Deihlia Nye impacted one of her friends so much he tattooed her ashes above his heart.
In Diane Fraser’s new memoir, “Growing up Superheroes: The Extraordinary Adventures of Deihlia Nye,” she writes about her niece, Nye, and how she impacted the world around her.
Nye was born with severe spinal bifida in 1983. Several organs lay outside of her body, her abdomen was open and her parents and relatives were told she would not live more than three days, but she lived to the age of 29.
“She lived a kickass life,” Fraser said. “She influenced a lot of people. She was a risk taker. She encouraged others to take risks and get out of their comfort zone.”
Fraser said the memoir is Nye’s life story told through a combination of personal narrative and third person vignettes, and that the story is both physical and metaphysical, dealing with themes of death and life after death.
“Death is really a character and a theme of the book,” she said, “as well as a propeller to live fully while you’re here.”
Fraser, 52, is an award-winning poet who lives in Boston, Massachusetts, and works as a public health consultant. She said Nye’s death inspired to write the memoir.
“She deserved to have a book written about her because I thought her story had a lot of universal themes,” she said.
She said that Nye had been like a daughter to her.
“I loved her so much immediately,” she said. “My own life was in a pretty rough spot when she was born. I was recovering from growing up in a home with undiagnosed mental illness. Just meeting her gave me a reason and impetus to really deal with the effects of my family upbringing.”
Nye stood out as special to her early on. Though she was teased in school for being in a wheel chair, Fraser said she found a way to deal with it, make friends and be courageous.
Both Fraser and Nye identify as queer so Fraser said that knowing Nye gave her the confidence to come out to her family.
“I wanted to do it for her because she mattered to me,” she said. “At first it was very upsetting for my mother, and she still had a lot of homophobia so it was very difficult, but eventually she was fine with it.”
When Nye came out as androgynous and queer, Fraser said it didn’t seem like a big deal. Fraser said Nye even developed a persona called “Porkchop” whenever she was out. She said it was about being a queer prankster.
“She had this persona that became infamous in her circles and Boston circles that she moved around in,” Fraser said.
Nye cofounded Boston Social Nerds, Fraser said, where she met a lot of people in the LGBT community, but because of her identity, she experienced a lot of stigma.
“She couldn’t get certain jobs or do certain things,” Fraser said. “She either found paths around or different ways in or created what she wanted.”
James Melton, 30, Chicago, Illinois, was close friends with Nye during her life.
“I’d known her since freshman year, when I first met her in college at a party,” he said. “She had short funky hair back then and was kind of quiet.”
Melton, an avid cyclist, bonded with Nye over her wheelchair, which he recalls had unique wheels.
“She was my anchor,” he said. “She was one of those people who didn’t know her own strength at first. She grew into her own.”
He said that when he left the school, Nye stayed and became one of the most popular people on campus with many friends who supported her and backed her. She became successful as a strategic marketer for a pottery business the two created.
Melton said that at all the jobs Nye took on, she succeeded and worked her way up the ranks.
“You’ll meet one or two people that absolutely stand out that you can’t believe they exist,” he said. “It’s just, wow, their personality and who they are [just take your breath away]. She was one of those people.”
He said she gave him wisdom and strength and changed his life.
“I have her ashes tattooed above my heart in my chest,” he said.
He said he’s glad that Fraser created a book in honor of her. And that the story would speak to the younger LGBT audience and younger people in general.
“It’s one of triumph over tragedy,” he said. “I would think that if someone was scared to come out or to actually be themselves and had that internal strife or wanted to put on a façade or face for others, they should read this to know that you can be okay and that a lot of people have had it worse than you can imagine and did amazingly.”
Fraser said she hopes people will connect with Deihlia and see themselves in her struggles and that they get some courage from it.
“[I hope it would] sort of reinvigorate their own appetite and gusto in life so they can experience the things they want before they die,” she said.
She said she hopes it reduces stigma around people with disabilities and being queer.
“I think anyone at any age can connect with the story,” she said.
The book is available on Amazon.