Tag Archives: Let's Be Friends

Let’s Be Friends

14 Dec

“We are the same, and different.”

Roxane Gay, on the role of literature.

The Backstory

I was living in Auckland during New Zealand’s only mass shooting, which happened at a mosque in Christchurch. Idyllic, peaceful, beautiful New Zealand was shattered by an act of hate.

In the aftermath, I couldn’t stop wondering why our differences matter. Aren’t we all ultimately the same? Does it really matter that people look different, come from different places, worship differently? (And, by the way, isn’t religion supposed to be about love?)

This swirl of questions became the inspiration for a proposed lift-the-flap book, What Matters?. Every spread showed people with different opinions, different life styes, physical differences, etc, and asked the question, “Does it matter?”. Under the flap, the answer was always some form of “No!”.

My original storyboard for What Matters?

My agent pitched the idea to HarperCollins, where an amazing editor took an interest. She shared the proposal in a meeting, and the project sparked conversation. Apparently, a person’s ethnicity, color, and religion do matter. Of course! All of that stuff shapes each person’s worldview.

The concept of material wealth didn’t make it into the final book.

The editor asked me to pivot and send a revision.

The original color sketch and final illustration. Religion made it in—yay!

After a month of thinking and hand-wringing, I rewrote and redrew the book. I was visiting my cousin Tom at the time, who tossed ideas around with me and generally kept me sane.

Can cousins be BFFS? Of course!

I’d been asking the wrong question. “Does it matter?” became “Can they be friends?”. The answer under the flap was always some version of YES, and adds even more positivity to what I hope is a loving, joyful message. 

HarperCollins bought the book, which was a giant relief and an enormous cause for celebration.

Let’s Be Friends is available everywhere as of Dec 14, 2021. Click here to order your copy today!