Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Tanya Boteju's "Bruised"

Tanya Boteju is an English teacher and writer living on unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations (Vancouver, Canada). She completed her English and Education degrees at the University of British Columbia, then spent time in New York attaining her Master of Arts through Columbia University’s Teachers College. Most recently, Boteju received a Creative Writing Certificate through Simon Fraser University’s Writer’s Studio. Her writing life has mostly consisted of teaching writing for the past eighteen years in Vancouver, where she has continually been inspired by the brilliant young people in her midst.

Her novel, Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens (2019), was named an Indie Top 10 Pick of the Summer by the American Booksellers Association, a starred review on Shelf Awareness, a Barnes & Noble best YA book of May, a Best Teen Book of 2019 by Indigo, and a Rainbow List selection for 2020. Her short story “Floating” appears in the anthology Out Now (2020).

Here Boteju dreamcasts an adaptation of her new YA novel, Bruised:
Bruised is a novel about grief, strength, and community. My protagonist Daya loses her parents in a car accident that she survives and takes to bruising herself as a way to cope (or avoid coping) with her grief. She’s been instilled with a particular view of strength from her father and believes toughness will bring her success, while softness is a form of weakness. When Daya is introduced to roller derby, she sees the brutal sport as a way to collect more bruises, but soon realizes that there’s so much more to be gained through roller derby’s sense of community and teamwork. The book includes both serious themes as well as colourful, action-packed roller derby scenes and some over-the-top characters. Though Daya is a tough nut, many of the people around her challenge that hard shell with humour, kindness, and care.

I could see Bruised as both a movie or a TV series. Daya’s family is from Sri Lanka, and I would love Daya to be played by a South Asian character who is full-bodied. We haven’t seen a lot of South Asian actors in the mainstream, but I’d be happy to see a lesser-known actor play her, kind of like how Maitrey Ramakrishnan in the Netflix series Never Have I Ever was fairly new to the scene (Ramakrishnan is also Sri Lankan and I was so excited to see her very brown name on the screen when I watched the show!).

Two central characters in the book are Kat and Shanti—sisters who connect with Daya in very different ways. Kat is tough as hell while Shanti is much softer and also more of a romantic interest for Daya, but she’s got her own kind of strength. Whoever played these roles would need to learn how to roller skate really well! They’re also both biracial Chinese-Canadian, and I’d want it to stay that way for the movie. Some possibilities might be: Hayley Kiyoko or Janel Parrish for Kat, and Kelsey Chow or Chloe Bennet for Shanti. It’s tricky to find actors who are or can play teen characters believably, I feel.

Bruised also has a whole cast of secondary characters, some of whom are older folks in their 60s and 70s. Two older women, Bee and Yolanda, who used to play roller derby and who are hilarious, tough chicks, would be great roles for amazing actresses like Susan Sarandon, Julie Walters, Dianne West, or Harriet Walter.

I don’t know a lot about directors, but I would like someone for whom story and character is the focus. In Bruised, roller derby is important and adds excitement to the story, but the heart of the novel is its characters and Daya’s internal struggle. I’d want to see that come through thoughtfully on screen.
Visit Tanya Boteju's website.

Q&A with Tanya Boteju.

--Marshal Zeringue