Heady Mix was founded by me, Justina Cruickshank, it started as a small idea following my first trip to Nigeria. The Chibok girls were still missing, held in captivity by the terrorist group Boka Haram. I wondered what life would be like growing up in a country where schoolgirl kidnappings were frequent. It got me thinking about equality, about how women are treated and represented, and about the role that books play, how they shape our lives and storytell the female experience.
As an avid reader, I began to look at my reading choices. Would what I was reading shape the future? Were the books’ characters and writers reflecting the diverse makeup of the world we live in? Was I reading new perspectives and learning about people different to me?
The crunch point was when I read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers – this is a stunning book set in deep south USA in the late 1930’s (published in 1940), about a group of ‘misfits’ as they were called then. We wouldn’t call them ‘misfits’ now. They were just people from underrepresented groups; a Deaf man; a teenage girl and a black male doctor. The only one that was treated with any respect in that time was the male cafe owner.
What McCullers achieved with her work in bringing together this group was truly remarkable and unprecedented. Immersed in the world of Georgia and the isolation and sadness that engulfed her characters, I was impressed with her depictions of groups she didn’t identify with. How brilliant her writing, how mature a perspective she conveyed – quite the breakthrough for her at 23.
The lasting impression of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter was it made me think about my reading habits? McCullers wasn’t from the D/deaf community but she deftly wrote about the experience for her main character, John Singer. It made me realise I had never read a book written by someone from the D/deaf community before, and I wondered if that was the same for others.
That of course has changed now, our debut collection featured amazing female writers from the D/deaf community. It’s been fascinating to read new writing from diverse voices. I’m convinced this is also my small part in helping make the world a better place, and I have learned so much! Most of all, this new approach to reading has meant that I’ve supported authors that aren’t getting the bookshelf space they deserve. And that’s important because books create physical and historical legacies; what we read now has an impact on what the future thinks, understands and knows.
It’d be wonderful if I could share these stories with you – it’s an easy way for you to support these emerging writers too. Just click the red button below to check out our collections.