Sara Farizan burst onto the YA and LGBTQ scene with her debut novel If You Could Be Mine from Algonquin Young Readers in 2013. The book tells the story of an Iranian girl in love with another girl and considering gender reassignment surgery, and recently picked up two prestigious honors from the Publishing Triangle Awards, the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction and the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction (the first novel ever to take the top prize in two categories). Her follow-up, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, will be out in October from Algonquin.
How did If You Could Be Mine come to be?
I was in graduate school at Lesley University and had been writing LGBTQ YA material, but a lot of what I was writing about had to do with identity. I thought about what it would be like for someone like me growing up in the country my parents grew up in, and understanding that they were gay and the obstacles that come with that.
Have you been following the We Need Diverse Books campaign? What do you hope we’ll see happening as a result?
I have been following it and I think it’s about time for people to express this sentiment. I applaud everyone involved. I’ve said before that I write books I wish I had as a teenager because it is such a gratifying and amazing feeling to see yourself reflected in the media. It made me feel less alone, respected and validated to see people like me getting the love interest or having the adventure. No more token minority sidekick characters just to have them there under the guise of diversity. The “other” folks have stories and we read too.
What would you say to authors who want to explore LGBTQ issues in their work but are worried about doing it?
I worry about everything all the time. It’s exhausting. But I write the stories I write because for me it is so important to try and make readers, especially young readers, think about the world they live in and how they can make that world better. I understand that there are people who don’t like me for things I can’t control or they don’t agree with what I write, but I can’t focus on that. I can focus on the kid in my signing line who says “Thank you for writing books for people like me.” There is no better feeling in the world than when that happens.
What should we expect from Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel?
The protagonist is Persian and gay (shocker), but it is set in a New England prep school and while it deals with similar themes as If You Could Be Mine, it is a lot lighter and there is a happy ending. I promise.