Visible and Invisible

Hello from Houston and the sunny banks of Brays Bayou! I had started writing a newsletter about Alison Roman’s comments about Marie Kondo and Chrissy Teigen and the resulting backlash, but I got tired halfway through - I don’t think I can address the issue with the nuance it deserves, so I’m not going to, but I will link to some good articles about the whole thing at the end if you’re interested! Suffice to say, I think her comments were Not Good, and people are largely mad about the right things. In the meantime, I have a question from a reader!

I'm revising an upper MG book in which one of the characters has a chronic "invisible" illness that no one else knows about until ~2/3 into the book. I wanted to show a middle-school kid coping with an invisible illness alone, so the fact that no one knows factors into the plot. But I don't want it to come across as a big reveal in a bad way, like SURPRISE TWIST...she's sick! I'm wondering if you think there's a non-tacky and non-manipulative way to make an illness one of the reveals of a book, or if you've come across anything like this in other books. 

Thanks for writing in! I think there are a lot of ways this can be answered. For me, the big question is: who are you revealing it to? I think the tactics vary on whether you’re revealing it to other characters in the story (and which characters those are) or revealing it to the reader.

If you’re revealing it to other characters in the story - like I said, which ones? Do the character’s parents know about the illness? Are they diagnosed, or is it something they’ve been struggling with truly alone and haven’t told anyone? If they haven’t told anyone, why? The readers will want believable reasons for the character not to tell someone what’s going on. On the other hand, if the parents/doctor know, but the friends don’t - that’s a different situation. There are lots of reasons to not want your friends to know about your health problems. I think the key thing is for those reasons to feel earned.

If you’re revealing it to the reader - well, that’s tougher. You’re assuming that a reader won’t *guess* that some kind of illness is what’s up. A reveal where the reader has already guessed that it’s illness can end up feeling cheap. Likewise, one where they didn’t guess can feel cheap, just in a different way.

I guess what I’m saying is: the reasons the character has for not revealing it earlier need to make sense to themselves and also to the reader, who has been following along with and rooting for the main character the entire time. If the character’s motivations feel earned, then the reader will go with it when it’s revealed. If this is something you’re writing from your own experience with chronic illness, made think about reasons why you didn’t want to tell people, or reasons you didn’t ask for help earlier. If this is something outside of your experience, I’d definitely reach out to sensitivity readers (if you haven’t already.)

Client News

Over on, they have a reveal of the cover for FIRST, BECOME ASHES, K.M. Szpara’s 2021 novel!

Upcoming on Thursday, May 28, check out the “Read With Pride” kickoff event on Facebook Live with new client Meryl Wilsner, Kacen Callender, Casey McQuiston, and Gabby Rivera!

Over on, Elyse Martin has two new essays: One on Hayao Miyazaki and Diana Wynne-Jones, and one In Defense of Needlework

This Week In Hockey

Sports: ahahahahhahahaaa

The Big Question Sports Leagues Have To Answer Before They Reopen by Will Leitch (The Cut)
It is certainly possible that all these plans could go up in smoke, particularly if there’s a new outbreak resulting from the relaxed measures as states “reopen” their economies. But leagues are doing everything they can to bring sports back in the next two months. Still, their insistence shouldn’t obscure the fact that there remain many, many unknowns about how this is all going to work.

Sorry, Tom. Andre Burakovsky’s new best friend is a Roomba. by Ian Oland (Russian Machine Never Breaks)
Burakovsky showed off his new best bestie in an Instagram Story video. He likely needed the Roomba either because he is still in the process of acquiring the life skills necessary to operate a broom and dustpan or plays so much golf he can’t clean [up] after himself.

Local sporting royalty’s entitlement exposed by Mike McIntyre (Winnipeg Free Press)
They were on top of their own little world, able to do and say anything they wanted without fear of consequence. Or at least it appears they thought that was the case. Now they have been exposed for holding vile, misogynistic and, at times, racist views towards women, which they thought were being privately shared in an Instagram discussion group, only to have it spring a leak and become public for all to see.


Alison Roman’s comments about Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo lit a fire. Here’s why it’s still burning. by Lena Felton (TheLily)
But many followers have continued pointing out the nuances of this one: that a successful white woman was disparaging two successful Asian women, who are already a rarity in the food and lifestyle worlds. “It’s lousy that women of color were the target of her disdain when this is a space dominated by white women,” the writer Roxane Gay tweeted.

Alison Roman, the Colonization of Spices, and the Exhausting Prevalence of Cultural Erasure in Food Culture by Roxana Hadadi (Pajiba)
This was supposed to be the quintessential Roman recipe: easy, flavor-packed, perfect for a weeknight. People lost their fucking minds over this shit! Unless you were a brown person. And then you looked at the word “stew” and scoffed. Roman made herself a curry and refused to acknowledge that she had made a curry, and this is colonialism as cuisine. This is exactly what people have been grumbling about—the people who often aren’t included in the highest influencer echelons, as Roman now is.

This has been A Faster No, a weekly dispatch on publishing, writing, books, and beyond. This is a free post, but if you’d like to support the newsletter and get exclusive content, paid subscriptions are available for $5/month or $50/year. Feel free to forward.