Jacaranda and Mohini.Posted: August 25, 2015
Jacaranda trees in Addis Ababa. Photo credit: renzo59, Flickr.
I made two mistakes in The Girl in the Road that will be corrected in future editions. One is minor, the other isn’t.
The first mistake was saying the purple-blooming trees in Addis Ababa are “hyacinth trees.” I somehow got that word stuck in my head while I was there—it might have been a mishearing or misunderstanding on my part—but they’re actually jacaranda trees (and SOOOO pretty!).
The second mistake is when Meena is describing her trans lover, Mohini, on page 19: “Mohini, by the time I left, had fully changed into a woman with woman-parts,” and on page 159: “We had sex as woman and man only once.” I could say that these sentences actually show Meena’s lack of savvy, but the truth is, that’d be really out of character for her. It’s on me. At the time I submitted my final manuscript, I still didn’t fully understand that gender and genitalia had no correlation, and that the words used to describe a person should be the ones they choose. Mohini was always a woman and Meena always knew the right words for her. Most of the book reflects that, but these sentences don’t. Mohini was never a boy, just like the jacaranda tree was never a hyacinth tree.
Thank you to the reviewer who mentioned this. I think she was on Goodreads. I know some authors are like “STET!” on anything they publish at the time of publication, but I want to honor the fact that writers mess up and learn better—in my case, thanks to Janet Mock, Keffy Kehrli, Laverne Cox, and so many others—especially when it concerns such an important moral and human rights issue. The words we use matter.