I am so freakin’ excited to be revealing this cover on the site today, and it’s not hard to see why. LOOK AT THAT MAJESTY. (But wait, not yet! First let me to tell you that this is a cover reveal for a historical YA called Ziggy, Stardust & Me by James Brandon, which releases on August 6, 2019 from Putnam/PRH, and to read on for the blurb and an excerpt!)
The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal—at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.
Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.
A poignant coming-of-age tale, Ziggy, Stardust and Me heralds the arrival of a stunning and important new voice in YA.
And now, a drum roll for the gorgeous cover, designed by Krisitie Radwilowicz with artwork by Tomasz Mro…
Killer, right?? But wait, there’s more! Here’s an excerpt!
When I reach the summit of the crying cliff, I grab a few poofs of PeterPaulandMary and glide over to Web.
Because his eyes have built-in night vision or something, he’s clearly been settled here for seven years waiting for me. Sprawled out on the mossy patch, arms folded behind his head, he’s lost somewhere in the sky. The three-quarter moon shines a perfect white glow on “our spot.”
I flop down next to him, follow his gaze, and KAPOW.
Above us, someone’s plugged in the Lite-Brite, I swear. I’m tingling. More than that, I am the Lite-Brite. And all the plastic pegs inside me zing to life.
I can’t help it. I start giggling. “Whoa.”
“I know, man,” he says, turning to me. “Whoa.”
We lie side by side. The only other sound I hear: our synchronistic breathing.
“Don’t you wish we could go up there?” I ask after a while. “And look back down on all this and laugh?”
“We can in our mind.”
“Like the moon,” I say.
“Like the moon . . .”
I fold my hands under my head, smiling. “You know, Carl Sagan says we’re all made of star stuff. Everything is made of it. When stars die they fall into our atmosphere and turn into these chemical compounds that become things. Sometimes they become people.”
“I know. I hope one day we’ll all see each other without these stupid labels and instead see each other for who we really are. Starfolk.”
“Yeah,” he says. “One day . . .”
“Yeah . . .”
We’re staring. We’re swimming. We’re lost.
“Your turn,” I say.
“My turn what?” he asks.
“It’s your turn. Last time we were up here, I was the one to answer a question. Now it’s your turn.”
“Oh, so this is a continuous game that, what, goes on for our lifetimes?”
“Okay then. Fire away.”
I nestle my cheek in the earth, facing him. “Why do you get so angry?”
“I mean seriously? Sometimes I’m just waiting for your skin to turn green and your muscles to rip through your clothes and you’re going to start eating people like they’re little gummy bears.”
He laughs. “Yeah. It’s a problem.”
His face hides nothing. You can see the wheels cranking, the mind gears spinning. Either he’s about to punch me in my face or—
“You really wanna know?”
“It’s kind of a long story . . .”
His chest grows into a balloon, like he’s taking a deep breath for both of us. “Once upon a time—”
“Wait. For real?”
“Once upon a time?”
“Yeah, man. What, are there rules on how to tell a story now?”
“Okay then, go,” I say.
“Once upon a time,” he starts again, slowly. “There was a little boy. And this little boy loved his father very much.” His eyes glaze over, disappear in the night. “After his mother died, the father taught this little boy everything he knew. They had dreams. To drive across the country and eat a different slice of pie from every diner they could find. To be the first American Indians in space. Together, the father and son were indestructible. They were invincible.” The stars explode in his eyes. His voice drifts away.
“Then one night, driving in the middle of pitch-black nothing, two red and blue flashes appear in the sky. Carole King sings on the radio. A white cop beams a light through the window. The little boy’s father is dragged out of the car.” He yells, punching the wind with his words. “Crunching. Beating. Screaming. ‘Shut the fuck up, Injun, go back to your land!’ ‘This is my land!’ ‘Don’t you talk back to us!’” Pools of sweat drip from his forehead. “More screaming. Crunching. Beating. The little boy crawls in the back seat, curls up, cries. The cops drive away. A huge dust cloud blows all around the father and son. The little boy opens the back door. He looks down. His father lies in a river of blood. His eyes, dilated. The little boy’s superhero was dead.”
It wasn’t sweat dripping from his face.
I want to reach out, but I’m paralyzed.
“From that day on, the little boy vowed to avenge his father’s death. To make the white man pay. And one day—” He wipes his face with his shirt and looks at me. Starburst heat radiates from his body, slapping my face. I don’t move. I don’t blink. I honestly don’t know what to do.
“I win,” he says, and chuckles.
The world skips back to life: Crickets chirp, soft curly moss sticks to our cheeks, the waterfall cascades below us.
“She’s crying,” I whisper.
“Yeah . . .”
Something’s happening. My heart starts fluttering; my stomach starts tingling. Before I can figure out why, he leans in,
and kisses me.
James Brandon produced and played the central role of Joshua in the international tour of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi for a decade, and is Co-Director of the documentary film based on their journey: Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption. He’s Co-Founder of the I AM Love Campaign, an arts-based initiative bridging the faith-based and LGBTQ2+ communities, and serves on the Powwow Steering Committee for Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) in San Francisco. Brandon is a contributing writer for Huffington Post, Believe Out Loud, and Spirituality and Health Magazine. Ziggy, Stardust, and Me is his first novel.