It’s time for another Author Spotlight! I’m thrilled to be chatting with Adria Karlsson today about her debut picture book, My Sister, Daisy.
Hi Adria, I want to thank you so much for joining me today! Before we dive in, would you like to introduce yourself to Mutually Inclusive’s Readers?
Hi Devyn! Thanks so much for creating such an inviting corner of the internet – I’m honored to be included here. I’m a picture book and middle grade author and live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I have five kids – ages 3, 5, 7, 9, and 10 – who read all kinds of books and keep me on my toes! Before writing My Sister, Daisy, I had many different jobs – I was a content editor for a journal, a tutor for dyslexic kids, a teacher, and a dog and cat behavior consultant.
Your debut, My Sister, Daisy, is such a beautiful story of understanding and acceptance. What inspired you to write this book?
This book was inspired by my own kids’ questions and responses when one of them let us know she was trans. Like Daisy’s parents, we were 100% supportive of our daughter, but unlike Daisy’s parents, we didn’t have all the right words to help our other kids understand.
When we went looking, the few books we found were from the trans-child’s perspective – a story that 100% needs to be told by trans-authors, centered, and celebrated! – but not exactly what we needed for the other kids. On top of that, so many siblings were portrayed as unsupportive and the trans-child almost always experienced bullying. We didn’t want those stories to become our story – we wanted a book that modeled support with curiosity and a child’s normal range of emotions when it comes to change.
Daisy and her family are such a delight! I love how much love and support Daisy’s family gives her, including her brother. Are the characters themselves based off of your family at all?
We have a trans child and she has an older brother who is close in age… but the relationship between Daisy and her brother, the immediate clarity with which the parents understand what Daisy is sharing, and the mixed-race portrayal of the family are all different than our story. The book is definitely semi-autobiographical, not fully so! Some words are directly taken from things my children said, but the timeline is all jumbled up. It’s funny, though… When the book came out, the teacher at my kids’ school who runs the Rainbow Kids lunch immediately texted me. She was so happy to be in the book! When I told her that I couldn’t claim credit for that one – the picture of her, and even her inclusion in the story, were Linus’s idea – she told me that didn’t really change anything, she knew it was her. :p
Title: My Sister, Daisy
Author: Adria Karlsson
Illustrator: Linus Curci
Published: September 1, 2020
Format: Picture Book
I know it can be extremely rewarding, but challenging to write something you’re so personally connected with. What was the biggest hurdle, and the biggest celebration, of writing My Sister, Daisy?
The biggest hurdle was probably deciding whether or not to publish it. I was worried my daughter or her siblings would feel like from now on they would have to maintain the genders that were portrayed in the book or feel outed by the story. We had a lot of conversations about both of those things and the reality is that the book is about acceptance. It’s about listening to our kids! Whether it’s gender or something else, so my kids are clear on the idea they can still change and grow. As for the second issue, she’s young to have made the decision to allow this story and my author’s note to go out into the world and I can only hope that she is still as proud of who she is and what this book is doing in the world when she’s older. Right now, she’s thrilled, and for all of us it feels like a risk we could take since we carry so many other privileges.
The biggest celebration? When my oldest two kids teared up when they first read this book. They are so stinkin’ proud of it and that, to me, is worth a lot when it is such a personal connection.
And how do your kids feel about inspiring My Sister, Daisy? I would imagine they are so proud of you for creating the book your family needed.
I think I’ve already answered this one, but to ensure the message isn’t lost – they are so, so proud. I got bookmarks made for handing out at events and when my kids spotted them, all five of them insisted on bringing them into school to give to alllll the kids in their classes. Definitely NOT my idea, but hey… I guess it was good publicity!
If young readers only learn one thing from My Sister, Daisy, what message would you most like them to take away?
This is what acceptance looks like. When we love someone and they feel safe enough to share something this big with us, it’s our privilege to accept that knowledge, love them for it, and listen.
As a parent of a transgender child, do you have any advice or resources you would offer to parents who want to support their own children through their own journey of gender identity and expression?
There are amazing books out there written by transgender authors that speak to their own experiences. In particular, I love the picture books My Rainbow by Trinity and DeShanna Neal, and When Aiden Became a Brother and Call Me Max (and its two sequels) by Kyle Lukoff. For those that are working to understand gender identity, expression, and assigned sex at birth the book It Feels Good to Be Yourself by Theresa Thorn is excellent. Greater Boston PFLAG has been an invaluable resource to us as well. I don’t consider this only a conversation for parents of gender non-conforming or transgender children, either – I hope every kid is exposed to this information early and often so they have the language to discuss and discover their own way forward.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Hopefully more picture books! I have some on submission, some I’m drafting and revising, and new ideas all the time. I also have a middle grade novel that’s going through its third revision – so hopefully that will eventually see the light of day. For now, I’ve been catching up and learning how to be a debut author and balance the rest of my life!
Is there anything else you’d like to share with Mutually Inclusive’s Readers?
I’m a member of a group of new kidlit authors and they’ve come out with some amazing books this year! They can all be found at http://www.newbooksforkids.com. Finding a group of people to support me at each step of my new life as an author has been truly invaluable and I’m deeply appreciative of each and every person that has seen My Sister, Daisy along on its journey.
You can learn more about Adria and her work at her website https://www.adriakarlsson.com or by following her on Twitter @AdriaKarlsson and Instagram @adriakarlson.