Raise Your Voice 2016 with Jaye Robin Brown

Raise Your Voice is a special annual month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader whose purpose is to celebrate diversity and inclusivity in literature, with a particular emphasis on #OwnVoices stories. In it, authors recommend books with sensitive, positive and accurate representation that will help to create a resource of diverse books that marginalized readers can turn to when they need them most. Your voice matters. Raise it! For a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates, click here.

About Jaye Robin Brown

Jaye Robin Brown, or Jro to her friends, has been many things in her life – jeweler, mediator, high school art teacher – but recently she’s taken the plunge into full-time writer life. She’s a Southerner at heart, by way of Alabama, then Atlanta, and for many years just outside of Asheville, but now she’s moved north for a bit of city living. Boston baby! And though she’d like to think brownstones might find a way into her fiction, she figures kudzu will always be what comes to her imagination first.

Her debut young adult novel, No Place To Fall, came out in the fall of 2014 from Harper Teen. It’s about dreams, singing, friendship, love, betrayal, family, and mistakes. It’s also a love song to small town girls and mountain music, both of which shape the area that Jaye now calls home. In April 2016, a companion novella, Will’s Story: A No Place To Fall Novella, released from Epic Reads Impulse, a digital only imprint, and follows Will McKinney’s side of the story. Her sophomore novel, Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit, released August 30, 2016, also from Harper Teen, and is the story of Jo Gordon, the out lesbian daughter of a moderate evangelical minister and what happens when he marries for the third time and they move from Atlanta to small-town Northern Georgia. It’s a love story and a look at the sometimes conundrum of having faith and being queer.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookPinterestGoodreads

(You can add Crooked Letter i, Coming Out In The South to your Goodreads shelves Here!)

Sometimes it’s hard to find a book that speaks directly to your own experience. For me, unlike the characters in my latest novel, I didn’t come out as a lesbian in high school or even college. I came out in my late-twenties after falling in love with a woman who’d been my work neighbor and confidante and first happily-out friend. Even though I was aware of my innate difference as a teen, things didn’t feel as safe as they do now (depending on where you live), parents weren’t as accepting, some friends didn’t even want to hang out with you for fear they’d be labeled by association, and there certainly weren’t multiple LGBTQIA YA books on major publishing houses lists.

But this year, I stumbled across a book of essays that spoke to my heart. Crooked Letter i, Coming Out In The South is a gem of a book, (the title refers to how all Southern kids are taught to spell Mississippi – M-i-crooked letter-crooked letter-i…) with essays by sixteen queer writers and a forward by Dorothy Allison, edited by Connie Griffin. As I settled in to read, I knew these stories.

Being queer in the South is its own sort of thing. We’re the “special” cousins, or you know “Jaye and her friend.” We’re the ones you call on for design advice or the hard-working choir director at church who doesn’t seem to have a life, he’s so selfless in his gift of music. We duck our heads, we stay invisible, we try to blend in seamlessly into the landscape, never wanting to ruffle the feathers of some of our more volatile and bigoted neighbors or upset the apple cart of the genteel.

Thank goodness times are changing.

These stories, though non-fiction and not categorized as YA (but totally accessible and young adults should read them), gave me a glimpse into all the ways one can claim their queerness while still hanging on to Southern identity. The writers span over a number of generations, and a number of expressions of sexuality — from gender queer Jack in Mississippi, to erotic writer and college professor Jeff Mann in West Virginia, to lesbian pioneer Merril Mushroom who came out in the fifties, a time when gay folks were being arrested all over Florida, simply for living their truth.

What I liked in these pages was the ease of storytelling. The history lessons and stories of current day lives lived fully. The slices of life so varied, yet all carrying the warp and weft of South, queer, religion, family, and isolation. These stories helped me see that I’m not alone and gave me hope. We are out there. We are Southern. And we are queer.

Title Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit
Author Jaye Robin Brown
Pages 432 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance, LGBTQIA
Published August 30th, 2016 by HarperTeen
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.

Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?

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