Today we're excited to share a guest post from Keija Parssinen, author of The Unraveling of Mercy Louis. In this intricate novel of psychological suspense, a fatal discovery near the high school ignites a witch-hunt in a Southeast Texas refinery town, unearthing communal and family secrets that threaten the lives of the town’s girls. Find out more about this spectacular novel here.
From Keija Parssinen:
When I was in 6th grade, my family moved to Texas from Saudi Arabia, and I felt a little like Cady Heron in “Mean Girls,” a fish out of water arrived from a distant place nobody had heard of. In Saudi Arabia, my classmates and I shopped for clothes once a year when we visited our relatives in the States, so I was a little off-trend, to put it mildly. I had never heard of Cole Haan or Dooney and Bourke, never shopped at Claire’s or Wet Seal. I was twelve years old and totally clueless, not a great position from which to launch your middle school career, where meanness is second only to awkwardness in personality traits.
Lucky for me, I discovered basketball. I joined a local league along with all the popular athletic girls in my grade, and soon my team was winning games and I was scoring buckets like I’d been playing all my life. I loved the challenge of our practices and the sweaty intensity of the games. It didn’t matter that we were playing in an old elementary school gym—what we did on the court felt important.
Even better, I felt like I was a part of something, and that I was accepted. My strange provenance took a backseat to athletic prowess, and my teammates quickly became my friends. Sports, it turned out, provided a strong cultural bridge for me, and I crossed it happily. I still remember the elation I felt when we won the championship game, after which our coach, a hugely tall and affable man named Tommy who had played football for the University of Texas, named me Most Valuable Player. It no longer mattered that my clothes weren’t right, or that I came from a country that sounded made-up; I knew what to do with a basketball in my hand, and in Texas, that was valuable social currency.
In my second novel, The Unraveling of Mercy Louis, Mercy would probably also be a misfit if she weren’t a terror on the basketball court. Her grandmother is a fierce evangelical who has visions of an imminent Rapture, and Mercy’s adolescence is stiflingly sheltered. It would be easy for her high school classmates to dismiss her for her “crazy” relative or her conservative clothes. But because she’s got a golden arm and captains a championship team, she inspires awe, respect and love. For Mercy, though--as it was for me--basketball is about so much more than just fitting in and making friends; it’s about pride and toughness, self-respect and ambition, glory and joy. It’s about feeling at home in the world, no matter where you live.
Author of The Ruins of Us and The Unraveling of Mercy Louis (Harper Books, 2015)
On Twitter: @KeijaParssinen
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