When an author says a book she’s written is the Book of Her Heart, what does that mean? In this completely irregular ongoing blog series, I’ve invited guest authors to reveal what they consider the Book of Their Heart—and share why this book holds a distinct and special place apart from all others they’ve written.
Here, to celebrate her book birthday tomorrow, I have Ryan Graudin sharing why The Walled City is the Book of Her Heart…
Guest post by Ryan Graudin
Whenever I try to describe what writing is like to my non-writer friends, I usually resort to Harry Potter references. “My books,” I tell them, “are like Horcruxes. All of them have little pieces of me inside.”
But some books/Horcruxes have a little more of me inside than other books/Horcruxes. Something about The Walled City was different from every other project I’d ever written. It felt… truer, deeper, rawer than anything I’d ever put to paper before. It was a book I wrote solely for me. I honestly thought, during those early months, that no one would want to read, much less buy a YA novel where the plot revolved largely around Asian street children and human trafficking. I’d never read anything quite like what I was creating, and the usual fears of No one will buy this. This is all for nothing. set in.
I wrote anyway. Because I had to.
People always ask me where my inspiration comes from. I tell them travel, which is almost always true. The heart of The Walled City was inspired by two very distinct trips I took in my college years.
When I was twenty-years old I went to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for a summer. The purpose of the trip was to experience (and therefore understand) third-world poverty. I lived with a family in the slums, eating only what they ate, sleeping on the floor. I met children who lived in tarps. Children who had nothing to eat but what they could scrounge from trash heaps. Children who seemed to have no guardians to speak of. Children who deserved so much more.
When I was twenty-one years old I traveled to Bolivia, where my future sister-in-law worked (and still does) educating sex workers, providing them with health awareness, child care and (if they desire it) the means to learn the life-skills needed to support themselves if they wanted to leave the industry. Meeting these women, listening to their stories, eating a meal with them, was such a humbling experience. One that forced me to strip away all of my judgments and look at them in a new light.
Through both of these trips I came to realize that people are so much more than their circumstances. So much more than the passing labels or judgments I was so quick to give them. I wanted to help, and not just to help, but to understand. I wrestled and mulled and held these experiences inside. I tried to answer so many questions that seemed unanswerable.
People have many, many different ways of processing. The largest and most obvious of mine is writing.
So I wrote.
I wrote about street kids and trafficked girls. I wrote to try and understand their view, their world. I wrote to try—in some small way—to make sense of the pain and poverty I’d seen. I wrote to try and make sense of my own personal demons. I took all of the questions of my heart and crammed them into the form of a story.
Perhaps one of the reasons this novel has earned its place as my “heart book” is because it’s the most honest I’ve been with myself on the page. The Walled City is a book about trust, and how difficult it is to open yourself up to people after you’ve been hurt. It is a book about pain and isolation. But more than anything I think, it is a book about hope.
There are no simple answers when it comes to issues like poverty and trafficking. But it is my hope that by writing this book and inviting readers into my own search for answers, that I can help others see a world that is usually far in the shadows. A world my twenty-one-ish self only just brushed upon. A world that wrenches your heart, but deserves to be known about.
Ryan Graudin was born in Charleston, SC, with a severe case of wanderlust. When she’s not traveling, she’s busy photographing weddings, writing, and spending time with her husband and wolf-dog. She is also the author of All That Glows. The Walled City is her second novel. You can visit her online at ryangraudin.com.
Thank you, Ryan, for sharing your Heart Book with my readers. Happy Book Birthday!
The posts in the Book of Your Heart series:
- The Book of Your Heart Series: Camille DeAngelis
- The Book of Your Heart Series: Tessa Gratton
- The Book of Your Heart Series: Brandy Colbert
- The Book of Your Heart Series: Dahlia Adler
- The Book of Your Heart Series: Corey Ann Haydu
- The Book of Your Heart Series: Justina Chen
- The Book of Your Heart Series: Andrea Hannah
- The Book of Your Heart Series: Amy Reed
- And about my own Book of My Heart: Imaginary Girls