Related to: 'A Normal Family'

Julie Sarkissian blogs about the problems facing the protagnist of her debut novel, DEAR LUCY

Something's Wrong With Lucy - But What?

Lucy is different – that much is clear. She speaks like a child, doesn’t recognize social boundaries, flies into rages, and treasures rotten food. Her cognition is impaired, her vocabulary is very limited and she cannot read or write. But what – precisely – is wrong with her is left up to the reader. Lucy is the protagonist of my novel, DEAR LUCY, and from the first sentence of the book I ever wrote it was obvious that Lucy was cognitively different. The way Lucy describes herself is as “missing too many words.” Her mother calls her “difficult.” Readers of early drafts of the book had a few theories as to Lucy’s condition; autism, Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome. But Lucy’s mother has kept her from going to school and Lucy has never seen a doctor. So in the fictional reality of the book there is no official diagnosis. But as the novel progressed I wondered – should I have one? I was torn. If Lucy was presenting enough symptoms to point to a real condition, was I ignoring the obvious not to fold that condition into my development of her character? Was it insensitive of me to allude to aspects of certain real, life-altering conditions but not assign a specific condition to Lucy? I worried about appropriating aspects of serious conditions without treating those conditions with proper respect and acknowledgement. And though any clinical diagnosis would probably not be explicit in the novel, I wondered if I would be ignoring an opportunity to bring attention to a real disorder when people asked me about Lucy’s condition, the way The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time did for autism. On the other hand, I had concerns that if I chose a diagnosis for Lucy, I would be ascribing to her qualities that she wouldn’t have otherwise presented. Lucy had her own will over my writing and over the novel. I didn’t want to yoke Lucy’s expression by keeping her behavior and abilities consistent with a clinical condition. Accuracy would also become a critical issue if Lucy’s condition was named. Ultimately I chose not to diagnose Lucy, though I worry the artistic freedom provided by that decision comes at the price of being judged for being too liberal with my treatment of cognitive disorders. Now that publication is a few months away, I am apprehensive of how my treatment of Lucy’s cognitive limitations will be judged. I have yet to talk to a reader who has a learning different child, or works with learning different people, and that conversation is one I will be honored, and not a bit anxious, to have.

Akala

Akala is a BAFTA and MOBO award-winning hip-hop artist, writer and social entrepreneur, as well as the co-founder of The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company. With an extensive global touring history, Akala has appeared at numerous festivals both in the UK and internationally, and has led innovative projects in the arts, education and music across South East Asia, Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand. Akala has also appeared on Channel 4, ITV, MTV, Sky Arts and the BBC promoting his music and poetry, and speaking on wide-ranging subjects from music, race, youth engagement, British/African-Caribbean culture and the arts, with numerous online lectures and performances that have millions of views on YouTube. More recently known for his compelling lectures and journalism - he has been awarded an honorary degree from Oxford Brookes University and the University of Brighton, written for the Guardian, Huffington Post and the Independent, and spoken for the Oxford Union and TEDx - Akala has gained a reputation as one of the most dynamic and articulate talents in the UK.

Alice Vinten

Alice Vinten spent ten years as an officer in the Metropolitan Police. Now in her thirties, she lives in Leigh-on-Sea with her two sons.

Alys Fowler

Alys Fowler is an award winning journalist and passionate gardener. She is the author of several books and writes a weekly column on gardening for Guardian Weekend magazine. She lives in Birmingham.

David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough is a broadcaster and naturalist whose television career is now in its seventh decade. After studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge and a brief stint in publishing, he joined the BBC in 1952 and spent ten years making documentary programmes of all kinds, including the Zoo Quest series. In 1965, he was appointed Controller of a new network, BBC2, and then, after four years became editorially responsible for both BBC1 and BBC2.After eight years of administration, he returned to programme-making to write and present a thirteen-part series, Life on Earth, which surveyed the evolutionary history of animals and plants. This was followed by many other series which, between them, surveyed almost every aspect of life on earth.

David Perlmutter

Dr David Perlmutter is president of the Perlmutter Health Centre in Naples, Florida, and the co-founder and president of The Perlmutter Brain Foundation. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the American College of Nutrition and the Linus Pauling Award. A frequent lecturer, he writes a blog at VanguardNeurologist.com and is a contributor to The Huffington Post. His previous books include Grain Brain and The Grain Brain Cookbook.

Duncan Hamilton

Duncan Hamilton is a journalist who has won two William Hill Sports Book of the Year Prizes. He has been nominated on a further four occasions. He has also claimed two British Sports Book Awards and is the only writer to have won the Wisden Cricket Book of the Year on three occasions. His biography of the Chariots of Fire runner Eric Liddell, For the Glory, was a New York Times bestseller. He most recently collaborated with Jonny Bairstow on the cricketer's autobiography, A Clear Blue Sky. He lives at the foot of the Yorkshire Dales.

Emily Dean

Emily Dean is a writer and radio presenter. She is Frank Skinner's co-host on the award-winning Frank Skinner Show (Absolute Radio) and currently presents a hugely successful podcast for The Times called Walking the Dog. She spent eight years as Deputy Editor of InStyle magazine and has written for titles such as The Times, the Evening Standard and You magazine. She lives in London, supports Arsenal and her career highlight was when Mark Gatiss called her 'sci-fi royalty' due to her childhood role in BBC cult series Day of the Triffids.

Eva Schloss

Eva is in her mid-eighties and lives with her husband Zvi in North London. After the war she became a professional photographer (using the Leica camera Otto Frank had given her) and later opened an antiques shop in Edgware, which she ran for decades. She co-founded The Anne Frank Trust to perpetuate Anne and her step-father Otto's legacy. She was awarded an MBE in this year's New Years Honours for her work in schools, educating children on the perils of intolerance.Karen Bartlett is a writer and journalist based in London. She has written for The Sunday Times, The Times, The Guardian and WIRED from Africa, India and the U.S, and has presented and produced for BBC radio. She was the youngest Director of democratic reform and human rights campaign group Charter88, and began her career in the UK and South Africa.

Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is one of the most influential writers on the linked subjects of habits, happiness, and human nature. She's the author of many books, including the New York Times bestsellers, Better Than Before and The Happiness Project. A member of Oprah's SuperSoul 100, Rubin has an enormous following, in print and online; her books have sold more than 2 million copies worldwide, in more than 35 languages; and on her popular daily blog, gretchenrubin.com, she reports on her adventures in pursuit of habits and happiness. She also has an award-winning podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.gretchenrubin.com twitter | facebook | instagram

Henry Normal

Henry Normal is an English comedian, television producer, poet and writer. He co-wrote The Royle Family, The Mrs Merton Show, Paul and Pauline Calf's Video Diaries, Coogan's Run, The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon, Dr Terrible's House of Horrible and The Parole Officer. He is Managing Director of Baby Cow Productions Ltd, which he set up with Steve Coogan, responsible for bringing The Mighty Boosh and Gavin and Stacey to the screen, amongst many others.

Jon Day

Jon Day is a writer, academic and keen fisherman. He is a lecturer in English Literature at King's College London, and his essays and reviews have appeared in the London Review of Books, n+1, the Times Literary Supplement, the Guardian and the White Review. He is also a regular book critic for the Financial Times and the Telegraph, and is a contributing editor for the Junket, an online literary quarterly. His first book, Cyclogeography: Journeys of a London Bicycle Courier, was published in 2015.

Jordan Belfort

Jordan Belfort was born in Queens, New York. He hustled ices to put himself through college, showing early entrepreneurial flair. His first business sent him bankrupt at twenty-four so he went down to Wall St with $100 in his pocket and ended up building one of the largest brokerages in America - the now infamous Stratton Oakmont. A hard partying lifestyle ended in crash and burn. Ultimately indicted by the federal government, Belfort served twenty-two months in prison, and time in rehab. He's now a highly successful motivational speaker.His story has been made into a Golden Globe-winning and Academy Award-nominated film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese.He is currently living in Los Angeles.

Levison Wood

Levison Wood is an award-winning author, explorer and photographer who specialises in documenting people and cultures in remote regions and post-conflict zones. His work has taken him around the world leading expeditions on five continents and he is an elected fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club.Levison's second book, Walking the Himalayas, was voted Adventure Travel Book of the Year at the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards and his other books, Walking the Nile and Walking the Americas, were both Sunday Times bestsellers. He has presented several critically acclaimed documentaries including From Russia to Iran: Crossing the Wild Frontier where he re-traced part of his Silk Road adventures in a four-part series for Channel 4.

Mary Jane Grant

Mary Jane Grant is an experienced writer, a professor of creative thinking, a consultant in marketing, and a student of mindfulness. She divides her time between London and Toronto.

Melvyn Bragg

Melvyn Bragg is a writer and broadcaster whose first novel, For Want of a Nail, was published in 1965. His novels since include The Maid of Buttermere, The Soldier's Return, Credo and Now is the Time, which won the Parliamentary Book Award for fiction in 2016. His books have also been awarded the Time/Life Silver Pen Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the WHSmith Literary Award, and have been longlisted three times for the Booker Prize (including the Lost Man Booker Prize). He has also written several works of non-fiction, including The Adventure of English and The Book of Books about the King James Bible. He lives in London and Cumbria.

Michael Caine

Sir Michael Caine CBE has been Oscar-nominated six times, winning his first Academy Award for the 1986 film Hannah and Her Sisters and his second in 1999 for The Cider House Rules. He has starred in over one hundred films, becoming well-known for several critically acclaimed performances including his first major film role in Zulu in 1964, followed by films including The Ipcress Files, Get Carter, Alfie, The Italian Job, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Educating Rita, and more recently The Dark Knight, Is Anybody There? and Harry Brown. He was appointed a CBE in 1992 and knighted in 2000 in recognition of his contribution to cinema. Married for more than 45 years, with two daughters and three grandchildren, he and his wife Shakira live in London and Surrey.

Monty Don

MONTY DON is a well-known gardening writer and broadcaster. He lives with his family, garden and dogs in Herefordshire. His previous books include the Sunday Times best-seller Nigel and Paradise Gardens.@TheMontyDon/themontydon

Paul Ferris

Paul Ferris was a teenage prodigy, becoming Newcastle United's youngest-ever player in 1982, only for injury to ensure his promise went unfulfilled. He later returned to the club as a physiotherapist before earning a Master's degree and beginning a successful quest to qualify as a barrister. But the lure of football was always strong and he went back for a third spell at Newcastle, as Head of the Medical Department, again working closely with a host of big-name players and managers. Paul also became a novelist and now runs a successful health and fitness business.

Riad Sattouf

RIAD SATTOUF is a bestselling cartoonist and filmmaker who grew up in Syria and Libya and now lives in Paris.The author of four comics series in France and a former contributor to the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, Sattouf is now a weekly columnist for l'Obs. He also directed the films The French Kissers (winner of a César Award for Best First Film) and Jacky in the Women's Kingdom.The Arab of the Future - which was awarded the Fauve d'Or Prize for Best Album of the Year at the Angoulême International Comics Festival and has been translated into twenty languages - is his first work to appear in English.riadsattouf.com @RiadSattouf

Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard

Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard lives in Copenhagen with her family. She is co-founder of Graphicure, a start-up company developing software solutions that empower patients to better understand their disease and manage treatment, and the Danish Science Club, a mentorship network for students and young adults.