DiversifYA: Trakena Prevost

TrakenaI love getting contacted by peope who share their passion for diversifying YA and have a fantastic story to tell in the process. Trakena Prevost is one of those people, and we’re very excited to host her here today!

Trakena’s debut YA Urban Fantasy CURSED (Evernight Teen) hit shelves in 2013. If you want to know more about Trakena, you can find her on Twitter and read her blog. Add CURSED to your Goodreads shelves here!

1. How do you identify yourself?

I identify myself as African American or Black.

2. What did it feel like growing up as an African American?

Well, growing up African American in the South was definitely an experience to say the least. To be honest, there’s a different mindset down here on what makes a person beautiful and the standards of beauty that are set. I’m a deep brown “chocolate child” living in Texas, where the lighter you are tends to equal the more beautiful you’re seen as. So growing up for me, I struggled with a lot of self-esteem issues and feelings of not being as beautiful as others. Mostly, I felt a bit invisible…even though I was one two people of color on the cheerleading squad and an honor student! It wasn’t until I moved to New York for grad school that I realized what I looked like to others. It was so surreal.

The one big comfort I had growing up was my love of reading. I enjoyed losing myself in tales filled with fantasy and wonder, and would often be found with two to three books hidden away on my person at any given moment. My only frustration was that hardily any of the books I loved had people in them that looked like me. I mean, seriously, can’t a black girl fall in love with a vampire? LoL! That’s where my passion for writing started. I just wanted to write the type of stories that I loved, and fill them with characters that were truly as wonderfully diverse as the world we live in. I now write for that teenaged girl I used to be, but also for all of the other teen girls of color out there who would love to see themselves in fantasy tales.

3. What are the biggest challenges? Conversely, what are the quirks/perks?

I think the biggest challenge is feeling that the industry isn’t quite ready for stories like the ones I’m writing. It feels like black fiction is put in a box and that if you aren’t writing a certain story that it’s not deemed marketable. I think the biggest perk is that there is a community of folks who truly get that…like DiversifYA! I believe that if we can all come together, we can definitely turn this industry on its head!

4. What do you wish people knew about being an African American?

That it’s not like what you see on TV. I grew up in the suburbs of Houston, Texas, a far cry from the reality that’s seen on television these days. It seems like a majority of the shows we see featuring African Americans either show us in low income areas, where we have to struggle to survive,  or in the upper echelon of rap or entertainment culture…where we’re often acting a fool! I’m not saying that those experiences aren’t real. There are many African Americans who are living that struggle we see on television…and that is a real and difficult thing that I don’t want to downplay. But those two portrayals aren’t the only stories out there to tell.

5. What are the biggest cliches/stereotypes you’ve seen?

Where I feel like I see the biggest clichés/stereotypes is in television and movies. Like how African Americans are always portrayed as athletic, but rarely as studious.

BONUS: What is your advice for writers writing diverse characters?

To keep writing! But to also make sure to be as authentic to those diverse experiences as possible. We need those experiences out there.
Do your research. Talk to people to who remind you of the character you’re trying to portray. And don’t be afraid to ask others about their experiences!

2 Responses to DiversifYA: Trakena Prevost

  1. Thanks for having me! It was truly an honor to work with someone who is as dedicated to diverse YA fiction as I am!

  2. Great interview! I love your work, Trakena Prevost, and I will buy anything you publish. 🙂