Friday, May 24, 2019

The Big Gay Fiction Podcast Reviews "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" -- and Jeff Loved It!

It's a podcast I love, and the love was reciprocated this week  in Episode 189 with Jeff's review of my YA novel, "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill."

Fun moments from the review:

"I read a tremendous YA novel this past week, it's called Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill, by debut novelist Lee Wind."

"My love of this book starts very much with these teenage characters."

"Even the jerk high school kids that are in this book are written with so much authenticity and dimension that you really fall into their stories, too, and it's really a credit to Lee how he kind of pulls all this together to make such inherently readable and relatable characters."

"I love how much actual history is mixed into this book. It's really brilliant as we've all heard about Lincoln being gay, we've heard those rumors and how it all ties back to Joshua Speed but this book, and through Wyatt's eyes, it really lays out some of the facts as they're presented. There's an interview with Lee at the end of the audiobook, where he talks about the research that he did to get this book as accurate as it is, and it's really a credit to him how he's made a history lesson without making it feel like you're reading a textbook, because it's really Wyatt trying to piece all this stuff together. And there are some really great comparisons to Lincoln and Martin Luther King in the book, too. It's a history lesson without a history lesson, kind of like going to Hamilton, you get the big infusion of history while you enjoy a great musical."

"While there's a lot of history in this book, the story is very much rooted in our time..."

"There were times when I was like, this is really over the top, and then in the next moment, like, it really isn't. Because in these crazy times, when we can look at the news and really ask ourselves what the hell was that? Everything that goes on in the book you can easily see just escalating in the society that we've got today. And Lee perfectly captured all that and it grounds the book, actually, with a very here and now kind of feel to it."

"I have to give a quick shout out, too, to Michael Crouch. Michael's the voice of Becky Albertalli's Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and he does a tremendous job with a large cast of adults and kids who are in this book..."

"I highly recommend, for a great YA read, Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill by Lee Wind."

You can watch the podcast (and hear the full review at about 9:17 in) on youtube here,



or get the podcast wherever you listen to podcasts!

Thanks, Jeff!

And hurray!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Zenobia July - A Trans Teen Girl Solves Cyber Crimes



Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker

Zenobia July is starting a new life. She used to live in Arizona with her father; now she's in Maine with her aunts. She used to spend most of her time behind a computer screen, improving her impressive coding and hacking skills; now she's coming out of her shell and discovering a community of friends at Monarch Middle School. People used to tell her she was a boy; now she's able to live openly as the girl she always knew she was.

When someone anonymously posts hateful memes on her school's website, Zenobia knows she's the one with the abilities to solve the mystery, all while wrestling with the challenges of a new school, a new family, and coming to grips with presenting her true gender for the first time.

Add your review of “Zenobia July” in comments!

Monday, May 20, 2019

An Interview with Lisa Bunker, Author of Queer Teen Novel "Zenobia July," Which Comes Out Tomorrow!




Here's my interview with Lisa, on the eve of her second book being published!


Lee: Congratulations on the new book - tell us about Zenobia July.

Lisa: Zenobia July is a teenage trans girl with genius-level coder/hacker skills and a troubled past who has moved to Portland, Maine to live with her cool Lesbian aunties after the death of her last surviving parent. As our story opens she is about to start a new school year, attending for the first time as the girl she has always known herself to be. She makes friends, but also tangles with the school’s queen bee and a cyber-rival. Then, when someone hacks the school’s website, posting hateful memes, she knows she can help, but struggles to decide whether it is worth the risk of increased attention.

Lee: Why that title?

Lisa: One of the funnest parts of gender transition is getting to choose a new name. Zen wanted to pick something really unusual and interesting. She chose “Zenobia” because it starts with Z and ends with A – an alphabetical depiction of going to back to the beginning and starting over. “July” is the month she changed her name. Also, there’s a character in the book who cares a lot about words or combinations of words with no repeat letters, so I needed a name for Zen that fit that.

Lee: How much of the main character is you?

Lisa: Not all that much, actually. I didn’t transition until my 40’s. Zen came to life in my mind after the death by suicide in 2014 of Leelah Alcorn, a trans girl in Ohio. Leelah left behind an eloquent note on Tumblr, asking the world to make sure her death meant something. So I started thinking, what did Leelah need that she didn’t have to survive her life? And that’s how Zen started to take shape. Where Zen and I overlap is in the often surreal experience of switching genders in the world – all the odd little ways gender pops up all the time. 


Lee: Your debut novel, Felix Yz came out two years ago. What’s different this time around?

Lisa: Felix is gay, but his identity is more incidental to his story than Zen’s, whose struggle to navigate middle school while living as a girl for the first time is one of the main threads of her book. Also, Felix was in first person, with a strong feature for his quirky voice – the book takes the form of his secret blog. Zen is close third person, so the narrative style is markedly different. And in Felix I included lots of LGBTQ characters as a kind of writerly lark. This time, it’s very much on purpose, as I seek to depict the power of queer community and family of choice to save lives. 


Lee: Is there a vision of Zenobia July being the first of a series? (The solves cyber crimes makes me think, perhaps…)


Lisa: Yes! Zen is my entry into the super-sleuth canon. I’ve always wanted to write a Sherlock Holmes-style character. It’s just that my Holmes is a teenage trans girl, and she does her genius detecting in cyberspace, not in the real world. This book is her origin story, in which she meets Arli, the character who will become her Watson. I hope to write many more Zen books.


Lee: Sounds so fun! What do you hope readers get from reading your latest?


Lisa: Reading pleasure, of course! Beyond that, though, I hope to add to the growing body of nuanced fictional portraits of trans people. I want to increase the world’s understanding of the trans experience, and I want to show that non-binary folk are just regular humans, with strengths and weaknesses, but as worthy to love and be loved as anyone else.

Lee: Awesome! Anything else you’d like to share?


Lisa: I’ve been thinking a lot about what I call “post-binary narrative,” by which I mean a couple things. The obvious first layer is story focused on queer characters, foregrounding them and digging into the details of their experiences living outside the imposed binaries of gender and sexuality, which are still so strong. But I’m also interested in avoiding what I see as pitfalls of a too-binary approach to storytelling, with Heroes and Villains. There are some transphobic characters in the story, but I’ve taken care to depict them as human too, with their own reasons for what they do. 


Thanks for taking the time to tell us about Zenobia July, Lisa!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature - A Teen Girl's Kindness To A Gay Student Has Her Ostracized by Her Church and Family... And She Has To Decide: What Kind of Person Does She Want To Be



Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

Your best friend hates you. The guy you liked hates you. Your entire group of friends hates you.
All because you did the right thing. [Apologizing for the role you, your family, and church had in harassing a gay student at your school.]
Welcome to life for Mena, whose year is starting off in the worst way possible. She's been kicked out of her church group and no one will talk to her--not even her own parents. No one except for Casey, her supersmart lab partner in science class, who's pretty funny for the most brilliant guy on earth.
And when Ms. Shepherd begins the unit on evolution, school becomes more dramatic than Mena could ever imagine . . . and her own life is about to evolve in some amazing and unexpected ways.

Add your review of "Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature" in comments!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

My Two Moms and Me - A Board Book I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was a Little Kid



My Two Moms and Me By Michael Joosten, Illustrated by Izak Zenou

“Families with same-sex parents are celebrated in this board book that follows busy moms and their kids throughout their day—eating breakfast, going on a playdate, heading to the pool for a swim, and settling back in at night with a bedtime story and a good-night lullaby. LGBTQ+ parents and their friends and families will welcome this inclusive and cheerful book that reflects their own lives and family makeup.”

A wonderful board book that's all about different two-mom families going through their day with a little one.





The illustrations by fashion illustrator Izak Zenou feel both modern and timeless.


Showing all these loving two mom families makes this a much-needed, and sure to be much-loved, book.

Add your review of “My Two Moms and Me” in comments!

Monday, May 13, 2019

My Two Dads and Me - A Board Book I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was a Little Kid (and I wish my husband and I had had to read to our daughter!)



My Two Dads and Me by Michael Joosten, Illustrated by Izak Zenou

“Families with same-sex parents are celebrated in this board book that follows busy dads and their kids throughout their day—eating breakfast, getting dressed, heading out to the park, and settling back in at night with a bubble bath and a good-night lullaby. LGBTQ+ parents and their friends and families will welcome this inclusive and cheerful book that reflects their own lives and family makeup.”

I love this book - the decision to not follow just one family with two dads but to make each page turn feature a new family with a different child who has two dads was spot-on.




Helping—as much as a single board book can—fill the nearly empty shelf where board books for families like mine can find themselves.


And the illustrations, by fashion illustrator Izak, are beautifully rendered, giving the book a timeless quality that will keep it a go-to for years and years to come.

Bravo, Michael and Izak!

Add your review of “My Two Dads and Me” in comments!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus - 65 Powerful Photographs Of and Words From Queer Youth



Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus, photographed by Rachelle Lee Smith, featuring the teens' own words.

"A photographic essay that collectively explores a wide spectrum of experiences told from the perspective of a diverse group of youth ages 14 to 24 identifying as queer (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning). Portraits are presented without judgment and/or stereotype by eliminating environmental influence with a stark white backdrop. This backdrop acts as a blank canvas to be filled with the each subject’s point of view handwritten onto the final print. With more than 65 portraits photographed over a period of ten years beginning 2001, Speaking OUT provides a rare insight into the ever evolving passions, confusions, prejudices, fulfillment, joys, and sorrows voiced by queer youth."

In the words of Rachel Lee Smith, the photographer and driving force behind this book, "I believe there is strength in numbers, power in words, and freedom in art and I strive to raise awareness with this work."

Add your review of "Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus" in comments!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution - Our Queer Heroine Returns, Struggling To Find Her Voice, Her Place, and Deal With the Loss of Her Sister



Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Sophomore year has just begun, and Angie is miserable. Her girlfriend, KC, has moved away; her good friend, Jake, is keeping his distance; and the resident bully has ramped up an increasingly vicious and targeted campaign to humiliate her. An over-the-top statue dedication planned for her sister, who died in Iraq, is almost too much to bear, and it doesn’t help that her mother has placed a symbolic empty urn on their mantel. At the ceremony, a soldier hands Angie a final letter from her sister, including a list of places she wanted the two of them to visit when she got home from the war. With her mother threatening to send Angie to a “treatment center” and the situation at school becoming violent, Angie enlists the help of her estranged childhood friend, Jamboree. Along with a few other outsiders, they pack into an RV and head across the state on the road trip Angie’s sister did not live to take. It might be just what Angie needs to find a way to let her sister go, and find herself in the process.

Add your review of "Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution" in comments!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Highlights and Inspiration from the Bay Area Book Festival 2019

What a weekend!

I got to be on a panel, moderate a panel, and be a contestant on a Young Adult edition of Literary Death Match!

It was two days full of wonderful people, kid lit folks and readers, and inspiration. Here are some of the moments still resonating for me:

When a book is well-written, everyone can identify with the main character. —Tania De Regil


Stumbling on my own photo in the printed festival program!


The theme of creating books we didn't have for ourselves for this new generation - from my own story about "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill", to my wonderful co-panelist Cindy Pon, whose all-Asian casts continue to be groundbreaking (and such good reads — I loved "WANT"!

The wonderful Mina Witteman, who organized the wonderful children and teen programming.


The theme rising again in the panel I moderated, with amazing panelists Atia Abawi and her refugee story, "A Land of Permanent Goodbyes", to e.E. Charlton-Trujillo's "Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution" (the second book in what's going to be a trilogy!)

A whimsical "forest" for the youngest readers


And that very same theme echoed in the words of Mylo Freeman, who told the story of how, ten years ago, a teacher told her about a young black student who refused to play a princess in the class play because she thought a princess couldn't look like her. That inspired her to create the best-selling “Princess Arabella” series—for which she's now writing book 14!

An exuberant performance melding rap, history, and young people's empowerment by the Alphabet Rockers

The kindness of our children's literature community. I loved how for the "Seasons, Sounds and Sandwiches" panel, Picture Book authors Meg Fleming, Tim McCanna, and Alice McGinty held the microphone for each other as they read sections from their picture books. It was such a kind and selfless moment, a "here, let me help you tell the audience about your book" generosity, that made me so happy.

What a hoot! My fellow Literary Death Match co-stars, (left to right): Gordon Jack, Zoraida Córdova, our brilliant and hysterical host Adrian Todd Zuniga, me (!), and Cindy Pon.

How my panel with Cindy Pon was moderated by a teen reader, Riya Kataria, a high school junior who had read both of our books and did a wonderful job! (And how great is a teen book festival event that centers teens? Super-Great!)

My panel with Cindy Pon and the wonderful teen moderator, Riya!


The faith that our books make a difference. As Alice said on the motivation for her "Pancakes to Parathas: Breakfast Around the World" picturebook, "I wanted to make the world feel smaller."

Kid Lit friends Alice McGinty (left) and Meg Fleming

And most of all the super-engaged audience of readers!

I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of the Bay Area Book Festival 2019. Thanks to Mina and all the festival organizers!

The light in me recognizes and celebrates the light in you,
Lee


Friday, May 3, 2019

Come See Me Tomorrow at the Bay Area Book Festival on May 5, 2019



I'll be in conversation with Cindy Pon,

Someone Like Me: Seeing Ourselves in the Books We Read
Saturday, May 4, 12:45 PM, Florence Schwimley Little Theater
Cindy Pon, Lee Wind, moderated by Riya Kataria

When you open a book, do you see yourself in its pages? Do the characters look or think like you? Cindy Pon fought hard to publish one of the first Young Adult fantasy novels with an Asian protagonist on the U.S. market. Lee Wind’s queer history book was canceled by the publisher for being too controversial, but he found a way to publish it anyway. The two dig into why kids (and adults) need diverse characters and how they fight against the bias and blindspots of the publishing world.

and in friendly competition with Cindy, Zoraida Córdova, and Gordon Jack as part of the festival's YA Literary Death Match!

Literary Death Match
Saturday, May 4, 2:30 PM, Word Power Stage
Zoraida Córdova, Gordon Jack, Cindy Pon, Lee Wind, hosted by Adrian Todd Zuniga

Four authors. Three (teen) judges. Two finalists. One Champion (and all kinds of hilarity in between). Watch these young adult writers perform their most electric writing in five minutes or less as they compete for the coveted Literary Death Match crown. Hosted by series co-creator Adrian Todd Zuniga
**UPDATE as of 3pm Friday, May 3, 2019**

And as a last-minute replacement, I'll also be moderating the YA panel, "War Zone: Coming of Age in Times of Conflict."

War Zone: Coming of Age in Times of Conflict
Atia Abawi, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, moderated by Lee Wind
Sunday, May 5, 2:15 PM - 3:30 PM, Florence Schwimley Little Theater

What do you do when your world is suddenly turned upside down? Growing up is hard enough, but these teen protagonists must cope with loss and navigate violence completely out of their control. Atia Abawi’s “A Land of Permanent Goodbyes” follows Tareq, a kid forced to flee his home in war torn Syria. e.E. Charlton-Trujillo’s “Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution” features Angie, a high school sophomore mourning the death of her sister in Iraq. The three writers will discuss how they write about teenage trauma and resilience, and why these tough-to-write stories are so valuable to readers who need to find hope within their pages.



You can see the full Festival schedule here.

I'm grateful to Mina Witteman and the other festival organizers, and excited to meet young readers at the festival!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Lee

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Another Homophobic Politician Caught Being "Secretly" Gay



Former Rep. Aaron Schock, Republican- Illinois, who

"During his tenure in Congress, the 37-year-old Schock voted against the repeal of "don’t ask, don’t tell" and voted in favor of adding a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. He received a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign for his voting record."

The same Aaron Schock was caught kissing and groping another man on the dance floor at last month's Coachella music festival. It's been on twitter, and facebook, and has been picked up by a few news outlets, including the Washington Examiner article quoted above.

I'm glad people like James (whose facebook post, above, was picked up by the media) called Aaron out on this - if you've actively done harm to the LGBTQ community, you don't get to be 'secretly' queer.

As (now) openly gay politician Barney Frank said,

“...the right to privacy does not include hypocrisy.”

While a news story, this doesn't feel new. Go back to 1979 and you have Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, both leaders of the Christian "ex-gay" conversion group known as Exodus, who left the group to be in a gay relationship with each other. Yup, you read that right. Anti-gay leaders who fell in love with each other...

I think we've gotten to the point where politicians and people who protest too much about other people being queer might be presumed to be queer themselves—otherwise why would they care so much about who other people fall in love with?

Yet, at the same time, it's no great boon to the queer community to have to claim folks who have actively worked against our freedoms as one of our own.

Certainly a point of reference the next time someone's being a real homophobe.

The light in me recognizes and celebrates the light in you,
Lee