Debbie Hemlock and Her Tragic Injustice.

It’s no secret that Darren Shan is my most favorite author, and The Saga of Darren Shan, a.k.a The Cirque du Freak series is my favorite of his works. What may not be well known however, is a character that I came to love dearly upon reading the saga. Debbie Hemlock is a character that makes her appearance in the third installment of the saga, and while she isn’t a central character, she is very important to the story, as well as to the saga’s protagonist Darren, as she was his love interest throughout most of the story. As the title suggests, this one is for her. I should note, this will contain very minor spoilers about her relationship with Darren, but nothing major to the story.

Debbie is described as being a pretty, kind-hearted, joyful girl with dark hair and skin in the novel. In other words, she is clearly considered to be black or at the least a person of color. As a twelve year old black girl myself when I first became introduced to her as I read Tunnels of Blood, I resonated with her. She became a fast favorite, and it made me absolutely elated when I realized that Darren was crushing on her and when they eventually fell in love. Darren is of course white, and so the idea that he came to love Debbie so dearly, to the point that even when they were forced to part and met years later, he still loved her. It may not seem like a significant point to many, perhaps it’s good if it doesn’t, but for that young black girl who knew even then that she had a preference for those of the lighter persuasion but wasn’t sure if such a love was ok or would ever be a possibility for her, it was everything. I dreamed that one day someone like that would come along and sweep me off my feet.

I’ve yet to meet that person as of this writing, but Debbie and Darren was my first positive reference to understand that it was perfectly fine to have such a preference and that it’s is something I can have and will welcome when that time comes. Their relationship became such a treasure to me, that I must admit that I cried when they had to part at the end of that installment, my hopes being dashed for a time. However, when they met years later in Allies of the Night, the eighth installment, I cried again. This time tears of joy that not only did Darren still love her and she him, but they even wished to progress their relationship fully when the situation was right. Of course, readers will understand why that didn’t quite come to fruition as hoped, but the difference is that there was still a possibility that Darren and Debbie could meet again in better times and under better conditions. It’s my personal belief that they did far beyond the very end of the final installment when Darren grew up.

So, you may wonder what significance the title of this post has to do with this candid confession of just what these two meant to me. Well, that is what I intend to address in the last half of this post. With everything going on in the world and the recent focus on racial injustice and inequality, I felt it was high time to address what has bothered me for quite a long time. That is the injustice done to Debbie Hemlock, most notoriously in the Cirque du Freak: The Vampire Assistant movie and even in the Japanese adapted manga. Both of these mediums erased her blackness and even her identity in the case of the movie. I do want to make it clear that the author had no role in these actions, as he was not given any influence on either adaptation. If he had been, things would’ve been different.

Let’s start with the manga because there’s not as much to say. Debbie in this adaptation was drawn to be much lighter than she was described in the books. Perhaps it could be seen as an artistic choice considering the audience, but there are many manga printed for the Japanese audience that have black characters. There could be more of course, but the point is that they do exist. Considering this was being adapted from an international work, one might think they’d try and keep things consistent, but they didn’t, and that’s unfortunate. However, this injustice while being as such, is not one that I take as heavily to heart, as it is a foreign adaptation and at the mercy of its publisher.

However, the CdF movie was not a foreign adaptation, as it was written based on the English release of the saga. To that end, they had no marginalized audience to adhere to, and were well within their bounds to keep every character true to the source material. Let me say, this isn’t going to be another post ranting about how terrible of an adaptation and insult this movie was to the series. It can speak for itself. Despite this, however, the biggest injustice they did beyond butchering the source’s continuity was not just changing her appearance, but quite literally nuking any semblance of her character. In the movie, they replaced Darren’s love interest with a girl named Rachel. It is quite obvious that she was meant to replace Debbie’s role. Rachel was a white character, which already does Debbie injustice by erasing her blackness. However, what made it unforgivable to me, was that she was also made to be a monkey girl, out of all the animals they could’ve chosen if they were insistent on making her one, which is something quite offensive to the black community, as it has historically racist undertones and has been used as an insult against blacks for centuries. This was an absolute slap in the face to me and all black girls like me who may have looked up to her.

I understand that adaptations can and often vary from their source material. That’s nothing new and isn’t something to become unhinged over. However, the reason I say this is an injustice is because of all the things they changed in the adaptation, the plot, sequence of events, and personality traits, Debbie was the ONLY character to be completely erased and replaced with Rachel to be Darren’s love interest. For what reason did they need to change specifically her? One of the only black characters in the trilogy the movie was adapting? Why make Rachel white? Why make her a monkey girl? I may have still despised the movie anyway even if they had included her, but at least I wouldn’t have been left feeling like my favorite character who I came to idolize so much wasn’t even worth including.

Perhaps others will say it wasn’t intentional, or it was just a re-imagining, but be that as it may, it doesn’t make a difference to me even if this was the case. It was a tragic injustice what they did to Debbie, and so I want to bring this to light for those who may not be aware. I may be in the minority, people might read this and think I’m stirring up controversy over nothing, or perhaps they will simply not care. In whatever case, that isn’t what I care about. What I care about is the potential other black girls like myself who may have come to find a similar significance in Debbie and maybe even in Darren and Debbie’s relationship. If there’s even one person out there who might think, “oh yeah, this bothered me too”, then I’ll be content. Even if there’s no one in the end, I am content to be getting this off my chest at last. I am content from bringing awareness to racial injustice in a source that many are unaware of or may have never even heard of. I am content that the world will have a chance to see what a wonderful and amazing character Debbie is and how much of an impact she had on my life.

On this special day of Juneteenth, during a time where the world is being called to take notice of these racial injustices in every aspect of our society, for the movement that calls to make it known that Black Lives Matter now more than ever, this is my contribution to this moment. I can’t be out there fighting for our equality, protesting and marching with the righteous, but I can try to foster change in my own way. I can write these posts, I can continue to feature black characters in my own original stories, especially strong black women, and I can encourage others to support other black creators out there. I vow to make my work with the diversity I’d like to see and I hope I can inspire other writers out there to do the same if they are lacking or want to join the cause. The lack of accurate Debbie art and content in general is a bit depressing as well to say the least, so I’m hoping that I might be able to contribute some fanfiction soon about her and Darren’s alternative life together.

I respect the author, Darren Shan tremendously, and I am thankful to him for including diversity in his work. Every single novel or series he’s published has a variety of character types, blacks included. They are also often in positions of power, or are just overall kind and favorable people. He continues to be the inspiration of my work as an author. I still have a long way to go before I can ever hope to reach his status, if I ever can, but I know he’s definitely one of the most admirable authors living today. I’ll never forget when I wrote him a letter as that 12 year old girl, gushing over the saga and of course my love for Debbie and Darren’s relationship. I also asked him for advice in becoming an author. He wrote back to me and said that the best advice he could give to me was to just keep writing and love what I write. Don’t worry about meeting others’ expectations or becoming famous, but just write what I want to write and keep at it until it’s complete. Then start again. In a world where other highly respected authors of notable series use their platforms to foster hate and injustices of their own, Darren is a beacon of hope that such authors will not be the only inspiration.

Should there ever come a time when The Saga of Darren Shan might gain enough of an interest to be adapted again, perhaps by Netflix as an original series, I hope that they will do the series justice and I implore them to let Darren be involved in the production to some degree. Debbie deserves justice, and I will continue to pray that one day she will find it.

Credit to this Tumblr for the perfect featured image.


Some black writers and organizations to support:

https://blackwriters.org/
https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/books/1291687/Fiction-books-black-authors-writers-books-about-race-black-lives-matter-George-Floyd
https://www.tor.com/2020/01/20/voices-an-ode-to-black-science-fiction-fantasy-writers/
https://bookriot.com/2017/09/08/black-owned-publishers/
https://independentbookreview.com/2019/02/21/5-independent-presses-celebrating-black-culture/
https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/books/fiction-books/best-books-by-female-authors-black-women-of-colour-asian-a7737356.html
https://www.oprahmag.com/entertainment/books/g26187205/best-books-black-authors/
https://aalbc.com/booksites/

Inspiration Comes From a Scholastic Book Fair.

Now, I don’t know if I’m aging myself or what (if anyone considers 27 old), but when I was in Elementary School, they’d have annual Scholastic Book Fairs that sold a variety of children’s books. I have no children as of this writing, so I don’t have a clue if they still offer these in schools (they absolutely should if they don’t), but had it not been for such a fair, I may not have found my inspiration to pick up my pen. At least, not as soon as I did. This is because it all began when I bought a Horror book called Cirque du Freak, by the infamous author Darren Shan.

I’d never heard of him, nor the series before, but when I began that novel, I was abruptly dragged on a long, exciting and mysterious journey. What started in my first year of middle school, continued all the way through high school. I read all 12 books of that series and continued on with his next series, called The Demonata. Both series were filled with ingenious concepts and themes and while they were series for children, they had such a maturity to them. As a child wise beyond her years, I believe I took deeper meanings from them and that allowed me to enjoy them that much more.

My fondness for these series as well as for him as an author have carried along with me even now, such that I’d resolved myself to collect all his series for my growing collection of books. This post is mainly to share the delight I feel in having finally achieved this goal. Pictured below is the complete Darren Shan series collection.

The nostalgia I feel looking at this is unbelievable and it makes me so grateful to Darren, who inspired me. I had the opportunity to send a letter to him and he responded with advice I’ve never forgotten. He told me to write as much as possible and not to worry about if it’s good or will be successful. He said if I write the stories I’m passionate about, eventually someone will come to love it too. This gave me the confidence to start writing and while I still have alot to learn, I’m certain I’m better for it. I hope one day I’ll be able to write an amazing horror novel and when I do, I hope he could discover it somehow.

As for the series themselves, I will gladly go into detailed analysis at another time, but for now I just want to shine a light on the amazing Darren Shan, who has been called the Stephen King for children and was even praised by the Master of Horror novels himself. I have yet to read the Larten Crepsley Saga or Zom-B, but I now have the chance to do so, and enter one of his hauntingly magnificent universes again.

Who Am I? Hell If I Know.

This is indeed the question of the decade, for me at least. I’ve spent nearly the last ten years of my life trying to figure that out. What have I learned? I’ve learned that I don’t know anything and I could spend another ten years trying, only to arrive at the same result. The truth is, there’s so much I still have to discover about myself, and I believe that’s ok. They say life is a journey and I’m trying to live it the best I can, though that’s not without effort. I still have a long way to go, and I’d like you to join me on this journey.

My name is Tanique Adams and I’m a writer. I much more than this, but for the context of this blog, that is my main identity. I’ve been writing all my life, and it’s my most beloved hobby. Sometimes I wish I could quit my job and become a full-time indie writer, but that’s an ideal I’ve yet to be so fortunate to reach. Perhaps one day, but for now, I’ve got to continue working my 9 to 5 as the average adult must. It’s this fact that prevents me from writing as much as I’d like to, but I find the time when inspiration hits. Even if it means I wake up sleep-deprived the next morning or experience writing cramps after writing for an entire day. To me, the willingness to sacrifice your comfort or basic needs for your passions is a show of just how serious you are about them and it’s admirable. If one day I can make writing my livelihood, I’d consider myself a lucky girl.

So, what do I write about you ask? Well, a little bit of everything I suppose, though creative fiction is my love. I’ve dabbled in poetry, fanfiction and even song writing, but nothing has satisfied me quite as much as creative writing. I believe this began as a child, when I began to get heavy into reading. Funny enough, I hated reading at first. However, my mother knew the importance of reading for a young mind, and forced me to read a book a week and write a report on it at the end of it. God bless my mom for seeing what I couldn’t then, because I credit her for awakening my passions for reading and writing. By the time I hit middle school, I couldn’t go a day without reading a book. My writing skills were also advanced as a result, earning me my English teacher’s praise and leading her to read my creative writing story before my entire sixth grade class because she was so impressed. This drove me further to start writing my own works.

However, as it typically does, life got in the way. I had to grow up eventually and with my growth, my interests and passions began to change. I sought a more scientific focus, leading me to pursue a science degree in college and even go to medical school. However, things changed once again and two years in I walked away. I would not be a doctor, but I was fine with that, as it was no longer what I desired anyway. The issue was, however; I became lost, as it’d been my focus for so long and I was so sure it was what I was going to do until it wasn’t. I had no direction and I felt like a failure. I’ve since picked myself back up, but I’m still not exactly sure where I’m going yet. One thing I do know however, is that my passion for writing hasn’t died. Even through med school I wrote. In fact, I sacrificed study time to write, which should’ve been my wake up call in its own right. In any case, I never stopped, even if I did slow down a bit. Now it’s here to stay.

I write a variety of genres, but they always include Romance. I consider myself to be a self-proclaimed romantic and I’m absolutely smitten with the idea of love. Be it Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi or Comedy, I most enjoy these works when there is a romantic subplot intertwined. I’ll take love in any form and don’t discriminate on the types. In fact, I consider myself and advocate for normalizing LGBT themes in written works, so expect a diverse mix in my site’s content. Despite my idealistic views of the existence of soulmates and true love, I am realistic in the sense that the path to such love isn’t easy. For with love can also come darkness, pain and suffering. My content won’t always end on a happy note, but it will never be artificial. My stories are so organic, they practically write themselves. I simply observe. Writing is an adventure, and I often find myself lost in the worlds I create. That’s the beauty of reading and writing. Imagination is your only limit.

Like me, there are millions of people across the globe that have no voices. Or even if they have voices, they are not heard or their words fall on deaf ears. I want to bring awareness and exposure to these voices that whisper their words in a written medium; hoping someone will hear them and truly listen to what they want to say. I know what it’s like to feel voiceless or to feel like no one cares about your thoughts. I lived that for years and I’m still living it even now. I want to be heard and intend to use this blog to make it happen, but I want to offer recognition to others like me as well. Therefore, outside of sharing my own written works and literary posts here, I will be featuring the work of other Indie Authors. If you think you’d enjoy seeing such content, then please subscribe to the site and share.

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