Juniper Leaves: Upcoming YA Fantasy Book featuring QPoC

Please Support JazzSoandSo’s “Juniper Leaves” Kickstarter Campaign!

Book cover by Aspen Aten

 

What is Juniper Leaves?

Juniper Leaves is a YA sci fi fantasy novel about Juniper Bray, kinky-haired queer nerd, who embarks on a magical adventure in Scotland after losing her grandmother. 

WHY I WROTE JUNIPER LEAVES

“A survey of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013—out of a total of 5,000—found that only 67 were by African-American authors, and only 93 titles centered on black characters. That’s the lowest number of black protagonists since 1994, when the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison began tracking that data. ” Nina Terrero of Entertainment Weekly.

Times, they are-a-changin’ and it is extremely important that our media reflect that. Growing up, I struggled to see or read about many people that looked like me, and I definitely didn’t see many queer characters anywhere. Visibility is a powerful thing and without it, so many kids and teens will go through their formative years developing the thought that they possibly don’t matter as much as the visible do. Juniper Leaves can be just a tiny part of the movement towards positive representations of PoC and queer youth simply because reading it will show how relatable an awkward teen girl can be, no matter her race or sexual orientation.

Read the first 10 pages of Juniper Leaves.

About JUNIPER LEAVES

If you asked Juniper Bray (14) why she ever believed in magic, she’d quickly blame her best friend, who just so happened to be her grandmother. But no more of that; these days magic equals fiction to the kinky-haired dreamer and astronomy geek. That’s because just six weeks ago, Juniper’s best friend died. Now she has to go on a long trip to Freeshire, Scotland with her scientist dad and mourning mom, minus the one person that means the most to her in the whole wide world.

And what’s worse, Juniper’s Scottish host family, the McKinney’s, have an evil fifteen year old daughter named Blair that seems to live to torture her. Don’t worry, their arguments come to a halt when they mistakenly fall into a cave that turns into a porthole to a whole other planet. There, Juniper learns of a sort of magic she inherited from her grandmother giving her the power to teleport. But this power comes with paramount responsibility, making Juniper a protector of the Earth overnight. Juniper’s definitely caught off guard, but she’s intrigued by the task until she learns Blair has been appointed as her secret keeper. Now they have to stick together. Just when it seems Juniper and Blair finally don’t hate each other, they are ambushed by a life threatening mission to save their scientist dads’ research, themselves, and ultimately the world. All the while, Juniper has to deal with the awkwardness of being a teenager, from socializing with the locals to experiencing her first kiss. Juniper Leaves is a magical coming of age story of a girl that learns to let go, live a little, and best of all, believe in herself, all before her fifteenth birthday.

KICKSTARTER GOAL

The money raised with Kickstarter will pay for the editing, the cover art by the brilliant Aspen Aten, e-book distribution, marketing, and the first 150 print copies of my book Juniper Leaves. It’s most important to me that Juniper Leaves be edited grammatically and developmentally at a professional level so that the final product is at its absolute best quality possible. My hope is that anyone interested in reading Juniper Leaves will have the opportunity.

If I meet my Kickstarter goal or happen to exceed my initial goal, I will use any leftover money to purchase additional books, further promote the book, and sell in other venues.

RISKS AND CHALLENGES

There is a risk of not reaching the deadline to release this book before the end of 2014. However, JUNIPER LEAVES is completely written and ready to be edited. Also, I have scheduled how long each part of the publishing process will take. I am confident that if this project is funded it will release before January 2015.

Similarly, there is the challenge of making sure the best product possible comes from this campaign. The reason this Kickstarter is taking place is to make sure the most professional quality work is released so I am hopeful that supporters will be happy with the outcome.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

Join the Juniper Leaves team by donating, telling your friends, or sharing this post! Any donation, big or small is appreciated. Tell two people closest to about the campaign and hopefully they’ll donate as well. If you have a blog, please repost and share info with your followers. Tweet it, Facebook it, talk about it! If we all work together, Juniper Leaves can one day be available to teens and young adults everywhere! So far the campaign has been featured on Afropunk and named a Kickstarter Staff Pick!

The campaign ends October 3, 2014. Let’s make “Juniper Leaves” a reality!

Boihood: The Little Known World of Brown, Queer Masculinity, and the Book that Can Change that

bklyn boihood photo bw

Masculine of center, queer people of color; now is your time.  bklyn boihood  will be curating “Outside the XY: Queer, Brown Masculinity, “  an anthology highlighting the voices of masculine-of-center and/or trans* men of color, to be released by Magnus Books in print and as an e-book by mid 2015.  bklyn boihood is currently accepting submissions of essays, interviews, fiction/non fiction, and literary work of all kinds. No need to be a writer. Simply submit your work before July 31st, 2014, and remember, YOU MATTER.

 

We are teachers, students, doctors, scientists, writers and so much more. Bois of color are everywhere, and we always have been but in mainstream media, we’re no where to be found. And for the 90 percent of people that don’t directly know someone who identifies as transgender or gender queer, it’s almost like we don’t exist. Now with Outside the XY: Queer, Brown Masculinity open for submissions, masculine of center queer people and trans* guys of color have the chance to show ourselves the most authentic way possible–because our stories to the world will be our own.

bklyn boihood phot 2

It’s important that every marginalized community have an established array of stories readily available to the public. For example, thanks to Janet Mock’s best seller Redefining Realness, we’re able to add to the public understanding of the complexity of women that are transgender. When the public doesn’t have a story to connect to when confronted with an unfamiliar image or event, we have the tendency to link it the closest story we can. It’s our humanistic need to categorize; our natural urge to simplify. Right now, there is no go-to-narrative for MoC queer and transgender men of color, so what’s the next best thing to the mainstream?

“I would say that right now there’s this one image of us; this masculine woman that’s essentially getting boiled down to a woman in boy’s clothes. Masculinity gets oversimplified into human beings that are getting misgendered and basically thought of as grown-up tomboys. ” Mo of the bklyn boihood collective stated in a recent interview.

Of course our lives are so much deeper than that. Of course our truths are so much fuller. But until the media knows that, most of the public will be in the dark.

From the growing popularity of the beautiful model Carmen Carrera, to the complex character, Sophia, portrayed by real-life transgender advocate, Laverne Cox on the ever-so-queer Netflix hit Orange is the New Black, it’s wonderful to see the growing support of transgender people of color in our society. Never have we experience so much positive visibility and productive discussion in the media as we are now.

But it must be recognized that in spite of the transgender community growing so strong today, far too many issues persist in the transgender and queer community for us to claim success. We’re not there yet, folks; not by a long shot.

boihood photo

Outside the XY: Queer Brown Masculinity will be a historic continuation of the queer movement, and such a powerful push for queer people of color.

It doesn’t matter if you’re old, young, a professional writer, or someone who feels your story should be told, this is our time to be the facilitator of our own narratives.

 

 

 

Gender and the In Between- A Gender Queer’s Journey

Featured on Afropunk.com and SheWired.com!

As a child, I spoke as few words as possible. The sound of my feminine voice disgusted me. I hated to be called a girl, while loving the color pink. I was a budding genderqueer.

Boys are different from girls, they said.  Fundamentally different, they’d persist. Boys don’t have long hair. Boys don’t like pink. Boys don’t cry and boys are tough. Girls like playing with dolls. Girls do poorly at math and enjoy frilly things.

Boys.  I studied them. I developed obsessions with male classmates with the utter desire to someday become all that they were. I would play make believe with my siblings in which I’d only be satisfied if I took on a male role.  I connected with boys in a way I never could with girls, and never quite understood why. I would wear suspenders as a tween and feel like a boss because they would make it look like I had no chest. When I started to develop, I would wrap myself in a bandage, not realizing that was a trope practiced all too often in the trans community. I would do this until my gender identity was challenged.

“You are so flat,” my very influential peers would say, prompting me to ask my mother to buy me my first training bra.

And then I discovered the internet. I learned about the term transgender. I looked at hundreds upon hundreds of befores and afters, FtMs. Top surgeries, bottom surgeries, hormones. I would read and read until my eyes would blur from my families’ bright Dell desktop screen, and I’d sink in my chair, feeling the emptiness grow inside of me. It was as if the more I searched for myself, the more lost I got. Because I couldn’t avoid my feelings; I didn’t feel fully male.

I didn’t know any trans people in my anti-queer, southern town, and definitely wasn’t going to be the first. So what did I do? I conformed. Like the scared child that I was, I began to present myself as outrageously feminine, so no one would suspect anything strange. It was as if I thought people could see through me, and wanted to give them no reason to use thier x-ray vision to spot my insecurities…or my weirdness.

I fell into a bout of shame, hating my natural femininity because I’d used a false, hyper-femininity as a wall to hide behind for so long. Oh, what a person will do to fit in.

I wanted no more shame, so I turned to the bottomless internet once again, searching for a reason to love myself. I studied femininity and the power of it all. I learned that being feminine does not equate weakness. There is strength in the power of women. In femininity, there is beauty; not the skin deep kind but the unconditional kind.  Through countless articles and books, and studying empowered feminist women like Betty Dobson and bell hooks, I learned to love my female body, and now I don’t want to lose it.

So here I am, yin and yang. Masculine and feminine. I wear my hair long but learned to walk from male role models growing up. The color pink still makes me smile, but I feel like a lie when wearing a dress. I still bind and wear clothes from the men or boys section, and prefer to hide my curves (the little bit that I have anyway). Not because I want to look male, but because it is how I feel most comfortable.

I call myself a boi, a budding term used in the lesbian and queer community, and truly believe if energies were gendered, I would be just that. I have little to no desire to have surgery or take hormones, though I like it when you call me “he.” I don’t mind “she” or “they” because I am that, too. All of the above, please. Sometimes I feel completely male, and wish on those days I had an attractive male body to wear. But most days I feel like both. I know it is confusing. I even confuse myself sometimes, but that’s simply how I feel. I don’t feel masculine enough to be male, nor am I feminine enough to be female. I love and accept my female body, though I ask you to not suspect that makes me a “woman.”

Through my journey, I find that in terms of gender identity, you are what you say you are. A man that wears makeup and has double D’s is still a man if he tells you so. It takes no more criteria than that. What it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman are social constructs, and though the masses follow these standards, you don’t have to. I don’t have to. I prefer to say I am in between genders, masculine of center, and as I feel, I am.

I spoke recently to a dear friend that had a challenging question for me;

“Why don’t you just ignore gender? Why don’t you just be who you are and not worry about what that makes you, be it male, female or otherwise?”

I sat there, stumped and silent, too caught off guard to admit my annoyance. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but this anger boiled inside me. I slowly felt the tingle as my senses returned and I blurted out,

“Because nobody wants to be an outsider!”

I certainly didn’t think before I spoke, but couldn’t ignore the truth behind my words. Nobody wants to be an outsider. No one wants to feel like they belong nowhere. So many queer and trans people walk through their lives never feeling fully human, as if there is something alien about us that no one will ever understand. That is why we search for acceptance. That is why we challenge the gender binary and tell you to call us Zir. We’re fighting for our visibility, because we don’t like feeling invisible. We are not transsexual, we are sometimes not even transgender, but we’re definitely all over the gender spectrum, as a gender “binary”  is all but an illusion.

I’ve wanted to talk about this for a while now, but due to the fear of officially coming out as a genderfuck, I’ve avoided it. But as you see with this whole rant, I don’t care who knows anymore. I am tired of hiding in the binary and this is my way of connecting with all you gender queer and trans folk out there that are not interested in going all the way, on either side of the gender binary. We are the in betweeners, and we’re proud. Finally. 

HBO’s The Out List

    First Published 6/23/13

 

 While doing my usual “what’s gay today” surfing on the Google, I came across a BuzzFeed article that damn near made my heart melt. As of June 27th, we all have the pleasure of watching interviews from the likes of  celebrities like Wanda Sykes, Neil Patrick Harris, and my queen of queens, Ellen DeGeneres as they express their opinions, stories and struggles of being out members of the LGBTQ community in the public eye in the HBO documentary, The Out List.

I can’t even imagine the plight of a queer pioneer. I simply came out to my family and close friends and that was the scariest situation I’ve ever experienced. To think that these people had the strength and fortitude to speak out about something so personal to everyone, in spite of what the reactions may be, blows my mind. Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian right in the midst of a booming career and her very own  television show. There was an immediate backlash from the media and even some of her so-called fans, and her career suffered from discrimination for years afterwards.Up until her admission, real-life lesbians were invisible in the media. No one spoke of them and it seemed easier to just pretend like we didn’t exist. But not anymore.


Thanks to phenomenal queers like Ellen, there’s no longer a need to hide . Look at all the queer representation in film and television now, what with shows like Glee, The New Normal, and arguably Rizzoli and Isles– we’ve come so far as a nation! These celebrities have trudged through the early disapproval and disdain for the LGBTQ community and because of them I am able to write openly today about my queerness and it’s not seen as strange or the sort of thing that needs to be kept secret. So, of course I’ll be catching this documentary when it comes out on June 27th! Gotta pay homage to the pioneers that have made my life just that much easier. And kudos to HBO for making a film about the rising acceptance of gays. They will definitely be on the right side of history with this one.