Sarah James – Cyrus has just completed her first book ‘Dear Diary – Trapped in a Stereotyped world’ based on the trials and tribulations of a young black girl living in London, and is cuurently in the process of getting it published.
Overview Tia is the youngest of four children, being brought up by their mother in South London. She is a typical teenager who worries about her appearance, is susceptible to naïve thoughts, wants a boyfriend and thinks that no one understands her. She is particularly fond of her older brother; this becomes of great importance towards the end of the book. Her mother and eldest sister, Elaine are her moral teachers. I use her siblings to look at interracial dating, moral values and the complications of extended families.
Her best friend is Misha, who I use to touch on the subjects of pregnancy, friendly rivalry and relationships with older men. Early on in the book, one of Tia’s friends, Tyrell, is stabbed and it is at that point that she starts to question everything. Her thoughts start to focus on black on black violence, racism, complexes and her own personal insecurities. Random events at school allow me to focus on what is means to be black as a teenager today, carrying weapons, career choices, gangs and the general pressures of studying.
Her need to be accepted leads her into compromising situations with older guys. One introduces her to alcohol and attempts to have sex with her, the other assaults an admirer in front of her. These experiences slowly make her realise that she may not be ready for relationships of this kind. However, she does find a sweet guy to be her boyfriend. The plot follows the point from the stabbing to the inevitable tragic events that occur when revenge is sought. As heroine of the book, she is forces to grow up quickly and slowly realises how complicated the world really is.
Genre ‘Dear Diary; Trapped in a Stereotyped World’ is teenage fiction. Through the use of diary entries and coverage of daily events, I encompass the thoughts and feelings of a young black teenager living in today’s society. There is a contrast of sweet naïve humour with the harsh and shocking reality of the streets of London today
Who will this book appeal to? My target audience are teenagers, between the ages of 14yrs –19yrs old. I hope that the subject matters I have touched on are ones that any girl, whatever her colour and culture can relate to. However, I also want to reach out to the parents, to give them an understanding of what our younger generation experience today.
Themes My book looks at issues that apply across the border; I look at the mix of disobedience with compliance, family values and traditions. Other poignant themes include sexual relations and the complications that can ensue, gun violence, hormones, importance of reputation, physical appearance, friends, peer pressure, crushes and daily events that occur in and outside school.
How is this book different? What I hope sets my book apart is that I try to invoke thought rather than dictate. For example, in one chapter, a friend of Tia’s is stabbed. I show the effects that a stabbing has on the friends, family and community. I touch on the thoughts of the young boys who now feel compelled to carry ‘protection’ and the effect this kind of incident has on the individual and the chain that it creates.
In addition, I tried to tackle controversial matters at the heart of the black community. The book looks at racism, interracial dating, black on black crime, drugs and other things our youngsters are exposed to. I have looked at issues that young black girls may face such as relaxing their hair, choice of role model, culture and what it actually means to be black in today’s society.
I have researched deeper by tackling things I feel are secretly raging in the black community. Like the guilty opinions we have as black people, fearing that we may be ‘going against our community.’ On a larger scale, there are underlying myths of the importance of karma and the impact of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am aware that teenagers face a tougher time now and many feel the older generation do not understand. I have portrayed the struggle that occurs when a young girl wants to follow her mother’s advice, but is torn by the need to be popular.
Motivation for writing the book Last year saw a dramatic rise in teenage violence and I think the shock value never wears of. Teen violence is at the very heart of most discussions today, the newspapers, the politicians; everyone is talking about it and trying to bring a solution. As a cosmopolitan community, we ask questions and throw opinions, but nothing changes. Adults and children have never understood each other, but now the barriers are different. The youth talk a different language, walk around with guns and don’t think twice about not offering an elderly lady a seat.
Personal experience, conversations with the younger generation and fear, motivated me to write this book. At a time where violence in the community is at the heart of everyone’s minds, this book tries to explore the mentality of a generation who no longer read, feel isolated and lost. As a individual who has experienced first hand the impact that guns and violence, have on this group, I found it was important to try and understand both sides. As a black female, I felt the need to touch on subjects that your average piece of fiction leaves out. Being black presents different issues and challenges, I wanted to tackle some of these.
About the Author
After studying Law at Leicester University, Sarah went on to do a Bar Vocational Course at the Inns of Court School of Law, and graduated as a trainee barrister in 2001. Sarah currently works as a communications officer for the metropolitan police Service, answering 999 calls, and assisting police officers on the street.
“The job was a real eye opener for me and it was whilst working working and seeing the level of crime,that I felt compelled to try and reach out to some of the youths on the street today. My motivation to write has stemmed from personal experience, as both my father and brother are victims of violent attacks”