It's a book about rats. But it's a book about a whole lot more than that, and I kind of want to talk about those topics for a moment here because these things are important and I don't want my words to hurt anyone. My very last goal in anything I write is to cause harm. All the same...well, I like to flirt with some pretty dark themes, and they show up in surprising places sometimes.
Like a book about rats.
There's a few things that might cause you some trouble when you pick up Nezumi's Children. It's not necessarily a happy book. There's a lot of danger and, as with any disaster story, a lot of fatalities. Characters you love will die. If GRRM wrote the Rats of NIMH, it would look a bit like this book.
But the other problem is more insidious, and for that I give you a trigger warning: This book deals with themes of sexual violence, and violence against animals.
|This may be some of you, reading this book. I am very sorry.|
Exploring Difficult Themes...
When I started, it wasn't actually my intention to write a story about rape. But it evolved naturally from my commitment to representing rats as authentically as possible. As any rat owner knows, where males and females mingle, pregnancy will always ensue. And rats are, biologically, prone to having a "despotic" social structure. In other words, any male can breed with any female -- and in some cases, a female could be bred by multiple males.
So as I was writing, when I realized that some of my naive domestic female protagonists would cross paths with wild rats, I knew immediately that some of those rats would be male. And from there, it become inevitable that the topic of sexual violence would arise.
This was, hands down, the most difficult chapter for me to write, and the one that went through the most revisions. I felt I owed it to the material to be as honest and authentic as I could...and that posed some unique challenges. By far the greatest of these was dealing with the issue of sexual desire in animals that don't, as a rule, breed for personal enjoyment.
Sex does eventually occur. It's off-screen and consensual, occurring after the threat of sexual violence has been removed -- but it's also transactional and highly pragmatic. One of the great challenges in writing animal fiction is dealing with the concept of being in "season" or in "heat", and what that must feel like to the creature experiencing it. I don't know if it's something I handled perfectly, but it was something I felt was worth exploring.
How do you balance the idea of a biological impulse against your own free will, and what role does consent play in that? That's a big question I wanted to explore. I don't claim to give any answers...but I do try to approach it as honestly and authentically as I'm able.
So, About That Trigger Warning...
If you want to walk away from my book because of these dark themes, I won't think any less of you. And if anything occurring in this book prevents you from being able to enjoy it, I am deeply sorry. I really am. I tried my best to avoid making anything gratuitous, but darkness can lie in every corner -- even in a book about rats.
As a heads up, the most disturbing content happens in Chapter 17. If you want to just skip that chapter entirely, I also will not think any less of you.
But if you do make it through the book and want to talk about some of the difficult themes it raises (and there are many -- questions of religion, faith, family values, self-empowerment and more), I'd love to host that discussion. If you want to ask me a question, I'd be happy to answer it. Comment, email me, start a discussion on Goodreads -- whatever.
I wrote the damn thing, the least I can do is take responsibility for discussing it.
I love you all, and happy reading.