In my latest novel, Stolen Diary, I’ve written about the protagonist’s brilliance in math and music. In the story, Jasmin is close to her grandfather, and they form an alliance where he supports her desire to build a spaceship, and together, they care for her cats. They also play music and read from great books. By contrast, her relationship with her mother is very distant, and Jasmin yearns to be accepted and loved by her.
As I began writing her story, Jasmin revealed her personality, and her goals and objectives to me. I soon realized that her interpersonal skills put her on the autism spectrum. Yet, I never mention autism in the entire novel. As the creator of this piece of fiction, I’ve given enough clues to the reader to figure that point out.
The film Rain Man, released in 1988, presented an autistic man (Dustin Hoffman) who had been institutionalized his entire life. All those years ago, society considered that people on the spectrum could not function on their own. That assumption did not look at people who in retrospect demonstrated the high-functioning traits of what was then called Asperger’s, such as Albert Einstein and Steven Jobs, or others who may not have been brilliant but could still live normal lives.
I think Jasmin bounced into my imagination to bring about a different perspective on autism, especially in current times when kids identified as being on the spectrum has increased. It’s not necessarily that more children are being born with autism, it’s that the definition of the spectrum itself has been broadened. Under the expanded definition, one child in 54 was diagnosed with autism in 2016 versus one in 150 in the year 2000.
I chose to tell a story where Jasmin faces the challenges and obstacles brought on by the spectrum in addition to the mysterious reasons behind her mother’s detached attitude toward her, issues that any child can encounter.
Jasmin steals her mother’s diary in hopes of finding secrets that may reveal the reasons her mother keeps her at a distance. When it reveals nothing, she decides to hide the diary, causing a lot of friction over time.
As I think back about writing Stolen Diary, I’m wondering if I wanted to write this novel or if Jasmin merely told me her story so I could, in turn, tell readers about a protagonist on the spectrum as we understand it today.
Recognition for Stolen Diary, written by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite:
Jasmin, (the protagonist) in Stolen Diary, is a complicated character. It was only when I reached the second part of the tale that I realized the genius of the author. Kathryn Lane has allowed Jasmin to tell her own story by guiding it forward and luring the reader in. Jasmin's character becomes clearer as she grows older and begins to understand her genius and the world around her. I loved how the story is divided into three parts, each focusing on a chunk of years from aspects of her life. While Jasmin certainly had more excitement in her life than I did at 14 years of age, I truly felt a connection with her when she was at Princeton University and trying to fit in with her peers. The complexity of the story is complemented by the complexity of Jasmin; she is enigmatic yet charismatic. The flow is exceptional, and the pace is fast, and Jasmin had me hooked. I highly recommend this book!