Dïana Bélice knew from the age of 9 that one day she would be an author. At the time, the girl of Haitian origin loved to read and write. One thing, however, was wrong with the stories she devoured. “When I was reading books, there was never a character that looked like me,” she recalls. When I started writing for young people, I told myself that I wanted to make sure to present characters from diversity. This mission, however, was more difficult to accomplish than she would have thought. Early in her career, in 2013, she found publishers reluctant to publish books with black heroes. Some publishers feared that readers would not recognize themselves in her characters, she wonders. Since 2020, however, she has felt a wind of change. A craze for its protagonists of various origins which, according to her, stems from a sad event: the death of the American George Floyd. “With his death, it seems like people have realized that, my god, racism exists for real. […] Now, we want novels on diversity. »
In volume 2 of her series L’escouade du bonheur, Dïana Bélice makes her main character live “one of the most traumatic experiences of racism of [her] childhood”. In a bus, Lilou gives up her seat to an old lady. However, before sitting on the bench, she disinfects it under the stunned gaze of the teenager. “It was something I held inside for a very long time. […] When I started writing the story of Lilou, I said to myself: “Now is the time.” It was my way of freeing myself, ”says the author. If she brought this moment from her youth to life for this very shy student but with her heart on her sleeve, it is surely because Lilou looks a lot like her. “She and I are the same,” she confirms. And it’s not just because of skin color. “In literature, we are presented with a lot of characters who are strong, who speak loudly, who are go-getters”, underlines the writer, who rather wanted to put forward an introverted heroine.
Giving a voice to those who, according to her, are less represented in children’s literature, this is also what Dïana Bélice does in her book For you to come back. In this novel, she tells the story of friendship that unites Izobel and Elijah, two young people living in a public housing project and whose life is punctuated by trials: dysfunctional family, poverty, sexual assault, violence… “I had a lot adversity also in life and I thought it was a way to show that, despite everything we face, we can get up, “says the author.
Dïana Bélice was not in Haiti when a powerful earthquake shook the country in 2010. The terrible event which claimed more than 200,000 victims still marked her greatly. “I have family who went through it, and it really traumatized me. Even though I wasn’t there, seeing the footage, hearing the panic calls, not being able to be there to do something, it really picked me up. She felt the need to write about the tragedy. Thus was born the series The day the earth trembled, the first volume of which, Dust, was published in January. We follow the characters of Cornélie, 13, and her friends leaving school on January 12, 2010, a day that will change their lives forever.
The Militant duology, whose two volumes transport the reader to a world marked by climate change, also makes its hero experience a major event, but this time fictitious. While torrential rains cause deadly landslides in Montreal, Mathis meets a strange entity that pushes him to play a decisive role in the environmental fight. “I wanted to talk about the environment, because it’s important, but I wanted to do it in a fun way,” explains the author. With its many twists and turns, the series looks like an action movie. “Every time I write a book, it’s like watching a movie or listening to a show. I always write with this idea in mind, ”says Dïana Bélice, who would soon like to do screenwriting.