and family history.

“Where are you really from?”

It’s a question every brown girl in a white-washed town is familiar with, and one that Lucie has never been able to answer. All she knows is that her mother is white, she’s never met her father, and she looks nothing like the rest of her family. She can’t even talk about it because everyone says it shouldn’t matter!

Well, it matters to Lucie and-with her new friend Nav, who knows exactly who he is-she’s determined to find some answers.

What do you do when your entire existence is a question with no answer?

You do a DNA test.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Amanda Addison is an award-winning author of books for adults and children. Her books have been shortlisted for The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal and the Searchlight Writing Novel Opening Award. She is inspired by travel, textiles, and the natural world, and often explores themes of home and belonging in her writing. She is passionate about inclusivity and diversity in publishing and telling untold stories depicting characters from the Global Majority. Amanda holds an MA in Writing the Visual and lectures in Art & Design, whilst also running workshops in Creative Writing at the National Centre for Writing, Amanda lives in Norfolk, UK, with her family.

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