Elizabeth Just Sixteen by Cecilia Paul ~Goodreads~
Published by Clink Street Publishing 2016
Paperback edition 364 pages ~Book Depository~
Hiya everyone, another brilliant blog tour from Clink Street Publishing- thank you to Rachel for the invite! Today I will be sharing with you Cecilia’s inspiration behind her book Elizabeth, Just Sixteen. I love reading the stories behind books and why they’re written and there’s no exception with this one, so I hope you enjoy reading her thoughts as much as I have…
“I had never really aspired to be an author because I was always too busy working and, only planned to spend time with my family after I retired. But, not used to having free time, I needed something to fill this void and, to keep my brain cells active. My friends also worried that I would be a lost soul without my work because they knew that I was a workaholic and very committed to my work.
I recalled wanting to write a book on MRKH, every now and again. But, I had no experience as an author. Still, being a perfectionist, I was always mindful of details and, I could also be very explicit verbally and in writing. It also felt right to write about something that I was passionate and knew a lot about but, just not as a medical book albeit my novel was inspired by medical and factual events. I have met and treated hundreds of women with MRKH. I was with them from the beginning and shared their often difficult and painful journeys but, I also shared their personal happy moments like birthday celebrations, relationships and weddings. I also met some of their children so I always had a close yet professional relationship with them and, I felt very privileged. This also inspired me more to share these beautiful women with the public.
MRKH might be an unusual condition but the women’s stories and presentations often had some glaring similarities. Some of their stories were heartbreaking and, these were always very poignant to me. They further inspired me to use my protagonist to portray them. I also wanted to emphasise the importance of their correct management by the appropriate specialists, which is crucial in enabling them to come to terms and be able to lead normal lives. I have seen women who were failed by their doctors because they failed to refer them appropriately and, instead they told the women to just get on with their lives, which of course, they could not – not without help. Some women also lost out on their optimal fertility age so they needed extra help to help them to come to terms. I also saw the women from ethnic backgrounds and, they really needed the correct management because of their inability to bear children, which has a huge implication on their womanhood, especially in their culture.
Still, regardless of age and background, all women with MRKH need both the physical treatment to correct their under-developed vaginas and the psychological help to come to terms with their condition and their inability to bear their own children. I have seen when the system failed the women and this again inspired me to write my novel. The majority of them are diagnosed at sixteen, which is why my book title is called Elizabeth, Just 16. They develop normally (breasts and body hair) at puberty because they have functioning ovaries but their periods had not started. But then, born without wombs and vaginas, they will never have periods. Adolescence is sometimes a difficult transition for any young girl but to be diagnosed with MRKH, must be the most devastating for her. No wonder they are frightened and confused. Sometimes, they even get confused with the everyday norms because they relate everything to their condition so this again urged me to explain their sometimes distorted perception in my novel to help them understand better.
My past experiences with them also made me aware that not many people have heard of MRKH so I was inspired to share my experiences and knowledge with the public so that they will treat the women better if they are more informed. I also wrote my novel as a fiction because I felt this would be more accessible in the public sphere. Mostly, I wanted to be the voice and an encouragement for the women and, I wanted to share with them, what I knew as a specialist and, what I had learnt from them. My novel is also my thank-you to them for making my job so worthwhile and, allowing me to be a part of their journeys.”
Elizabeth Appleton is a sweet and easy-going adolescent. But as she turns sixteen, she discovers something so devastating about herself that her whole world is turned upside down. Elizabeth has been born without a womb or a vagina and is diagnosed with MRKH, an unusual congenital disorder that affects the female reproductive tract. Frightened and confused, Elizabeth must struggle to understand how she can still be a girl but no longer a ‘normal’ one. As she questions everyone and everything around her – her burgeoning sexuality, her gender, her hopes for the future – Elizabeth must fight against the shame and betrayal she feels if she is to ever become the woman she has always hoped to be. In her first novel, Cecilia Paul, now a retired expert in the field of MRKH, sensitively explores and illuminates this complex and often emotionally fraught medical condition, in order to raise public awareness of MRKH and to support those affected by it.
Based in London, Cecilia Paul has worked for the NHS, in the field of gynaecology for over twenty years and, where she later worked within a specialist team, specialising in congenital disorders of the genital tract. Together, they have treated hundreds of women with this unusual congenital syndrome, MRKH. Now retired, and with a wealth of knowledge under her belt, Cecilia has been inspired to write her first novel dealing with this little-known syndrome hoping to bring awareness and understanding into the public sphere. Furthermore, as she has retired, she would like to encourage these women to get the appropriate help from specialist centres, that can provide them with a holistic support and treatment. Elizabeth Just 16 by Cecilia Paul (published by Clink Street Publishing 28th June 2016) is available to purchase from online retailers including amazon.co.uk and to order from all good bookstores.