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#PrideMonth: David Levithan on inclusivity, writing about queerness, LGBTQIA+ representation in books

#PrideMonth: David Levithan on inclusivity, writing about queerness, LGBTQIA+ representation in books

In the recently concluded Fully Booked Chats featuring David Levithan, we had the chance to speak with the award-winning author as he talked about his latest book, The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as told to his brother).

Levithan takes young readers on a fantasy adventure through truth, family, and belief with The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S., as a missing boy returns home and tries to convince people about his whereabouts from when he was gone with a story that’s too far-fetched.

During the interview, Levithan not only walked us through his creative processes as a writer and the thrilling experience of writing a middle-grade novel for the first time, but the 48-year-old novelist also shared important sentiments concerning the LGBTQIA+ community and his view on queerness in literature.

As we celebrate Pride Month this June, here are some notable snippets from the interview with one of the most loved YA authors in today’s time with the hope to inspire readers and writers alike.


You mentioned one of the characters [Aunt Brandy] in The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as told to his brother) is transgender. Is there anything you considered when writing her character or writing LGBTQ+ characters? Is there anything you considered on how you tried to write them?

Being gay myself and obviously, most of my books are queer or have major LGBTQIA+ representation, so that’s something that’s really important to me. It’s very much a part of my world and I wanted it to be part of my book’s world.

So, a lot of times with Aunt Brandy, it makes sense. One thing I was very hesitant about is that I did not want Aidan and queerness to be part of the mystery. I didn’t want it to be, “Oh, Aidan’s gay so he disappeared.” I didn’t want that to be a plot point. I don’t want to give anything away, but Aidan, whether he is queer or straight, does not play a part in his disappearance. And I wanted that to be separate from whoever he is.

It’s interesting because my next middle grade, which hasn’t been announced yet, so I’ll be very vague about it… It is extremely gay! It is, perhaps, the gayest book that I’ve ever written. So, I think that is the book everyone would’ve expected me to write in middle grade. 

But this book, again, it’s totally there. And it’s just a part of the life of this family, which I love because again, for most of us, that is what our queerness is. It is one thing about us and it is part of the life of our family.



I think that’s also something I appreciated about the story: that the queerness was just a fact — it was very a matter of fact, that wasn’t anything that needed a spotlight or any special treatment or whatever. I guess that’s what representation really is. 

Yeah, it is. It’s making sure that you tell all sorts of different experiences within a queerness. Certainly, I don’t want at all to put down coming out stories because that’s a natural part of identity and not the only narrative that should be there.

So I do find that a lot of the stories I’m writing next take place afterwards or take place after the identity has already been formed. I do have, which has finally been announced, a book with Jennifer Niven, my next YA book is coming out.


“But this book, again, it’s totally there. And it’s just a part of the life of this family, which I love because again, for most of us, that is what our queerness is. It is one thing about us and it is part of the life of our family.”

I know you guys are familiar with Jennifer Niven and my character in that, again, he is gay and he has a boyfriend but that does not at all central to the plot. It’s just who he is. I love writing a character who has already been out and has a boyfriend and has been living openly queer in high school for a couple of years. Again, the story doesn’t hinge on that at all. It’s just very much a part of who he is.

 

This is a question from Joseph, one of the fans tuning in. In your own humble opinion, where do you see your new book in the narrative of the LGBT acceptance but not tolerance where kids are involved?

Wow, interesting question! I think that, again, I like that this particular book really is one way… Or the queerness and the identity of the characters is woven into the story. Hopefully, seamlessly in a way that it is just like life. I think that that is part of the continuum that literature is on.

Again, I think there are some great stories where queerness is at the heart of it and my next book is very much about that. But I think, it is great that there are so many books where it is not the main event as it were, it is just a part of life and I think queer readers… I know queer readers would want that too. I’d want books where I am represented and part of the story.

But the fact that I am queer is not the thing that is the conflict or the thing that’s driving it. I think that’s where you’re getting at your question, that being gay does not have to be a conflict or something that is a fuel to the plot. It can just be who the characters are.

 

What are your tips for young writers who want to explore the LGBTQIA+ genre?

That’s a great question and I hope you’re doing that in your writing because we need more and more people writing about the LGBTQIA experience.

I think it’s just, be honest on the page — that it is putting yourself out there as much as you’re comfortable doing that. Any aspect of somebody’s identity is only one part of them; that if you’re writing a queer character, obviously, queerness can be very important to them, but it should not be the only thing that the reader knows about them.

“I’d want books where I am represented and part of the story. But the fact that I am queer is not the thing that is the conflict or the thing that’s driving it... Being gay does not have to be a conflict or something that is a fuel to the plot. It can just be who the characters are.”

You should know a lot of other things to give them a full humanity. You should do that for all your characters, obviously. I think that’s it. If you are not queer yourself and you want to write queer characters, I think you certainly still can. But certainly, do your research. Talk to queer people in your life. If you don’t have any queer people in your life, go online and read first person stories— true stories —from queer writers or queer youth. So you have some idea of what they’re going through, instead of presuming that you know, without any first-hand experience. I think that’s really important. 

Everybody can write any story that they want, but I think it is making sure that you are honest, if you can’t contribute your own honesty onto the page, again, making sure that you talk to enough people or read enough stories that you feel that you can portray that honesty in a right way.

 


Watch the full video of the Fully Booked Chats with David Levithan and discover more about the author and his latest book The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as told to his brother).

Get your hands on more David Levithan titles as we deliver your next great read in the comfort of your home. Visit www.fullybookedonline.com to browse more titles.



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