Openly YA tour talks gay YA at Books of Wonder

Will Walton and David Levithan at Books of Wonder. Photo by Alison Ng.

Will Walton and David Levithan at Books of Wonder. Photo by Alison Ng.

The Openly YA Tour, which celebrates gay characters in YA literature, celebrated its final tour stop with laughter, giveaways, and performances. The tour, which ran during the first week of LGBT Pride Month, had its last event at New York City’s Books of Wonder on June 6th.

While authors David Levithan (Hold Me Closer), Adam Silvera (More Happy than Not), Bill Konigsberg (The Porcupine of Truth) and Will Walton (Anything Could Happen) made up the Openly YA panel, that night they were joined by James Dawson (This Book Is Gay) who was there to celebrate his first American book release.

The five men, snuggled at the front of an eager and enthusiastic crowd, respectively spoke about their books in seated order. Dawson went first, informing the audience that his publisher actually approached him about a nonfiction book, seeing that he was a sex education teacher at the time.

“I initially said no because I felt like I couldn’t be an authority on gay women, or bi people, or people of color, or people who are not able-bodied,” admitted Dawson. But when the perfect title popped into his head, he decided to go through with the project. To create This Book is Gay, a book that discusses everything from sex to politics from an LGBTQ perspective, Dawson spoke to more than 500 LGBTQ individuals.

Up next was Silvera and his debut novel, More Happy Than Not. The book follows Aaron, a Bronx teen whose life has begun to improve after his father’s suicide, right at the time a memory-relief procedure is introduced to the public. But when Aaron’s feelings for a neighborhood boy threaten to mess up his healing life, Aaron begins to contemplate the procedure.

“The book was conceived when I was thinking about nurture vs. nature and where sexuality falls on that scale,” explained Silvera, noting that many people have the misconception that homosexuality is a choice. “So I started thinking about a world where sexuality could be a choice, and what would have to happen.”


James Dawson, Adam Silvera and Bill Konigsberg at Books of Wonder. Photo by Alison Ng.

Konigsberg’s The Porcupine of Truth, follows Carson, a boy stuck dealing with a dying father he barely knows, and Aisha, a girl that’s been kicked out of her house for liking girls. Together, the two teens embark on a road trip to uncover history, answers and the “Porcupine of Truth.”

“Everybody always wants to know what the ‘porcupine of truth’ means,” said Konigsberg, garnering curious laughs. Because of that, Konigsberg’s reading for the night introduced the ‘porcupine of truth’ to the audience – the omniscient porcupine at the gates of Carson’s (belief of) Heaven who allows entry only if one tells the truth.

The other debut of the night was Walton’s Anything Could Happen, whose name came from Ellie Goulding’s song “Anything Could Happen.” The book follows Tretch, a boy who’s keeping a few secrets, like the fact that he choreographs dances in his room, and that he’s falling in love with his straight best friend.

Before Walton read his passage, he warned that singing and dancing were to come. “There are three moves you need to know,” Walton stated, jumping up from his chair in order to demonstrate the moves. “You just do some standard knee bends, a hip thrust, and a shoulder roll.”

Levithan continued with the singing theme, getting the panel to play roles of characters in Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story!, the spin-off to Will Grayson, Will Grayson that took him four years to write. With Levithan playing the role of Tiny Cooper, Walton as Phil Grayson, Silvera as Tiny’s Coach and Dawson and Konigsberg as bullies, much laughter and entertainment ensued – especially when they sang a song titled “Second Base.”

Questions from the audience followed, along with giveaways of The Porcupine of Truth t-shirts and ARCs of Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa. They also discussed books with LGBTQ characters they read growing up, seeing that that category is relatively new in the publishing world.

Some books they suggested were Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson and Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler.

The night ended with signings and smiles and many books being added to people’s To-Be-Read lists.

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About Author

Alison Ng

Alison lives in the NYC area, works in book publishing and really, really likes food.

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