Author Tags: Kidlit & Young Adult
Born in Nanaimo, B.C., Susan Ketchen holds a M.Sc. degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, and lives on a hobby farm on Vancouver Island.
Born That Way (Oolichan, 2009) introduces fourteen-year-old Sylvia, a girl with a passion for horses and an undiagnosed disease called Turner's Syndrome. In the sequel, Made That Way (Oolichan, 2011), Sylvia starts medical treatment. The trilogy is completed with Grows That Way (Oolichan 2012) in which Sylvia must accept she will need estrogen supplements to approach normalilty. "I have Turner's Syndrome and I will always be a shrimp," she narrates. Her great comfort remains her horse Brooklyn while she is haunted by imaginary encounters with a large, hairy creature in the woods.
Born That Way (Oolichan, 2009)
Made That Way (Oolichan, 2011) 978-0-88982-270-2 $12.95
Grows That Way (Oolichan, 2012) $12.95 978-0-88982-285-6
Born That Way by Susan Ketchen (Oolichan, $12.95) ages 12-15
from Louise Donnelly
“Do you want to talk to me about this?”
It’s about the sites Sylvia has been browsing on the family computer. Guerrilla marketing? Barnacles? Ponies? Sylvia’s pretty sure it’s not about the barnacles, even though research has revealed the Pyrex dish in her bedroom is full of little hermaphrodites with really long penises. Probably not the ponies, either. Mom is only too aware of her only child’s obsession with horses.
It must be the guerrilla marketing. Turned onto a subversive plan by her older, devious, first-year-university-student palm-reader of a cousin, Sylvia has been “creatively” campaigning for a horse of her own. But somewhere inside, Sylvia knows it’s not that either.
“Mom,” she says, “do you think I’m bisexual?”
Sex, actually, doesn’t much interest 14-year-old Sylvia. Sure, there’s Logan Losino, who once asked if there was someone he could beat up for her, but it’s horses Sylvia dreams about. Every night they gallop through her sleep, strong and muscular, graceful and elegant, smelling “like heaven.”
In the day, she reads her thrift store copy of The United States Pony Club Manual of Horsemanship, and saves her lunch carrots for the bay horse she passes on the way to school and back. Still, Sylvia knows she’s different than other kids.
For one thing, no matter how many weird stretching routines she devises, Sylvia is no bigger than an eight-year-old. The kids call her Pygmy Chimp and laugh at her ears. It’s only when Sylvia and her well-meaning but overly-analytical and recently-graduated psychoanalyst mother are delivered to a young replacement psychiatrist that the truth comes out.
Dr. Cleveland looks at Sylvia’s palm and, like Sylvia’s cousin, notes she only has one line, not the usual two. When she makes a fist, she has three knuckles, not four. Her fingernails look like claws. She has a really thick mass of hair at her nape, like the mane of a horse. Her mom weeps at the probable diagnosis – Turner Syndrome – but Sylvia is ecstatic.
Finally, she understands why she’s so different and, the best part of all, there is still a tiny chance, with treatment, that she might grow taller.
Turner Syndrome is a 1-in-2000 chromosomal malfunction. The condition occurs only in girls, who normally have two X chromosomes. Girls with Turner Syndrome are either missing an X chromosome entirely or have one that is incomplete, or they have cells missing the X chromosome. Like Sylvia, these girls are short with absent or incomplete development at puberty and they can be prone to health problems such as arthritis, middle ear infections, diabetes and kidney ailments.
There are also fertility issues. With medical intervention such as growth hormone, and estrogen replacement therapy at adolescence, girls with Turner Syndrome can lead normal lives or, as in Sylvia’s case, whatever passes for normal for the severely-horse-addicted.
Born That Way is Susan Ketchen’s first young adult novel and she suffers from severe horse addiction as well. To write and to ride have been her life goals achieved through an overly-long education in a number of fields at a number of universities across the country.
She’s now a Marriage and Family Therapist, living on a Vancouver Island hobby farm where she teaches her horses to play the piano with their noses and identify flash cards. When not involved in such lofty projects, she daydreams in the barn, the pasture and the shower. Not once, she admits, has she ever “received creative inspiration while vacuuming.”