Community matters, especially to LGBTQIAP+ people. Where We Go From Here author Lucas Rocha stopped by to share his top picks for LGBTQIAP+ YA novels that have the best depictions of community.
Now more than ever, we’re all realizing just how essential community is in our lives. There’s just nothing quite like the compassion and support of a community.
But community has always been a crucial aspect of life for LGBTQIAP+ people. It’s simultaneously a safe haven, a source of inspiration, and a warm hug. And so, it only makes sense that community is also a central aspect of LGBTQIAP+ YA novels.
Lucas Rocha, whose novel Where We Go From Here comes out next week, took some time to reflect on some LGBTQIAP+ YA novels that really capture the spirit of community and the wonderful feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself.
Take it away, Lucas!
‘Where We Go From Here’ author Lucas Rocha talks community in LGBTQIAP+ YA novels
Community is a very important topic for LGBTQIAP+ people. I know that it’s one of the most important things in my life: to rely on my friends and take inspiration from my peers; to see queer people in books, movies and music; and to realize that I can also be in those places and make my voice be heard. Those are very wholesome feelings. We truly are family, and nobody can say otherwise.
That is why I want to share some YA books that depict this warm feeling that the LGBTQIAP+ community can bring to our lives. Books that almost feel like friends to me, the ones where I see people getting together to build up and strengthen one another.
1. ‘Like a Love Story’ by Abdi Nazemian
A remarkable book that is set in New York, in 1989, and shows three friends navigating this fearsome world for queer people during the AIDs crisis era. Reza, Judy and Art are three young adults having to deal with the fear of an unknown virus that directly affects a community that either they or their relatives are a part of. It is also a history about the public scrutinization of queer people by the media and the government, and about the hopelessness of seeing so many people close to them dying unexpectedly.
But this is also a book about relying on each other, finding your voice and the purpose of your life amidst chaos, and of casting a light on the beauty of the world.
I guess this was the book that showed me how important having a community is during uncertain times, and the power that being together with those we care for is an act of love to others and to ourselves.
2. ‘Kings, Queens and In-Betweens’ by Tanya Boteju
This is a very engaging novel about the drag scene and about finding yourself in the middle of what looks like a bunch of misfits. The story of Nima Kumara-Clark is so dear to my heart because it made me remember the first time I went to a drag show: all of the color and the glamour and the acid irony of everyone made me feel like I belong somewhere.
And seeing the relationship between Nima and her drag friend, Deidre, while they navigate through night clubs and discover who they are in the world put a smile on my face from the beginning until the end of this book.
3. ‘Felix Ever After’ by Kacen Callender
This book taught me so much about gender identity and all the pressures of finding out who you are in the middle of all the possibilities that the world gives (and does not give) us. That’s the story of Felix, who has to deal with the fact that he’s never been in love and wants to find out who he is in a world that shames him for being trans, black and queer. After facing transphobic messages and a public disclosure around his deadname, Felix comes up with a vengeance plan to expose who he thinks is the person behind of all these crimes.
This is another book that shows us the importance of community: for us to know that we do belong. Throughout the novel, Felix often questions who he really is, and if what he feels is an exception or if there are other people like him in the world. The struggle to find his own identity, the questions he has about it and the possibility of finding people similar to him reminded me that our bond as a community is important because it makes people feel less alone and realize that they are not strangers in this world.
4. ‘Here the Whole Time’ by Vitor Martins
Vitor Martins’ book is a very funny rom-com about a young boy having to live with his life-long crush in the same room for fifteen days. It is light and makes your heart a bit warmer, but this is also a novel about seeing yourself as beautiful despite what the world tells you. Felipe, the protagonist, struggles with self-image due to his weight. The support of his friends and mom—because community, when we are lucky enough, can also contain our own relatives—shows him that he has the right to love and be loved, no matter what. I’m very happy to see another Brazilian book hitting the US shelves. This story has everything that you need to smile – even a flamingo floatie called Harry Styles.
5. ‘Two Boys Kissing’ by David Levithan
This is one of those books that stays with you for a long time. It’s a story about two guys trying to break the record for longest kiss in history; it’s a story about a boy coming out; it’s a story about a guy trying to hook up through social media. It’s beautiful, heart-warming and heart-breaking, all at the same time.
For me, the most interesting aspect of this novel is the narrator: the story of these boys is told by the voice of all the gay men who died during the AIDs crisis. The narrative is delicate and reminds us of the importance of staying together to become stronger. It’s one of my favorite books of all time.
About ‘Where We Go From Here’ by Lucas Rocha
Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV.
Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative.
Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.
When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has — had — been dating. See, Henrique didn’t disclose his positive HIV status to Victor until after they had sex, and even though Henrique insisted on using every possible precaution, Victor is livid.
That’s when Victor meets Ian, a guy who’s also getting tested for HIV. But Ian’s test comes back positive, and his world is about to change forever. Though Victor is loath to think about Henrique, he offers to put the two of them in touch, hoping that perhaps Henrique can help Ian navigate his new life. In the process, the lives of Ian, Victor, and Henrique will become intertwined in a story of friendship, love, and self-acceptance.
Set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this utterly engrossing debut by Brazilian author Lucas Rocha calls back to Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys series, bringing attention to how far we’ve come with HIV, while shining a harsh light on just how far we have yet to go.
Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha hits bookshelves everywhere on June 2, 2020. Preorder your copy now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, or Indiebound. Also, don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” list!