Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Q&A with Quinn Diacon-Furtado




Quinn Diacon-Furtado is the author of the new young adult novel The Lilies. They are also an educator.


Q: What inspired you to write The Lilies?


A: I’m interested in stories that look at our present-day world and acknowledge its faults while imagining something more authentically hopeful beyond it.


I wanted to write The Lilies because I was interested in how the public conversation about “safe spaces” for women hinges on this notion of “who belongs.”


For generations, notions of belonging and womanhood have been weaponized to exclude women of color and gender-nonconforming people from safe spaces. This is patriarchal violence in action, and it is often the norm at single-gender institutions such as girls’ boarding schools and universities.


With The Lilies, I wanted to write about young people who found creative ways to reject this precedent, even when it seems like it's inescapable.


The book grapples with the trauma of both physical and exclusionary violence, and what that looks like from the perspective of women and nonbinary teens, whose voices are often lost in this conversation.


Q: How did you create Archwell Academy?


A: Growing up, I changed schools quite a bit. I really withered in institutional environments as a neurodiverse person who was labeled “learning disabled/reading disabled.” I was fortunate to have a mom who was a former educator and could recognize when I wasn’t getting what I needed at school.


Transferring a lot in primary school, secondary school, and even college gave me insight into what different school environments were like—but whenever I didn’t quite fit in or I didn’t excel academically I always assumed that I was the problem.


It wasn’t until I became a teacher that I realized exclusionary institutional culture was the problem. Whether it’s in a college prep environment, women’s schools, or higher ed, exclusionary attitudes and entrenched power often sideline and silence students’ voices.


Archwell Academy isn’t a real place, but its shadow culture exists in many schools, particularly those who pride themselves on being “elite” or exclusionary in some way.


Q: The writer Laura Steven called the book a “fresh, modern take on the time loop trope, exploring trauma cycles, the butterfly effect, and what it means to be truly seen.” What do you think of that description?


A: I love it! I appreciate that it highlights how the story offers up authenticity as an antidote to a culture of trauma. This is something that Dr. Gabor Maté talks about in his book, The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture.


Maté’s work was top of mind while I was writing this book. In fact, the writing process prompted me to do quite a bit of research on trauma cycles, even unpacking some of my own family history and trauma in the process. 


I think it’s interesting how folks have picked up on the butterfly effect metaphor to talk about this book because it’s often framed as a highly unusual, almost mystical phenomenon.


My view: the butterfly effect is not a phenomenon--it’s happening all the time. Every action produces a reaction, sometimes with generational impacts that we could never anticipate.


I don’t mean, be careful about the way you butter your toast because it might end up causing a flood one day. I would encourage people to look to the past instead: consider why you might make certain choices that aren’t particularly good for you because of a misbelief you inherited from a family member who you may have never met.


For me, this story isn’t about the woo-woo of the butterfly effect, it’s about the lasting impacts of the choices our ancestors made, and the choices we have to make today to rectify them.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: I hope that readers think about the notion of “safe spaces” a bit more critically and expansively: just because a place is supposed to be safe, doesn’t mean it’s authentically safe for everyone.


I also hope readers recognize that people who do hurtful things to others usually have been hurt by something themselves—authenticity and self-forgiveness are key to healing from these things.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m still toiling away in speculative fiction land. Currently, I’m working on a project set in the near future that deals with the intersection between dreams and technology. I’m also working on a novel for young readers about power in late-stage capitalism but…you know…it’s still magic. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I read a lot of nonfiction while I was writing this book, much of which is thematically related to The Lilies.


Readers interested in the notion of generational patterns might like It Didn't Start with You by Mark Wolynn or My Grandmother's Hands by Resmaa Menakem. If you want to add a gender analysis into that mix, bell hooks’ books Feminism Is for Everybody and The Will to Change were both super influential for me—I highly recommend them!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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