Our newest GayYA Recommends title is Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown. (That means it’s our next #GayYABookClub read, too!) Georgia Peaches hits shelves tomorrow (8/30) but we still have an ARC & some awesome swag! So we’re doing a flash giveaway. How to enter: Share one reason you’re excited about Georgia Peaches via the #GayYABookClub hashtag. Multiple reasons mean multiple entries, so tweet as many times as you like! A winner will be randomly selected tonight (8/29) at 10pm CST.
If you don’t win a copy, buy yours at a local store tomorrow, or request it from your local library (if they don’t have it, you should be able to suggest the title for them to buy!). Share your reactions as you read on the #GayYABookClub hashtag, and join us for a Twit Chat on 9/14 at 6pm EST.
And now to the interview…! While I was at ALA I got the wonderful opportunity to sit down with Jaye Robin Brown, author of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit. I ended up late to meeting her, as I ended up heading the wrong way in the Orlando heat for several minutes before I finally realized this was NOT the direction I wanted to be going in. Thankfully, we were still able to squeeze in this interview. 🙂
Vee: So, tell us a bit about your book.
Jaye Robin Brown: It’s a YA contemporary and it’s about a girl, Joanna, who has been living in Atlanta with her evangelical radio pastor father since she came out, as a pre-teen. He is getting married for the third time and moves them to a smaller town in North Georgia and has conservative inlaws. And he asks her to kinda lower her freak flag a bit to help him settle into his new marriage. They are very close and she wants to do what she can for her dad, she really loves him. But she also gets the carrot, a promise of a radio show, her own program on his radio station – which is her way… in her mind, she kinda wants to infiltrate and spread her own message. So the carrot is big enough for her to agree, but she does not anticipate meeting Mary Carlson… and finding love. So there’s this conundrum of breaking her promise to her father or going for the girl that has her heart.
Vee: What was the original impetus for this book?
Jaye: I heard a thing on NPR about the insane wealth of radio ministers and I just thought to myself: “What if one of those guys had a gay daughter?” And, well, it ended up not being about the wealth part at all, but that started the idea.
Vee: One of the things that’s really cool about Georgia Peaches is that it takes place in the South There’s not a lot of Queer YA novels like that, especially ones that have characters who like being in the South, or at least like certain parts of it. Can you talk a bit about the decision to include that?
Jaye: Well sure. I’ve lived in South Alabama and I’ve lived in Georgia and North Carolina and I’m queer and I teach high school and I have queer kids at my high school. And faith is a big part of living in the South – wether it’s something you like or not like, it’s there. And as a queer teen coming into your own with your sexuality, it can be really hard. There are progressive churches but there also are a lot of really conservative churches that make you feel less than. In fact, there’s a line in the book that’s like, “Oh, Jesus loves you…wait nope, not you!” And that’s kind of a really mixed message and I wanted to– I didn’t really set out to address that, but obviously it was something I needed to talk about.
Vee: So one of the other cool thing about your book is that Joanna is already out at the beginning. Which like, when I started reading it I posted on Twitter, like “omg!” And then I read the back cover and was like “okay, it clearly says she’s already out,” but… [both laugh] didn’t read that beforehand. But that’s another thing that’s… I mean, we’re starting to see more of it but like, there’s just not a lot about…
Jaye: Right. Well, she was living in Atlanta, and she was at a small private school with a supportive GSA so she was in an environment that was safe for her and she also had this best friend who’s sort of ballsy and brash and kind of paved the way for them. So I think it made sense. I had somebody question why I made the choice for her to have to kinda lie low when she moved to Georgia – and you know, I think that’s a natural thing that would happen. Because that’s a much less safer an environment and it takes a really strong teenager to be able to put themselves out there like that and take those risks, especially in a new place.
Vee: So were there other Queer YA books that you’ve read?
Jaye: Ummm, well I’m old enough that I really loved Annie on my Mind and um, then there’s that horrible one by Radcliffe somebody? I forget the name, and it’s an adult book, but it’s tragic really horribly tragic. [laughs] But really, it seems like recently there’s been an explosion of LGBTQIA* books in YA and I’m trying to read as much as I can. But I didn’t read specifically into that. I mean, I have life experience, so it was very natural for me to write a book about two girls falling in love. And the rest is just, you know, writing is writing.
Vee: When you were writing it, did you have any worries about whether this could be published or not? Were you concerned about that?
Jaye: Well, my first book is not LGBTQIA+. It does have a side character that is gay, but … And I was actually writing a different book, and I got about 20,000 words into it and I just… it was like pulling teeth. And I had this idea of these two girls and I came home from this retreat and I ditched the other story, which was straight, and I started this story and I wrote 10,000 words in a weekend. So I thought I’m gonna write the book, and we’ll see what happens, and I hesitantly asked my editor if she would be open to something like this and she wholeheartedly said yes, and then she left and I had a new editor and he loved it! I have not had any resistance.
Vee: Yay, that’s always good to hear. Okay, well, I think those are all the questions that I have. Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
Jaye: Oh gosh, I don’t know. [laughs]
Vee: I know, I keep asking people that and they’re like “what?!” [both laugh]
Jaye: Well just to say that even though this is a Christian-faith based, it’s not a faith book. It’s more about just that question: Can you have faith – any faith – and be queer? And there are multiple answers within the book, with people that Jo encounters. People might read the description and think, “Oh, a message book!”, but it’s not like that. It’s a romance, primarily.
Vee: That’s really interesting about the faith. At the Stonewall Book awards, Bill Konigsberg talked a lot of about like… that was one of the things he was trying to talk about in the Porqupine of Truth, to be like, queer teens should be able to have access to faith and to God and be able to…
Jaye: Absolutely. I mean if that’s where they want to be!
Vee: Exactly, exactly.
Jaye: And, you know, not all teens may want to be there, but if that’s where you feel comfortable, if that’s where your family values lie… well, that’s sort of become a dirty word, but [both laugh] the right family values.
Vee: Actual family values [laughs] um. Well, that’s really cool. I think it’s really important to tie that in even if it’s not necessarily about that.