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Discussion Module

So Hard to Say
Alex Sanchez

Publishing Information: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: New York, 2004
ISBN: 06898656430
: 230 p.
Ages: 12 & Up

Thirteen-year-old Xio, a Mexican American girl, and Frederick, who has just moved to California from Wisconsin, quickly become close friends, but when Xio starts thinking of Frederick has her boyfriend, he must confront his feelings of confusion and face the fear that he might be gay.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:


BookList, September, 15, 2005, p. 245
School Library Journal, November 2004, p.154

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. How would the story be different if it was only told from Xio's point of view?   Frederick's point of view?
  2. Has someone ever disappointed you or did something with you but then all of a sudden stopped?
  3. One day in the hall, Frederick sees his soccer friends calling Iggy "gay." Frederick stays there silent afraid to say anything. (pg. 40-41) What if Frederick had the courage to say something? How would his relationship with his soccer friends change or not change? How would Iggy react? Would Frederick's speaking up change the story?
  4. How was Frederick's and Xio's date like a typical first date? Why are people like this on a first date?
  5. Throughout the novel, Frederick kept wondering how a person knows if he is really "gay" or not. How was the fifteen seconds in the closet with Xio a turning point for Frederick?
  6. How did spending the night at Victor's house another turning point for Frederick? How did this change his thoughts and life?
  7. How was Frederick's confession to Xio that he might be gay a relief for him and her?
  8. A turning point in the story happened at Iggy's house when he and Frederick kissed. Why do you think Iggy allowed Frederick to kiss him even though Frederick ignored him at school? Why is Iggy tolerate of Frederick's half friendship?
  9. Why does Frederick finally get the courage to stand up for Iggy in front of Victor and his friends?
  10. How does Xio's relationship with Frederick prepare her in dealing with finding out that her father is a homosexual?
  11. Xio talks about people in relation to what astrology sign they are. Discussion of the stars and astrology.   Is astrology really scientific?
    Discuss where the places mentioned in the story are located in North America. Compare and contrast the weather of each city.
  12. Xio has a difficult time dealing with her parents' divorce which led to her father moving to San Francisco. Depending on how many students' parents are divorced, students could interview each other to find out what life is like with or without divorced parents. Then this could lead to a discussion of the differences and how to be tolerant of each other if a student is having a bad day because of a family situation.
  13. First, hold a discussion of the stereotypes of homosexuals. Pick out examples from the story. Second, discuss how Frederick and Xio are having the same feelings and worries about another person like or not liking them. It just so happens that Frederick's worries are about like other boys. Third, discuss how the author is sympathetic to Frederick and Xio worries about liking another person and the feelings of a first romance. Fourth, brainstorm ways that students can help teach tolerance of homosexuals and others. Think of things that your school can do to teach tolerance and respond to hate crimes.

Related Websites:
Author's Website -

National Youth Advocacy Coalition -
NYAC is a social justice organization that advocates for and with young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.

Safe Schools Coalition -
Resources for educators and youth about teaching tolerance; extensive resources

Youth Pride, Inc. -
Local Rhode Island nonprofit organization offering support, advocacy, and education for youth and young adults impacted by sexual orientation and gender identity/expression

YouthResource: A Project of Advocates for Youth -
Support, community, resources and peer-to-peer education for LGBTQ youth, 13-24

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Other Books by the Author:
Rainbow Boys, 2001
Rainbow High, 2003
Rainbow Road, 2005

About the Author:
Alex Sanchez was born in April,1957 in Mexico City, Mexico to parents of German and Cuban heritage. He received his B.A. in Liberal Arts from Virginia Tech University in 1978. He received his M.S. in Guidance and Counseling from Old Dominion University in 1985. When he was five years old, his family emigrated to the United States. Since he didn't speak any English, he was treated as an outsider. When he was thirteen, he first heard the word "gay."   He immediately knew that was what he was. He hated himself for it. For the rest of his school years, he withdrew and was depressed. He remembers from high school about a boy who was labeled "gay" and was beat up every day. He watched and stood silent afraid that if he said anything people would find out about his sexuality. In college, he started to get his passion for writing when he wrote a children's book for a class. After that, he worked for ten years as a counselor of youth and families both in the United States and overseas. During this time, he began to form a novel about gay teens and their families. As he was writing the book, Rainbow Boys,he realized it was a book he wanted and needed to read when he was a teenager.   Since its publication, he has received numerous emails from teens who have felt empowered by this book. Rainbow Boys has also won numerous awards. His other published works are Rainbow High, "If you Kiss a Boy" in the anthology 13: Thirteen Stories about the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen, and Rainbow Road due to be released in the fall of 2005. He resides in Virginia.

| 2004-2007 Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair