Natashia Deón may be the hardest-working debut novelist in Los Angeles

By Tyler Malone
From: Los Angeles Times


Justice is a concept that is always on Natashia Deón’s mind. As a lawyer, a law professor, a mother and now a novelist, it undergirds all she does.

Sitting in her writing space, a cozy converted garage in a home not far from Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, flanked by a spiral staircase and a Murphy bed, a dark wood desk and an overstuffed bookshelf, she says, “The first time that I wanted to quit being a lawyer was two weeks after I passed the Bar.”

She was representing an insurance company in a mediation, with the authority to give the injured party a few hundred thousand dollars. The client’s attorney told Deón that they could settle immediately if she gave the client just $5,000 and paid her, the attorney, $30,000 in fees. Deón was visibly upset. “This isn’t justice,” she said. The judge responded, “You should know by now, there’s no such thing as justice.”

Deón didn’t stop practicing law, but she did carry that sentiment to her debut novel, “Grace.” The book was published by Counterpoint in June to rave reviews. In the novel, Naomi, the narrator — the specter of a dead slave — watches over her child as she grows amid the turmoil surrounding the Civil War. At one point, Naomi’s ghostly presence is felt in the land of the living, where a character says to the wraith, “There’s no justice. Only grace.”

The bedrock of the book was a daydream that hit her like a bolt of lightning as she walked around her home, holding her newborn son.

“I was walking down the hallway, when the hallway suddenly became dark,” Deón says. “It was nighttime, and I was in the woods, the moon was full, and I knew somehow that it was Alabama. I held my son closer to my chest, and I saw a girl in a yellow dress, blood-stained.”

After the vision  was over, she passed her infant son to her husband so she could write down the scene that would later become the opening of “Grace” — a rare moment of handing off her son, because at that time, he almost never left her arms. “When I was pregnant with him, I was working two jobs. I was making a lot of money. We had a nice house, nice cars — all the stuff that I thought I wanted — the American dream,” she says. “I thought that I’d be off 12 weeks, and then I’d be back at work. But when he was born, it stopped everything. I couldn’t go back because I knew there was something wrong with my baby.”

Doctors at first seemed to think he was fine, but Deón knew better. Her son was eventually diagnosed with succinic semialdehyde dehydrogenase deficiency, or SSADH, a rare metabolic condition that left him with both muscle weaknesses and mental delays — effectively silencing him. Read Rest of Article Here


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