Troy from IN HER SKIN: GROWING UP TRANS was inspired by Chas Oskerka. Trina met Chas as Cherie when they were in grade school in Carol Stream, Illinois. They played soccer together at West Chicago High School. (Well, they practiced together. Chas was the star goalie, and Trina was a forward that never made varsity.) Chas grew up living in the wrong skin--as female. In the early 2000s, after talking with a friend's trans relative, Chas found happiness when he realized he was living in the wrong skin. That's when he began to transition into his true self.
Shortly thereafter, Chas encouraged Trina to write a teen novel about a transgender character, since, at the time, 2009, there were only two other books about trans teens. Trina interviewed Chas over several months and later shared working drafts of In Her Skin. She never held a book launch for the print release of this novel, since Chas was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer just after the book went to print. Trina will always cherish the way her friend encouraged her to write this story to spread awareness.
Chas was admired for his love for nature and animals, his gentle compassion, award-winning BBQ sauce, and his ability to make everyone feel welcome. Sadly, he lost his life to progressive cancer in the spring of 2017. At his memorial on Earth Day, his family shared words found on his desk. "We endeavor to increase our understanding and appreciation of what others have given and contributed to us/ And to develop constant, mindful considerations of how our thoughts and actions will benefit and contribute to others." For more about ways Chas's memory lives on, click here.
After reading Monica Ali's Brick Lane, Trina researched Bengali culture in a Modern British Lit class at NIU under the direction of Dr. Kathleen Renk. Heidi's family is inspired by Ali's depiction of identity struggles. Further understanding of Islam came from studying the Qur'an under Dr. Jeffrey Einboden at NIU.
Trina gained inspiration from the following lines:
"I'm with everyone and yet not
Just want to be myself.
Hey you said that you would love to try some
Hey you said that you would love to die some
In the middle of the world on a fishhook
You're the wave, you're the wave, you're the wave...
I miss the one that I love a lot."