Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim with Jacob Budenz

Hello!

Today we meet Jacob Budenz and we’re talking about the book that saved their life: Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris.

Jacob is a true multi-hyphenate: musician, author, performance artist, director, and witch. Jacob published their new book Tea Leaves in 2023 and is the front person for the band Moth Broth.

Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim is an essay collection where David Sedaris lifts the corner of ordinary life, revealing the absurdity teeming below its surface. His world is alive with obscure desires and hidden motives — a world where forgiveness is automatic and an argument can be the highest form of love.

Connect with Jacob

Website: jakebeearts.com
Instagram: @dreambabyjake

Our Bookshop

Visit our Bookshop for  new releases, current bestsellers, banned books, critically acclaimed LGBTQ books, or peruse the books featured on our podcasts: bookshop.org/shop/thisqueerbook

To purchase Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim visit: https://bookshop.org/a/82376/9780316010795

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Credits

Host/Founder: J.P. Der Boghossian
Executive Producer: Jim Pounds
Associate Producers: Archie Arnold, K Jason Bryant and David Rephan, Natalie Cruz, Jonathan Fried, Paul Kaefer, Nicole Olila, Joe Perazzo, Bill Shay, and Sean Smith
Patreon Subscribers: Stephen D., Stephen Flamm, Ida Göteburg, Thomas Michna, and Gary Nygaard.
Creative and Accounting support provided by: Gordy Erickson
Permission to use clips from the tracks Baba Yaga and Fairy Queen performed by Moth Broth provided by Jacob Budenz.
Audio clip from Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim read by David Sedaris is used here under the Fair Use doctrine for the purposes of literary commentary and criticism.
Music and SFX credits: visit thiqueerbook.com/music

Quatrefoil Library

Quatrefoil has created a curated lending library made up of the books featured on our podcast! If you can’t buy these books, then borrow them! Link: https://libbyapp.com/library/quatrefoil/curated-1404336/page-1

Transcript

[theme music]

J.P. Der Boghossian
Hey everyone. Question for you do you like your voice? That seems like a dumb question. No one likes the sound of their voice.

But for queer people, there is a complication in it. If you sound gay, you can get punched. Ridiculed. Or, hearing your voice can trigger gender dysphoria.

And what did you do when you were a kid and you heard an obviously “queer” voice quote on quote for the first time? Was it exhilarating? Scary?

When we talk about coming out, part of that process can include taking ownership of and loving your voice…which can be a healing process all on its own.

Today, we’re talking about our voices. On multiple levels. Not just hearing your own voice, but how you connect to queer voices, how you tell your own story, how you sing your own music.

My name is J.P. Der Boghossian. You’re listening to This Queer Book Saved My Life – a GLAAD Media Award nominee for Outstanding Podcast

[clip of the song Fairy Queen by Moth Broth]

[music fades]

J.P. Der Boghossian
That clip is from the song Fairy Queen by Moth Broth which is fronted by our guest today Jacob Budenz!

Jacob Budenz
I’m Jake or Jacob Budenz. I am the author of Tea Leaves and the front person and collaborator of psychedelic pop band Moth Broth.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Moth Broth is known for their signature which they call “psychedelic witch pop,” filled with whimsical camp and recently performing with Xiu Xiu SHOO SHOO, Talk Bazaar, and Bottled Up. Moth Broth is a collaborative project going back nine years.

Jacob Budenz
It was founded inIt was originally me and my friend Greg, who runs a really cool oddity shop called Bazaar in the Hamden neighborhood of Baltimore. And yeah, we just wanted to make like weird witchy music together. We were joined by our friend Jason inAnd yeah, I’m like the singer and lyricist and Greg does a lot of the heavy lifting with music stuff and we work on the melodies and stuff together.

And yeah, we’ve kind of like taken flight. We’re finally like in the world making music at the scale that we’re excited about. So very, very excited about that.

[Baba Yaga fades out, curious light hearted music fades in]

J.P. Der Boghossian
Jake is a true multi-hyphenate – a musician, performance artist, director, and writer. Jake recently published Tea Leaves which I absolutely adored. I’ll gust about it later in the episode. Tea Leaves is a short story collection that places queer characters in fantastical situations like when a witch brings their mortal partner on a hunt for a sorcerer or when an octopus traps a gay medieval scholar in a bathroom. The fantastical derives from Jake’s perspective on the link between witch craft and creativity.

Jacob Budenz
I grew up very Christian, but I was always, like, obsessed with crystals and fantasy books and fairies and, like, talking to plants and astrology and stuff like that. At some point in college, I got really into the idea that artists are all witches, basically. I got into kind of studying esoteric spirituality and stuff like that. So I do have kind of a personal practice that I, you know, was kind of for me. And then a lot of my art is informed by the esoteric. And I consider that to be spell craft as well. I’m huge on the idea that the act of creativity is sort of the act of spell work or that the recitation of a poem or the performance of a play or anything like that is like a series of ritual actions meant to achieve sort of hidden results or results that are not intrinsically related to the actions themselves. So that’s magic to me. That’s witchcraft.

J.P. Der Boghossian
And that will inform much of conversation today the spell that queer voices can cast. Here’s my conversation with Jake.

[music fades]

J.P. Der Boghossian
So Jake, what is the book that saved your life?

Jake
So the queer book that saved my life is Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris. I believe it is the first queer book of any kind that I ever encountered. I was about years old. So yeah, and I will get into it, but the reasons that it saved my life are as much personal as they are. Obviously the quality of Sedaris’ work is, you know.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Wow.

Jake
of unimpeachable, but it saved my life in a lot of ways because of when and how I encountered it and with whom and all of that. But yeah, dress your family in corduroy and denim.

J.P. Der Boghossian
So David Sedaris, as a collection, how would you describe it to folks who haven’t read it yet?

Jake
Yeah, it’s kind of classic humorous essay writing, I would say broadly dysfunctional family memoir comedy, but the narrator is gay. And, you know, for me and my Christian reality in, you know, or whenever it was, that was pretty wild and pretty radical. So yeah, it’s pretty much classic dysfunctional.

family memoir stories that are funny and told by a gay person, which is cool.

J.P. Der Boghossian
I have to know how did a David Sedaris essay collection come to you at ?

Jake
Yes, so here we go. I have some notes about this because there are some details. There are some important details. I talked to my family about it too. Okay, so I listened to it as an audio book on the way to North Carolina. I sort of remember being sandwiched between my older siblings in the backseat of my parents’ impala. It’s possible that my dad wasn’t driving with us and that wasn’t the case, but.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Hahaha

Jake
Basically, my mom was a huge audiobook head, a really early adopter of it, back when they called them books on tape and it was like a bajillion cassette tapes. So she’d normally, yeah, she was really, we would go on road trips basically and she would just put audio books in. And they weren’t like audio books for the family, they were audio books for mom, they were adult books. And an important detail about this is that,

J.P. Der Boghossian
That’s right.

Jake
she would fast forward through scenes that she deemed inappropriate. Like if there was a sex scene, she’d be like, oh geez, and she would fast forward it and it would be like, and then he stuck his, like, um, so that’s an important detail, uh, when it comes to this story because I, you know, grew up in this very religious environment and, you know, my parents were not, as I would say, radical and intense as a lot of people’s parents.

were. So although I grew up internalizing the message from the church and other people and my school that my sexuality and writ large gender identity were kind of foul, when Full House came on, which is really the story that changed my life in that collection, it’s a story about basically him going to a sleepover with other boys and feeling very nervous and uncomfortable and worrying that people would kind of find him out.

And it was the first story in the collection that I think I realized, A, that we were listening to a man, no offense to David Sedaris, but B, that this was a gay book. And it’s important, the thing about fast forwarding is important because it was a very gay essay and my mother did not fast forward through any of the content in it. So even at , it kind of communicated to me like, oh, well, my mom doesn’t think this is inappropriate.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Really?

Jake
Um, so it was a really intense experience because I obviously, I wouldn’t come out for over more years to my whole family, but so I’m listening to this like sort of deeply relatable, not the sleepover aspect of it, but fill in the blank with like changing in the locker room after gym class or, you know, being on a cross country meet trip and being like, are any of these

boy is gonna realize that I’m attracted to them and then beat me up or whatever. So it was deeply relatable to me. It was so much so that I was like had a game boy or whatever and I was like really pretending not to be paying attention to it because I was like, even at the time I was like, if people, if my siblings and my mom noticed that I’m paying this much attention to it and that I’m interested in it, maybe they’ll like figure me out or whatever. So in that sense, it was like deeply uncomfortable to listen to it with my family, but also we continued to listen to the whole book and we were just like rockously laughing together about it and like all loving this book together that was by a gay person.

And I was like, whoa, we all, like my mom and my siblings like this guy and they all know that he’s gay and he. also has like a successful and happy life. And so that just all of that as a confluence in retrospect was like huge for me, especially listening to it with other people. And again, I didn’t necessarily come out for years and years, but it was the first of a number of ways that I think my mom had my scent about what I was and also that it was okay. So that was like, it was huge to have experienced that in that context and just huge to listen to a gay book that was like good and successful and taught me a lot about humor writing and stuff.

J.P. Der Boghossian
So help me, when I hear “Christian,” I immediately thought that she was going to fast forward through that particular essay. And you’re saying that maybe she knew, right, that you may or may not be, you know, queer. And so she lets the car listen to it. Help me reconcile those two things. Like your faith tradition was obviously saying one thing, particularly the Christian tradition.

And then your mom is going, well, no, we’re going to listen to this. And I think it’s important for my, for my child to hear it.

Jake
Yeah, it’s an interesting aspect of my mom’s background that I think was really, again, just helpful in how coming out went with my family because my family writ large, not so much my siblings, but my parents and their parents and their siblings and all of that hold for the most part very conservative views. But on this particular point, my mother I think had always sort of diverged from the church. And a lot of it, I’m not saying it’s entirely because of this, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that when my dad was in college and medical school in the s, my mom

worked at a lot of restaurants during the AIDS crisis and her closest friends in these contexts were gay men and a lot of them died or had partners die and I heard my mom talk about that over the years of just being like they deserved better they deserve better and so in a way it’s almost like where my mom was working through the AIDS crisis kind of saved my life but yeah she

she had always just diverged with the church on this and she would say things kind of in earshot like when she would have people over for dinner or whatever knowing that my siblings and I could hear she would say things like oh I always just want all of my kids to know that if any of them was gay it would be okay and they could tell me she did this like over the years and I think it has a lot probably to do with her formative work experiences but

Also, my mom is a very headstrong person and we’re all that way. We’re all pretty headstrong, but she’s very devout and very religious, but she’s also not one to be told what to think about things and how to believe in things. And so, yeah, it was kind of a confluence, but this was the first time that my mom kind of signaled to me that gay people are fine and they’re people and they’re just as funny or important or valuable as anybody else. So I don’t know that she was consciously like, oh, I’m teaching my kids a lesson by making them listen to this. But she definitely signaled that it was not inappropriate or that she didn’t deem it inappropriate. So that was kind of surprising to me too.

J.P. Der Boghossian
As you’re saying that I’m kind of reflecting, I’m one of the last Xers. And so my puberty was literally coming of age and experiencing these same gender attractions right when HIV and AIDS was, the pandemic was exploding and the tragedy of that and the fear of that and the being in a Christian household, the stigmatization, my experience of that was much different. It was, you know, “they deserve this,” right? I’m curious then, what was -year-old Jake, what was the milieu, if you will, that you were experiencing? Like, how were you making sense of, well, I mean, first of all, did you understand yourself to be queer? Like, how were you understanding yourself at that time? And then what were you navigating?

Jake
Yeah, so the gender stuff I came to understand much later in life, I’m still not sure that I necessarily understand it, but as far as attraction to boys went, I was absolutely keenly aware from a very young age, and I was also keenly aware that it was something I should be ashamed of. And again, this is less because of my parents and more just

you know, we grew up going to church, and I mean a lot of church, like Sunday school, youth group, Bible study, starting in fourth grade up until th grade we all went to a Baptist school, which in its own sense, and I’m, you know, I don’t hold it against my parents, I think in some ways going to a Baptist school in Miami I was probably safer as a queer person than I would have been at like a regular school, but in other ways it’s like over and over you are internalizing the message that this thing is wrong. And we had to sign like a rules handbook every year at my school that included a stipulation that if you were found to be a quote, practicing homosexual, you would be expelled from school. And when I was in middle school, actually this is really dating myself, but when MySpace was a thing, there was this whole kind of witch hunt of people having inappropriate stuff on MySpace. And I had a few friends who, had that they were gay or bi on MySpace and they got kicked out of school in the middle of the year. So yeah, for different reasons, you know, not for sexuality reasons, but my sibling was going through kind of a punk emo phase at the time, so she didn’t get in trouble, but she got kind of called in.

For having kind of racy stuff on her MySpace. That was, you know, she was just into like edgy emo goth stuff and my school was like, we need to have a talk with you. So my mom was aware of the MySpace thing by way of my sister and she was obviously, my mom was like livid that they had even not mad at my sister, livid that my school had like pried into their students personal lives outside of school and stuff like that. So she was aware of this.

But as far as the gay stuff went, I mean, I never mentioned that any of my friends got kicked out of school because of their sexuality, nor did I mention that it was fucked up that they had this stipulation in the student handbook because obviously I didn’t want to like flag that I had my… that this was on my radar.

J.P. Der Boghossian
I was going to ask about that. Like, did either of your parents know about what was, what was in the handbook and that you were having to sign off on that?

Jake
No, and we didn’t really know. Yeah, I mean, we would read it. We would sign it in school in the morning of the first day of school. And we would kind of one of our teachers would kind of go through it with us. But we didn’t really talk to our parents about that because there wasn’t. I don’t think I understood at the time that authority was that the authority figures were kind of misusing their power in this way.

And just some of the stuff in the handbook was so ridiculous that it wasn’t even worth mentioning. So, yeah, no, I never, I never told them about that until much, much later. And, um, you know, cause I wouldn’t, I was certainly not going to be telling them like, Oh my God, but isn’t it wrong that they’re kicking gay people out? It’s like, I’m not going to be the one to say that because I don’t want to out myself, you know.

J.P. Der Boghossian
I hope I don’t seem like I’m hung up on this, but it’s interesting to me that you’re getting these positive-ish affirmations from your mom, maybe obliquely, and then you’re listening to this audio book and then at the same time you’re having to sign this statement, which I’m assuming is annually, at school saying that you can’t be queer or whatever practicing means for children. That’s just…

That’s difficult. Where I’m going with that, I think, in terms of my next question is, did you re-listen to this audio book, or book on tape, I guess, at the time?

Jake
Yes, not on my own and not for many years. I listened to it again, actually, before we talked in October. And other than that, I listened to a couple more of his books. I listened to about half of When We Were Engulfed in Flames during the early part of the pandemic. And I have taught Plague of Ticks, one of his essays about, I think, having Tourette’s and OCD.

I believe I don’t want to, if I’m wrong about the diagnosis, you know, sorry to the powers that be, but yeah. And then there was the one, I can’t remember the name of it. The one that came out right after the Trump election, where he has a really fraught conversation with his father who voted for Trump, which, you know, I listened to that with my mom on the way back from, we drove back from New Orleans together when I moved back to Baltimore. So I’ve like consumed more of his work over the years. I didn’t listen to Dress Your Family and Corduroy and Denim again until very recently because I wanted it to be kind of top of mind. But yeah, the Full House essay and Ship Shape are the ones that really remain in my head as kind of Full House for the queer content of it. And then ship shape because the whole, my home, well, one of my homes is something that we got such a kick out of that like, my sister and I still say that to each other when we think somebody’s being like uppity about their wealth, we’ll be like, well, one of my homes. So that one was formative for me because kind of with my family, that phrasing was an inside joke for a very long time. And it’s like, yeah, for like a couple decades, I’ve had an inside joke about.

Something from a queer book with, you know, my family. So, yeah, so I have listened to it since then, and it ages better than some of his other work, in my opinion, but I don’t want to get us in trouble.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Well, I, um, so you heard it this one time as a ten-year old, it had this profound impact on you in the moment. What happened next in terms of your queer identity and navigating that?
Jake
Yeah, I mean, I think I just it so much of it is buried in like, I mean, kind of really dark stuff in terms of I went kind of full tilt into religious stuff like I have really good friends who are queer who went to religious schools and they just have that kind of cynical instinct. And I have in a lot of ways. I think I have the type of personality that’s easily taken advantage of. It’s something I’ve worked through on a number of levels, but I’m pretty susceptible, I’m pretty gullible, and those things make me, I think, they are in part what makes me a really effective performer because I’m really good at kind of internalizing a set of circumstances and living as though it’s happening.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Yeah…

Jake
Um, which, you know, I’ve come to recover my gullibility as sort of a superpower, but yeah, unfortunately, after listening to this book, I mean, for years after that, I just was like, this is a thing inside me that’s very bad. I need to be really religious and really devout because I need to like make up for this part of myself. And it was, it got so bad by my senior year of high school. I mean, I was in an anonymous online support group.

for people that were people in the church that were experiencing homosexual desire. My family does not know this. So if you’re listening, mom, no, I’m kidding. I don’t blame, again, like I don’t blame my family for this at all because I think my mom gave us every indication that this stuff wasn’t true. It’s just, or that this wasn’t something I should be worried about, but it’s just relentlessly through the church, especially when gay marriage became a very political issue, I think.

when Massachusetts legalized gay marriage. It was a huge conversation at my school all the time. And I feel like the church went even harder about, you know, gay rights are bad. They are a symbol of why this country is falling apart. New Orleans experienced Hurricane Katrina because they’re living in inequity and allowing gay people to live freely. And there was just like all this really wild.

So it was all, I have a sense of humor about it now. It was all, it was, I mean, totally culty. And Miami is kind of evangelical, like a church land in ways that I don’t think a lot of people realize either. So after experiencing the David Sedaris book, I am sorry to say that it wasn’t like a.

Oh, and now I suddenly feel okay with myself. It was like I went through a few years of being like, no, bad, bad. And then eventually being like…bad?

[upbeat plucky staccato music]

Maybe not. [laughs]

David Sedaris (reading from Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim)
When my family first moved to North Carolina we lived in a rented house three blocks from the school where I would begin the third grade. My mother made friends with one of the neighbors. But one seemed enough for her. Within the year we would move again and as she explained there wasn’t much point in getting to close to people we would have to say goodbye to.

[upbeat plucky staccato music continues, then fades]

J.P. Der Boghossian
Can we talk for a moment about David Sedaris’ voice?

Jake
Of course.

J.P. Der Boghossian
What I find, so when I was first introduced to David, I read his, I think it was Me Talk Pretty one day and…A friend of mine recommended it because it was like, oh, it’s gonna be really funny to hear him, you know, read him rather talking about learning French. And they knew right that my family spoke French. And I remember reading it and going, okay, I don’t know why everybody is so like loving him, which I, and then I heard him read. And suddenly I was like, oh damn, this is funny.

Jake
Mm-hmm

J.P. Der Boghossian
And then I remember a few years later seeing the play that he wrote about being a Christmas elf, but it wasn’t him performing it. It was another person and they didn’t have his voice. And I remember thinking again, like, oh, this is not funny. Like it became this thing for me where I’m like, unless David Sedaris is speaking these words, then I’m kind of like, I don’t know about it. So for you, what was the, I don’t feel that way about other authors.

I just feel like when he speaks his words, it takes on a whole new other life for me. So can you talk a little bit about David’s voice and the impact that had for you?

Jake
Yes, I’m so glad you asked. Because we definitely diverged into the dark Christian stuff more than I intended. But a huge part of, besides the personal context about this book, I think for me as a writer and a performer, reading and experiencing, well, not reading, listening to his work was extremely formative for me on a number of levels.

The listeners at home can tell that I, too, have a somewhat androgynous voice. And it was much, much more so when I was younger. And it was also a huge source of shame for me. And so listening to David Sedaris narrate his own audiobook, other than the fact that he has wonderful comedic timing and delivery, really, it’s what motivated me to record my own audiobook.

over the years when I started getting more serious about writing, I was like, you know what? I can read my own audio book with my girly voice because David Sedaris did it. Like that was huge for me. Until the essay about, until Full House, I did not know the gender of the person we were listening to. My mother was not like, now we are listening to a book by David Sedaris. She just like started it. So I thought I was honestly, and no offense to David Sedaris, but I thought we were listening to it.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Wow.

Jake
book narrated by an old woman until he started talking about being gay. And I can say that on a hot mic because everyone calls me ma’am on the phone. Like when I’m wearing a mask at the grocery store, everyone calls me ma’am. And I love it now because I’m like gender fluid. But and I’m like, oh, you, you understand the real me. But I can say that about David

repeatedly of people thinking I’m a woman or a weird swamp creature until they hear my name. So that was hugely formative for me. And in terms of writer’s voice, I think, just on a craft level, these were the first… this was my first experience I think of comedic writing too, and the idea that a narrator, a first-person narrator…

can be funny and conversational and be kind of developing a rapport and relationship with the reader. So not only the spoken voice of David Sedaris, but I think the voice in which he writes his essays, for me on a craft level, was very informative and instructive in a lot of ways. Not that all of my narrators are like that, but I think if I have humor in any of my first-person stories, I think I owe a lot of that to understanding that was an

option because of the way that David Sedaris writes and because of sort of that confessional style and that sort of self-deprecating humor. Now, do I love that the butt of the jokes often feels like it’s for a straight gaze and it’s like, oh, it’s funny because I’m so faggy. Like, there’s like an undercurrent to his early work that’s kind of like, laugh at me, ha ha, because being gay is funny and something to make fun of.

Like that’s something to me that has not aged super well is like, it’s like he’s writing queerness for straight people to laugh at gay people, which I don’t love. But then I love that they end up falling in love with him. That is so radical. It’s like, he really is the RuPaul of queer literature to me. It’s like, you know, maybe there are things about it that are not for me. And also I’m glad that it reaches the people that it’s for and they have…one example of a gay person that they’re like, this is great.

J.P. Der Boghossian
When I was in junior high, we did some type of project. I don’t remember what it was, but the local news station came in and they interviewed a bunch of kids for it. And I was one of the kids selected and I was so excited to see that on TV. Right? And so, you know, they told us what it was going to be and we all, you know, tuned into the episode or the newscast rather. And they got to me and I had the most stereotypical.

gay voice. And I was shocked. I was horrified when people asked me afterward, I said I didn’t like it because it brought up all these like feelings of like, you know, shame and like, but also like, oh my God, I’m, I’m found out. Like I’m not hiding like this voice every day. Like every time someone hears me, they’re going to hear a gay and was just how I was thinking about it back then. And so for you, when were you first introduced to your own voice and hearing your voice? And did you understand your voice to be like David’s when you were to years old?

Jake
Oh, definitely. I mean, and again, I have a good relationship with him now, but like my older brother tortured me about my voice and my voice not dropping and so forth. Oh, definitely. And at school, I would say as soon as I started school, I became extremely aware of it. Like at first, my older brother would make fun of me in a way that it was like, oh, you haven’t gone through puberty yet or whatever, because he’s like a few years older and very, very masculine. If you can imagine like the polar opposite.

of me, my brother, you know, is like buff and beefy and like really masculine and like loves sports and like has a whole fridge full of beer in his garage and like heavy bag that he punches I think and like a weight set. He’s great. He’s great. He’s got a bunch of kids, you know, we’re fine. But yeah, I was aware of when I was younger, I was just like, I can’t wait to go through puberty. So Josh stops making fun of me about my voice.

And then I went to school and I realized in a lot of ways, I was so socialized with my sister and my sister’s friends for so many of my formative years, that I just, not only the pitch of my voice, but the cadence, I just kind of talked like a young girl. And I love that about myself now. Like I love that I have a weird androgynous voice, especially for theater and for voice acting and stuff. It kind of opens up a lot of doors for me.

But yeah, when I was younger, I don’t think I really understood that it was, quote, a problem until I started school, because before it was just people making fun of me for not going through puberty. But then I remember I’m keenly aware of, I think I was in fifth grade, and like a friend of mine, we were hanging out after school, not being mean-spirited was like, why do you talk like a girl?

I think I was in fourth or fifth grade and I was like, I don’t know what you mean. I don’t understand what the difference is. So yeah, I mean, my sister and I were super close and spent a lot of time together. We were all homeschooled until fourth grade. So my brother went to school first and my sister and I had like some solid, you know, make believe time. So I really, yeah.

I don’t know, I was, in a lot of ways I feel like I was accidentally socialized as a girl because of that, and I’m kinda into that now.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Yeah. That’s great. Any baritone or bass that people hear in my voice now is because of going to an actor’s academy and being trained in that. And I was so terrified. I was like, I’m going to literally suppress all of it out of my voice. Because I’m like, if I sound super gay, then I’m never going to get cast as an actor and all these other parts. And I remember loving hearing, because we would learn dialects.

And I remember loving the British dialect, like received, you know, royal pronunciation because I’m like, I don’t sound gay in this. And I loved speaking, you know, French, because I’m like, I don’t sound gay in this, you know, anymore. And then that would always just bring up jokes about how the French are gay.

Jacob Budenz
You can’t not sound gay when you’re speaking French.

J.P. Der Boghossian .
So I’m curious when you did eventually come out, did David play a role in that?

Jake
Um, in the sense that I felt the conversation was very casual with my mother, where I wasAnd I, again, like nobody in my family signaled to me that it would be unsafe to come out, but, oh, you know, over the years, especially in South Florida, I had just watched so many of my friends come out and be like completely disowned by their families that I was like.

You know, I can trust my mother to an extent and also be like, well, but everybody else’s mom probably said they would love their kid unconditionally and then kick them out anyway. So it wasn’t a problem. I did wait until I was no longer in college and well established in a job to come out to my family because I just was like, if this is it, I have to know. I such as so sad and it’s insulting almost to my family that I

this pressure on myself, but I was like, if this is it, I have to know that I will never need to ask them for anything again. And it was fine. It was fine in large part because of our relationship to David Sedaris and to certain other queer media or queer people over the years that I just pulled her aside when I was visiting for a holiday and was like, you know that I’m queer, right? And she was like, yeah. And then we cried about it for a while. And then I was like,

I don’t want to come out to anyone else in our family. I’m fine if they know, so tell whoever you think needs to know. This is the last conversation like this I’m going to have. I had already come out to like my siblings and so forth, but I really, I didn’t intend to be bitchy about it, but I was, we had, I had a tender moment with my mom. It was a very chill. I wasn’t like, mother, I have something I need to say. I was like, you know, you know.

I know that you know, let’s just get it out in the open. And I also was like, coming out is stupid and I’m not doing it anymore. So if you think dad or nanny and poppy, my grandparents need to know, you can tell them, but I’m not doing it anymore. So yes, in a sense, I didn’t necessarily bring up David Sedaris in this conversation, but it was part of a series of things that my mother and I related to each other on.

J.P. Der Boghossian
I love that.

Jake
that were queer that made me feel by the time I came out to her that it was going to be fine. Or I believed and hoped it would be fine and it was.

J.P. Der Boghossian
That’s amazing. You were mentioning earlier about how David inspired you to do the audio book for your book, Tea Leaves. And, Jake, I have to say, I loved reading this collection.

Jake
Thank you.

J.P. Der Boghossian .
And it made me believe in magic again. And I’m not joking. I’m not joking. I wanna read the first two sentences of the first essay Seen: “When I opened my eyes a little wider and tilted my head just so to see, really see, I noticed the fairies dancing between the floorboards of my bedroom. Have you ever passed by a painting every day without actually looking at it? And then just once by chance, you take it in and realize all this time you’ve been walking past something shocking, like a painting of an angel, sodomizing an alien all along.”

I have felt so cynical, I think obviously, you know, for life for a while and not having that joy of reading something and feeling like this whole other world is possible.

Um, you know, I’ve been feeling, you know, reading a lot of nonfiction and like, you know, seriously analyzing, you know, literary criticism of fiction and to read this and the way that you engaged with fantasy and with witchcraft and with magic, I just felt like, Oh my gosh, I feel young again. I feel creative again. Like I was having this very, uh, problematic relationship with the tarot card set that I had, cause it turned out that the person who created it turned out to like be in charge of a cult. And I was like, no. And so I literally went out. I’m like, I have to find a new tarot deck for myself. And I went out, I did all this research and I found one and it’s been amazing. And I have this like fantastic relationship to it. And it’s only been a few months. And so I just, A, you can tell me going on and on, I’m totally fanboying over your, over your book, but it really opened up something mystical and magical for me. And I just want to know where did it come from? Like, tell me the start of this book.

Jake
Yeah, and thank you so much. It’s really meaningful to me for you to say that. I say a lot that the book is like, you know, in some ways, like I want people to have these easily accessible and kind of fun and whimsical ways of accessing contemporary queerness and some of the challenges beyond like marriage and job, you know, job related depression or whatever. But to me, like the impetus of my entire body of work.

obviously queerness is a big part of it, but it is this idea of like the hidden world is all around us in a lot of the dedications like when I signed books I put something about the hidden world in there because it really for me maybe this means my grip on reality is tenuous, but for me like archetypes and images and

J.P. Der Boghossian
Your grip on reality. I think your grip on reality is more than just tenuous. You’re doing an amazing job of using other worlds and other dimensions to kind of help us have a much more tenuous hold on reality. But sorry, I’m interrupting.

Jake
No, no, I appreciate that. And I do think like I’ve always been attracted to the esoteric and to the hidden world as it were, because it does provide, it’s not just a way out. I think people think of genre or fantasy or speculative or whatever as like escapist. And to me, it’s like.

A lot of this stuff for me is a helpful way of just like making sense of what I’m experiencing and making sense of what I’m told the world is supposed to be like and what it’s like for me or people like me. And I think that’s true of a lot of different kinds of marginalized identities. So as far as like the impetus for this particular book, in a lot of ways it’s kind of the body of work I created when I was becoming a writer in the sense of I’m a child of like the MFA workshop and-

the college creative writing workshop and like short stories are kind of the bread and butter. And you know, the point is you’re learning about the craft of fiction in this really finite way. But for me, it’s not that I always aspired to be a short story writer, but to me it’s like I’m obsessed with folktale. I think folktale and myth and fairy tale are in a lot of ways the origin of the American short story in ways that I think stuffy literary people don’t like to acknowledge.

Jake
And so as far as these stories were concerned, in some ways I was writing for a psychologically real, obsessed audience that believes psychological realism is the only kind of literature. So I was trying to, in a lot of ways, show them that magic is also a way of accessing stuff that’s really impactful and important. And as far as the queer elements of it, of all of my work come in.

Some of them are metaphors, usually not one-to-one, but they are, in all cases, I think, just kind of access points for me for these things that feel very real, but are hard to make sense of. And so maybe I need to think of them through the framework of this octopus monster berating me for being useless or whatever. But it’s like every time a queer person goes into the bathroom, they’re on trial.

J.P. Der Boghossian
That was so good.

Jake
or anytime someone that’s visibly queer goes into the bathroom with other people, they are on trial. Are you dangerous? Are you gonna, I don’t know, look at my penis or whatever, like, you know, whatever absurd things people project onto us. But it’s like, yeah, it’s a, it’s, I tried not to be too kitschy about the metaphors, but it’s like, yeah, I’m on trial when I go into a bathroom of any gender if there’s other people in there.

This is probably true for people of other marginalized identities, but I can’t speak to their experience.

J.P. Der Boghossian .
I, the insights about queer relationships, there’s the story about the elements intervening on a relationship of two queer owners of a food truck. And then there’s the one about the sorcerer who goes to like take down an evil sorcerer in Florida and brings his boyfriend along and then things go awry. There’s the one that was so meaningful of the, of the couple who kept getting reincarnated in disasters and cataclysms and end of the world events. But to show how that take of a long-term relationship and getting to know somebody, I mean, it was just… And then of course, there’s the one story that I will never look at ranch dressing the same way ever again. And it’s one of my favorites. And no, everybody, you just read it for… I mean, there’s not a single story in this collection that is…lesser. I mean, they’re just so equally on par. The way that you organize them in the collection and the order that you read them rather, and the one about ranch dressing is phenomenal. It’s phenomenal. I loved it.

Jake .
That one was very controversial! I’ll tell a quick story about the one about the croutons and creamy Caesar, if I may, which is that I wrote that in the workshop that the program director of my MFA program was running. And he, he had a reputation for choosing one story per semester to really lose his mind about, like in a bad way. And he hated, he hated the crouton story. He’s in the dedication for the book because he gave me a lot of helpful feedback on other stuff, but in the dedication, I was like, sorry, I kept the crouton one. But like, he was so, he hated it so much that like he kind of like, when people would praise aspects of it, he would like argue with them. And I left the workshop being like, this is the worst thing I’ve ever written. And then I didn’t pick it back up for like three more years. And then I read all of the written feedback that happened before he freaked out about it. And like most of the people in the workshop were really into it and were like, oh, this grossed me out and made me uncomfortable, but like, I understand why.

it’s supposed to do that. And so I revisited it and revised it and things like that. But the crouton story I was like on the fence about including because I was like the head of my program hated it so much that he did not want anybody complimenting any aspect of it. He was like, no, why would you do this? This grossed me out, made me uncomfortable. And I was like,

Well, you’re the target audience of people I want to make really uncomfortable with this kind of work. So like, you’re welcome!

J.P. Der Boghossian
Or, or, Methinks the Lady Doth Protest Too Much. And maybe there’s some croutons hidden away in her closet. You know, some ranch dressing. So yeah, this hit a nerve on another level than maybe we’re thinking of, but.

Jake
Uh-huh. We all have our own little croutons. Exactly. We’ve all got our croutons in the cupboard behind the cleaning supplies.

[Fairy Queen by Moth Broth fades in]

J.P. Der Boghossian
This is Moth Broth’s song Fairy Queen. And good news they are currently working on their next album. You can follow them on instagram @ moth broth band

Jake is also writing a manuscript whose working title is The Armored Swan, which is a ghost story about how the specter of abuse can haunt art scenes in ripple effects and how artists handle it.

Also stay tuned for the audio book of Tea Leaves – which will be recorded by…Jake!

Follow Jake on Instagram @ dream baby jake or go to jake bee arts dot com. That’s jake b e e arts dot com.

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That’s our show for today.

Our podcast is executive produced by Jim Pounds, accounting and creative support provided by Gordy Erickson. Our associate producers are Archie Arnold, Natalie Cruz, Jonathan Fried, Paul Kaefer, Nicole Olilla, Joe Perrazo, Bill Shay, and Sean Smith. Our Patreon subscribers are Steven D, Steven Flam, Ida Gotëberg, Thomas Mckna, and Gary Nygaard.

Permission to use clips from the tracks Baba Yaga and Fairy Queen performed by Moth Broth provided by Jacob Budenz.

The audio clip from Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim read by David Sedaris is used here under the Fair Use doctrine for the non-commerical purposes of literary commentary and criticism.

Our soundtrack and sound effects were provided through royalty free licenses. Please visit thisqueerbook.com/music for track names and artists.

We are on social media. @thisqueerbook and @jpderboghossian on Instagram. We have a facebook page and I’m @jpderboghossian dot bsky dot social on Blue Sky.

As always, you can connect with us through our website, thisqueerbook.com, and if you want to be on the show, fill out the form on the home page.

And until our next episode, see you queers and allies in the bookstores.

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