Fresh Voices: Lisa Allen-Agostini

Welcome to Fresh Voices! In this new series, we are excited to share with you authors whose books capture a unique aspect of the human experience. Enjoy this Q&A with Lisa Allen-Agostini, author of Home Home!

What inspired you to write Home, Home?

I sat down to write one day and the girl just came out, cursing the wind. I had an experience similar to what I wrote about at the start of the book. In my case I was too anxious to catch the right bus, got off at the wrong stop and had to walk for an hour to get home. I had a coat like the one she wears. And in its pocket were a handful of bus schedules. The story mostly wrote itself after that scene; I think I finished it in two or three weeks.

The main character’s experience of being sent from the Caribbean to Canada after a depressive episode is based on the story of a girl I knew at school, though she never felt exiled like the protagonist does and her foster family wasn’t queer as far as I know.

What was the most difficult part about writing this story? What part was the easiest?

Writing about depression and anxiety can trigger depression and anxiety. Sometimes I would be affected by what I was writing.

Developing the mother’s character was hard; my editors had to force me into expanding what was originally a shadowy figure in the story. I had a tough relationship with my own mother and I suppose that’s why I was so reluctant.

What character do you identify with the most and why?

I love the protagonist. She is smart and funny and beautiful. She just doesn’t know it. I love how she speaks her truth.

What do you want teens today to take away from this story?

I hope they see that mental illness is not as unusual as they might think, that ordinary people in their villages might suffer with it, that it’s just an illness, not a curse, and that treatment helps. I would also like them to consider how racist beauty standards affect them. And, finally, I would like them to see that love is love.

What are you currently reading?

These are scary times. As someone who has an anxiety diagnosis, I’ve found the COVID-19 pandemic very difficult to navigate. I minimize my anxiety by reading the Bible and watching 20-year-old episodes of Law and Order, a blissfully formulaic TV show.

Lisa Allen-Agostini

Lisa Allen-Agostini is a widely published novelist, journalist, and poet from Trinidad and Tobago. She writes primarily about the Caribbean, its people, and its culture. Lisa lives in Trinidad with her family; her dog, Sassy; and her fabulous cat, Fennec. Home Home is her second novel for young adults and a CODE Burt Award finalist. To learn more about Lisa, visit lisaallen-agostini.com and follow @AllenAgostini on Twitter.