To Diana

Dear Diana,

I’ve always struggled to put the (often dark) joy of reading your books into words. You aren’t as easy to describe as some of the other authors: “Do you read Diana Wynn Jones?” I’d ask my friends, in my childhood, and they’d shake their heads. “Well go read her. Go read the Chrestomanci series.” But they wouldn’t.

Your books, I realize, aren’t the teenage wildfires that the Hunger Games or the Twilight books are. They’re … different. Darker. Witty. More realistic, I feel. More difficult, too. had a call for letters late last year, when the editors found out that you stopped chemo. I considered sending a letter. I never did, and I regret that now.

I realize – in the wake of your passing – that I loved your books more fiercely than I did any other writer; if Stephanie Mayer or Rowling died I wouldn’t have felt as terrible as when Gaiman reported your death.

I found my first Chrestomanci book when I was 11; in the children’s section of the Sarawak Club library. It was on a bottom shelf by the large picture-windows facing the hallway, all of them HarperCollins reprints of your catalog. I didn’t borrow any other writer for quite a bit after my discovery. My sister and I fought over the only copy of Howl’s Moving Castle.

When the Sarawak Club burned down my mind leapt, almost immediately, to their collection of your books.

In my first semester in NUS, shortly after finishing Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, I took a chance and searched for your name in the NUS library’s cataloging system. There were only three books of yours in the catalog that I’d not read. I finished all three in three days, during the reading week, procrastinating when I should’ve been studying for my theatre exam.

I gave my youngest sister a copy of Wilkin’s Tooth as a 12th birthday present. It’s lost now, and I feel a little bad about that.

I don’t really know how to talk about your writing. I suppose I should, but I can’t. Too many layers. Cruel protagonists and unbelieving parents. Sulky dragons and self-absorbed enchanters. Broken marriages and young, vain lovers. I feel a bit better knowing that bits of you live on in writers like Neil Gaiman (whom you dedicated Hexwood to, how dare he!), John Scalzi, and Rowling (though she has not admitted it!).

I miss you already.

Rest in peace, Diana Wynn Jones. I promise you – when I have kids, your books will be amongst the first they read. Thank you for such a wonderful childhood.

Diana Wynn Jones, 19 August 1934 – 26 March 2011

PS: More tributes here, here and here. In particular, I loved this bit by Emma Bull:

She was passionate about what children want and deserve from their literature. Adults would approach her at signings, wanting to know why she wrote such difficult books. In one case, when a woman protested, the woman’s young son spoke up and assured Diana, “Don’t worry. I understood it.”

She had such faith in us.

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