Banned Voices: Adib Khorram

Adib Khorram starts my Banned Voices series. Perhaps you know him from reading Darius the Great is Not Okay (Dial, 2018) which earned the William C. Morris Debut Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature, and a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor. Or, maybe you’ve read it’s sequel, Darius the Great Deserves Better (Dial, 2020). If you’ve not had the chance to read his work, please get a copy from your local library and if they don’t have it, request a copy. If you have to purchase the book then be sure to donate it to your public or school library when you finish reading it.

In reading his books, you learn that Adib is a tea person. He’s also into theater, graphic design and Kansas City barbecue. Learn more about him and his work on his website, or on Twitter @adibkhorram, Instagram @adibkhorram andTumblr at @adibkhorram.

My friend, it’s really good to catch up with you! How are you doing?

I’m doing all right, thank you! At least as well as anyone can be during the pandemic. How about you?

Same; about as well as can be expected. You have a new book coming out very, very soon!! Kiss & Tell (Dial, 2022) releases on 22 March! I haven’t picked up a copy yet so, please tell me about it.

Kiss & Tell is the story of Hunter Drake, the only out gay member of a hit Canadian boy band. He’s spent his time in the public eye being this “perfect gay boy,” but that all comes crashing down when his ex posts their sexts online. Hunter has to deal with the fallout of that: what it means to be queer in the public eye, how to navigate a rebound romance with an Iranian American drummer from another band, and how to use his platform for good. But it’s also fun! Kiss & Tell are on a big North American tour, and Hunter and his bandmates get up to all sorts of hijinks on the road.

That sounds like quite a story! I particularly enjoy how you write humor so, I’m looking forward to that one.  But then, our guy Darius ends up being challenged! What a horrible feeling that must be.

It is. There’s a weird mindset where some people think it’s a badge of honor to have your book challenged or banned, but the truth is, for every book that gets a boost in sales as people want to know “what all the fuss is about,” there are plenty more that are just quietly removed from shelves—and denied to young readers who need them. So yeah, it sucks big time.

When do you remember first having access to books with queer characters? Do you remember how they made you feel?

I honestly wish I could remember. I know we read A Separate Peace in high school but that our teacher seemed to pretty aggressively no-homo it. I think I encountered it in plays first—I was a theater kid, and we did The Laramie Project my senior year.

What do you hear from young readers about your books? Do you hear in particular from Iranian Americans?

I do indeed hear from Iranian American readers, and I hold those close to my heart. It means a great deal to me to be able to show people like me on the page. And more broadly, I hear from other biracial people, and other members of various diaspora, and other queer folks, and other people living with mental illness or who have loved ones with mental illness. It’s a privilege and a responsibility to be writing for them.

Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t get to ask you about?

I’d love to encourage all your readers to familiarize themselves with their local school board—how it makes policy with regard to books, how to stand up to challenges, and even how to run for the board yourself!

That is such an important piece of advice because simply buying books isn’t going to end this. Thanks so much for the interview! I hope young readers never have a problem finding your books on the shelf.