An Indies Introduce Q&A with Jade Adia
Jade Adia is the author of There Goes the Neighborhood, a Winter/Spring 2023 Indies Introduce Kids selection.
Born and raised in South LA, Jade Adia (she/her) writes stories about gentrification, Black teen joy, and the sh*tshow that is capitalism. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Ethnicity, Race & Migration, and a certificate in Human Rights. She recently survived law school, graduating with a specialization in Critical Race Studies. There Goes the Neighborhood is her debut novel. [BTW, my last name is pronounced “uh DEE uh,” with stress on the middle syllable. Or, if this is easier: “Jade Adia” rhymes with “Mamma Mia” (but I have not seen the movies — sorry, Meryl)].
Earl Dizon of Green Bean Books in Portland, Oregon served on the panel that selected Adia’s debut for Indies Introduce. Dizon called the book “fun yet insightful, like if Scooby Doo and the gang had to solve a mystery in a neighborhood dealing with gentrification. I loved the initiative shown by the characters to do everything in their power to stay together.”
Here, Adia and Dizon discuss There Goes the Neighborhood.
Earl Dizon: What was the first book that you recall really resonating with you in the sense that you felt represented in how the characters looked, identified, and/or experienced life?
Jade Adia: When I was a freshman in high school, I remember wandering around the Barnes & Noble at the local mall, hot chocolate in hand, as I searched for something that caught my eye. Somehow, I ended up in the nonfiction section and found BITCHfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine. This was a wild and diverse essay collection that exposed me to a style of writing — cultural criticism — that I hadn’t consumed before. While I read a lot of books that really impacted me emotionally as a kid and helped inspire a love of reading, I didn’t necessarily feel represented in the fiction that I read. When I was growing up, many of the popular MG and YA books with Black characters were historical fiction, often dealing with issues like slavery or the Civil Rights movements — important, but not necessarily reflective of my experience as a nerdy Black girl in Los Angeles in the 2000s. Rarely was I reading books that felt fresh, edgy or representative of how I experienced life in the ways that I was craving. So, when I stumbled upon BITCHfest — a riotous nonfiction essay collection that had everything from essays by Keidra Chaney on being a Black Feminist Metalhead and Lori. L Tharps about Black representation in prime-time comedy — something in me ignited.
While these weren’t “characters” that I was relating to, the essays by the women of color in this collection offered searing, hilarious and dynamic points-of-view — perspectives on Black girlhood, misfits, desire, shame and rage — that resonated fiercely. From BITCHfest, I made my way to other works on nonfiction, starting with bell hooks, then in college, branching out to folks like Brent Staples, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and Roxane Gay. It’s funny how roundabout it all was, but it really wasn’t until I spent a few years deep into nonfiction that I made my way back to fiction, ultimately finding home and belonging in the work of authors like Toni Morrison and Octavia Butler, then later Paul Beatty and Zadie Smith.
Nowadays, I’m constantly reading incredible fiction that makes me feel seen, but for me, it actually took a while before I found these works for myself.
ED: I enjoyed the pacing: everything seemed to flow quite nicely from one scene to another, it was almost like watching it on screen. Talk about a book screaming to be adapted into film! Did the story — and the writing of it — come along easily?
JA: Oh man, a film adaptation would be a dream! Writing There Goes The Neighborhood was a bizarre, potentially once-in-a-lifetime kind of writing journey I’ve yet to experience again since. During the early summer of 2020, I had been working on my first-ever novel — a truly disastrous speculative fiction that I knew absolutely sucked as I was writing it, but was determined to finish it, just to see if I could. I typed “The End” on that very first project, sat back in my chair, and had a moment like, “Oh my god. I am capable of writing a complete book.” I went to bed, woke up the next day, then immediately started There Goes the Neighborhood. I had gotten the idea maybe a month earlier, so I had time to marinate on it for a while before starting. But once I did begin, man, it really did flow out.
The first words that I typed were the prologue that remained unchanged even throughout all of edits. I wrote the book in a frenzied, stream-of-consciousness-type of state and finished the first draft in about five weeks. I heard the characters’ voices so clearly that the chapters really did flow without struggle. I haven’t written this way since, but that’s okay. I’m just happy that my debut was born out of a sort of “bolt of lightning” type of experience, otherwise I probably would have spent too much time overthinking the story, and potentially dialing back on the chaotic, frenzied energy of There Goes the Neighborhood that I’m really proud of today.
ED: Did you grow up having a strong community vibe where you lived — like having a block party in the beginning of your book?
JA: While the neighborhood in the book is fictional, I’m grateful that I did get to grow up in a tightknit community much like the characters in the book. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I’d go to drum circles in the park on Sundays, walk between friends’ and neighbors’ houses with the comfort as if they were all my home, and hang out at what seemed like a near-constant stream of block parties and cookouts over the summers. It was easy for me to capture what it feels like to be in such a supportive community because I was lucky enough to feel that way about my own home growing up. “The Village” of friends, play-cousins, aunties and neighbors still play a huge part in my life today.
Ultimately, this story couldn’t have been written without any of the people who raised me, who loved me, who grew up alongside me. It was my own upbringing within the arms of The Village that taught me what it means to be part of a community worth fighting for.
ED: Have you personally been involved or come across any situations where a community was successful in combating gentrification?
JA: When I was in law school, I specialized in Critical Race Studies and spent most of my time researching anti-gentrification movements and local government law. I haven’t personally been involved in any specific movements, but in Los Angeles, both the Crenshaw and Boyle Heights neighborhoods have incredibly strong organizing communities that I’ve admired and supported for years now. From working on tenant protections/eviction defense, to fighting to establish land trusts, and supporting the development of both new and old Black and brown-owned businesses, there’s a large network of powerful work happening. I encourage anyone interested to look to these movements for inspiration!
ED: I loved the diversity and complexity of your characters. They all seemed like you could run across any of them walking around the city. Which of your favorite neighborhood hangouts would you most likely see Rhea, Malachi, and Zeke hanging out in and having a good time?
JA: I could totally imagine running into the characters at any of my old haunts — the Sunday drum circle, Slauson Super Mall, Mercado La Paloma or the old “Magic” movie theatre. But in recent years, there’s also been a proliferation of more recent Black-organized spaces in South LA that are ushering in a new generation of community, like Black Market Flea, Neighbors Skate Shop, Noname’s Book Club Headquarters, etc. I love to imagine my characters moving through both the spaces of my own childhood as well as helping build out these new safe havens for young Black people in the city.
There Goes The Neighborhood by Jade Adia (Disney-Hyperion, 9781368084321, Hardcover Young Adult, $18.99) On Sale: 3/7/2023.
Find out more about the author at jadeadia.com.
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