Reclaiming our coming out stories with Jacob Aloi and Becky Albertalli

Welcome!

In this episode, we meet Jacob Aloi (he/him) and I talk with him about Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliThis YA novel follows 16-year old Simon Spier as he navigates coming out as well as meeting his first love. The book really tackles coming out stories and owning them. It was also adapted into the rom-com Love, Simon which was the first LGBT rom-com by a major film studio.

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Visit our sponsor Guthrie Theater to buy your tickets for Born With Teeth!

Plus, Becky (she/her) joins us to discuss writing Simon and the challenges she had writing the novel as she navigated her own coming out journey.

Buy The Books We Discussed On This Episode!

Visit thisqueerbook.com/bookshop to purchase Becky’s novels Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and Imogen, Obviously.

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Credits

Host/Founder: J.P. Der Boghossian
Executive Producer: Jim Pounds
Associate Producers: Archie Arnold, Natalie Cruz, Paul Kaefer, Nicole Olila, Joe Perazzo, Bill Shay, and Sean Smith
Patreon Subscribers: Awen Briem, Stephen D., Thomas Michna, and Gary Nygaard.

E-Lending Library

Quatrefoil Library 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 everybody! Welcome to the Season 3 premiere of This Queer Book Saved My Life! Today, I’m talking with Jacob Aloi about the book that saved his life Simon vs. The Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli.

The novel is about Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier. When an email of his falls into the wrong hands, he is blackmailed by class clown Martin. If he doesn’t play wingman for Martin, he’ll be outed. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing with, will be jeopardized.

This novel was adapted into the rom-com Love, Simon which was the first queer rom com produced by a major studio.

Our guest, Jacob, is an arts reporter for Minnesota Public Radio. He has worked in the performing arts, podcasting, and community radio.

And….guess who else is here with us today?

Becky Albertalli!

She is the award-winning author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and the recent books The Upside of Unrequited Love, Leah on the Off Beat and the upcoming Imogen, Obviously.

This is gonna be good.

My name is J.P. Der Boghossian and welcome to the third season of This Queer Book Saved My Life!

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J.P.: Ok! Hi Jacob. Hi, Becky. How are both of you today?

Jacob Aloi: I’m doing great! This is very exciting! I’m happy to be here.

Becky Albertalli: I’m happy to be here, too. This is so cool. Thank you so much for having us.

J.P.: When we started the podcast, we recruited the guest. We never know what books that are gonna show up on the podcast. So Jacob, when you reached out, I was like, Oh yes, we get to talk about Simon! I’d also like to say hello to our big Queer friends at Quatrefoil Library. They are an LGBTQ+ library, and so much more in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They have a section of their lending library devoted to the books featured on our podcast, so if you can’t buy them, you can still read them. We’re including links in the show notes. They also have some events coming up, so check those out at Q library dot com. Okay introductions: Jacob, Would you like to share a little bit about yourself?

Jacob: Sure. Yeah. My name is Jacob Aloi. I kind of grew up all over the U. S. Hawaii, Utah, Minnesota and I currently work in Minnesota, in the Twin Cities as an arts journalist and I’m really happy to be here And you know the disclaimer. I think every journalist has to say. these are my opinions, but I’m very excited to share them and talk about this book. I don’t represent any particular brand or company, but I’m here really excited to dig into the book and then talk.

J.P.: I am also in the Minneapolis area, so I’ve actually heard you on the radio before, so it’s really great to have you here and Becky, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and maybe also about your vendetta against Golden Oreos?

Becky: Although I think my vendetta should be self explanatory, because they’re not real Oreos.

J.P.: I saw this on your website and I was like I’ve got to ask about this!

Becky: I could talk all day about how substandard they are, but I’m Becky. I am from the Atlanta suburbs and I actually live in a slightly different Atlanta suburb from where I grew up, It’s like 20 minutes away. It’s very similar. I’m an author. I write full time. Originally, a psychologist, and I kind of unexpectedly fell into a totally different career about a decade ago. It was co-incited with when my older son was born. I am a corporal mom of a 10 year old as well as an 8 year old cat. Our dog is literally a golden retriever, I am like everything you think I am.

J.P.: Happy to have both of you here. I’m really looking forward to this conversation. A question that I always like to ask folks is about what was a formative story. A favorite story or an impactful story that you had growing up, Because I always love to see how those impact folks as life trajectories when they get older. A lot of times they actually show up in the conversation we have during the podcasts. So Jacob, would you like to go first and tell us about a favorite story growing up?

Jacob: Oh boy, that’s hard. I was thinking about this question a lot because as a kid I wasn’t as much of a reader as I am now. I didn’t really read a lot of books growing up. I just had a lot of issues with reading and comprehension. I got much better later in life. I think everyone of my generation was wrapped up in Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, Now, I think we look at them with a little bit more of a critical lens because of certain things that certain authors have said or done, but those I think were real formally because they allowed me to explore and wonder. Reading them always made me put a Queer gaze on it, or put a Queer lens on it and think about those background characters. Or maybe what if run over here and kissed you? You know you know what I mean? I had those kinds of thoughts in my head as I read through them. I think a lot of people from my age bracket, those were the two really formative stories for them. At least for the folks that read at least.

J.P.: Thank you for that and Becky, how about for you?

Becky: I’ve thought about this and it’s funny. I think maybe the most influential series for me is The Baby Sitters Club. I was definitely a Baby Sitters club kid. I read all of them. I actually read the younger sister series first. Just the idea of this friend group slice of life…. It was very relatable to me. I was exactly a kid who could relate to that. But one of the things that’s really interesting about the Baby Sitters Club is that I feel like a couple of years ago the Internet kind of collectively found out that Ann Martin is Queer. I don’t know if she was out before that or not.

J.P.: Wait? what? How am I just finding out about this?

Becky: Ann Martin. Yeah, Baby Sitters Club is a Queer series. It wasn’t widely known. She must have released some kind of interview. I think some people knew. I don’t think she kind of meant that article as a coming out piece or anything. I actually got to do an event with her a couple of years ago and I lost my mind. Simon Spear, in the book is literally named after one of the baby sitters, Marian Spear, So yeah, my favorite.

J.P.: That was the first series that I began to realize about gender and what you could and couldn’t read as a male presenting boy, So I had to read the books at school and not bring them home, and the idea of going to see the movie was impossible. So Jacob, what is the book that saved your life?

Jacob: The book that saved my life is Simon Versus the Home of Sapiens Agenda. I actually have my copy here with me. It’s well worn and well loved. It was a really formative story for me and a really important part of my life. That’s the book we’re talking about today,

J.P.: How did it come to you?

Jacob: I committed the ultimate sin. I had seen the movie before I had read the book, I didn’t see it when it first came out in 2018. I saw it a couple of months later on a plane flying back to Minnesota. I was like well, I should watch this because I’ve heard a lot of people talk about it and people love the book so I started watching it. I literally started crying. I literally feel so bad for the lady who is sitting next to me. She had to deal with me completely ugly crying on this plane. I just fell in love with the story and I really loved how engaging it was And then I thought I’ve got to read the book. I read it all in one night. I stayed up an entire night. I started reading it like late in the evening, and I was like, okay, just one more chapter, one more, one more page, and I kept going and going and going. Soon it was like four o’clock in the morning and I had finished it! It was just this wonderfully cathartic moment of getting to finish this book and seeing all the nuances, and like the things that had changed between the two, and really getting to engage with how the story was first presented, and what made everybody fall in love with the story right? It would become a movie and it would span so many other things. That’s how the book came to me. I just devoured it.

J.P.: That is my favorite preference, actually. If I know there’s a film, I watch the film first, because the book is always going to be a richer experience. I’m always disappointed when I go the other way around. Becky. would you like to, for those of us who haven’t somehow read it yet would you like to share a little bit about what the book is about?

Becky: First of all, thank you, that is lovely. Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. You know, the whole title is about just this nerdy, kind of like cussing.

J.P.: Oh yeah, totally!

Becky: He is like this theater kid at a very thinly veiled version of my own high school. I went to a high school called Riverwood and I named it Creekwood in the books. He’s a mess. I put a lot of myself into him. The book is really about Simon, who has become kind of involved in this online pen pal relationship with a boy from his school. They don’t know each other’s identities. He only knows this person as Blue. They email back and forth and are sharing some of their experiences being Gay. Neither of them are out yet. They live in a fictionalized version of my hometown, which is a suburb called Sandy Springs, I’ll try to explain what Sandy Springs was like when I was growing up. I think the easiest shorthand for it is we sent Newt Gingrich to Congress,

J.P.: Oh….

Becky: Yeah, so we’re THAT suburb. We have since become very solidly purple and have been blue in the last two elections. We are part of that group of Atlanta suburbs that keeps having a lot of pressure, but then a lot of impact in some of the big elections recently.

J.P.: The future of the country is turning on what happens in your suburbs.

Becky: This is a really challenging cultural moment for many groups of people and Queer people in particular. I always tried to go back to the fact that when you really zoom out it seems like everything is hopeless. Then I remember that my home town went from electing Gingrich, to Lucy Mcbath. It’’s important to me to hold on to that reality of big picture progress when everything feels like it’s falling apart,

J.P.: Thank you for that. So Jacob, you read the book in a single night. Tell me more. Every guest interprets “saved” differently. What were the saving features of Simon for you?

Jacob I think the biggest thing for me was, I was also that really nerdy theater kid kind of a dumb ass in so many ways. I think what was saving for me was to see that there is a story out there that handles things that we really do face right? Having to come out or being in the closet, or how we figure out our first relationship and being blackmailed, facing homophobia and having all those things happen and then also realizing that it’s a HAPPY story! It’s an ultimately good story, you know what I mean? There is so much joy in the world of Simon, and looking at it and saying, Oh, my gosh, I can have my own teenage romance. I can have my own teenage Rom Com. It’s so true to being Queer, and it’s so true to being Gay, That really grabbed me and it was the first time that I put a book down and I said you know what, I’m okay saying, I’m Gay, Gay, Gay, Gay! I am SO Gay It was just so sweet and so much reminded me of those early 2000s Rom Coms that take place in high schools and in early college., I just love that. That’s one of my favorite forms of storytelling in theme and styles of storytelling genres. To have a book that was centered around a Queer relationship and an inter racial Queer relationship was super, super important and super cool as a Latino myself I really was like, Oh my gosh, people like me exist and they can be in relationships like this. Those were really the saving moments for me. There is space for people like me.

J.P.: Obviously the book is about a coming out journey. Can you share with me a little bit about your own coming out journey?

Jacob: Well, that’s the thing about this story is that when I first came in contact with the story and then read the book, I saw myself so much in Simon in that I was deeply in the closet for all of middle school. In the beginning of high school, I decided I’d tell a couple of people. You know, you kind of test the water because I feel like it’s true for so many Queer people at the beginning of their coming out story, and regrettably I trusted the wrong people! It spread like wildfire, and I had my coming out taken from me.There’s a passage in the novel where Simon confronts his black mailer, Martin, and says you know you took that. You took away from me that opportunity to come out. I read that and I was like I never got to say that to that person. But since Simon said it, I’m okay. I can move on and forgive. But boy is this cathartic to know that this is in this really popular book. I can relate directly to his coming out experience. That was my “kind of” coming out story.

J.P.: I think I read that. You were corresponding with our executive producer Jim nd there was a role also in the book or the film that played in your relationship with your mom?

Jacob: Yeah. My mother was always very supportive of who I was, but she never really got it. you know what, I mean? I think that a lot of heterosexual parents don’t really understand their Queer children and the struggles that they face, and also how they can be loving and supportive and show them that they’re loving and supportive. Regardless, it’s still a really hard conversation to have. There’s things that we face in our world that straight people don’t. I remember, after reading the book, I watched the movie again., I said, Mom, I need you to watch the movie. Just watched the movie. Figure it out. Listen to the story then you can get a chance to read the book. But really I just need you to watch this movie with me. It was crazy to watch her cry at the same moment that I was crying the first time that I had seen it and read the book. It was this moment where she finally clicked and she went well, I get it. I get why it was so difficult for you and why having you’re coming out story, taken away from you, hurt so much and put you in such a way, It is interesting. I was on the phone with her last night just chatting about life and other things. That came up again. She talked about I never really understood. She’s had this really big epiphany moment recently. I never understood why you had so much anxiety and why so much of that was so difficult for you.

Becky: Oh!

Jacob: Looking back on it all made sense, and the starting trigger for that was engaging with Simon’s story.

Becky: Yes.

J.P.: Your coming out was taken away from you. How did it get back to your mom? I imagine everybody in school knew. But then how did that come back to your mom?

Jacob: My mom was the first person I came out to and she was incredibly supportive about it. I think, like most parents of her generation, she’s older and in her sixties now, and like a lot of parents in her generation, I think her thought was, I don’t care that you’re Gay, but it’s such a hard life. It’s such a difficult life. I mean, at the time you know, Gay marriage was just starting to finally actually get passed, and upheld. It was that era in which my mom remembered all of her Queer friends and how hard they had gone through life. She initially was very supportive,but she didn’t want me to be Queer as as much as I think I would have wanted to in college and in high school, more specifically at the time when I came out to her. I was fourteen. Keeping up appearances was so important and I think that’s just the fact of the culture I grew up in and the community I grew up in, and the people I grew up around.

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[music]

J.P.: Welcome back! I’m here with Minnesota Public Radio arts reporter Jacob Aloi and clinical psychologist turned novelist, Becky Albertalli. Becky, you were saying earlier about writing some of yourself into the novel and some of your experiences in Atlanta. Because this was your first novel, how did that life experience manifest itself into the writing experience?

Becky: That is a very good question and I am going to give you the answer that I used to give. The answer that I give now is pretty different. So when I wrote Simon, I never expected it to be published. For one thing, Simon’s my debut. I didn’t know any authors. I was living in D, C, at the time, but I had just had a baby and we had decided to move across the country back to Georgia, And what that amounted to is just this period of time where I couldn’t go back to my job because we were moving. I couldn’t look for a new job. I had this baby and I wrote Simon during his nap times. I wrote this book about a Gay kid with all of this anxiety around coming out, and I wrote the entire thing thinking that I was a very good ally; a straight lady from the suburbs. I had worked in psychology in my previous life. I had worked with a lot of Queer cases. It was like truly my focus area. I volunteered for almost a decade with a group, working with gender non conforming kids in D.C. which was really wonderful and it was like I was there for such a long time that I got to see a lot of these kids grow up. In my mind there was this like chain of logic, I guess. I ended up volunteering here because I was working as a research assistant at that hospital and I met the doctor who runs that program and then was working with these kids and then I kind of you know, it was like one thing led to another which ultimately led to me writing Simon. None of that had anything to do with the fact that I was really really into Queer media. For a straight kid I watched the Indigo Girls. I was very into the romance between Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. I wrote a lot of Gay fan fiction. So there were all these other things I did. Put a single one of them together and I felt like I wrote this entire book and several other books afterwards. It’s been interesting to go back and reread Simon, which is hard to do strictly because I wrote it so long ago and it’s like I would change every comma, every line, which is fairly common I think among my friends. I just wrote it so long ago, but yet it is something else to read it now, because some of the lines that I wrote into that book, completely unaware, are like screaming at the top of their lungs! In interviews people used to say where did the character Simon come from? And I’d be like, Oh yeah, he’s a lot like me. I would say the main difference between us is like I’m much more self aware than Simon. That’s not true. It ends up getting a little bit fraught. As I moved through the years of my publishing career. I was writing a bunch of books. Simon was a two book deal. Suddenly, I had this whole new career. Not every book that I wrote had Queer main characters, you know. But they were like, very Queer normative environments at least, and a lot of them did come from the perspective of Queer characters. In my mind it was like, well you know, I need my readers to feel like they have a home in my books. That was true, and I believe that and I think that’s still true. But you know denial. Can you know and just like shape shift? I was a psychologist and I know that repression. I just didn’t see it in myself. As the publishing industry started to have more and more really useful valuable conversations about not just diversity, not just inclusion, but also ownership of stories…. Who has a right to tell it? What is your line and kind of when it’s okay and not okay to step out of that. I would say, in the early days of those conversations there were growing pains. This is me! Looking back in retrospect. I was all in the sense that I found it really important and I still do. I still find it incredibly important to boost and promote Queer authors and to try to boost any platform or success that found me. Simon was not meant to be a lead. I get made fun of a little bit because I blur so many books, but I’m frantically trying to read and promote as many books as I can. There’s so many amazing books coming out. But I also had a ton of guilt. I felt like I was a bad person for having written it. I. I deeply regretted writing Simon, because Simon gets compared to other books. It’s Simon vs. such and such. It was more that I had, without realizing, like a bull in a china shop stumbled into this space. It was like I felt like the least I could do was to be really open about my positionality, I hated getting asked questions at the time like what inspired you? Those are perfectly fine questions to ask. Those are such normal questions. Every interviewer asked them and I just hated them. I hated those questions because I felt like an idiot and I was like well, you know, it’s like somebody I knew in high school connected the dots in my head and they weren’t coming together. It left a big, long paper trail of me talking about being straight. That started to feel like it didn’t fit quite as well. It ended up being a really big public pressure kind of situation that was really ultimately really dramatic: a really traumatic coming out. Um, I do feel like it was taken from me in a different way than Simon: really different, but some similar notes.

J.P.: I read your essay on Medium: “I Know I’m Late”, which is about your coming out journey, which was nightmarish.

Becky: Yeah.

J.P.: I want to acknowledge that I was reading and I was like, oh, my goodness. There was a sentence that popped out for me: Imagine if you had a Greek chorus of internet strangers propping up your impostor syndrome at every stage of the coming out process, The reason why that struck me was that I’ve talked to a lot of writers, Queer writers who have talked about this impostor syndrome of trying to sort out who they are through their writing, but then losing control of it when it gets to the publishers. I’m curious, if you had to give some advice for Queer folks of any age that are dealing with impostor syndrome, what would you say to them?

Becky:*That’s a tough one because I would say this problem in our discourse has been solved or is getting better. I think we’ve all seen this time after time. I was far from the writer in general, who felt that kind of pressure that we have seen with actors, musicians, etc. It’s kind of like we never learn. Oh my God, that’s so awful about what happened to Connor. Now, Harry Styles, on the other hand, is Queer baiting them like we don’t know if he’s Queer. We’re not in his brain, you know? I would say be aware of that as you figure out how you want to navigate your own privacy, and the way you enter the public sphere. But I really want to emphasize that you don’t owe people that, you don’t. You just don’t know people. You don’t have to label yourself. If you are not a creator, it is really hard to hold on to that sometimes when it feels like either people are being really forceful about asking, or sometimes, which is often the case with me, it was like you knew where it was coming from. Sometimes when people were asking the question, and it was so sincere it was like you know a teenager who wants to know whether you have that in common with them. It is such a lovely impulse. Sometimes It just takes on a life of its own. You know the magnitude of the Internet. I wish I had a better answer. I guess it’s just that I don’t want anybody to be taken by surprise by the way I was responding. I didn’t understand how many people would want me to speak to that. I do want people to know about it. There are people talking about this. There are authors. There are creators who feel strongly about this and who have your back. They want you to be safe, and it’s really important to try to hold on to that

Jacob: Well, one of the things that I think and it just comes through so much with what you just said is that the whole story is about coming out and being willing to tell the people you’re willing to tell when you’re ready to do it. It’s so tragic and sad that the experience of people who enjoyed your novel and enjoyed your work didn’t get that message. You know what I mean? As somebody who lived so much after even reading the book, I consider myself generally a private person and still have not had a moment where I publicly am like, oh, I’m Bisexual, you know what I mean? Having this opportunity to talk to you and be able to now, publicly go I’m comfortable enough to say I’m Queer. I’m on that spectrum. I’m willing to come out and say this because I’m at the comfort level so much of what this story is, and it’s always been heartbreaking when I heard the news first and when I first read your essay on Medium, it was heartbreaking. It was a heartbreaking moment to realize that there were so many people who enjoyed this book who missed the entire message of it. It’s always been something hard to grapple with when it comes to this book and I can imagine it was hard for you too. I mean, like you said, it’s traumatic.

Becky:Thank you. I mean, you know the tricky thing about books in general, I guess, and any kind of media is that you know every person is going to kind of pull something different from it. Regarding Heartstopper, it boggles my mind that one can read Heartstopper, or watch the show and turn around and do that to Kit Connor but you know I have come to understand, at least intellectually, understand that there are other life experiences that I think lead people to a place where they’re just seeing these stories from a different angle. I think people were coming from a publishing Equity angle where people were seeing somebody who had not lived through this experience, having such a platform to talk about it. We all have such different experiences, even people under the same label. It’s such a range of experiences and it can be really hard sometimes to know the difference between this is exploitation and feels wrong versus this didn’t resonate with me and it may just not be for me or just may be a different experience under that umbrella.

J.P.: I used to work in health and human services and around Queer health equity and there are so many people that don’t understand I think about the idea of people coming out later in life whether that’s in their thirties or their forties. I’ve talked to a lot of folks that have transitioned and they didn’t begin the gender transformation until they’re 60s or 70s. I think that there’s this weird expectation to come out as quickly and as early as you can, and that coming out is going to solve everything. What I appreciate that you’re sharing is that it should remind folks that we are on this journey. We are constantly understanding who we are, and there’s never this fixed point right of where you know that’s it. I identified like I was vehemently straight. Then I was vehemently Bisexual. Then I was vehemently Queer. Everyone has their journeys and so, that’s also what I appreciate when I think of Simon is that it reaffirms that right as well.

Jacob, is there a particular scene that you were like, oh yes, this is everything. Let’s say a particular chapter or moment that you were like this is it for me.

Jacob:There’s a couple. One that came to mind as I was going back through the book earlier this week to kind of collect some thoughts. There’s one when they do gender bender day and they come to write the day that everybody does drag or does crossdressing, And there’s a line in there that Simon says ‘You know everybody looks at these jocks wearing the cherry letter outfits, and everybody says that they are so comfortable in their masculinity, and he says, ‘Well, I’m comfortable in my masculinity, too.’* It doesn’t mean a thing for straight people and I think that’s such a really good through line for Simon throughout the pieces. He even says up front at the beginning of the novel ‘You know, I’m not afraid of coming out. I have anxiety about it, but I’m not afraid. I just don’t want to deal with everything that comes with the coming out. It’s not the coming out.
That’s the problem. That moment really stuck out to me where he was able to say I’m comfortable with my masculinity. I know who I am. Queer people can have that too. We should recognize that Queer people get that as well. That was one moment that specifically stuck out to me when I was going back through the book this week,

J.P.:How about you, Becky? Is there a particular section or moment that you’re just like this was good. I really enjoyed writing this part of it.

Becky: It’s funny. The part I most enjoyed writing this drunk scene which seems to be the closest to my natural voice in my head. The line that I think does basically make it into that movie is the ‘you took that from me kind of speech.’ I wrote that and I started sobbing like I burst into tears. At the time I was just like I am in the zone like I am, really, feeling this writing process. I really wrote the most clueless character that I could possibly come up with, and like he was no match for me, it turns out.

J.P.:What was the experience you talked about that line making into the movie? I mean, that’s also another head experience To watch your novel adapted to the screen. What was that like for you?

Becky:I don’t don’t think I wrap my head around that it’s so cool. I loved everything about it. I remember being warned because I desperately wanted to hang out on set where they were filming in Atlanta, which is a dream come true. I don’t remember if it was my agent or somebody who said heads up, film sets are pretty boring. I don’t know if you’ve been one before and I’m like duly noted. I was not bored for a second. I could not get enough. They could have done a retake like five million times. I would have just sat there. I loved absolutely everything. It was more like the high school theater experience than any other experience since then. There’s just something about it that is incredibly special. it’s fraught. It’s complicated because you know a movie has such a wider reach than a book, So Love, Simon is the version of this story that most people know, and sometimes people have very strong opinions about me based on things that were specifically about the movie. I’m like there’s nothing I can say. It’s a fine opinion to have. I love the ferris wheel. Some people felt like you know that it’s public and everybody’s gawking at them, and that just shows exactly what you would expect from this straight lady who fetishizes Gay boys watching it. I’m like, okay, in the book it is not at the ferris wheel. They are at an isolated part of the parking lot, and their first kiss happens in the parking lot. It’s kind of funny and it’s kind of awful because you know that something that was used to build a case that this is why straight ladies like you need to be kept away from our stories.

J.P.: Wow, I apologize. I didn’t do my research here, but were you involved in the writing of the screen play?

Becky: Absolutely not. I was. People assume that I was, but I wasn’t. I’m a huge, huge, Love Simon fan. I mean, I have like twelve t-shirts. I am the biggest fan of the movie, but I take zero credit for it. I was a debut author. Love Simon never hit the New York Times list It. I didn’t have a lot of clout, you know, but I was along for the ride and I loved it so.

J.P.: I was wondering about how it feels o heart breaking this journey that you’ve had on your debut novel, and this case that was being made against you, and even having the movie, which should have been just a fully joyous occasion to celebrate this entire experience. How have you been processing this these days in terms of your feelings toward the book and everything?

Becky: It’s complicated. It’s not bad. In 2018, I had to get off Twitter. I got off Twitter very abruptly because I was having the kind of thoughts that scared me. It was like leave Twitter. leave, publishing, you know? It’s one of the hardest things I think has been that you want to have that moment, you know? In the book Martin writes this letter and says ‘I now see why I was wrong’ but he isn’t forgiven. I’m like the opposite. I’m desperate to just forgive everybody. and I want closure so badly. I’ve had moments of that that have been really powerful, I should not have found this, but I was spiraling and being hyper vigilant, or whatever, *I found some tumblr post hat was like one of the people who led a harassment campaign back in 2019. I was hanging by a thread. I have never talked publicly about how bad it was. I’m kind of aware of some of the nuances of risk. In this post that person had written years later after I had already come out, and they knew, and this person was just rowing about the time that their group of friends and they had bullied me off Twitter and they were so proud of that. Their conclusion was I deserved it because Lea on the Offbeat sucked so much or something or I was a shitty writer. That’s the kind of thing that has shaken my faith. I don’t know. It’s just like I’m a storyteller. I wanted to wrap up differently like I wanted it to be like, oh, okay, I was wrong. Still, hate the book. I’ve been in this long enough. I am not traumatized by you disliking my book. I’ve written so many books and statistically. you’re going to at least one of them right. But that’s been hard to shake. Overall, it’s been a lot better. I have a book coming out in May called Imogen, Obviously. I would say it pairs with Simon. It’s in conversation with Simon. It draws a lot upon my experiences of the last couple of years and some of the mental gymnastics that happen as you were explaining away your own weirdness when it’s like right there. You know how easy it is to let yourself believe what other people believe about you and how hard it is to hold on to you’re very sense of that new identity?

Jacob: Well, I can’t speak for the tumblr and twitter trolls, but this young Queer person loved every minute of it.

Becky: Thank you.

Jacob: I get so emotional when I talk about this story because it so encapsulates so many of my own experiences, and I think it captured so many experiences of so many other Queer people of my age and it helped me. I can’t speak for anyone else. It defined who I was and helped me learn who I was. The fact that there was an author out there who is willing to write this book and write so many other books after the fact that tackles so many similar themes is just so inspiring. I don’t know if that helps to hear, but there are so many people out there in your corner who love this and who will defend it until the end.

Becky: No, thank you so much now. The really magical thing about being an author and about putting your work out there, the best part is always the fact that it, just fast tracks you to meeting all of your school mates, you know. The people who just think the way you do like find their way to your books and stuff. You feel so much less alone when somebody connects with something in your book that you put in there being like nobody’s going to know what I’m talking about with this feeling. Sometimes that stays true, and sometimes people do feel that across the world, or you know somebody who is seventy five years old and in Germany or something, you know? I’ve heard from all kinds of people.

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J.P.: I want to thank Jacob and Becky for joining us on this week’s show.

You can keep up with all of Jacob’s arts reporting at Minnesota Public Radio. Visit M P R.org. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram. He is @imjacobaloi.

Becky’s next book, Imogen Obviously, comes out May 2nd of 2023. You can pre-order it in our Bookshop. Go to thisqueerbook.com/bookshop. To stay connected with Becky visit her at beckyalbertalli.com. You can follow her on Twitter: She is @beckyalbertalli. She is also @beckyalbertalli on Instagram where she posts regularly.

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J.P.:

Cheers for listening today. All of our episodes are Executive Produced by Jim Pounds. Our Associate Producers are Archie Arnold, Natalie Cruz, Paul Kaefer, Nicole Olila, Joe Perazzo, Bill Shay, and Sean Smith. If you haven’t subscribed to our show, you should! Give us a 5 star rating too! The algorithm gods look at those numbers to help queer folks who are looking for new podcasts to find this one!

You can also check listen to us every Sunday evening at 6 p.m. Central Standard Time on AM950 the Progressive Voice of Minnesota.

And in the meantime, stay tuned to this space every Tuesday for new episodes of 7 Minutes in Book Heaven and This Queer Book Saved My Life!

Until then, see you Queers and allies in the bookstores!

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