Interview With 2019 Debut Natasha Diaz!


In 2019 our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and spread the word about their debut novels. Follow us this year as we pick the mind of the 2019 debuts and chat with them. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats and more!
Over the summer of 2018 we had Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books and Natasha Diaz responded with her novel COLOR ME IN, and we have been interested in it ever since. We are so excited to have Natasha on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

About Natasha! 
Natasha Diaz
Natasha Diaz is a freelance writer and producer originally hailing from NYC and currently residing in Oakland, CA. As a screenwriter, Natasha has placed as a quarterfinalist in the Austin Film Festival and a finalist for both the NALIP Diverse Women in Media Fellowship and the Sundance Episodic Story Lab. Her personal essays have been published in The Establishment and The Huffington Post.
Keep up with Natasha: Website / Twitter / Goodreads / Instagram / Facebook



Interview!


The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?
Natasha: Thank you so much! Being a debut author feels like a million different emotions at once: terrifying, exciting, overwhelming. Ok, that’s three, but you get what I mean. I never believed I would have the chance to get my writing out into the world and in the hands of young people (I sometimes still don’t believe it). To sum it up: it’s a dream come true. 

The Book Bratz: What gave you the idea for the incredible story of COLOR ME IN?
Natasha: Color Me In is a fictional story inspired by my own experiences as a multiracial, white-passing, Jewish woman. I have always had a hard time relating to characters in books from a racial standpoint because I am at all times straddling my multiple cultures, never quite in one place at the same time. Sure, I look white, but my family is not white, my world is not white. And yes, I am half Black/Liberian and Brazilian, but my experience living and owning those parts of myself is majorly internal and cannot be compared to most people who are able to claim those identities visually. Finally, I am Jewish, but I am not religious, and for a long time, I rejected my Jewishness because I didn’t feel like I could be Jewish without believing in the religion. I also felt as though being Jewish made me even less Black/Brazilian than I was already made to feel because I look so white, (which I now know is not true). That’s a lot to unpack, but the reason I wrote Color Me In is: I wanted anyone who has ever felt like they aren’t “enough” as a result of their biracial, multiracial, or multiethnic identity to know they aren’t alone. I wanted to tell a story that would * hopefully * also speak to monoracial people, and perhaps give them a peek into the multiracial experience. Lastly, I wanted to encourage everyone, no matter who they are, to feel both encouraged and empowered to evaluate and acknowledge their privileges, whatever they may be.  

The Book Bratz: New York City plays a huge role in the story, both as a setting and almost as a character itself. Why did you choose to set Nevaeh's story here?
Natasha: I love this question because the truth is, when I finished the final draft of Color Me In and reread it, I realized the whole book is really just a love letter to my hometown, NYC. I was born and raised in Manhattan but was fortunate to have a wildly diverse set of friends who lived all over the boroughs. I spent my childhood and my early adulthood exploring and falling in love with all the incredible pockets of the city that rarely get portrayed in film, tv, and books. I get so frustrated when NYC is reduced to just Manhattan, not because there is anything wrong with Manhattan (although if I never need to step foot in midtown east, Murray Hill, and the surrounding blocks of Penn Station, I’ll be just fine!) but there is so much more to the City and what it means to be a New Yorker than just the borough of Manhattan. It was important to me to bring ALL of the colors and the smells and the sounds and the people of the city to life because they are what makes New York the (best) city on earth. 

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write in COLOR ME IN?
Natasha: I’m sure it is no surprise that the answer to this question is: Stevie. I just love him and his positivity and excitement to be alive. I love his fearlessness and confidence. I also love to dance, and it was fun to have a character who was so passionate and artistic and unafraid to go for what he loves and believes in. I’m an only child, so my friendships are extremely important to me and Stevie is the penultimate example of the type of friend I hope I am to those close to me. 

The Book Bratz: Which character was the *hardest* to write? What do you hope that readers will take from the story of COLOR ME IN?
Natasha: Honestly, Nevaeh. Aside from our similar racial/ethnic backgrounds, we are pretty different people, at least the Nevaeh we meet in the first 2/3 of the book. I didn’t grow up in an affluent environment. While Nevaeh was sheltered and hidden from her identity, I was constantly immersed in mine. While she learned early on to stay quiet and not rock the boat, I have been encouraged to call people out and speak my truth since I was young. I grew up for the majority of my childhood in Harlem (pre-gentrification) and was always very close to my family. Even if I didn’t always feel like I belonged, the people around me made sure I knew I was loved. That isn’t to say we are entirely unalike, I share many of the insecurities Nevaeh has and have, at times, made mistakes as a result of being ignorant of my privilege. The most important quality we share (I hope) is our ability to learn from and apologize for our missteps. Once I finally figured her character out, it was important to me that she realizes by the end that change is not bad and that she should embrace growth along with the pains that come with it. 

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of COLOR ME IN in the future, or do you have other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them? 
Natasha: I’ll answer the second part of that question first: I do have some other projects in mind/in the works but can’t speak about them just yet! I hope I’ll be able to discuss them soon ☺

***ALERT, STOP HERE IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS!***

I have this dream to write a companion novel to Color Me In that follows Nevaeh into her junior year after transferring to her cousin’s public school, Signal High (which is based off my own high school, The Beacon School). At the end of the book it feels like there are equal parts resolution as there are unresolved circumstances. Where are she and Corinne going to end up? How does Nevaeh do in a new academic and social environment without Stevie around all the time since he is off doing pirouettes in London? Can she and Jesus make it with him in college and her still in high school? Plus, his trial would be underway, will that make them stronger or tear them apart? Most importantly, will she ever be able to have a relationship to her father and new half sibling? BUT for now that is just a dream. I hope I am able to make it a reality one day, I already know what the title would be and I think about it constantly. 

About COLOR ME IN!

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Title: Color Me In
Author: Natasha Diaz
Publisher: Delacorte
Publication Date: August 20th, 2019 

Summary: Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom's family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time. Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can't stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh's dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she's always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent. It's only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom's past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?

Thank you so much to Natasha for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about COLOR ME IN and can't wait for it to be out in the world on August 20th! We read this book already (you can read our review here!), and you guys are going to totally love this. 



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