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.

Adam Hills

Adam Hills is an Australian comedian and television presenter. Alongside his stand-up, he is known in Australia for hosting the music and quiz show Spicks and Specks and the talk show Adam Hills Tonight. His combination of positive uplifting comedy and spontaneity has seen him receive a number of awards and glowing reviews along the way. In 2012, he hosted a one-off series for Channel 4 airing over 2012 London Paralympics called The Last Leg. Now in its 12th series, the show is one of the most popular shows in the UK. This is his first book.


Akala is a MOBO-award winning musician, poet, activist and the founder of The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, He has spoken and written about politics and race on Newsnight, This Week, and Frankie Boyle's Political Autopsy and in the Guardian, as well as doing TEDx and Oxford Union lectures that have clocked up over a million views on Youtube.

Angela Pell

Angela Pell is a writer for film and TV whose credits include Snow Cake, starring Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman, Gifted, starring Rhys Ifans, and the upcoming adaptation of Naoki Higashida and David Mitchell's The Reason I Jump.

Brendan Cox

Brendan Cox was Jo's husband and is dad to their two children.For the last eighteen months he has been working to combat growing xenophobia and intolerance across Europe.Brendan's royalties for this book will go to the Jo Cox

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. Since the launch of his famous Zoo Quest series in 1954 he has surveyed almost every aspect of life on earth and brought it to the viewing public. His latest programme, Planet Earth II, was the most-watched nature documentary of all time.

Derek Pringle

Derek Pringle played for Essex between 1978 and 1993. He was a member of the successful sides of the 1980s and early 1990s alongside cricketers such as Graham Gooch, Mark Waugh, Nasser Hussain, John Lever and Neil Foster. In that period Essex won the County Championship six times. As an undergraduate, Pringle played for Cambridge University and was called up for England in 1982. Pringle went on to play 30 Tests until 1992, scoring 695 runs and taking 70 wickets. He also played in 44 One Day Internationals between 1982 and 1993. He appeared in two World Cups including England's 1992 Cup Final team.After his playing days, he became a cricket correspondent firstly with The Independent and then The Daily Telegraph.

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.

Gervase Phinn

Dr Gervase Phinn is a teacher, freelance lecturer, author, poet, educational consultant and visiting professor of education. For fourteen years he taught in a range of schools, then acted as General Adviser for Language Development in Rotherham before moving on to North Yorkshire, where he spent ten years as a school inspector - time that has provided much source material for his books. He has four grown up children and four grandchildren and lives near Doncaster. Visit Gervase's website,

Glennon Doyle

GLENNON DOYLE is the author of the New York Times bestseller Carry On, Warrior and the founder of the online community Momastery, where she reaches more than one million people each day. She is also the creator and president of Together Rising a non-profit organization that has raised over four million dollars for families around the world through its Love Flash Mobs, which have revolutionized online giving. Glennon is a sought-after public speaker and her work has been featured on The TODAY Show, The Talk, OWN, NPR, and in The New York Times, Glamour, Newsweek,the Huffington Post, and in other television and print outlets. Glennon lives in

Henry Blofeld

Henry began writing about cricket, for The Times, in May 1962 and in 1972 he started his long career as a commentator with the BBC's Test Match Special. During his career he has written for numerous papers and broadcast for both radio and television for many networks around the world especially in Australia and New Zealand. Between 1991 and 1993 he joined Sky Television before returning to Test Match Special after the death of Brian Johnston early in 1994. Since 2002 Henry Blofeld has performed in his humorous one-man show in theatres all round the country, and later he teamed up with his former TMS producer, Peter Baxter, for more than 250 two-man shows. His current two-man show team-mate is former England off spinner, Graeme Swann.

Joan Bomford

Joan Bomford, 83, who lives near Evesham in Worcestershire, has been farming since the 1930s. She continues to be very active on the farm today - driving tractors and feeding the animals. In 2015 she was named BBC Countryfile's Farming Hero 2015.

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 30 years, with two daughters and three grandchildren, he and his wife Shakira divide their time between England and the United States.

Michael Volpe

Michael Volpe, the youngest of four brothers, is from an Italian immigrant family and has three children; Leanora, Gianluca and Fiora. He is married to Sally Connew-Volpe and they live in London. Michael joined the Royal Borough Of Kensington and Chelsea in October 1989 after a period of working in the international hotel industry and founded Opera Holland Park in 1996. Michael is a Chelsea supporter, and fervent advocate of cultural engagement for all - neither of which are necessarily related.

Mikael Lindnord

Mikael Lindnord is an adventure racer and race planner. As a boy he wanted to be an ice hockey player, but failing to make a professional team at the age of 17 set him on a different path. After doing military service he became an adventure racer and has been travelling the world and racing in the AR World Series ever since. When not racing he lives with his wife, children and, of course, his dog Arthur. Arthur is a mongrel from somewhere in Ecuador. He likes meatballs, long runs with Mikael and relaxing with his family in Sweden. As an editor of non-fiction at major publishing houses, Val Hudson published many ground-breaking bestsellers. Now a full-time writer, she is the author of a wide range of non-fiction and, as Chloe Bennet, the 'Boywatching' series of novels for young teens..

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.

Piu Eatwell

Piu Eatwell is the author of BLACK DAHLIA, RED ROSE and The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse and has produced and researched historical documentaries for the BBC and other channels, including the widely acclaimed film Charles Manson: The Man Who Killed the Sixties. She divides her time between Paris and London with her husband and three children.

Ranulph Fiennes

Sir Ranulph Fiennes was the first man to reach both poles by surface travel and the first to cross the Antarctic Continent unsupported. In the 1960s he was removed from the SAS Regiment for misuse of explosives but, joining the army of the Sultan of Oman, received that country's Bravery Medal on active service in 1971. He is the only person yet to have been awarded two clasps to the Polar medal for both Antarctic and the Arctic regions. Fiennes has led over 30 expeditions including the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth, and in 2003 he ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in aid of the British Heart Foundation.In 1993 Her Majesty the Queen awarded Fiennes the Order of the British Empire (OBE) because, on the way to breaking records, he has raised over £14 million for charity. He was named Best Sportsman in the 2007 ITV Great Briton Awards and in 2009 he became the oldest Briton to reach the summit of Everest.

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.

Sally Magnusson

Broadcaster and journalist Sally Magnusson has written 10 books, most famously, her Sunday Times bestseller, Where Memories Go (2014) about her mother's dementia. Half-Icelandic, half Scottish, Sally has inherited a rich storytelling tradition. The Sealwoman's Gift is her first novel.

Scyld Berry

Scyld Berry has reported on more England Test matches than any cricket writer, over 400 of them, including 20 Ashes series. He was born and grew up within a mile of Bramall Lane in Sheffield. He started as a cricket journalist in 1976, and has successively been the cricket correspondent of the Observer, the Sunday Correspondent, theIndependent on Sunday, the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph. For four years he was the editor ofWisden Cricketers' Almanack. On the field, he has taken five wickets in an innings in county cricket - for Gloucestershire Over-60s.Cricket: The Game of Life is Scyld's seventh book - six of which are about cricket. He has three children, two cats and a wife.