Alex Sanchez interviewed by Southern Voice
Sovo Living: When you’re young and gay

by Jacqueline Dean

Friday, 2 November 2001

"His mind was a whirlwind, while beside him his hand took on a life of its own. Slowly one finger after another fell between Kyle’s fingers, until all intertwined. This was surely the climax of his life. Disaster was certain to follow, but he was ready to die happy."


Both ‘The Shared Heart’ and ‘Rainbow Boys’ are receiving accolades from parents and non-gay readers around the country.
"Rainbow Boys" by Alex Sanchez tells an achingly familiar tale of adolescent love with a twist. This is more of a "Romeo and Julius" than "Romeo and Juliet."

A 1999 Massachusetts study of youth revealed that 5.5 percent of students in junior high and high school acknowledge themselves as gay or lesbian by self-identity or by behavior.

Despite the trend, the world of young adult literature has not kept pace. Only recently has there been an increase in juvenile literature with a gay theme, targeted to gay male and lesbian youth. Many early works such "Ruby Fruit Jungle" by Rita Mae Brown were marketed to adults waxing nostalgic.

Sanchez says that tide is turning. "The first gay-themed young adult books were published in 1969 after Stonewall," he explains. He notes that since that time, there have been few that did not reduce gays to secondary roles.

"There has been little focus on gays as protagonists," he adds. The books that have been put out there, Sanchez says, have been aimed more at young lesbians than young gay men.

"Rainbow Boys" is targeted towards a mainstream young adult market according to Sanchez. The book is doing well in its first weeks and is now listed as a best-seller on insideoutbooks.com and is one of the top 25 gay books on Amazon.com.

Being different and making independent choices is often the focus of young adult literature. From the mega literary hit Harry Potter books to "Catcher in the Rye" and "To Kill a Mocking Bird," young adult literature has shown the angst and trials of growing up. One element that has been glaringly missing for many youth is a collection of stories or books about what it’s like to grow up gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

The Human Rights Watch reported in a 1999 independent poll by CBS that one third of 11th grade respondents knew of incidents of harassment of gay students.

Sanchez believes that reading stories about queer youth creates a much more personal connection than does watching movies or television shows with gay themes.

"A story unfolds inside us, inside our imagination," he offers. "This creates a connection to the characters [and] an empathy among non-gay youth, parents, teachers and counselors."

So far, says Sanchez. there has been a positive response to his book from teachers and librarians. "Librarians are amazing champions of free speech," he offers. "For many GLBT youth, libraries often become sanctuaries."

"Rainbow Boys" is an excellent first novel. Sanchez, a trained counselor who has worked with youth and their families, says the story chose him.

He refers to his characters as being like his children. When asked to reflect on his characters, he notes that people seem to either love or hate Nelson, the so-out-he’s-never-been-in, finger-snapping, wild-haired boy torn by unrequited love. He also notes that most people pick up easily on the love story between Jason and Kyle.

He’s right. The blossoming romance between the closeted high school jock Jason and the sweet boy next door Kyle does catch the reader up. Gender, age and sexual orientation slip into the background as the reader is treated to a narrative of events from each character’s point of view.