Kacen Callender’s new novel takes on Twitter, queerness, & coming of age

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] K.W. Colyard on Kacen Callender (St. Thomas) for Bustle magazine:

In the four short years since Kacen Callender published their first book, Hurricane Child, they’ve carved out a writing career that would take most a lifetime to build, releasing a whopping six novels for children, teens, and adults, earning a Stonewall Book Award, National Book Award, and Lambda Literary Award in the process. And they’re only getting started. In 2022 alone, they’re set to publish three new books, including the YA novel Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution. Ahead of its Sept. 27 release, Bustle has an exclusive first look at Lark & Kasim’s cover (check out the design below).

Callender began writing to create more stories about people like them, and in Lark & Kasim, they’ve done just that. “I have so many marginalized identities, I don’t necessarily get to see myself as a whole,” the author tells Bustle. “Lark is the first time where I’ve put in every single one of my identities — the Black, queer, non-binary, and neurodivergent person.” In the novel, Lark voices a thought that Callender themself has had: “I feel like I have to collect all of my identities as if they’re all Pokémon. I have to catch them all.’’

Also like Callender, Lark dreams of becoming an author. Certain that Twitter fame will land them a book deal, the 17-year-old sets out to gain 50,000 followers. But Lark’s efforts are nearly derailed when Kasim accidentally tweets from their account — confessing his love for an unnamed crush, no less. Fearing they’ll be canceled over the mixup, Lark takes credit, and starts dating their own secret crush, Eli, in the process. Little does Lark know that Kasim’s posts were about them all along. “From the beginning, it’s kind of a joke that Lark just doesn’t get it — and even the cover’s showing that: ‘Y’all are in love, come on,’” Callender says.

Another thing Lark doesn’t get? What it really takes to launch a writing career. “I actually really hope that young writers will read this and realize that you don’t even need a Twitter profile in order to get published,” they say. Social media, Callender warns, can easily hurt rather than help a budding author’s career. “Forget what you think everyone else wants and really write what it is that excites you the most,” they say. “Really trying to [write] what you think your readers are expecting is the biggest block to the story of your heart.” In other words: Trust yourself, and the rest will follow.

Below, Kacen Callender discusses writing about marginalized identities, getting personal in their work, and finding hope in Gen Z. [. . .]

Do young writers need to be cautious about revealing whether they’re non-binary, neurodivergent, or polyamorous?

I think it’s all going to be very personal. I don’t want to give advice for every single individual. I’ve known authors who, within the online community, can talk about their identities without any fear for their safety, but then in their personal communities, they can’t say what their identities are. Sometimes I feel like there are implications that to come out, you have to be brave. Like you’re a brave person if you come out or you talk about your identities, and that’s never really sat well with me because there are people who are really just trying to survive.

So I don’t think that there’s any shame in deciding to not talk about your identities, if that’s something that you feel safe about. But in terms of feeling cautious or having to be cautious about talking about your identities, it’s never been my experience. It’s always been something that’s been welcomed from the publishing side when it comes to my identities. [. . .]

For the full interview, see https://www.bustle.com/entertainment/kacen-callender-lark-kasim-start-a-revolution-cover-quotes

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