This morning I started reading ‘Ghost Boy’ by Iain Lawrence, in which the lead character, Harold Kline, is a teenager with albinism. It was a review on NOAH’s website (National Organisation for Albinism and Hypo-pigmentation) that alerted me to this book; apparently, Ghost Boy ‘Handles the element of albinism with sensitivity and respect. Although the condition’s pitfalls are rendered with abundant clarity, Harold as a whole human being is not defined by these exclusively.’
While writing my novel, Dory’s Avengers, I did extensive research into albinism; which is a condition my lead character, Louis Trevelyan, has in common with Harold Kline. As part of this research I studied the way albinism has been portrayed in literature; from the stereotype of a sinister, ostracised shadow with red eyes to Iain Lawrence’s convincing portrayal in Ghost Boy. Although I had access to Google searches, forums on NOAH and the Albinism Fellowship of UK and Ireland, and some excellent blogs written by parents bringing up children with albinism, I lacked insight into how it actually feels to live with the condition. The NOAH website states that Iain Lawrence was lucky enough to corresponded regularly with a young albino, which must have invaluable in developing Harold’s character so convincingly. I say Iain was lucky, because I found albinism groups very reluctant to grant my request for similar correspondence. Although I was invited to join in forums and ask questions, few answers were ever forthcoming. I can understand this reluctance to a certain extent; albinism groups must find it very frustrating to work for years breaking down preconceived ideas about their condition, only for bestselling author Dan Brown to reinforce the stereotype in an instant with his unconvincing, red eyed, albino assassin in The da Vinci Code.
Despite my lack of albino correspondent, I’m very proud of my protagonist. My hope is that people living with albinism will forgive the odd slip up on detail and enjoy the fact that Louis is a very likeable, very normal and ultimately very successful young man. Oh yes; and he has blue eyes, not red! I am now looking forward to reading Ghost Boy, learning more about albinism through Harold’s character, and discovering how well Louis compares.