Funky Fresh!--the plastic one-inch monkey that JC gives Heidi. Inspired by Trina's boys' gumball machine toys.
Troy from IN HER SKIN: GROWING UP TRANS was inspired by Chas Oskerka, Trina's sister's best friend. She met Chas as Cherie when they were in grade school in Carol Stream, Illinois. Chas grew up living in the wrong skin--as female. In the early 2000s, Chas began to transition into his true self. 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.
Chas spent his life spreading positivity. 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."
After reading Monica Ali's Brick Lane, Trina researched Bengali culture in a Modern British Lit class at NIU. 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.
The album that played while Trina wrote
IN HER SKIN. (Also found in an inscription on the first page.)
Chas, top row, with Trina's sister Trista Wentworth (left) and Julie Mastro (right).