In 2001, Bill Konigsberg came out in one of the most public ways possible: a column on ESPN.com. Konigsberg shared the story of his coming out with teens as he toured across the South and Midwest to raise money for TrevorSpace and to talk about his new book The Porcupine of Truth.
In The Porcupine of Truth, Carson and Aisha go on a road trip to find answers that will help Caron’s dad and their own truth – but while Konigsberg has taken that exact trip with a friend in the past, his tour will took him more than 5,000 miles to hit 18 locations across 13 states.
Konigsberg hoped to raise more than $25,000 for TrevorSpace, a social network for LGBTQIA+ youth.
“TrevorSpace is an awesome resource. It allows teens to connect in a safe space online, and to meet others from all over the country. That ability to connect is so important, and it was something that I would have loved to have available when I was younger. “
Aisha is living in the zoo in the beginning of The Porcupine of Truth because her parents kicked her out for being gay. Thinking about Aisha and other teens who find themselves in similar situations helped convince Konigsberg to focus on crisis intervention and suicide prevention on his tour.
“When I think of Aisha sleeping in the zoo on a rainy night because her parents have kicked her out of her home for being gay, I just want to hug Aisha and tell her that there’s more, and better, in the world, if she can just hold on,”said Konigsberg. “So in some ways that’s what I’m trying to do here. Hug a lot of Aishas.”
To Kongisberg, sharing stories is a big part of the connection to readers he’s met on the tour.
“I think it’s so powerful to share stories,” said Konigsberg. “[Mine is] not a story that resonates for everyone. For one thing, I’m old. I’m 44. Beginning to come out 30 years ago is not the same as coming out today. For another, I’m a cis gay white male. I’m finding that a lot of the teens I’m meeting on the tour so far are on the trans spectrum, and as an older, cis gay white male, I may not be the ideal role model for some of these kids. I totally get that; I’m just trying to do what I can do to help. My coming out affected my writing in that my writing has everything to do with searching for my own authenticity. Before coming out, it was really hard for me to be completely authentic in my writing. … In some of the smallest groups I’ve met on the tour, we’ve all gone around and shared.”
Konigsberg thinks YA has lots of room to grow to help teens find themselves in books..
“I love the movement, and I am glad to see it gaining steam. We most certainly do need more books that offer reflections of all kinds of teens; nothing is more powerful than relating to and connecting with a character in a book.” Loving the strides We Need Diverse Books movement has made doesn’t mean there isn’t more than be done, particularly for teens who identify as genderfluid. “That’s something I’m going to think about with my own writing for sure.”