Interview: Cristina Black!

Underneath This had the enjoyable experience of interviewing musician and journalist, Cristina Black. In the subsequent paragraphs, please read more about Cristina’s influences, inspirations, and insights about the difference between art and journalism…

Please describe your path to becoming an artist.

I’ve been a writer and musician since I was a little kid, but I think I really became an artist about six or seven years ago, when I started writing songs. You know how you get a song stuck in your head and it drives you insane? That started happening to me all the time, except the songs didn’t exist yet. They were mine! I was writing them in my head and they were killing me from the inside. They were so heavy. I had begun taking ukulele lessons on a bit of a lark, and those tunes made their way out of me through that little thing, that instrument that everyone thinks is so twee. It was scary and painful and almost didn’t happen. I’m so grateful I got there, even to the people who made things hard for me so I would figure it out, because it’s the dreamiest dream.

Who and what are your creative influences?

Lately I’m really into Angel Olsen and Kendrick Lamar, but I always come back to the same people: Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Fiona Apple, Eminem, and anyone who just totally fearlessly puts their bloody heart on the chopping block like, here, take it. I don’t care if people think I’m a diva or a drama queen or a crazy bitch or what. I take it as a compliment because that’s what they say about everyone I look up to.

Your music has been described as similar to that of Nico and Joni Mitchell. What is it like being compared to those classic musicians?

Oh, it’s amazing, of course. But not at all surprising. Classic songs and quirky vocals are my thing.

I really enjoy all of your songs on the “The Ditty Sessions” and “Purple Houses” is especially powerful to me, especially the line, “We will never been children again.” What was it like making that song?

That song is about a conversation I had on a weekend trip in the Catskills with my very best friends at the end of the summer of 2005. My life, at that moment, was as close to perfect as it ever has been before or since. We were watching the news and Hurricane Katrina was in the Gulf of Mexico, swirling toward New Orleans, where all of us had lived or did live. And I just remember thinking, no, please no. But the next day, we woke up to a yes. I actually wrote the song a couple years later, when I was driving around New Orleans appreciating the colorful homes there. I remembered how scared I was that it would all go away.

That line, “catalog of emotion revealing the notion / we would never be children again” refers to the horrible loss of innocence you feel when you see how unfathomably wrong things can go, like a very intense “party’s over.” I remember feeling like that when 9/11 happened too. It’s the kind of instantaneous growing up where you realize things aren’t going to be okay for a long time, or maybe never.

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What inspired “Summer’s Over”?

That’s a funny one for me because when my friends heard it, they assumed I’d had an affair with my married surfing instructor in the Hamptons. But it’s a story I made up where summer is a metaphor for romance: an ephemeral season where things get real hot, and you lose your mind and do things you wouldn’t normally do. You feel free to do silly, sexy things and not think about the consequences. Then it ends and you’re supposed to go back to regular old life? That’s hard to face.

There is a palpable pathos on “When I Think of Christmas.” What was it like recording that song?

Recording it was super fun! I got to work with such cool LA musicians, and we really went to town making it sound like a classic holiday tune. I wrote it for anyone who ever had to get through the holidays with a heavy heart, which is basically everyone.

Is your work feminist? If so, how?

Absolutely. I think gender equality happens when men and women both feel free to be, at turns, powerful and vulnerable. That’s what the characters in my songs, and my life, are like. Complicated. I love it when John Boehner cries. I just think it’s so beautiful. I wish Hillary Clinton could do the same without people bringing up PMS. I mean, I doubt she even ovulates these days.

One person who really bent gender-specific behavior in music was Kathleen Hanna with Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. I love the way she always wore that fire engine red lipstick. She took a product that was invented to please men and used it to draw attention to her mouth, like I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. I always wear red lipstick when I sing, even if I’m recording and you can’t see me.

How do your different social identities influence your music?

In college, my friends called me “the withdrawn observer.” So, there you go.

You are also a music journalist. How does that process differ from writing songs?

In journalism, you’re supposed to tell the truth. In art, you can make shit up.

What feedback do you have for aspiring musicians?

If you’re afraid, that’s good.

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Interview: Bella DePaulo !

Hi. I had the very enjoyable experience of interviewing Bella DePaulo after being quite inspired by her writing an views on singlism. Thanks Bella! Before reading the interview below, please check out the bio sent by Bella:

Bella DePaulo, an expert on single life, is the author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After and of Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Stop It. She also writes the “Living Single” blog for Psychology Today. Dr. DePaulo has a Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard, and has been a Visiting Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara since 2000. Visit her website at http://www.BellaDePaulo.com.

Bella DePaulo

How did you first become interested in doing scholarship and activism regarding singlism?

In an interview that a friend conducted with Bella, she expressed, “For years, I kept a secret file folder of observations of what I would later call singlism. Some of them were stories in the media. Others were my personal experiences. The thing about my personal experiences, though, is that I really didn’t know if they had anything to do with the fact that I was single, or whether there was some other explanation entirely.

For example, when I first started at a new job, my colleagues invited me to lunch during the week, but over the weekends, the couples would socialize only with other couples. Were they excluding me because I was single or because they didn’t want to spend time with me (and felt obligated to include me during the week when they left from work to go out to lunch)?”

Please read more of this interview at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201110/personal-history-passion-single-life-and-singles-advocacy

In your groundbreaking book, “Singled Out,” you cogently identify 10 myths associated with singles. The most emotionally intense is that singles are lonely, tragic, and miserable. I like how you described research to combat that stereotype. What are some ways folks can become involved in activism to work against singlism?

In a post on Psychology Today, Bella recommended,”Are you someone who is willing to engage in conversations about the issues? Keep posting your comments at relevant blogs and other media sites. If you have the time and the inclination, write your own blog (and let me know about it if it is not already on my list).

Lots of stories in online newspapers, magazines, and television sites allow for comments. Jump in and have your say. Whenever possible, post your comments early so you have a better chance of influencing the subsequent conversation. Don’t just point out the stereotyping and stigmatizing of singles – also let writers know when they get something right.

For more ideas, please visit: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201103/stopping-singlism-what-will-work

After being inspired and informed by your work and as a single person myself, I am wondering if there is a more affirming term for “singles.” What are some of your thoughts about this?

I have to confess that I don’t love the term “single,” but I have never been able to come up with something I like enough to use instead. Here’s a discussion:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201104/what-does-single-mean

How do cultural, gender, and national identities affect the experience of singlehood?

I think these are very important distinctions. (I don’t have one article or blog post I can point to that addresses these distinctions comprehensively, but I have written a few articles here and there about specific groups.)

http://belladepaulo.com/2013/03/31/what-do-we-know-about-the-experiences-of-singles-around-the-world/

http://belladepaulo.com/2013/09/02/single-men-are-too-often-marginalized-but-not-i-hope-by-me/

In what ways can politicians reach out respectfully to single voters about issues that can be compelling for them?

Sex and the single voter

Anyone want a few million more votes?

Single voters should rule, but will they?

How has the progress regarding marriage for LGBTQ+ individuals affected the zeitgeist about singles?

A key argument in the same-sex marriage movement is that you should not have to be a certain kind of couple (heterosexual) in order to have access to fundamental rights and benefits and protections. I think all of the conversations around that issue should have made one particular question very salient – why should you have to be any kind of couple in order to qualify for basic rights and protections? Although there have been writings here and there expressing that point of view, they have not taken hold the way I would like them to.

How can workplaces make systemic improvements for people who are not partnered?

Best story I’ve ever read on singlism in the workplace

Creating a singles-friendly workplace: How would you do it?

Enlighten your workplace: From speaking out to buying an office kid

Hey, Singles: Do Co-Workers and Bosses Expect You to Cover for Everyone Else Over the Holidays?

Sabbaticals for singles?

Please describe how you developed the single at heart concept and what has the reaction been to it from readers?

I think it started when someone once asked me how they could tell if they were “meant to be single.” When some people use that phrase, they mean it in a bad way. But I just loved the idea that some people really are single at their core – single is how they live their most meaningful and authentic lives. That’s how I think of myself.

Many people seem intrigued by the idea. People who identify with it, well of course they love it. Others just can’t fathom that there really are any people who really are single at heart – they believe that people who claim that they love their single lives are just fooling themselves.

Please see more here:

http://belladepaulo.com/2013/03/09/single-at-heart-what-do-we-know-about-it/

How have your friends, students, and colleagues responded to your research and advocacy?

It has been a very telling experience. I learned some things about the people around me that were not always obvious or predictable. Some responded very enthusiastically, and that was great. But others were very resistant. I had been studying the psychology of lying and detecting lies before I started studying singles and singlism, and there were clearly some colleagues and even some friends who wished I had just stuck to that.

I understand why it was difficult for some of them, perhaps especially the ones who were coupled. In my talks, I often pointed out ways in which coupled people act in privileged ways and treat singles unfairly, and that did not go over well. What compounded the problem for some of them is that they think of themselves as very progressive people who are not prejudiced or unfair, yet they could see for the first time that some of the ways they thought about and behaved toward single people were not very enlightened.

What has been the most surprising part of your research about singles and singlism?

I can tell you about the most surprising – and discouraging – thing about the work I do in debunking myths about single people: Those myths are entrenched in our culture. We are so sure that getting married transforms miserable, lonely single people into happy, healthy, connected married people that it sometimes seems that no amount of data can dislodge those beliefs. It is especially exasperating to me when fellow scholars, who should know better, eat up these myths.

What was it like collaborating with other authors to publish, “Singlism; What It is, Why it Matters, and how to stop it?”

I loved doing that. On my Living Single blog, I put out a call to readers to contribute. Some published authors responded, but so did some people who had never published before. One of the things I loved about the result was the variety of perspectives and experiences and domains of singlism that were explored, from religion and politics to teaching and research and the workplace, the marketplace, and the media.

I just learned of National Singles Week even though it is about as old as I am. Are there ways you commemorate it? How can the media increase visibility of it?

Part 2: Taking singles seriously – in a fun way

What are some examples of positive media images of people who are single?

In a blog post, Bella indicated, “Before the 60s, producers worried that a single woman “would fail to carry a series and capture viewers’ loyalty.” As the number of single Americans continued to climb, though, single women (usually called “girls”) began to be cast in lead roles. Concerns about viewer loyalty were forcefully addressed by the success of series such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, That Girl, Charlie’s Angels, Cagney and Lacey, The Bionic Woman, and many more.” To learn more, please read the link that follows and the subsequent ones:


Before ‘Mad Men’: Single women take 1960s and 1970s television by storm

Skimpy attire but strong messages: Single women in popular media in past decades

The movie ‘Brave’: Has Disney gifted us with a princess who is single at heart?

In sitcoms, singles are not alone; in movies, marriage…

Bite me? That’s what TV and movie romances do

Has the media in the United States made progress in its portrayal of those who do not wish to partner? If so, how?

Singles rule! The surprising media phenomenon of 2012

5 sweet somethings for singles: Enlightenment is so delicious!

What future projects you are considering?

I really want to learn much more about people who are single at heart, so I will be continuing to do research on that. I have also been interviewing people about innovative ways of living and how we all find our place, our space, and our people. http://belladepaulo.com/2013/07/07/new-book-project-is-on/

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Musician/Author Interview: Laurie Lindeen!!

Laurie Lindeen is the author of the memoir PETAL PUSHER. Her work has appeared in the anthology DRINKING DIARIES, The Huffington Post, and the Morning News. She teaches creative writing in Minneapolis.

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I was really moved by your path to becoming a musician and your overall view on life in “Petal Pusher.” What inspired you to write this memoir?

I was initially moved to write this memoir to figure out what, exactly, happened during a very fast-moving and confusing period of my life. I seem to do my best thinking when writing.

What were reactions of friends, fellow musicians, and your family to the experiences you described? Were there any surprise reactions?

I gave my family and band members galley copies of the book
before it was printed. Not all of them loved some of the topics I
chose to write about, but everyone okayed it ahead of time. I tried
to be tender, and I most certainly did not “tell all,” I just tried to shape a cohesive narrative, which is all about choice

You wrote, “sometimes it seems like the more you do, the more you’re capable of doing.” How has this perspective influenced you?

I seem to be at my most productive creatively when my calendar
is crammed full. I’m sure there is some reverse psychology at work there.

In what ways is your art feminist?

My art is feminist because I am female. Natch.

I appreciated your essay on 2004 about Liz Phair. What do you think of the media coverage of women in indie and mainstream rock since the early 90’s? Has there been progress? Regression?

It seems like women have to be tartier, more perfect, and
less outspoken to get noticed these days, so I guess things have regressed.

What do you think of The Replacements’ reunion?

I’m all for Paul & Tommy playing those great songs together.

Who are your creative influences these days?

I’m creatively influenced by all of the interesting people I encounter in every day life or by reading a really fine book.

Laurie's recommended memoirs shelf at Magers & Quinn bookstore in Minneapolis

Laurie’s recommended memoirs shelf at Magers & Quinn bookstore in Minneapolis

On what projects are you currently working?

I wish I knew what I was working on exactly; I seem to be circling
around a couple of different manuscripts, neither of which has revealed themselves to me through the writing.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

My advice to young artists is to set realistic goals, practice, practice, practice and don’t take yourself so seriously.

Artist/Educator Interview: Josh Rivedal!!

Before reading Underneath This’s interview with Josh, please read some more about him and his work:

Josh Rivedal moved from New Jersey to New York City at the age of 21 to tackle the world of fame, fortune, and the Broadway stage…in what he thought would be a stepping stone to Hollywood and a star on the walk of fame. Eight years later and through a series of remarkable life events, a bad economy, and mixture of collegiate and self-education; Josh reinvented himself as an international public speaker, author, playwright, theatre producer, educator, business consultant, and entrepreneur.

Josh wrote and developed the play, The Gospel According to Josh for the commercial stage and launched a second version accompanied by youth suicide prevention advocacy and education which is currently touring the United States and Canada. He has been published in Personal Branding Magazine as a co-author with Vikram Rajan on an article entitled The Art of Entrepreneurship vs. The Entrepreneurship of Art. He also writes for the blog The Arts Entrepreneur and The BLOGospel According to Josh . As an actor, favorite roles include Richard Loeb in Stephen Dolginoff’s Thrill Me, the voice of Hippo in Scholastic’s Rabbit and Hippo In Three Short Tales, and the narrator of Julianne Moore’s Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully.

Josh is the founder and President of Artful Coaching Resources—a business coaching and social media and content marketing consulting firm for arts professionals and small business owners.

He currently serves of the board of directors for the New York City chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and as an advisory board member for Elijah’s Journey: A Jewish Response to Suicide Prevention.

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Please describe your path to becoming an artist and educator.

My desire to work professionally as an artist came first. I’ve been singing since six years old, and television practically raised me. Initially, music and acting were used as an escape from an undesirable childhood and poor self-esteem. When I started to work professionally in music and theater at the age of 19, I enjoyed the creative process behind what I was doing. Playwriting soon followed because I wanted to be more in control of the finality of the creative process. Being an educator came much later, but it was a natural progression. Teaching and engaging with the student is an art in itself. I use theater to educate on suicide prevention, mental wellness, bullying, and black history. I also educate arts professionals on how to manage their careers as a business. The way I educate is a perfect amalgamation of my interests: sociology, writing, performing, teaching, social responsibility, business, and marketing.

What has it been like performing such personal and emotionally vulnerable experiences in the “Gospel According to Josh?”

It’s been one of the best experiences of my life. The show and everything surrounding it has given me so much. I wrote the piece over a six month period, in 2009-10, only a few months after my father’s suicide. It helped transform me as performer, writer, and person. I think you might be asking if it’s been difficult to perform on a consistent basis, a show that includes my father’s death. This is a question that I get a lot. I would say, in general, the piece is difficult to perform because it’s me on stage for more than sixty minutes, I’m playing 30 characters, and the mood of the play ranges from poignant to comedic to perseverant.

How have audiences (family and friends included) reacted to your performance?

Have there been any surprises (in any direction)? The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Family was difficult to perform for because the story is so personal. They have different opinions than I do on the subject matter and if we were all playwrights, we’d each have a different play. However, they were very supportive of my work. The press reviews have also been favorable. Surprises? My old self may have been surprised that so many people have come out of the woodwork to help me get the word out about the show and spread its message. But in my current mindset, I believe that I’ve manifested the goodwill and support from others by working hard at my art, but more so being someone who actively works to help others without keeping score. It’s a delicate karmic balance that I don’t wish to interrupt or jinx by calling too much attention to it.

How has it been working on the book version of the” Gospel According to Josh?”

Put simply, it’s been the bomb. The book is being published in September 2013 and at that point I’ll have been working on the project for twenty months. I’ve grown so much as a writer while putting this piece together. Four of the book’s first five chapters are similar to the play but the final fifteen chapters go further and expound deeper. I’ve read so much fiction, other memoirs, and a bit of non-fiction as well which has helped me develop my unique style. There are a few things done in this book (i.e. using the fragments of one’s mind and conscience as a set of three comedic and mercurial voices on the page) that I’ve never seen done before. I’ve also come to a resolution on some of the personal matters discussed throughout. I’m a better person because of this book, and I think people who read it will feel the same way (and will find it entertaining as well).

In what ways do your different identities affect your work?

These days, I always want to have an idea of what will sell. If one creates art in a forest and no one is around to see/hear it, is it truly art? If I create something—whether I’m writing or producing a play, musical, or book—I want to know if a sizable amount of people will enjoy it. I’m a professional and I need to make some sort of living at my craft. Otherwise, it’s a hobby, and there is definitely a place in the world for that, but not right now for me. I also try to incorporate some sort of message or overarching societal issue as a theme to anything I write (even if it’s on a small scale). And I try to include a philanthropic or charitable angle when I’m producing a piece of work. It’s always a good idea to align with an exceptional cause.

I commend you for becoming involved in youth suicide prevention. How do you balance humor with more serious messages in this context?

You can’t be flippant about the actual causes and effects of suicide. The humor involved in the work I do generally involves self-deprecation (unrelated to suicide) and waxing philosophic on themes that have permeated my life that other people can relate to. Using humor this way is a carrot of sorts to string along the casual social activist and those who wouldn’t otherwise be involved in suicide prevention. Another point—everyone deals with grief in different ways: desolation, isolation, and even comedy. I, personally try to diffuse difficult situations in my life with humor. That’s my process.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Work harder than you think you’re able to achieve what you want. Surround yourself with people who are smarter and more talented than you. Be willing to make certain sacrifices to ensure your success. Be open to constructive criticism without taking offense. Know what success looks like to you. Have clear-cut goals and set deadlines. You may not always meet your deadlines but setting timelines will help you achieve more than you would have otherwise. Learn something about how to market yourself and your work. Be persistent. Be willing to pivot, i.e., if you’re not achieving the level of success you desire, use the skill set you’ve acquired as an artist to find equally challenging and creative employment. Be trustworthy. Follow through on your word always. If you make a mistake, apologize and rectify it. Think about long-term relationships over shortcuts. Be on time. Ask others how you can help them and do it often. Network in and outside of the arts. Be a voracious learner. Read often. Take breaks—Rome wasn’t built in a day.

On what other writing projects are you working?

I’m currently working on writing the book (script), additional lyrics, and some music on a new farcical Spanish language musical Rescatando la Navidad, playing Miami, Florida and Austin, Texas for a five week tour during Christmas 2013. I’m also co-writing a play with music tentatively titled Following the Drinking Gourd which will make its premiere in January 2014. I’m also ghost writing on a few smaller projects!

Author interview: Tommy “Teebs” Pico !

Tommy “Teebs” Pico is the driving force behind birdsong, an antiracist/queer-positive collective, small press, and zine that publishes art and writing. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in [Pank], Barrelhouse, theTHE poetry blog, and Bomb magazine. Originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation, he now lives in Brooklyn.

For more information about birdsong and to help with donation efforts, please check out these links:

and

http://heyteebs.tumblr.com/

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What was the process of becoming a writer and editor like for you?

I first started writing in kindergarten, when my teacher asked us to make book marks with drawings on the front side and words on the other. I drew mermaids, and on the back I just wrote words that I knew, which were “THE AT IS THE THE THE.” I became an editor in fifth grade when I asked friends and cousins of mine to draw comic strips for me, which I copied and bound and sold as “Tommy Gunn Comics” for a dollar. I don’t know why I added the extra “n.”

How are you inspired when writing? Who and what have been your influences?

I am most inspired by film, because it’s this thing that starts and finishes in an hour and a half, whether you are paying attention or not. At the moment my primary influences are Sherman Alexie, Ariana Reines, and Jean Seberg.

How did you decide to organize Birdsong Collective? How has the experience been so far?

I started Birdsong because I knew (and know) a lot of really talented people who were (and are) making a lot of really incredible work, and I wanted us to be making it together. So far it’s been like a souffle or something. It’s really delicate and it keeps rising and I want to be careful and make sure it’s just right. Continue reading

Author Interview: Vanessa Taylor!

Today’s dating landscape has drastically changed. People are increasingly relying on texting as a means to start — and sometimes end — their romances. But, how does one navigate the waters and achieve results that lead to dates? Well, I interviewed Vanessa Taylor, dating coach, author of Text. Love. Power.: The Ultimate Girls Relationship Guide to Texting and Dating in the New Millennium and blogger at Platinum Girl Celebrity Blog. Check out what she had to say!

How has text messaging influenced heterosexual romantic relationships?

For men and women alike, it has made relationships very casual. People are having a lot of their communication take place over text — everything from planning dates, having arguments, to breaking up. People spend more time getting to know each other over text instead of out on dates. That is why in my book, Text. Love. Power., I recommend that women limit the “pen pal” conversation with men. If he isn’t asking her out on a date or otherwise doing something to move the relationship forward, he’s a time waster. She doesn’t need to respond to every text to keep his attention. If anything, it helps if she doesn’t.

What are the similarities and differences between feminine and masculine communication styles in heterosexual romantic relationships?

The only similarity when it comes to texting is that both men and women like the convenience. One excuse I hear from people who have thoroughly embraced texting is that they, “just don’t feel like talking.” Overall, though, the communication styles are more different than they are the same. Most men don’t like to have long conversations over the phone or call every day. On the other hand, many women become nervous when they don’t hear from a man every day or he cuts the conversation short. The advice I offer is pay attention to whether he asks for plans. A man might not be interested in chatting with a woman on the phone like her best girlfriend would. But, what matters is that he’s setting dates. If he’s calling everyday but not setting dates, that’s a very bad sign and a woman shouldn’t be too hopeful about the relationship.

Author Interview! : Matthew Aaron Browning

MABrowning

Please read below for an interview with Matthew Aaron Browning, an author of gay-themed YA fiction who lives in Charleston, W. Va. He is represented by Stephen Fraser at the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency. Learn more about him at www.MatthewAaronBrowning.com.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? What was the process like?

I was fourteen years old when I “knew.” I used to write and draw these little comic books about the students and teachers at my junior high school. They were quite inventive, and I still kick myself for not holding onto them. It was just something I did for fun. I also began writing poetry during that time. I was confused and lonely and in need of an emotional outlet. Writing provided that and helped me through a tough adolescence. Finally, I was blessed with some teachers who showed me the value of writing as an art form. So becoming a career writer was always this far-off dream I thought of while I went to college and worked a day job, writing in my bedroom at night. I didn’t really start thinking of myself as a “Writer” until I got an agent. That’s a mistake. You’re a writer the minute you start writing.

How do your identities influence your writing if at all?

I write fiction, but I focus on gay-themed fiction. So who I am and my experience bleed into my writing constantly. For instance, I grew up a lonely gay kid in a little coal town, and my first book is about a lonely gay kid in a little coal town! Granted, my protagonist’s journey is more exciting than mine was, but there’s a lot of me in there. You’ve heard the old adage “write what you know”? I used to think it was silly, because if we only wrote what we knew, we’d be awfully limited, wouldn’t we? But I’ve stopped saying that now, because it makes me a bit of a hypocrite. I’m always mining my past and present for inspiration and using pieces of my life in my work. I don’t want to box myself into a category, but I enjoy writing about gay characters. We need more good books about them. Continue reading