The Next Chapter

Tanya Boteju's YA novel Bruised explores the bold and beautiful world of roller derby

The B.C. author and educator spoke to The Next Chapter about writing a book with themes of love, identity and grief.
Bruised is a YA novel by Tanya Boteju. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Greg Ehlers)

Tanya Boteju is an author and educator based in Vancouver. Her debut YA novel, Kings, Queens and In-Betweens, followed a high school student named Nima and explored themes of gender identity and belonging. Her latest is Bruised, a YA novel about Daya Wijesinghe, a teen girl who navigates first love, identity and grief when she immerses herself in the colourful world of roller derby.

Boteju spoke with The Next Chapter about why she wrote Bruised.

Bumps and bruises

"The elevator pitch for Bruised would be that it's about a young girl named Daya who has lost her parents in a car accident before the book begins. She has taken to bruising herself as a way to cope with her grief. When a friend introduces her to roller derby, she sees it as a great opportunity to gain more bruises. She discovers that it's a lot more than that, and she creates a new self out of that experience. 

I've always been impressed with roller derby. When I was searching for a community that I was curious and wanted to learn more about, that popped into my brain.

"The inspiration for the book was me sitting down and trying to figure out what to write next. I was grounding my writing in communities that I find engaging, interesting, exciting, colourful.

"I've always been impressed with roller derby. When I was searching for a community that I was curious and wanted to learn more about, that popped into my brain. That became the impetus behind the story, because then I started thinking about who would be attracted to this brutal sport, and why." 

Coping mechanisms

"My main character, Daya, is different from me and from my earlier protagonist in my first book, Kings, Queens and In-Betweens. She's not as naive. She is insecure in her own way, but puts on this sort of facade of toughness. Daya has become someone who thinks of toughness as strength and brutality — a sort of physical toughness. 

"I had to spend a lot of time getting to know her to figure out where this sense of toughness comes from. We get flashbacks throughout the novel about her relationship with her parents — who are immigrants from Sri Lanka, like my own — and their influence on her, both the negative as well as the positive. 

Daya has become someone who thinks of toughness as strength and brutality — a sort of physical toughness.

"They're snapshots to give us a sense of how that immigrant experience is reflected in their parenting, as well as how she sees them throughout her life and is perhaps mistaken about who they are and what they've had to offer her.

"That relationship actually became really, really important through the process of writing the book."

Tanya Boteju's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now