Tomboys and Witches: Writing Nonbinary Magic, a Guest Post by The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass author Adan Jerreat-Poole

Today on the site, I’m thrilled to welcome Adan Jerreat-Poole, author of the queer fantasy novel The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass, which releases from Dundurn on May 16. Here’s a little more about the book:

Eli isn’t just a teenage girl — she’s a made-thing the witches created to hunt down ghosts in the human world. Trained to kill with her seven magical blades, Eli is a flawless machine, a deadly assassin. But when an assignment goes wrong, Eli starts to question everything she was taught about both worlds, the Coven, and her tyrannical witch-mother.

Worried that she’ll be unmade for her mistake, Eli gets caught up with a group of human and witch renegades, and is given the most difficult and dangerous task in the worlds: capture the Heart of the Coven. With the help of two humans, one motorcycle, and a girl who smells like the sea, Eli is going to get answers — and earn her freedom.

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

And here’s the post from Adan on writing nonbinary magic!

***

I grew up reading Tamora Pierce’s The Song of the Lioness quartet. I was in love with magic, sword-fighting, and the tomboyish Alanna who had to pretend to be a boy in order to become a knight. In some ways I felt like Alanna—but instead of a girl pretending to be a boy, I was a nonbinary person pretending to be a girl. Like Alanna, I felt the constraints of gender roles and sexism corsetting my life and future. The Song of the Lioness helped me imagine breaking out of those roles.

But I wanted more than that. Where were the magical adventures about people like me?

I am the only queer person in my family. I didn’t come out as bisexual/pansexual until I was 26. I didn’t come out as nonbinary until I was 27. Here is an excerpt from the email I sent to my closest family members three days before my 28th birthday:

Some of you may remember me as a little kid with a bowl cut who wore Harry Potter glasses and animal onesies (some things never change). I looked like a little boy, and I didn’t particularly feel like any gender. I’ve often felt uncomfortable trying to make myself more feminine to fit in with gendered expectations and norms. In the last year or so, I’ve met more and more people who identity as nonbinary and I think that might be a better fit for me. I’ve started using the pronouns “they/their.” It feels right.

I have a couple of really close queer friends who helped me come out and feel comfortable with who I am. But they lived in different cities, and as an introvert it was hard for me to meet new people and break into the local LGBT2SQIA+ scene. Because I didn’t have many trans or queer people in my life, I turned to books. It turned out that sometime between 1998 and 2018 a lot of amazing queer YA literature had been published, and I fell in love with reading all over again. My bookshelf now is filled with titles like Blanca & Roja and Girl Mans Up. These books were the queer family I was missing.

Here’s the last thing you have to know about me: I’m angry. Really, really angry. I’m angry at the violence that I’ve experienced and that I see other people experiencing. I’m angry that I had to pretend to be a girl for a long time. I’m angry that we live in a culture that hurts women, trans, queer people, and people of colour. Some of that anger makes its way into the book, curling under each letter and winding through lines of dialogue.

The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass is about an angry queer girl trying to find her place in the worlds. The world she grew up in is weird, magical, and dangerous. She’s going to discover that our world is, too. She’s going to meet a really cool nonbinary person who has secrets and tattoos. (They are the main character of the sequel, The Boi of Feather and Steel). She’s going to learn how to come to terms with pain and past mistakes. She’s going to learn how to use anger to fight for justice.This book is about tomboys and witches, assassins and ghosts and bloodthirsty children. These characters handle every fear and challenge with the strength and honestly that I wanted for myself when I was a young person dreaming of becoming a knight.

If you look carefully, you can see the ink on the page pulsing to the beat of my magical nonbinary heart.

***

Adan Jerreat-Poole is a reader and writer who loves all things fantasy and feminist. They are a PhD candidate at McMaster University studying disability and queerness in popular culture. Adan lives in Kingston with their cat Dragon. The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass is their debut novel.

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