The #YADiversityBookClub May pick:
This month I’m lucky enough to host a Q & A with Becky!!!
Describe your book in a sentence or two.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a gay email love story with a side of Oreos.
What was your inspiration for writing this book?
In many ways, it really feels like Simon’s character just popped into my head! That being said, I think the book was loosely inspired by my work as a clinical psychologist with LGBT teens and gender nonconforming children.
What kind of research did you have to do to make sure your characters were authentic?
I would say my research process began long before I started writing the book. I studied LGBT issues pretty extensively in my clinical psychology doctoral program, and graduated with a formal specialty in child/adolescent therapy/assessment and an informal subspecialty in LGBT issues. I had been working for years with LGBT clients, especially gay boys. Even then, my team and I were careful to get the book vetted by multiple gay readers, to make sure I captured Simon’s voice authentically and respectfully.
How did you come to incorporate the diverse elements in your book?
Simon was always going to be about a gay boy, but there’s this secondary focus on race in the book that snuck up on me! I almost feel as though I was learning lessons about privilege and default identities along with Simon.
How does the diversity in your book relate to your life?
One of the ideas I wanted to explore in the book was that there are certain almost universal experiences and feelings that can be a point of access to the very specific experiences and feelings encountered by marginalized groups. For example, Simon talks about the idea of “coming out” as an experience that can be translated to moments unrelated to sexual identity. But it’s a tricky balance, because it’s so critically important not to trivialize the coming out moment and what it means to members of the LGBTQIA+ community. So, I think there are moments in Simon where the diversity in the book can be viewed broadly in a way that relates to my life (as a straight, white, female author), but there are moments where it can’t – and that’s okay!
What are some of your favorite YA books about diverse characters?
(nowhere near a complete list of my favorites, and in no particular order)
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Gone, Gone, Gone and Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
Ash by Malinda Lo
Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
Far From You by Tess Sharpe
OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu
None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Coda by Emma Trevayne
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
(and a few MG titles I love!)
Better Nate Than Ever and Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle
Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
What areas of diversity do you want to draw attention to or do you feel are underrepresented in books?
I’d love to see more intersectional diversity (characters who belong to more than one marginalized identity). On a personal note, I’d also love to see more diversity of body types, including positive portrayals of fat characters.
Check out the other #YADiversityBookClub posts: