My Crunchy Life: a Book about Human Rights
By Mia Kerick
Hello, I’m Mia Kerick. My latest YA LGBTQ fiction release, My Crunchy Life,releases on June 26 from Harmony Ink Press. It is a story about identity and Human Rights.
“We gather tonight in the spirit of love and selflessness, and with the solemn hope that our efforts to serve the community will be sufficient to keep hope alive for those who struggle to obtain the rights inherent to all human beings.”
Yes, it’s quite a mouthful. And it’s what the members of the Rights for Every Human Organization, better known as REHO, recite while holding hands in a tight circle at the beginning of each meeting in the Community House basement.
When Kale arrived for his first meeting, he met citizens concerned with fighting discrimination based on religion, age, race, disability, sexual orientation, and more. By listening to their individual stories, his eyes are opened to the suffering of those around him, and he rightly questions the legitimacy of his own reason for attending. Later in the meeting, Kale meets Julian, who he assumes is attending REHO because he is a gay teenage boy and wants to fight for gay rights. Kale has no idea that Julian is really Julia, a teenage girl who is living as a boy until she’s ready to leave public school for online school and transition to female.
Human Rights are defined by The United Nations in this way:
“Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.”
My main reason for writing My Crunchy Lifewas to examine teenage questions of identity, which introduces the topic of Human Rights. My hope is that readers will meet Kale—who is struggling with how he fits into the world as a teenage boy—and Julian—who is struggling too, because his body doesn’t match his gender identity. (FYI: Throughout most of the book Julian chooses to live and present as male, which matches his physical body. Although he knows that his true self is female, he refers to himself as a boy temporarily, so I refer to him as a boy during this period. His gender status changes when Julian transitions to Julia toward the end of the story.) I hope readers gain understanding of both boys’ identity issues—to accept them as real and, through getting to know them as characters, experience a sense of compassion toward them. Readers will likely recognize in each of the boys a common humanity, and will realize that no matter how different someone may at first seem, they are more like each other than unlike. This recognition will encourage readers to be less harshly judgmental and instead more open-minded to human differences. And so My Crunchy Life, a book about teenage personal identity and gender identity, leads to the embracing of Human Rights.
I also think readers will experience part of this journey into acceptance along with Kale. Kale grows attached to Julian, first as a friend and then as a romantic interest, which causes him to question his own sexuality. Attracted to another boy, Kale decides that he must be gay. And he is accepting of this. But Julian doesn’t share his intended gender transition with Kale, and when he drops out of school— according to his plan—and reemerges several weeks later at the REHO meeting as Julia, Kale is furious. At first, he is unable to accept Julia as female, mainly because it makes Kale uncomfortable—after all, why is he attracted to Julia, the girl, if he is gay? He again must question himself and his sexuality. As Kale grows to accept and embrace Julia, the reader travels the path beside him.
In My Crunchy Life,after Kale hears each of the member’s human rights concerns…
“Again, I stifle an urge to clap because these are all excellent reasons to be here. And then everybody in the circle is looking at me. Apparently it’s my turn to state my lofty reasons for joining the Rights for Every Human Organization and I know very well that my reason— every self-respecting hippie needs a legit cause—isn’t legitimate at all. I look around into the compassionate eyes of the REHO members and try like hell to come up with something that sounds progressive and benevolent, yet is also remotely truthful.
“I… uh… my reason for joining… is like…,” I begin, my palm sweat blending with Billy’s and the tall girl’s. And this is when I’m saved by the bell, or at a minimum, everyone is distracted from my dumbstruck state. I watch as all the eyes that were fixed on me shift toward the stairs. I feel compelled to turn my head too, to learn what has caused this ass-saving diversion. I see a small, dark-haired person posing on the bottom step, hip jutted out and arms forming question marks in the air.
He glances around, yawns like he’s bored, and says, “Please tell me this is the human rights group, ’cause I’ve been all over the upstairs of this godforsaken place, and the only other creatures I came across were dust bunnies.” His pompous voice brings out goose bumps on my chest, which is unexpected.
As you can see, Julian is a late arrival, but he too is asked to relate his reason for attending the human rights group meeting…
“T-tell us th-the reasons you are h-h-here p-please,” urges the guy named Tom, who stutters unless he’s singing—which he confided just before the start of the meeting is what had caused him to be a subject of discrimination and cruelty when he was in high school, except in chorus.
Julian lifts his chin and glares at the group around him.
“I’ve been told there’s nothing about any one of us that makes us less than anybody else, because we’ve got these things called rights— and we’re due them because we’re people.” Julian’s gaze scans his spellbound audience, but he focuses in on me, maybe because I’m the only one in the group who’s close to his age. “I’m here because I want to change the world for people who are LGBTQ.” We’re staring at each other now—it’s like the most intense staring contest I’ve ever… lost. Yeah, I look away first.
I hope you check out My Crunchy Lifeand take the Human Rights journey with Kale. He learns a lot about himself as a son, a cousin, a friend, a boyfriend, and a Human Rights activist.