Writing About Underrepresented Groups in YA Fiction
WHERE I FOUND YOU takes place after the historic tsunami of 2004. The tsunami, a series of powerful waves that killed thousands of people, happened on December 26, “Boxing Day”. The fact that such an astounding tragedy occurred around Christmas greatly affected me and my husband, and he got a group together and flew to Indonesia, on his own dime, to help the many orphans with their PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
He came back a changed man.
Back then, disasters weren’t as plentiful, and we certainly weren’t suffering from any form of “disaster fatigue” In fact, most of us had no idea what it would be like to survive a nature disaster. I wanted to write a book that personified the tsunami. I wanted to create characters, like Titanic did so successfully—we cry because we love Jack and because Rose loves Jack, not because of a historic ship sinking— to bring a disaster to life in a way that profoundly affected the readers.
The fact that Deni is Muslim is almost an afterthought in the book, and this is what I wanted.
If the tsunami had occurred in Japan, perhaps he’d be Buddhist, or have no religion at all. If the tsunami occurred in Greece, he might be Greek Orthodox.
Religion comes up when Sienna and Deni explore the temple. Here we learn about all the major religions in the world sharing almost an identical origin story (most people in the world do not know this) and how we are all much more alike than we sometimes think.
Deni is Muslim because he was born in Indonesia.
Sienna is a child of hippies because she was born in a coastal hippie town.
What binds us together and attracts us to other people transcends religion, culture, background, race etc. and that’s what I try to convey in WHERE I FOUND YOU.
Thanks for reading!
About Where I Found You (Sea, #1):
After her mother’s plane went missing over the Indian Ocean, seventeen-year-old Sienna Jones gave up everything she loved about living in California. No more surfing. No more swimming. No more ocean, period. Playing it safe, hiding from the world, is the best call.
Until her dad throws down the challenge of a lifetime: spend the summer with his humanitarian team in Indonesia, working with orphans who lost everything in a massive tsunami.
The day they arrive, Sienna meets a mysterious boy named Deni, whose dark, intense eyes make her heart race. Their stolen nights force her to open up and live in a way she thought she couldn’t anymore. When she’s with Deni, she remembers the girl she used to be…and starts to feel like the woman he sees in her.
A woman he wants for his own.
But when Deni’s past comes looking for him, Sienna’s faced with losing another person she loves. She can’t do it. Not again.
Fortunately, this time, she has a plan.
About Heidi R. Kling:
Heidi R. Kling writes about normal young women in not-so-normal situations – books that beg the question: what would I do in her shoes? Heidi majored in literature and creative writing in college and in grad school, where she earned her Master’s in Creative Writing from The New School in New York City. She’s honored to be included in New School Writing Program’s 2015 list of faculty and alumni. She works too much, reads a ton and is way too dedicated to serial TV (The Affair and Homeland are her faves) and dark chocolate. She lives in the California Bay Area with her lovely husband, two children and shaggy dog, Sailor Lily, right over the coastal mountains from the sea. She’s very grateful.
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