Tuesday, October 1, 2013


In March of 2013, I released the first book of my series, The New Pioneers. Emily, the heroine of The Smartest Girl in the Room, is similar to me in a lot of ways: she’s ambitious, tormented and… half Korean. It’s not autobiographical (I swear I didn’t do half of the things she did my last year in college), but in some ways it felt safe to write about her because of the shared ethnicity. The book isn’t about her ethnicity at all (unless you count talking about Korean food, but doesn’t everyone these days?), but I felt like I was in a safe place there.

But the safety ends there. The heroine of The Family You Choose is Miranda Harel, half-Israeli and half… you’ll see. She wasn’t raised in Israel, but she is Jewish. While that wasn’t how I was raised, I felt like I could safely write to it as one of my best friends is an Israeli American and my husband and his family are Jewish. But I’m not. Can I write about someone who is?

Now what about Jessie Bartolome, the heroine of Book Three, tentatively titled The China Doll? Her ancestors going back at least two hundred years have all been born on US soil… but she’s a Boston Brahmin. I have met some people who fit that description, but Jessie’s a little different. Oh yeah- she’s also blonde, grey-eyed and a hell of a lot wilder than I’ve ever been. Is it okay for me to write to that?

And finally, we come to Zainab, Emily’s best friend who will get her chance to shine in the series finale, tentatively titled Let’s Move On. She’s a transplant from southern Africa, and she was raised all over the world. Well, I’ve been to Canada twice, and I went to Asia for about a week and a half, but otherwise, I’ve been confined to the US. Can I write to that? A good friend of mine from college comes pretty close in background, but let’s assume she hasn’t told me every story or every name. And this character is also black. Given the perpetually lousy state of race relations in this country, is it okay for someone who isn’t to write about someone who is?

I say yes, yes and yes. Why? Because the stories aren’t about their ethnicity, and part of my life not only as a writer but also as a person has been about fighting the idea of the fatalism of origin. More simply put, I don’t believe that ethnicity is destiny. (For that matter, neither is upbringing.) I don’t believe people with certain ancestors will grow up to have certain characteristics.

We as writers can tell stories about whomever we want, of whatever background they have, as long as we don’t write as if they are a stereotype. You will find no “hot-tempered Italians”, “drunken Irish” or “gangsta African Americans” in my work. Yeah, such people exist, but there are also hot-tempered Germans, gangsta Brits and drunken… well, everyone. What’s the point? And haven’t those things been done to death?

Someone is going to say this is all too much political correctness, but that’s not my point at all. In my imagination, a half-Korean co-ed can be best friends with an African woman, who is dating a blue-blood and like a sister to his cousin, who is also like a sister to a young woman who is half-Israeli. I don’t want to be told that I can’t write to that, and I don’t want to be told that if I do I have to shy away from someone who isn’t exactly like me. Because maybe I didn’t grow up like Miranda, Jessie or Zainab, but they have lived in my head for so long that I know exactly how they’ll react in any given situation, and why. They are real people to me, and I’m going to write them that way- whatever they look like.

Deborah Nam-Krane has been imagining the lives of her varied cast of characters for over two decades. When she decided they all belonged in the same story, things really got interesting. A resident of Boston-proper, she spends more time than she should plotting out everyone’s next move.
Nineteen year old Emily wants her college diploma fast, and she's going to get it. But when the perfect night with perfect Mitch leads her to a broken heart, Emily is blind to her vulnerability. When the person she cares about the most is hurt as a result, Emily's ambition gives way to more than a little ruthlessness. She's going to use her smarts to take care of herself and protect the people she loves, and everyone else had better stay out of her way. But shouldn't the smartest girl everyone knows realize that the ones she'd cross the line for would do the same for her?

The Smartest Girl in the Room is Book One in The New Pioneers series.

Miranda Harel has been in love with her guardian Alex Sheldon since she was five years old, and Michael Abbot has despised them both for just as long. When Miranda finds out why she wants both men out of her life for good and questions everything she believed about where and who she came from. Finding out the truth will break her heart. Without family or true love, will her friends be enough?

The Family You Choose is Book Two in The New Pioneers series.


Please connect with Deborah Nam-Krane on any of the following sites:

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