For my very first blog tour, I am thrilled to be hosting debut novelist Mia Siegert. Her new novel, JERKBAIT, is scheduled for an American release on May 10, 2016.
I wanted to host Mia Siegert because the representation of LGBT characters in literature, especially in YA literature, is a dear and personal matter to me. Books like JERKBAIT and authors like Mia Siegert play an invaluable role in the ongoing fight for social acceptance of the LGBT community.
If you are a fan of YA & LGBT fiction, be sure to buy this novel and show your support. If this is the first time you have heard of JERKBAIT, please read the excellent blurb below and start getting excited!
Finally, as a guest poster at Read Diverse Books, Mia Siegert will share her thoughts on LGBT characters, their importance in literature, and how inclusion can prevent bullying.
Even though they’re identical, Tristan isn’t close to his twin Robbie at all—until Robbie tries to kill himself.
Forced to share a room to prevent Robbie from hurting himself, the brothers begin to
feel the weight of each other’s lives on the ice, and off. Tristan starts seeing his twin not as a hockey star whose shadow Tristan can’t escape, but a struggling gay teen terrified about coming out in the professional sports world. Robbie’s future in the NHL is plagued by anxiety and the mounting pressure from their dad, coach, and scouts, while Tristan desperately fights to create his own future, not as a hockey player but a musical theatre performer.
As their season progresses and friends turn out to be enemies, Robbie finds solace in an online stranger known only as “Jimmy2416.” Between keeping Robbie’s secret and saving him from taking his life, Tristan is given the final call: sacrifice his dream for a brother he barely knows, or pursue his own path. How far is Robbie willing to go—and more importantly, how far is Tristan willing to go to help him?
Over the past few years, we’ve seen an influx of diverse characters in YA fiction. Predominantly dominated by white, hetero, able-bodied, Christian individuals, the inclusion of others is critical in order to create a realistic world and minimize prejudices. Some high schools are challenging the canon by assigning books with a broad spectrum of characters to combat this problem, but there are still many educators, and teens, who are unaware of the existence of these books.
With the current political climate where LGBTQ+ rights are challenged, such as in North Carolina where transgender individuals are no longer permitted to use the correct bathroom for their real gender, it is critical to include LGBTQ+ characters and their stories. Hate and hostility is generally born from ignorance. Teenagers are the prime age for education, and YA novels are written for teens (even if adults love these novels, too).
Think about it—if we read books where there are LGBTQ+ characters and see their reality through their eyes, we educate others by default. People identify with characters, especially narrators. High school bullies, if they read enough literature featuring the LGBTQ+ community, will question their actions. If bullies slow down, and in many cases cease their hostile taunts, the repercussions will decrease, such as the degree of depression and suicidal ideation—both of which have correlation to bullying and feeling like an outsider.
Another way to educate some people about LGBTQ+ issues is to create a story with a narrator who fits the traditional “canon” and have their interaction with someone on the spectrum. An example of this is in JERKBAIT, where the narrator, Tristan, is an eighteen-year-old, hetero, white, cis-male although the story is about Robbie, his identical twin who is gay. With two main characters, we see a bond between brothers, friendship, and a teen witnessing what his twin is experiencing while feeling powerless to help. In writing this, I actively hoped that perhaps some hetero allies would perhaps learn ways to help their friends, or even classmates they might not know well in instances of bullying. While some stubborn people who perhaps grew up in a homophobic household might be reluctant to identify with a gay narrator, seeing the repercussions of hate through a hetero narrator might educate them, and, perhaps, give them the bravery to question what they might have been taught.
If just one person can be converted, think about how many targeted LGBTQ+ teens might be spared hostility and anguish. And that alone is worth it.