Our March Author Takeover comes from Akemi Dawn Bowman, author of Starfish, which is publishing in the UK next month. Her stunning debut novel examines social anxiety, toxic relationships, rejection, and the importance of being true to yourself. Today Akemi looks at the similarities between Harry and her main character Kiko, their difficult upbringings, and the paths they tread to find a family who gives them the love and care they deserve.
Light in the Darkness
When people think of Harry Potter, they might picture the Hogwarts letters rushing through the fireplace, or the Golden Snitch zooming through the air during a Quidditch match. They might picture the Sorting Hat, or imagine their Patronus, or remember the first horrendously disgusting time they tasted a vomit-flavored Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour jelly bean.
But when I think of Harry Potter, I think of the boy who slept under the stairs, neglected and abused by the family who was supposed to care for him.
I love this series not just because of the magic, and the epic world-building, and the fact that discovering I was a Ravenclaw has helped me understand myself on a very deep and personal level. I love these books because at their heart is a boy who grew up never knowing what it felt like to be loved finally finding his family.
The moment Harry receives his acceptance letter from Hogwarts is powerful because it’s also the moment he learns the truth about his past—he’s not just a boy who lived, but a boy who was loved.
It’s a moment that never fails to break my heart into a million pieces.
In my debut YA novel, Starfish, Kiko struggles to escape from the toxic cycle of loving an emotionally abusive parent. And while both Harry and Kiko’s situations are very different, the heart of their pain is the same. They feel isolated and alone. They feel like nobody understands them. And they desperately want to feel the unconditional love every child should be entitled to.
It isn’t always easy for children surviving abusive homes to make sense of what they’re going through. Sometimes they blame themselves. Sometimes they hold onto a sliver of hope that their abuser will change. And sometimes they feel angry, and frustrated, and misunderstood.
What I want more than anything for survivors of abuse is hope.
Because hope is a warm light in the darkness. It’s Sirius Black asking Harry to come and live with him. It’s Kiko dreaming of going to art school in New York. It’s writing the stories that set you free and believing tomorrow will be better than today.
Because it does get better.
Family is not defined by shared DNA. Love should not be conditional. Sometimes you have to mourn the parents you needed but never had in order to begin healing.
If you’re a survivor of abuse, I want you to know that you are worthy of love. You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not your fault.
And remember that although some families will always be lost, some families can be found, too.
STARFISH is available to pre-order now.