Jockey Girl

Jockey Girl

Posted on February 11 by Shelley Peterson in Recent Releases, Teens
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Inspiration for a book comes from unexpected places, and from every era in an author’s life. I’ll share two parallel examples with you.

The little black horse in Jockey Girl is the first horse I owned. I was fourteen. His name was Napoleon, and he had been abused and neglected. I’ve not met a more suspicious animal since. When I brushed his tail, I had to pile up bales of straw behind him to soften the blow of his kicks. Gradually we came to trust each other, but it was a long and slow process. The result was that Napoleon gave me an education about the way horses think, and he was an extremely strict teacher. I learned to accept his limitations, to be alert, and to be compassionate to his fears. And I learned that every horse has something to teach us.

Many years later, I was walking south on Yonge Street in Toronto. A homeless man was sitting on the cold cement across the road. He was bearded and filthy, but he looked somewhat familiar. I kept walking. His face haunted me, and a couple of blocks farther, I realized who he was. This man, begging for money, had been the quarterback of my high school’s football team and the president of the student’s council. I’d like to say that I immediately turned back and helped him, but I didn’t. Was it fear of the unknown? Insecurity about what to do, and how? Cowardice? It was likely a combination of all of those things.

That memory stayed with me, and resulted in an abiding interest about the people who cannot thrive in traditionally accepted society. In Jockey Girl, I investigate homelessness and addiction through the character of Angela Parson, my heroine’s mother. I have barely scratched the surface of these issues, but I learned two things: that we all need acceptance and compassion, and that every person has something to teach us.

Jockey Girl was launched on February 9 at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, an international leader in setting the standard of care for people who are homeless or living in poverty. Dr. Philip Berger, medical director of the Inner City Health Program at St. Mike’s, has an outstanding record of creating programs that make their lives better. He is a mentor to a legion of doctors who follow in his footsteps, like Dr. Gary Bloch, fellow physician at St. Mike’s and co-Chair of the Ontario College of Family Physician’s Committee on Poverty and Health. I could not think of a more fitting place to launch this book, or a more fitting recipient for the proceeds of the event than the Inner City Health Program. I am eternally grateful for having had this honour.

Napoleon taught me a little about how horses react to isolation and neglect. The former high school hero did the same about people.

Shelley Peterson

Posted by KathrynB on July 7, 2015
Shelley Peterson photo

Shelley Peterson

Shelley Peterson is the bestselling author of several published novels for young readers, including Stagestruck, Sundancer, Christmas at Saddle Creek, and Jockey Girl. She raises horses at Fox Ridge, her family’s stable in Caledon.