Tag Archives: Kaleidoscope Song

Better Know an Author: Fox Benwell

New month, new author to meet! And today is a very special day to meet Fox Benwell, because he has a story in the all-#ownvoices disability anthology, Unbroken, edited by Marieke Nijkamp, which releases today!  So let’s get right to it!

It’s September 2018, and that means two things: 1) you have a new short story out and 2) it’s been a year since your incredibly unique f/f YA novel set in South Africa, Kaleidoscope Song, released. Newest things first: What can you share with us about your contribution to Unbroken?

“A Play in Many Parts” is…sort of a Faustus retelling. Or a number of retellings all tangled together and on the page at onceIt’s a love letter to (Marlowe’s version of) the play, and to theatre itself…a tale of bargaining for one more curtain call, whoever you are.

And your narrator is a cane-using enby with chronic pain, dodgy joints, fatigue, and wild love for crafting stories that change people.

For those who aren’t familiar with Kaleidoscope Song, can you tell us a little about it? 

Set in Khayelitsha, Kaleidoscope Song is a tale of first loves (both musical and human), of growing up queer in a sometimes-hostile environment, and of the power that lies in figuring out how to use your voice.

Both of your YA novels, The Last Leaves Falling and Kaleidoscope Song, are set in foreign countries (Japan and South Africa respectively). What draws you to writing about locations beyond your home nation of the UK, and what are your favorite ways to research them?

Honestly, while I’m intensely proud of those books in and of themselves, the world – and publishing – has shifted since I wrote those stories. Everything I’m working on at the moment is much closer to home, and I’d rather concede the floor to own-voices representation, for now.

That said, if you’re going to write other places (or experiences) than your own, research and respect in equal measure are the key. And not just for obvious facts: seeking out the stories and art and food and music and film (and hey, did I mention stories?) of those places and people is a good start to understanding someone else’s perspective, in addition to where your story might lie.

Music is really at the heart of Kaleidoscope Song, which of course means I must ask: what are you listening to and loving right now, and what are your forever favorites?

Oh my godddd, have you heard Grace Petrie’s new album, Queer as Folk? The entire thing is a roller coaster of queer feels. But I’ve had Black Tie on loop for a fortnight and it’s still making me cry. It’s big and hopeful and a little bit heartbreaking, and I love it.

And I’m working on a winter-and-music story right now, which means lots of not-so-Christmassy Christmas music is sneaking its way into my work playlists. Stuff like In Terra Pax, and old, obscure carols and folk songs.

Both The Last Leaves Falling and obviously Unbroken center around disability, as does your academic research. What are your thoughts on the state of disability rep in YA right now, both queer and otherwise? 

How long have you got? No, seriously, my academic thesis will be 80k, and it’s not nearly enough. 😉

We have a tendency to use disability as a (tragic and/or inspirational) plot point, and to fall back on notions of intelligence, ability and beauty of measures of worth or humanity. Sometimes this is big and obvious. Sometimes it’s subtle, in subplots and casual language, but it’s nearly always there.

There are, of course, some excellent books with equally excellent representation! But on the whole we need, quite simply, to do better.

There are some excellent people working on that, and it takes time, and changing societal perceptions of us isn’t always going to be an easy sell. But we must, because right now we’re doing a massive disservice to readers, disabled or otherwise: they deserve better. Consistently. Emphatically. Better.

What are your favorite representations of disability in queer YA, and what would you still love to see?

Everyone should read Unbroken, obviously: so much intersectional fabulousness in those pages.

Jacqueline Koyanagi’s Ascension is totally badass. Rivers’ Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts may be bleak in a lot of ways, but I love it anyway, for the things that it explores. Hannah Moskowitz’s A History of Glitter and Blood is just…so deep and twisty and full of layers.

And I know this is sort of sidestepping the YA thing, but if you’re interested in the intersection of queerness and disability, you should read everything that Kayla Whaley ever writes.

As for what I’d love to see: I had to go back to my shelves to answer this, because my first instinctive answers were all one or the other – queer, or disabled – which clearly means there’s not enough of us multiply-marginalised folks on the shelves yet. We shouldn’t have to think for answers.

You transitioned between books 1 and 2, which came complete with a name change to the fantastic Fox. What was the process of changing your authorial name like, and what advice would you give to authors pondering doing the same?

It was terrifying. And then not nearly as terrifying as I had imagined: I’d somehow expected more pushback than I got. And sure, sometimes there’s a disconnect between books under one name and the next (which eventually will fade, if books go into the next reprints) but it’s worth it. It’s worth it for that first time you see your real name right there on a cover (I did not get that feeling the first time around, under my old name, at all). It’s worth it for not wincing every time somebody talks to you, or every time you sign a book. It’s worth it, because somewhere out there is another kid just like us, for whom it means everything to see that they could live that out-and-proud life, too.

What’s the first LGBTQIAP+ representation you remember seeing in media, for better or for worse?

Uhhh. I think I discovered Boys don’t Cry and Priscilla in the same week O_o.

And 13-year-old me accidentally found the gay erotica shelves in his Borders bookstore and somehow found the guts to buy (and hide) an anthology of ‘fairies and fantasy beasts’ stories. I don’t remember story details, but I do remember the magically right feeling of gender and attraction not being fixed points.

What are you working on these days?

I just finished copyedits for another geeky (D&D/ bathroom rights) story, coming soon, in Stripes’ anthology, Proud

And amongst my current WIPs you’ll find a pregnant trans boy building his kid a new, better world, a story of winter-song and deep dark voices, ace-spectrum rep and QPRs, transitioning, anxiety, neurodivergence, and chronic pain. And also pirates. Because we will populate your shelves with our adventures.

***

Fox Benwell is a perpetual student of the world, a writer, adventurer, and wannabe-knight, who holds degrees in international education and writing for young people, and believes in the power of both to change the world. His in-progress PhD research examines disability in current YA fiction.

He is the author of the critically acclaimed The Last Leaves Falling, and Kaleidoscope Song.

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New Releases: September 2017

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (5th)

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: they’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news is: there’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—an unforgettable day that will change both their lives forever.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Indiebound

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin (5th)

Dear Best Friend,
I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.
Sincerely,
Ava Helmer
(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)

We’re still in the same room, you weirdo.
Stop crying.
G

So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic by F.T. Lukens (7th)

Desperate to pay for college, Bridger Whitt is willing to overlook the peculiarities of his new job—entering via the roof, the weird stacks of old books and even older scrolls, the seemingly incorporeal voices he hears from time to time—but it’s pretty hard to ignore being pulled under Lake Michigan by… mermaids? Worse yet, this happens in front of his new crush, Leo, the dreamy football star who just moved to town.

Fantastic.

When he discovers his eccentric employer Pavel Chudinov is an intermediary between the human world and its myths, Bridger is plunged into a world of pixies, werewolves, and Sasquatch. The realm of myths and magic is growing increasingly unstable, and it is up to Bridger to ascertain the cause of the chaos, eliminate the problem, and help his boss keep the real world from finding the world of myths.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Spinning by Tillie Walden (12th)

Poignant and captivating, Ignatz Award winner Tillie Walden’s powerful graphic memoir, Spinning, captures what it’s like to come of age, come out, and come to terms with leaving behind everything you used to know.

It was the same every morning. Wake up, grab the ice skates, and head to the rink while the world was still dark.

Weekends were spent in glitter and tights at competitions. Perform. Smile. And do it again.

She was good. She won. And she hated it.

For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden’s life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing at ice rinks across the state. It was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But over time, as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life, and whether all the work was worth it given the reality: that she, and her friends on the figure skating team, were nowhere close to Olympic hopefuls. It all led to one question: What was the point?The more Tillie thought about it, the more Tillie realized she’d outgrown her passion–and she finally needed to find her own voice.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren (12th)

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Target * The Ripped Bodice * Audible 

Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story by Sonia Patel (12th)

Seventeen-year-old Jaya Mehta detests wealth, secrets, and privilege, though he has them all. His family is Indian, originally from Gujarat. Rasa Santos, like many in Hawaii, is of mixed ethnicity. All she has are siblings, three of them, plus a mother who controls men like a black widow spider and leaves her children whenever she wants to. Neither Jaya nor Rasa have ever known real love or close family―not until their chance meeting one sunny day on a mountain in Hau’ula.

The unlikely love that blooms between them must survive the stranglehold their respective pasts have on them. Each of their present identities has been shaped by years of extreme family struggles. By the time they cross paths, Jaya is a transgender outsider with depressive tendencies and the stunningly beautiful Rasa thinks sex is her only power until a violent pimp takes over her life. Will their love transcend and pull them forward, or will they remain stuck and separate in the chaos of their pasts?

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Initiates of the Blood by Cecilia Tan (18th)

Mira, a dom in New York City, is delighted when Clive, a one-time playmate, turns up at a BDSM party. When a fire breaks out, Mira frees Clive from captivity; they are rescued by a group of magic-workers calling themselves the Circle of Light. Skeptical, Mira must accept that magic is real when a ritual saves Clive’s life and ties his soul to hers.

Erotic play strengthens their bond and deepens their love for each other…a love they share freely with the Circle, save those who must hold themselves apart from the pleasures of the flesh. Mira’s idyll is shattered when the Circle is attacked by the Partisans of Fire, who want control over the Circle’s ancient knowledge.

Set in contemporary New York, Initiates of the Blood combines sex, blood magic, and romance into a stimulating, sensual, satisfying tale.

Buy it: Indiebound| Powell’s | Chapters/Indigo | Amazon | Google Books | Tor Books

Release by Patrick Ness (19th)

Adam Thorn doesn’t know it yet, but today will change his life.

Between his religious family, a deeply unpleasant ultimatum from his boss, and his own unrequited love for his sort-of ex, Enzo, it seems as though Adam’s life is falling apart.  At least he has two people to keep him sane: his new boyfriend (he does love Linus, doesn’t he?) and his best friend, Angela.

But all day long, old memories and new heartaches come crashing together, throwing Adam’s life into chaos. The bindings of his world are coming untied one by one; yet in spite of everything he has to let go, he may also find freedom in the release.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Books of Wonder

Kaleidoscope Song by Fox Benwell (19th)

South Africa is loud. Listen. Do you hear the song and dance of it? The chorus of Khayelitsha life? Every voice is different, its pitch and tone and intonation as distinct as the words we choose and how we wrap our mouths around them. But everybody has a voice, and everybody sings…

Fifteen year old Neo loves music, it punctuates her life and shapes the way she views the world. A life in radio is all she’s ever wanted.
When Umzi Radio broadcasts live in a nearby bar Neo can’t resist. She sneaks out to see them, and she falls in love, with music, and the night, but also with a girl: Tale has a voice like coffee poured into a bright steel mug, and she commands the stage.

It isn’t normal. Isn’t right. Neo knows that she’s supposed to go to school and get a real job and find a nice young boy to settle down with. It’s written everywhere – in childhood games, and playground questions, in the textbooks, in her parents’ faces. But Tale and music are underneath her skin, and try as she might, she can’t stop thinking about them.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke (21st)

Fortitude Smashed 900px FRONTAfter scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate.

Fate is now a calculation.

But loving someone isn’t.

When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N 

The Love Song of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale (25th)

Victoria “Vix” Vincent has only two weeks to find a replacement fiddle player for her band’s summer tour. When classically trained violinist Sawyer Bell shows up for an audition, Vix is thrilled. Sawyer is talented, gorgeous, funny, and excited about playing indie rock instead of Beethoven. Their friendship soon blossoms into romance, even though Vix tries to remember that Sawyer’s presence is only temporary.

Sawyer’s parents think she’s spending the summer months touring Europe with a chamber ensemble. But Sawyer is in dire need of a break from the competitiveness of Juilliard, and desperately wants to rediscover her love of music. Going on tour with her secret high school crush is just an added bonus. Especially when Vix kisses her one night after a show, and they discover that the stage isn’t the only place they have chemistry.

But the tour won’t last forever, and as the summer winds down, Sawyer has to make a tough decision about her future—and what it means to follow her heart.

Buy it: Riptide

In Her Court by Tamsen Parker (29th)

Newly minted professor Evangeline “Van” Thompson’s academic dreams have turned into nightmares. She can’t wait to escape the pressure cooker of the university to spend the summer at Camp Firefly Falls with her bestie, Nate.

Unfortunately, Nate breaks his leg halfway through the season, and his little sister Willa fills in for him as resident tennis instructor. Van has fond memories of the blonde moppet, but when Willa shows up at camp, she’s not so little anymore. She’s grown into a bombshell and a menace on the tennis court—why do those skirts have to be so short, anyway?

Willa Carter has had a crush on Van Thompson since the third grade but Van’s always been more interested in hanging out with Willa’s older brother. Not much seems to have changed—Van’s managing the camp’s web presence while Willa rocks her tennis whites.

Camp will be closing in a few weeks, and Van’s barely spoken to Willa despite sharing a cabin. But when the two get thrown together to plan the last session of camp, s’mores might not be the only thing getting sticky and sweet before the season’s out…

Buy it: Amazon * iBooks * Kobo

 

Fave Five: LGBTQ YA Set Outside US/Can/UK/Aus

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (Iran)

A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith (Japan)

Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley (Mexico)

Another Word for Happy by Agay Llanera (Philippines)

Kaleidoscope Song by Fox Benwell (South Africa)