An early photo of Katie shows her at 6 months old supported by pillows reading a book – albeit backwards and upside down – to herself. Since then, Katie has not stopped reading and writing and her love of the written word led her to be a student of literature for many years. She completed a PhD in contemporary literature in 2018 and is an expert in the work of Don DeLillo. She has edited a book for Bloomsbury entitled Don DeLillo: Contemporary Critical Perspectives, and also produced a biography on him for the Dictionary of Literary Biography. She is also an enthusiastic and experienced teacher, and has taught literature, visual culture and theory at a wide range of institutions. Her writing has been widely published including The Times Literary Supplement, The White Review, Irish Times and Los Angeles Review of Books.
As a Story Terrace writer, Katie interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better: you can read an autobiographical story of her own below. Get in touch today to work with her!
My sister was born when I was almost exactly 5 and a half. My mother had her at home in our living room and, as soon as her contractions began, I was sent to my grandmother’s house in Tottenham. I remember being so excited by the idea of having a little sister but very put out that I wasn’t allowed to help with the birth. When Caroline was born in the middle of the night I exclaimed ‘Oh my God! I have a sister!’
My mother is Portuguese and most of her family are still based in the small town outside of Lisbon where she grew up. All my life they have been generous with me, though I have not met them very often and am often shy when I do. I had lots of beautiful clothes from Gap Kids, Zara, a particular favourite, and from Portuguese shops. I was always dressed in bright colours, fuchsia, lime and yellow, something that my school friends still remind me of all these years later.
After my sister was born however, things changed as many of my relatives thought it would be lovely to buy us matching clothing. Though 5 and a half years does not seem that much now, at the time, the age difference felt profound. I was often coaxed into the same clothing as my sister because we both looked ‘so lovely’ wearing them. We both had long dark blonde hair, made wavy by the plaits our mother put our hair into each night, and big eyes with long eyelashes. As an adult now, I can understand the appeal; at the time I thought it was terrible.
A particular dress stands out clearly in my memory: it was blue and white chiffon with puffy sleeves, a lacey collar and big sash. It was unlike any other dress I had ever seen in England, and felt like a throwback to a bygone age. In the box, there was one for me and one for my sister. They were sent to us by Lena, my mum’s best friend from home, and were clearly expensive and chosen with great care. I was truly horrified. At this point I was 12, and getting into music and writing and dreaming about getting a boyfriend. This dress was anathema to me and the total opposite of my burgeoning style of jeans, trainers and velour hoodies.
My mum insisted that we needed to wear the dresses just once so that she could send a picture of us to Lena. We combed our long hair, put some clips in to keep it away from our ears and put on the dresses. My sister did not mind at all, and found it fun to match me. I put on the dress extremely reluctantly, feeling like I had become a small child again, not the teenager I longed to be. My mum set us up on a chair in her bedroom, my sister on my lap, and asked us to smile. Caroline, who was 6, was cute as a button, and looks so sweet in the picture that came from the sitting. I on the other hand look a little pained, my mouth a straight line as I try to fight my embarrassment. I don’t think my discomfort would have been obvious to anyone else, but for my family, the resignation shines through my funny smile.
The picture my mother took was sent to Lena at the time, and a copy of it still sits on my parent’s chest of drawers in their bedroom. Every time I see it I am reminded of this memory of those days of matching clothing.