Banned Voices: Anna-Marie McLemore

For me, as someone who is still only a reader and not a writer, it can be really hard to understand how personal books are to their creators, how much of themselves they share, whether they’re aware that they’re doing it or not. I’m beginning to realize that through this series. Please, don’t let them be erased.

Today’s guest is Anna-Marie McLemore. I’m so honored to have been able to interview them recently.

How are you? ¿Cómo estás?

Bien, gracias, y muchas gracias for having me!

Your most recent book, Mirror Season, is a very tender, personal story of a survivor. It’s a book I’m currently reading! It contains elements of The Snow Queen. I’m curious, what attracts you to fairytales?

Fairytales are a kind of shared language across cultural traditions (no matter what messages we may get about fairy tales being white, straight, cis, and primarily European). The Snow Queen was one that enthralled me growing up, and also made me angry. What happened to the Snow Queen that made her feel so at home in ice? Why were we so willing to take at face value that she’s a villain, without asking any questions? And why did the only brown character in the story not even get a name? Those were questions I was asking alongside Ciela as I wrote The Mirror Season.

You first began publishing YA in 2015 just before #weneeddiversebooks. At that time, there were so few queer books in YA and queer Latina/0/x/e books? Maybe 2 or 3. Maybe! What was it like approaching publishers back then?

For a long time I was afraid to write stories that felt true to my own heart and my own communities. I tried really hard to write books about white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied characters because I thought I was supposed to. But when I started writing the stories I wanted to write, my stories came alive. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t nervous about those stories going out into the world. I’m so grateful for WNDB, for educators and librarians like you, for everyone working to make the book landscape a place where inclusive stories, and the readers looking for them, are more welcome.

It seems like we’ve come so far with the stories that are being told. Yet, there’s a movement to erase the space your stories create. How do we disrupt the fear that is the basis for this movement?

This is part of why all of this breaks my heart, because stories are part of how we disrupt that fear, and erasing stories just furthers that fear. But by existing in the world, by telling our stories, we’re still making space.

Please, tell me this challenge strengthens your resolve to write stories that are true to who you are and the world you want to create!

Sometimes I still have that initial reaction of wondering if what I am—trans, nonbinary, mixed-race, queer, neurodivergent—is something I shouldn’t be proud of and shouldn’t be writing stories from. But then I remember how many readers are wondering if they can be proud of who they are. The possibility of my stories being one of the voices affirming that who and what they are is beautiful, that definitely keeps me creating.

Oh, yes!! Do be proud! What’s the next project of yours that we can look forward to?

Lakelore, a portal fantasy about a secret world that slips out from underwater and into a small town, comes out on March 8. It’s also about nonbinary identity, neurodivergence (specifically ADHD and dyslexia), and the artistic tradition of alebrijes.

And I just finished edits on Self-Made Boys (coming out September 6)which is a reimagining of The Great Gatsby in which Gatsby is a transgender WW1 veteran, Nick is a Latino trans boy, and Daisy is a Latina socialite. (Self-Made Boys is part of the Remixed Classics series, which launched this past fall with So Many Beginnings, Bethany C. Morrow’s Little Women reimagining, and A Clash of Steel, C.B. Lee’s Treasure Island reimagining, and they are both spectacular.)

Thank you again for having me!

It was my pleasure. Thank you!



Self-Made Boys

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One thought on “Banned Voices: Anna-Marie McLemore

  1. Thank you so much for this interview. Anna-Marie McLemore’s first book was published during my last year of my graduate degree for library science, and their work has become a touchstone in my career. Their books exemplify the very best that YA has to offer and it hurts my heart to think of teens being restricted from accessing their books. Please keep writing, and I’ll keep fighting for the right of children to read.


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