“It’s really interesting to be part of a vast diaspora but also never feel like anyone’s writing about Bangla queer femininity, in a very specific way,” Tanaïs, who uses one name, said.
The two writers have since become friends. After reading an early version of “Like a Bird,” Tanaïs suggested that Róisín revise passages she wrote when she was younger that felt like a different voice — feedback that helped her see the discrepancy more clearly and gave her confidence to fix it. “It kind of liberated her to trust herself,” Tanaïs said.
Zeba Blay, another friend of Róisín’s who saw a draft, was impressed by her dedication to the work. “She’s someone who kind of goes off into the mountains and then comes back down with a masterpiece,” she said.
When she started writing the book, Róisín said there was much she didn’t know. She devoured works by authors like Audre Lorde, Susan Sontag and June Jordan, who explored healing in their writing. But not only was the language of the early drafts more simple, but there were things she didn’t understand she could even write about, like her sexuality.
“Looking back at old pages, I’m just like, wow, even my conception of storytelling is so skewed,” she said. There was initially a male love interest, for example, before Róisín changed Taylia’s arc to one in which she finds fulfillment through community, not romance, something that felt more true to the queer communities where Róisín herself has found support.
“It was a part of me that was being erased because I saw it as no other choice,” she said. “Like, how could I be so audacious to write about my queerness or about a character that maybe isn’t as digestible?” Rewriting those portions, and being able to give names to forces like xenophobia, white supremacy and racism, helped bring the book into its final form.
“I think the greatest gift of this book is breaking through silences that have long plagued our communities,” Tanaïs said. “Having a young person voice their pain and trauma and move through it is a gift for young people and people who have healed from trauma and survivors of trauma, like myself, who need that.”