I don’t think it’s hard to determine that I’m an 80s kid and a 90s teen. My book The Mixtape to My Life after all takes place in that era and makes a lot of references to it. So it begs the question why would someone in their forties want to write young adult (YA) novels?
My first response to that question is why not. If you have a story in your heart, and you want to tell it why not go for it. Being at a certain age doesn’t mean you can’t make a good YA book. But the real reason dives much deeper into that.
I make no secret about the fact that it wasn’t easy growing up gay in South Texas during the 80s and 90s. Aside from the snide comments about “jotos,” you also hear things that make you fear for your life. So the only thing you can do is hide yourself as deep into the closet as you can get.
All you really knew about being gay was what people told you. Priests, parents, friends, neighbors all had their opinions, and it wasn’t always good. Plus, looking for some type of connection through Mainstream TV, movies and books for representation was scarce, and any that existed were either hard too find or too scary to want to attempt to get. Had I seen some of the wonderful characters that exist today, such as from Becky Abertolli’s Simon vs the Homosapien Agenda or Alexander Eberhart’s There Goes Sunday School, I might have felt a bit less alone or afraid.
While things have gotten better, homophobia still exists. That is why I decided that a story like Justin‘s from The Mixtape to My Life needed to be told. I get that there are a bunch of coming out and coming of age stories and a lot of people just want to see LGBT books where the characters don’t have to deal with that. But the reality is that many still have that fear, the same fear that I had, and it could take them to a dark place. Maybe, just maybe, if they find my book or some of the wonderful ones that are out there it will help them realize just how special and unique they are. Then they won’t feel so dark and alone.
What books give you those kind of feelings? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.