Back in 2011 when I began my first draft of Love, Violet, I knew exactly why I was writing it.
I was a kid like Violet. I had young crushes on girls. But I never had a story like this one to show me that I wasn’t a mistake. That I could exist. That I wasn’t alone. So many people I’ve met over the years–friends, students, the young people seeking shelter at Thrive Youth Center in San Antonio, Texas–we all needed stories like this one. And didn’t have them.
So, I wrote Love, Violet thinking of kids like me, and kids who have it worse. I wrote it with hope that world could be better for them today. Like Violet, I committed to sharing my heart–even though it was pounding.
But between that first draft in 2011 and today stretches a decade during which I was dogged by this question: “Why would you write a picture book about THAT?”
I was asked this subtly and directly. Even queer editors questioned me. They asked it, incredulous, even though there were NO picture books portraying queer orientation in kids. Even though every child HAS an orientation, even if nascent or fluid. Even though so many kids HAVE innocent crushes. And why would rainbow kids be any different? We exist. Books for us did not. That’s why I was writing Love, Violet.
But the questioning continued.
Sometimes I started to doubt myself.
Eventually, I would privately ask, am I really going to do this? Perhaps destroy my dream of school visits by outing myself? (Well, that dream would evaporate for other reasons: publishing delays, chronic illness.) But whenever those doubts arose, whenever I questioned my own experiences and memories, whenever feedback was resistant or confusing, or I got lost in the endless revisions for publishers who were afraid of queer kids . . .
I returned to my Reasons Why.
My Reasons are personal.
From pain and joy.
They are social,
from knowing so many kids out there aren’t safe.
Aren’t allowed to be themselves. But could be.
And kids could learn empathy and equality from the start.
And now, as this tender book is about to launch, a firestorm of anti-LGBTQIAP2+ and racist book banning rages. Kids are watching. Learning. Are THEY too controversial to exist? The Reasons Why I wrote Love, Violet shine brighter than ever.
My Reasons are all about love.
And what what happens when people fail to love.
In case you’re curious, here are my Reasons Why:
Whatever reception this tender book receives (I know the hate is queuing), I’m thankful for the opportunity to send a message of love and acceptance to kids.
From this pounding heart to theirs.
So kids might know, there IS NO question:
They are lovable exactly they way they are.