So excited to welcome Brooklyn Wallace aka Wes Kennedy to the site today! Her debut novella, To Terminator, With Love, features a fat Asian asexual biromantic male main character and a Black pansexual male love interest, and releases today! In honor of its entrance into the world, I asked the author to write my a post, and voila, she wrote a fabulous one!
Growing up a bisexual aromantic black girl in a Southern Baptist family in a Texas town with a population of less than 1600 wasn’t easy. Growing up a bisexual aromantic black girl in a Southern Baptist family in a Texas town with a population of less than 1600 and being the weird kid into trading cards and theatrical Japanese heavy rock was definitely not easy.
Needless to say, my formative years were the stuff PSAs were made of.
Despite my weird interests that were out of place in my little southern hole in the wall, I was pretty okay with my differences. Being black, I had a hefty extended family that lived in town so I was never really alone. I didn’t get bullied so much as ignored or asked a ton of probing questions. I made a few white friend (“You don’t even sound black!”), and otherwise ate lunch with my cousins and kept to myself. I liked being alone. I still like being alone. Three cheers for dreading human interaction!
The one area I felt weird in was dating. Everyone was doing it, or talking about doing it, or wish they were doing it. When friends would ask I would make up some excuse, or pick a guy at random and just hope they didn’t ask me anymore questions. In reality, I had zero interest in dating. The more I thought about that, though, the more it got to me. I mean, what was wrong with me? I was a teenage girl. Teenage girls date. If Moesha taught me nothing else, it was that.
I knew I appreciated the aesthetic of boys (I still have a Orlando-Bloom-as-Legolas poster in my childhood bedroom), and I would admit to absolutely no one that I appreciated the aesthetic of girls, too (there may or may not be a Rose-McGowan-in-Planet-Terror on my childhood bedroom wall, too).
But can you blame me?Dating, though? Even the thought sounded ridiculous.
So what was wrong with me?
What got me through the hectic mess that was my middle and high school years was books. We had a tiny public library in town, and a tinier school library with a dismal young adult sections. I was one of those kids that read levels ahead of myself (which gave my parents false expectations of me that fueled my spiral into a bottomless pit of C+ college despair, but that’s a horror story for another time), so I stuck with fantasy and sci-fi for my escapism. The Bartimaeus books, Eragon, and Inkheart were stories I read and re-read. In class, at lunch, and sneakily between the pages of my bible in church. You just couldn’t tear me away from lands far, far away.
The first book I ever fell in love with was Nancy Farmer’s Sea of Trolls, the first book in the Sea of Trolls trilogy. I was thirteen and browsing in section when I grabbed it on a whim. I mean, vikings? Norse mythology? I was all in. I read the whole thing in about three days, making myself stop every now and then just to last longer. The story was amazing, and I loved everything it had to give.
What I loved most, though, was what it didn’t have: romance. There’s no romantic subplot in Sea of Trolls. The protagonist, Jack, meets up with a rude, aspiring berserker named Thorgil, but the two become reluctant friends with no hint of anything more.
I had no idea how much I needed to see that until I picked up that book.
Thorgil had no time for boys. She was a shield maiden with dreams of becoming a powerful berserker and one day going up to Valhalla.
Thorgil doesn’t want a boyfriend, I thought to myself during my second reading. She doesn’t want a boyfriend, just like me. Thorgil was strong and determined and so, so cool, and she had no interest in boys. How could I be weird for not wanting to have a boyfriend when Thorgil only had eyes for her sword?
What I found in that book was a kickass shield maiden with dubious morality (like I said, my formative years were wild). I found validation in that story. I remember picking up the second book in the trilogy, The Land of the Silver Apples, with a gnawing sense of dread. What if Jack and Thorgil started liking each other in this one? What if I was wrong?
But nope. Thorgil and Jack met elves, battled evil, and rescued Jack’s sister all without so much as brushing hands. It had felt like I’d won something, which was a big deal, because roughly 86% of my life is dedicated to losing.
Through the long, long eighteen years in my tiny town I scrounged and found pieces of my identity in books. I expanded into libraries town over, broke my mother’s heart when I discovered online shopping, and took advantage of my libraries’ interloan program. Later that year I read Freak Show by James St. James—and I still have no idea how that got through to our library, by the way—and found LGBTQIA representation. I found Sharon G. Flake and was confronted with my own internalized anti-blackness. I read books about powerful black girls and bisexual heroines and weirdos who loved themselves for being weirdos. I found me, and wondered how I ever got through not seeing me for so long.
Later, when I found words for the way I felt, I mellowed. Now I write queer romance novels (Aromantic Romance Author has a ring to it, eh?) and do my best to include a variety of identities into my stories. It’s an amazing experience to write the stories I needed when I was younger, and stories that I still need now, but not everyone has that chance. So many people are quick to call representation in books and shows pandering, but I call it realism. People are diverse, and stories that reflect our lives should be just as diverse.
Somewhere there’s a dorky 8th grader with an unhealthy Rose McGowan obsession wondering if there’s something wrong with them. The stories you tell could help them, even if it’s just one, feel a lot less alone, and isn’t that kind of power amazing?
Brooklyn Wallace (aka Wes Kennedy) is a queer fiction author and starving graduate student from the great state of Texas. She loves libraries, hot wings, Pepsi, Blaxploitation, the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, and kpop. An anxious perpetual sleeper with a penchant for self-deprecating humor, Brooklyn has a soft spot for writing comedies, forbidden love, and nerdy queers.