Note: My answers may contain some spoilers for the book—please don’t read this if you haven’t finished the book!
Is alopecia areata a real disease?
Yes. About four million Americans have alopecia areata. I tried to describe it as accurately as possible in the book, but the disease can take different forms. Some people lose only small patches of hair; others lose every bit of hair on their entire bodies.
Do you know anybody who has alopecia areata?
I didn’t before I began researching the book. However, I had known people who had lost their hair because of other reasons, such as chemotherapy. When I decided I wanted to write about alopecia, I read a lot of accounts posted online by people who had the disease. And I contacted the president of a local support group to ask if she would talk to me. It turned out that she was in the group because of her daughter, Mandi: I was very grateful to both Mandi and her mother for being willing to talk to me. Mandi was in eighth grade when she talked to me, and she had been dealing with alopecia since she was a sixth grader. Mandi told me some of the mean things other kids said and did, such as pulling off her wig But she also told me about how loyal her friends were, and how much she appreciated it when they stood up for her.
Do you know anybody who has donated their hair through Locks of Love?
Yes, several people, both girls and women. And I have heard from several girls who decided to donate their hair after reading Because of Anya. That makes me very happy.