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To connect with stories involving gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer characters, you don't have to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community yourself. These new lesbian romance novels are a must-read for everyone, whether you're hoping to improve your ally skills or are just seeking a really awesome book. Check out our book recommendations now since they are DEFINITELY worth your time.
The One Woman By Laura MayThe One Woman Photo courtesy of Amazon
The One Woman, a New sapphic romance novel by Laura May. Julie's life and her relationship with her partner Mark are routine in every way. That is until she meets Ann. Web developer Ann is a kind and beautiful person. It is impossible to deny Julie's feelings for Ann. The spark is genuine as their present and past converge in Barcelona. Julie has to choose between her love for Ann and her devotion to Mark when tragedy strikes. Will true love last the distance? You’ll find out in The One Woman.
Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur
Count Your Lucky Stars
Photo courtesy of Amazon
Margot receives the spotlight in Bellefleur's third book Written in the Stars even though she has no intention of entering a committed relationship herself. Margot has been experiencing severe fifth wheel vibes lately. But everything gets mixed up when she runs with her first love, Olivia, who is starting over in Seattle after her divorce. This is especially true when Margot gives Olivia a much-needed place to crash. Can Margot trust the girl who once broke her heart again?
No Rings Attached by Rachel Lacey
No Rings Attached
Photo courtesy of Amazon
Bookseller Lia only made up having a girlfriend to get her mother to stop berating her, but now that her brother's wedding is quickly approaching, she is forced to stick to her narrative. Her best friend introduces her to Grace, who recently relocated to London, the location of the wedding, and accepts Lia's invitation to go on a date with her. But a series of mishaps (just one bed! ), especially when it comes time to say goodbye and they discover they're not at all prepared to do that, make it a weekend full of unpleasantness.
In the Event of Love by Courtney Kae
In the Event of Love
Photo courtesy of Amazon
Morgan will have to take on an event in the small hometown she never wanted to see again in order to save her budding publicity career when an awful catastrophe threatens to destroy everything. The girl who crushed her heart after their first and only kiss, Rachel, is still in Fern Falls and has transformed into a seductive lumberjack, which only serves to worsen the situation. Morgan is the ideal candidate to help Rachel's family's tree farm since she can demonstrate that she is still at the top of her public relations game by organizing the world's greatest fundraiser.
Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner
Mistakes Were Made
Photo courtesy of Amazon
With a sophomore that mocks the slow-burning face of their debut by opening with a hookup that'll have you fanning your face for days, Wilsner displays their serious romance range. The said connection involves Cassie, a senior in college, and Erin, an attractive older woman she meets at a pub and who Cassie soon discovers is the mother of one of her best friends. The delicate balancing act of keeping that night a secret while giving in to the sexiest chemistry either of them has ever felt begins, which is made much more difficult by the fact that they are going on a full break together. Can they say goodbye when their vacation comes to an end, or is there something here that they simply cannot ignore, no matter the price?
I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
I Kissed Shara Wheeler
Photo courtesy of Amazon
Being named valedictorian of her high school has been Chloe Green's main motivation since she relocated from Southern California to a rural Alabama town. But when Shara Wheeler, her competitor for valedictorian, kisses her a month before graduation, Chloe is left looking for explanations—and Shara herself. Chloe will have to work with Shara's quarterback boyfriend and her bad-boy neighbor to decipher the cryptic notes they have each received in order to find out where she has gone. Can Shara be located and brought back in time for graduation?
Diane Hayes is an online writer and editor.
Local writer Greg Howard has begun to make a name for himself in the world of Young Adult (YA) and, increasingly, Middle Grade literature—especially for LGBTQ+ and allied readers.
Last year, I talked with Howard about his then-new middle grade release, The Whispers, and just a little under a year later I sat down with him again to discuss his new book and some upcoming work. Middle School’s a Drag: You Better Werk hit the shelves on February 11, 2020, and if you haven’t seen it yet, look for it, especially if you have young readers around.
Middle Schools A Drag Book Cover
James: So, last time we talked, you had just released The Whispers. How has the response been?
Greg: Well, it was interesting, because it was everything from getting letters and emails from parents and teachers and kids who just loved it, and parents who told me they were able to have conversations with their kids through it, to some very ugly emails and letters. Which is very interesting to me because The Whispers is such a sweet, innocuous story. I mean, it is gay lite, you know what I mean? that is not what the story is about, in a lot of senses. There is a kiss, and he has a crush. And it's a very chaste kiss...
I even got this one email that kind of broke my heart from this father who wrote me an email and just laid into me about how his 12-year-old son had picked up this book... I didn't even know that was still a thing but apparently it is: he laid into me about pushing my homosexual agenda on his son and how dare I ... blah blah blah. He even sent me a picture of The Whispers ripped up and in the trashcan.
And I thought to myself, "Oh my Lord, if that if that kid is gay, he just saw his dad throw him in the trash, basically." That thought just broke my heart. So heartbreaking letters like that but also some very heartfelt and beautiful letters too.
Also, I just found out this week, by the way, that The Whispers nominated for the Edger Award for Best Juvenile Fiction. That's an award given by the Mystery Writers of America so it's like the Oscar of mystery writers, so very excited about that.
James: Your new book is Middle School's a Drag. So you're doing something very different this time around...
Greg: Very different from The Whispers, yeah. This one took a more comedic route. Although The Whispers had some comedic elements to it... But, yeah, this one I just kind of went in a little different direction.
When I was a kid, I was a little bit of an entrepreneur. We had this storage room and laundry room off of our carport in South Carolina where I lived. My dad had a big oak desk in there, and I would go in there and start businesses, so to speak. I called it The Anything Shop. I started a little general store that my dad built for me out of cardboard, and I gave croquet lessons and charged kid money. You know, just a total rip off: I was making up the rules as I went. That's kind of what started the idea for this story, because Mikey, in the story, considers himself a kid entrepreneur. And he works out of his family's storage room laundry room off the carport like that.
James: So how did the drag kid element come into play?
Greg: I got inspired when I was watching Good Morning America... They had a special on drag kids, and one in particular whose name is Desmond Is Amazing, and it was really the first time that I had seen kids doing drag, very seriously, like this was their passion, this is something they wanted to do to express themselves and perform. And I was just amazed, in an incredibly good way... I felt very happy for these kids, and these parents that were supporting them. So that gave me the idea of bringing a drag kid into the story, which has not been done yet in Middle Grade.
So all this gave me the idea for one of Mikey's businesses to be a junior talent agency. His first client is this drag kid named Julian, who's an eighth grader, and his drag persona is Coco Caliente Mistress of Madness and Mayhem. That's where the idea started from. I'm really proud of it. People are liking it, which is always good, you know, and I'm hoping this will reach even more kids than I reached with The Whispers.
James: What would you say is the theme of Middle School’s a Drag?
Greg: This is a fun, uplifting comedy. It's about a boy, Mikey, who is gay and he knows he's gay and he's even out to his parents and his best friends. But he hasn't made like the big announcement to the middle school yet, and he's really worried about coming out that way. It's not about him not accepting he's gay because he does. He's just worried about how people are going to treat him when they find out, so that's kind of where this one's coming from.
Mikey learns from Julian, the drag kid, about being confident in who you are. The quote at the beginning of the book is by the drag kid that inspired me, Desmond: "Be yourself always." So I use that as the quote opening the book. So, this book, to me, is just pure joy; it's just fun. It's easy to read: people are telling me they read it in a day or weekend. I love that, there's lots of hijinks in it, lots of gay stuff, lots of queer stuff.
James: Have you heard from people? Are there any common thoughts or responses?
Greg: The thing that I'm hearing most is the pure joy people feel when they read it. When I write I don't think about making people feel a certain way, but I am hearing a lot of people saying that that's what they felt when they read it. And that made it left them feeling hopeful and triumphant. And I like it that they're using the word hopeful again, because that was a big word with The Whispers. It ended with a lot of hope, and the theme of the book was hope, and I love the fact that people are finding that similar theme in this book, even though it's so completely different from The Whispers.
James: With the book tour starting, are there festivals or events you are looking forward to?
Greg: I love doing SE-YA Book Fest in Murfreesboro. It's one of the bigger YA book festivals, and it has Middle Grade. It has all the big writers in YA and Middle Grade. I think the big name this year is gonna be Angie Thomas who wrote The Hate You Give and On the Come Up. I love going to that one.
What I love about those festivals is that a lot of them have student days, so there's one day that they bussed in kids from schools, and those are the best. It is amazing to see this big open room full of writers giving autographs, and these middle school and high school kids acting like they're rock stars. That's so friggin’ cool, because I never met an author when I was that age. They are just enamored, and we all love it. We just love seeing their excitement about books.
James: Tell me about what you're working on now: Do you have anything in the works?
Greg: Well, I just actually turned in my latest book called The Visitors. It will be out next summer, 2021, and it's a ghost story. I've always wanted to write a ghost story, again based on my childhood. We grew up next to this old deserted haunted rice plantation in Georgetown, South Carolina, and we had our own little ghosty experiences there.
I wrote this story kind of harkening back to my times there, and it's about the spirit of an 11-year-old boy who had died mysteriously on the plantation. These present-day kids come and befriend him, and they help him figure out how he died, so he can be free of the place, because he's stuck there. That was fun to write, I loved writing that one, and of course my life was a little more settled, so it was easier to get it out and on the page.
James: What motivates you?
Greg: I mean, this is my dream for the rest of my life! It makes it all worth it, talking to the kids and ... we talked about this, but here's just not enough yet in Middle Grade literature for [LGBTQ] kids. I mean, YA [Young Adult] is great! There's tons of stuff, but not enough a middle grade, so I'm kind of making that my focus right now. I did write a YA novel, Social Intercourse when I first started, but I have kind of found my niche in Middle Grade writing about queer kids. It seems to be working, and it seems to be resonating with parents, with teachers, and with kids. My goal is to give queer kids their happily ever after, one story at a time—that's my mission.
James: So, with The Visitors that will make three Middle Grade books. We talked last time about the challenges, about the gatekeepers and things like that. As a writer, what do you enjoy about writing for those kids?
Greg: I think one is I just enjoy the voice of that age group... Somehow I'm able to tap into it… And I love the fact that I can write these books that are getting into the hands of kids who are seeing themselves represented, you know? There was another review, I think on Amazon, where somebody said about The Whispers something like "this would have been a great story. But why did the kid have to be gay? That just ruined it."
I just want to shake that person and say, "Because there are kids out there that they need to see themselves in the books they read!" I don't know about you, but I never saw myself in books, except by imagining something is going on [behind the scenes].
I love that I had this one parent at my Parnassus event for The Whispers... She picked it up and read the back to her son, who was like 11 or 12. When she said the kid has a crush on this older boy, he looked up at her and said, "Mom, it's like he knows my life!" And I'm thinking, "Yes, I see you, I see you kid!"
James: So, what are your longer-term goals?
Greg: I'd love to keep writing books for Penguin; they've been amazing. And I would like to do more school visits, which is something that I just started doing this past year with The Whispers.
In Chattanooga, I spoke with this rural middle school in front of 300 sixth graders. And then I spent a period a classroom and did a writing workshop. And that was amazing and inspired me to do more of that. In that writing workshop there were about 30 kids. I had at least four of them come up to me and come out to me after, in tears.
I'm not talking just flippantly saying, "Oh, hey I'm gay." These kids were terrified. They came up to me separately at the little book signing after the writing workshop. They would tell me then, and they would speak very quietly, and they were crying. And I just want to help these kids and tell them it's gonna be okay. What I usually end up saying is, “Thank you for telling me that. I want you to know that you're not alone, and you are loved.” And I always ask them if they have support at home, and luckily, so far, they've all said yes, which I think is wonderful and amazing. So I want to I want to do more of that.
NOTE! Since the publication of this article, it has become widely known that Once Upon A Time…in Hollywood and Marriage Story producer David Heyman’s Heyday Television is adapting Middle School’s A Drag for television, with its joint venture partner NBCUniversal International Studios.
You can find Middle School Is a Drag most anywhere books are sold. It can also be purchased online from Amazon in print or for Kindle. For more on Greg Howard, check out his website!
Before the Internet and social media, LGBTQ people who wanted to find their tribe and share ideas went to gatherings: Not just bars and protests but conferences and symposiums such as OutWrite, which spanned watershed years in which our community struggled to rise from the ashes of the AIDS pandemic.
OutWrite: The Speeches That Shaped LGBTQ Literary Culture edited by Julie R. Enszer and Elena Gross (Rutgers University Press) now gives readers who weren't there a front-row seat to a pivotal moment in LGBTQ literary history with 27 of the most memorable speeches from the OutWrite conferences, including talks from such luminaries as Allen Ginsberg, Essex Hemphill, Patrick Califia, Dorothy Allison, and Edmund White that cover diverse and hot button issues pertinent to our community.
Running from 1990 to 1999, the annual OutWrite conference played a pivotal role in shaping LGBTQ literary culture in the United States. OutWrite provided a space where established trailblazers such as Edward Albee, for example, rubbed shoulders with a new generation of queer writers like Tony Kushner.
This collection gathers some of the most memorable speeches from the OutWrite conference, including both keynote addresses and panel presentations. These talks are drawn from a diverse array of contributors, including Judy Grahn, Allan Gurganus, Chrystos, John Preston, Linda Villarosa, and many more.
We caught up with one of the editors, Julie R. Enszer, publisher and editor of Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and the author of four poetry collections, including Avowed, and the editor of The Complete Works of Pat Parker and Sister Love: The Letters of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker 1974-1989. Enszer worked on OutWrite with Elena Gross, an independent writer, curator, and culture critic living in Oakland, California.
How and why did this project with Elena come about and what did it involve for you?
Julie Enszer: When I was doing research for my dissertation, someone gifted me a few cassette tapes from the original conferences. The speeches and panels were all recorded by a commercial recording company for a number of the conferences, and participants could purchase cassette tapes and bring them home for plenaries or panels they might have missed—or ones that were particularly enjoyable.
I always had in mind that these speeches would make a great book. I met Elena at the Queer History Conference in San Francisco. She was a part of a wonderful project that E. G. Crichton organized that celebrated OUT/LOOK and contemporary writers & artists responded to the magazine.... Elena and I talked a bit after her presentation and batted around the idea of a book about the OutWrite speeches. She was game and so we began working on it.
We researched the conference through the archives at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco and Northeastern University in Boston. Conference programs provided a basis for who spoke and from there we worked to track down the speeches. Some of them are transcribed from audio tapes, others from printed sources. We worked on it throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was thrilling to imagine people gathering at large conferences while we were sheltering in our homes.
Are there any favorite speeches you would like to highlight - particularly any by women - that you think resonate with Women's History Month?
Enszer: The book includes a diversity of voices, just like the conference. From the outset, the conference was imagined as a bi-gender endeavor and the keynote speeches, conversations, and panels reflect that commitment to gender parity. (Of course, today with our changing ideas about gender and contemporary challenges to the gender binary a different configuration of parity would certain emerge.)
There are many wonderful speeches from well-known writers and from some writers who are lesser known. Mariana Romo-Carmon’s speech is incredible occurring during the 500th anniversary of Columbus and she challenges the audience to grapple with colonialism and its effects. Janice Gould’s panel presentation reminds the audience of the power of words and representation, particularly for lesbians of color. Cheryl Clarke delivered a gorgeous speech celebrating the work of Audre Lorde and claiming a lineage of Black queer writers. There are many great speeches for women and men to read in celebration of Women’s History Month.
Out of the massive struggle of our daily lives, we emerge with a unique and specific intelligence. Because we are bound together as sexual beings, because we have had to struggle through oppression just to touch another’s hand, just to hesitantly voice one word or two about our sexual desire, we have developed, as a people, a brilliant self-consciousness about sexuality, about how people live out their variations of sex and gender. We know these secrets; we are these secrets. we know all the queer details of everyone’s life. And our gift to everyone is that we tell. This is the gift of revolutionary queer imagination.
From “Imagination and the Mockingbird” by Minnie Bruce Pratt in OutWrite: The Speeches that Shaped LGBTQ Literary Culture (Rutgers University Press, 2022), p. 223.
Speaking as a poet, I can say that if you breath out bitterness, your audience will breathe bitterness back to you; if you breathe out sarcasm, your audience will breathe sarcasm; if you breathe out humor, humor; if anger, anger; and if you breathe out love, your audience will breathe back to you love. . . .As a feminist, I am not so much interested in taking back the night as I am in taking back the world. And this world keeps coming back to us itself as we recover our history.
From “Your First Audience Is Your People” by Judy Grahn in OutWrite: The Speeches that Shaped LGBTQ Literary Culture (Rutgers University Press, 2022), p. 25-6.
You can order OutWrite: The Speeches That Shaped LGBTQ Literary Culture here and for more info go to outwritespeeches.com.
Nashville author Greg Howard, a writer of middle grade and young adult books, has turned out a number of acclaimed books over the last few years, such as Social Intercourse, The Whispers, and Middle School's A Drag, You Better Werk! Howard has a new book forthcoming February 1, 2022 called The Visitors.
Just last month, Middle School's A Drag, You Better Werk! caught the attention of Laura Ingraham, who featured the book and its cover on her show, The Ingraham Angle (that angle veers far right, even by Fox standards, in case you’re unaware), accusing Howard of pushing some insidious homosexual agenda.
In an article for Huffington Post, Howard shot back, "I’ve been accused of pushing my 'homosexual agenda' onto kids through my writing. So, I will confess: They got me. I’m guilty. I do have an agenda." That agenda? Giving LGBTQ+ kids representation in middle grade and young adult literature and shining lights on the social issues plaguing our kids into mental health crises.
Howard’s new book, The Visitors, which touches on the abuse many LGBTQ+ kids face, the prevalence of suicide among these youth, and racism and slavery, is sure to catch the ire of rightwing pundits like Ingraham. But it also provides much-needed representation for kids suffering every day in this country. And it provides a modicum of hope in a world increasingly bleak for our kids.
The week before his book release, Howard discussed the book and the social issues it delves into with me. We revisited some of the issues surrounding representation we had discussed when his books The Whispers and Middle School's A Drag, You Better Werk! were released, as well as how the political environment has shifted dramatically.
INTERVIEW WITH GREG HOWARD
Greg, can you tell us a little bit about it your new book, The Visitors?
Greg Howard: Well, The Visitors is set on a deserted rice plantation in the low country of South Carolina. It's the story of the spirit of a 12-year-old boy who is stuck there. He doesn't remember why he's stuck there, who he is, or even how long he's been there. And he doesn't know how to move on from this very sad and lonely place. Things change for him when a groups of modern-day, “living” kids show up. They're investigating a decades-old mystery for a school podcast and his memories get stirred up. He starts remembering things about his past that might help him move on.
So that's a pretty cool concept! True Crime podcasts are big right now. So having one in a school setting and having that be a story device seems really kind of contemporary and cool! The background of the rest of the story is more traditional—it's a ghost story, after all—with elements that some readers may potentially find problematic: LGBTQ+ issues, youth suicide, slavery in America, and more. Tell us a little bit about your decision to write about some very sensitive topics, especially now!
Greg Howard: The Visitors deals with some serious topics, yes. As in all my books, there are elements of humor and charm to couch or frame some of the more serious, and sometimes uncomfortable topics. The book touches on issues of physical abuse within a family, youth suicide, sexual orientation, gender identity, and slavery.
I have specific reasons why I wrote about those things. But overall, I feel they're issues that need to be addressed, like youth suicide. I was talking to some of my educator friends, and wondering, “why aren't we talking about this?” It’s not something you see discussed a lot in middle grade books, and I don't know why because it’s happening every day. I understand that some adults feel it's not age appropriate to address in middle-grade books, but if kids are living it, we need to talk about it. And I need to write about it.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages ten to twenty-four, and it's growing at an exponential rate. LGBTQ+ youth are five times more likely to have attempted suicide than their non-LGBTQ+ youth peers. So, not addressing the problems isn’t helping. Unfortunately, the age of the victims of suicide, is skewing younger and younger. We have kids who are fourteen, thirteen, twelve, sometimes even younger, who are bullied for being queer or being perceived to be queer, dying of suicide.
Beyond the prevalence of the issue, I know your personal experience growing up, both having considered suicide as an option and having experience abuse, really influenced the character's backstory. Could you say a bit more about that?
Greg Howard: I was twelve when I first started thinking that death was the solution to my problems. I was queer, and I lived in the Deep South. I wasn’t shown and alternative for a life being myself and happy. I had to hide who I was. I went to church, where I was told from the pulpit that I was going to hell for being who I was. Of course, I didn't feel like I could talk to anybody about how I felt. And then I also had an abusive stepmother. My mom died when I was very young, and my dad remarried someone much younger than him. She was abusive to me and my brother, both physically and emotionally. Every time I would try to talk to my dad about it, he didn’t believe me. So that was something else that was weighing on me as a kid.
I was probably suffering from depression, as a lot of kids are, but back then you just weren't diagnosed with depression. You certainly weren't treated for it.
Because of all of these factors, I thought about suicide quite a bit when I was that age. That was another reason why I wanted to talk about it in this book, because again, I lived it. And I know kids out there now are living it.
I've had kids come up to me at events after reading Social Intercourse, for instance, or The Whispers and tell me that the book helped them out of a very dark place, when they were thinking about ending their own lives. Again, if kids are living it, we need to write about it, and we need to talk about it.
If by addressing this topic in a middle grade book I get pushback or challenged, it will be worth it if even one kid finds hope from this book. Ultimately, the book is a story of hope and redemption. I don't want anybody to think that I have a queer character whose existence is all horrible and without hope. The characters in my books always find hope in the end, as all kids should.
Representation is not just seeing the LGBTQ+ character on the page, but it's also seeing an LGBTQ+ character struggling with those experiences and prevailing. If all you see is happy LGBTQ+ characters and you are a person who's struggling with it, you're gonna feel just as far outside because of that character as you would from seeing only straight characters, right?
Greg Howard: Yes, exactly. I have seen reader reviews on Amazon or Goodreads for The Whispers and received some emails from more progressive people saying, “this book is bad because this little boy is ashamed of liking other boys, and I had my son quit reading it because I don't want him to be ashamed of who he is.” And they’re missing the whole point. Real kids are having these emotions whether you acknowledge it or not. So, let them read something that's going to take them on a journey from feeling ashamed to loving themselves and feeling hopeful in the end.
Before we move on, let's not forget about the other sensitive issue this novel touches on—slavery.
Greg Howard: Yes. I felt it was important talk about slavery in the book, because first of all, the story is set on a rice plantation in the deep South. It would have been disrespectful, not to acknowledge and pay tribute to the black people who would have suffered and died there.
When I was growing up in South Carolina, in this area where the book is set, we weren't taught the real truth about slavery. We were given a whitewashed view of slavery—you know, how the enslaved people were “treated like family,” and, "Oh, look, this planter even built a chapel in the slave village!" It wasn't until I got older, and I started learning more about the world and having more experiences and broadening my friend base and reading, especially, that I learned that this is not really the way it was.
The other reason why I wanted to go there in this book and have characters who are the spirits of enslaved people, is to engage young, white readers with a part of our history that they don't have to talk or think about, if they don't want to. It doesn’t affect their lives. Slavery in our country is an ugly truth, but one that we need to keep telling. Hopefully, the book will encourage young white readers to reach out to people who are not like them and think critically about how slavery and racism have really shaped our country and our society.
So we have gender and sexuality, we have abuse and youth suicide, and we have a look into racial intolerance and oppression, all wrapped into one book! I think Laura Ingraham is going to think that you wrote this one just to spite her! But in all seriousness, it just seems so timely, especially in Tennessee right now! We've banned the teaching of so-called "critical race theory" in schools, we're discussing a ban on any LGBTQ+ content in schools, we're banning books like Maus because they don't want kids to know that kids were killed in the Holocaust. It's a rough time out there, and you've written a middle grade book that seems to touch on all of it.
Greg Howard: It's what's happening in the world. So, I feel like to ignore these topics or to take these books off the shelves doesn’t solve anything. It certainly doesn’t save kids.
Middle School's A Drag, You Better Werk! was recently panned on The Laura Ingraham Show on Fox News. The way it all came about was the book was on a teacher's class reading list for students at a middle school. Laura Ingraham got a hold of that list and was leading a discussion about what's being taught in schools. All of a sudden, there's the cover of my book up on Fox News, and she’s talking about how terrible it is that my book was included on this reading list. She and her panelists called it “sickening.”
If Laura Ingraham thinks I'm doing something wrong, then I am most definitely doing something right. Thanks for the free publicity, Laura! 😂😂😂 #diversereads #RepresentationMatters #mglit #bookssavelives pic.twitter.com/ELArbEBNtM
— Greg Howard (@greghowardbooks) November 15, 2021
Middle School's A Drag, You Better Werk! is also on a list of 850 titles that Texas state senator Matt Krause is "investigating" schools over, wanting to know if schools have them on their shelves. It's just so frightening because this kind of action is spreading like wildfire all over the country. When people who are trying to suppress find success of in their efforts, other people in other places feel emboldened and want to jump on the bandwagon.
When I was young, I didn't have access books like mine. That was quite a while ago, and while we've come a long way, especially in the young adult genre, there's still a lot of ground to be made up in books for younger readers. It's shocking to me that I still get emails in 2022 from kids who say, "I've never read a book that showed a kid like me!" By which they mean queer or othered—different. And I'm like, "Really?” Because I know the books are out there. They are many authors writing the kind of books I do, but access to those books is being limited.
I feel like, since the last time we talked about this lack of representation, we've seen a shift in the policy. Now it's not this quiet thing, it's like we literally want to erase your representation from our curriculum. It's actively anti-representation. So the more content that we put out there, the more likely it is to find its way into someone's hands. What are you working on now that the launch of The Visitors is getting underway?
Greg Howard: I’m working on a new middle grade book which involves time travel. All my books have bits and pieces of my life in them, and this new one does, too. The Visitors is set on the deserted rice plantation that I grew up just down the road from. My friends and I would ride our bikes there, and the place was supposedly haunted. The Whispers was about my family and my mom. Social Intercourse was inspired by my high school experience. Middle School's A Drag, You Better Werk! was about when I was trying to be a kid entrepreneur at twelve. People connect the most to books when the author leaves a bit of themselves on the page.
I also know that some of your projects are being developed for other media. What are the statuses of some of those projects?
Greg Howard: Middle School's A Drag, You Better Werk! is being developed for television by NBC Universal and Heyday Television. The producer is David Heyman, who produced the Harry Potter movies, the Paddington movies, Marriage Story and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. So, it has a really incredible team behind it. And The Whispers has been optioned for film by Peter Spears, the Oscar-winning producer of Nomadland, Call Me By Your Name, and others. These things take time, though. I'm really excited to see what happens.
Be sure to get your copy of The Visitors on February 1, 2022 or after, on Amazon or wherever books are sold.