This is meMother. Surgeon. YA Author. No, I don't get much sleep. My debut novel, NONE OF THE ABOVE (Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins), is MIDDLESEX meets MEAN GIRLS. Represented by Jessica Regel, Foundry Literary + Media. Tweet me at @IWGregorio!
This is my book
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I’m not going to lie – the past couple of weeks have been pretty sweet, none sweeter than Friday when I had an amazing visit with the Downingtown High School West Book Club. In addition to being generally sweet and awesome and enthusiastic, they asked some terrific, nuanced questions and helped me make some wonderful cue cards for the #intersex stories campaign for Intersex Awareness Day, which is tomorrow 10/26. If you’ve never seen proof of how open-minded and amazing teens can be, look no further:
Pidgeon Pagonis (formerly of Advocates for Informed Choice and InterActYouth) is spearheading the effort to get #IntersexAwareness day to trend, so please do help her out and sign up for her TwitterStorm. And keep your eye for for my post on Why Intersex is Awesome on EpicReads – wherein some amazing author friends have chimed in with their own thoughts on why intersex awareness is important. To help celebrate their involvement in #intersexstories, I’m hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway for a signed copy of None of the Above and any FOUR of their books! Be sure to Post or Tweet why YOU think intersex is awesome tomorrow, using the HT #intersexstories.
It’s been more than six months since the release of None of the Above, and I am so grateful for all my readers! I’ve seen a few of you recently a the Brooklyn Book Festival and at the Pennsylvania Library Association, and I’m looking meeting more at the following events in the fall:
- October 16-17 (Richmond, VA) – James River Writers Conference
- October 18, 12pm (Austin, TX) – Texas Book Festival (with Pura Belpre winning author Meg Medina and Printz Honor winning Jessie Ann Foley)
- November 7, 3pm (Portland, OR) – Wordstock Literary Festival
- November 8, 8:39pm (Portland, OR) – YALSA Symposium
- November 14-15 – Celebrate Diverse Literature conferences (with Children’s Book World, Haverford)
- Rosemont College (Saturday, November 14th, 2pm) – Rosemont, PA
- Friend’s Central School (Sunday, November 15th, 2pm) – Wynnewood, PA
- November 21 (Minneapolis, MN) – NCTE Annual Conference
- 1:15p – Taking Our Responsibility Seriously
- 4:15p – We Need Diverse Books Roundtable
- December 10 (New Haven, CT) – Yale University School of Medicine, Program for Humanities in Medicine
Hope to see everyone’s smiling faces soon!
Even before the “official” launch date, Erin Entrada Kelly spotted None of the Above in the wild at Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia. Yes, I freaked out when I saw the authors keeping it company on display…
Today I got my first picture of None of the Above in the wild! Thank you, @maxiekat, for snapping a photo of my baby in the cool kids club:
Huge shout out to Wendy at The Midnight Garden, for hosting the official None of the Above blog tour, and for having the brilliant idea to have a graphic debunking an intersex myth each day. The last stop for the blog tour will be on Monday at The Irish Banana, where I’ll be interviewing the intersex author Lianne Simon.
Last but certainly not least, I wanted to recommend that you view this stunningly moving Buzzfeed video on What it’s Like to be Intersex, featuring three intersex youths I met at last year’s AIS-DSD Support Group conference. I’m just blown away by their poise, their smart (and funny) comments, and their honesty and vulnerability. I hope you’re as inspired by them as I am.
Almost a year and a half after selling None of the Above, my debut year is finally here! And I’m terrified and excited and anxious and happy and every emotion in between.
I also have a tiny bit of news. Remember when I announced my release date as April 28th?
NotA‘s official release date has been pushed up to April 7th, for absolutely the best of reasons: it’s going to be taught this spring in an English course at Illinois State University!
I’d be lying if I said this hasn’t been a dream of mine for a long time. When I sold NotA, I knew that it probably wasn’t going to be blockbuster material. First of all, the YA market is incredibly saturated, with hundreds of traditionally published books coming out each year. It’s hard for a debut author to have his or her voice heard above the fray, and it may be easier to get an NFL contract than to break into the New York Times YA bestseller list.
What made me more nervous, of course, is that intersex is still fairly taboo – even invisible – and super misunderstood. That’s why Hanna the Irish Banana‘s Goodreads review of NotA is my favorite so far… because it gives me hope that even if people are initially put off by the subject matter, the book can win readers over, and more importantly, increase their understanding of intersex.
Note that I didn’t use the “t” word: Teach.
One of my biggest inner conflicts as I was writing was that I really, really didn’t want it to sound like a textbook. Yet, at the very same time, I felt a heavy responsibility to make it medically informative precisely because intersex is so poorly understood. It was so crucial that I get the details about intersex right, because even medical professionals don’t understand intersex.
But how to inform without being didactic? It’s a fine line that I hope that I managed, though I know that everyone will have their own opinion. The last thing I want is for NotA to be considered to be, I don’t know, a kind of literary cod liver oil that one has to imbibe as penance for their cotton candy beach reads. Though it’d be cool if it were a superfood, like blueberries; those are yummy and good for your heart. I hope that readers both learn from NotA and enjoy it. We shall see.
The newer launch date is also cool because it means that NotA will be available for some fabulous events that I will be attending in April, including Women’s FEST in Rehoboth, Delaware, and the Little Flower Teen Writers Festival in Philadelphia.
Even more special to me is that NotA now shares its book birthday with one of the most adorable, funny and moving books of 2015: Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Becky’s irresistible story–pitched as You’ve Got Mail starring gay teenage boys with good grammar–is a perfect companion to NotA. She’s also a clinical psychologist, so both of us also have the medical background thing going on. In other words:
So there you have it. None of the Above will be hitting bookstores in three months! In fact, if you’ve got a gift certificate burning a hole in your pocket, you even can consider pre-ordering a signed copy! Stay tuned for some more frenzied blog posts – including a love letter more of my Fearless Fifteeners friends (check out the #2015YAreads hashtag on Twitter, this week’s TTT posts, or check out their AMAZING books here).
Happy Debut Year, indeed.
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Today is Intersex Awareness Day, and I’m so happy to have been over on the Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome – Differences in Sexual Development (AIS-DSD) Support Group blog to talk about my experience at their annual conference this last July.
Here’s how my essay, “On learning how to listen…”, starts:
Things they teach you in surgical residency: The best way to sew subcuticular stitches. How to place a central line. How to perform laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery.
Things they don’t teach you, except by trial and error, in a sink or swim fashion: Empathy. How to talk to patients about difficult topics. How to connect them to people who understand what they’re going through.
And here’s where it goes:
…the most important thing I brought away from the conference was that sometimes community is the strongest medicine.
I hope that None of the Above will not only increase intersex awareness, but that it will change the way that doctors listen to and empathize with all of their patients. And if it makes one person who reads it feel that they are not alone, I will have done my job.
A lot of you have asked how you can get an Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) of None of the Above. Here’s your chance! The first FIVE people who donate $100 to the AIS-DSD Support Group will get a signed ARC of None of the Above, and assorted SWAG including a “True love doesn’t care what your chromosomes are” bookmark, stickers, and a We Need Diverse Books button!
So when you go to my post, you’ll see a little heart at the top right corner, and this is what you should do:
Your donation will help spread #IntersexAwareness, yes, but more importantly it will help the hundreds of intersex individuals out there who need so badly to know that there’s someone out there who knows exactly what they’re going through.
Finally, for an amazing interview and animated video on what it’s like to be intersex (including how important it is to connect with others who are), check out this article about Inter/Act Youth‘s Emily Quinn on MTV.com. Check out her interview below… it could be a trailer for None of the Above.
This post is very belated, because I kept thinking, “Tomorrow I’ll have time to write up that awesome post with pictures of NY Comic Con, and info on all the exciting stuff going on with We Need Diverse Books, and….” Well, no. So without further ado:
Isn’t it eye-catching? I think the Harper team did an amazing job capturing the theme and tone of the book, and so did my editor, Alessandra Balzer! You can read her thoughts – and an interview with my designers Alison and Jenna, at The Book Smugglers blog.
A little more than a week ago, I met my book for the first time, and it was like:
Granted, it wasn’t the fully grown book, more of a teenager really; Advance Readers Copies, or ARCs, aren’t copyedited and are printed in paperback without a lot of the bells and whistles that will be in the final version. But still.
My book. None of the Above in tangible form. That I could sign, which I did for several dozen amazing and enthusiastic booksellers.
On Faking It, Bailey De Young portrays Lauren, a hyper-feminine bitchy teen who is the sister (by marriage) to Rita Volk‘s Amy, who in season one, faked a lesbian relationship with her best friend Karma (Katie Stevens), to move up the social ladder at an Austin high school.
Season one ended with a cliffhanger for Lauren, who flipped out after rumors started flying about mysterious pills she was taking regularly. The season two premiere will reveal that Lauren regularly takes hormones and was born with Androgen Insensitive Syndrome, a type of intersex condition that means she was born with male chromosomes but develops as a female.
As many of you know, my YA contemporary book None of the Above also features a main character with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, or AIS. More importantly, the consultants that MTV worked with from Advocates for Informed Choice and Inter/Act (their youth branch – check out their amazing FAQ here) are some of the incredible people I met at this year’s AIS-DSD conference. Their board member Arlene Baratz was one of the people who vetted None of the Above, and offered a lovely blurb:
“Smartly and compassionately written for a young adult audience, None of the Above puts a new twist on the theme of adolescent difference and acceptance.”
-Arlene Baratz MD (Moderator, Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome- Differences of Sex Development Parents Group www.aisdsd.org)
I am so, so psyched that MTV is putting a spotlight on intersex, because after I sold my book and started to tell my family and friends about it, I realized the huge gap in knowledge about intersex even among medical professionals. There is so much work still to be done to create intersex awareness. So below, the top 5 myths I’ve had to debunk in the year since my book sold:
Myth #1: Intersex = Transgender
This is a very common misconception. To the point where, when I told a doctor friend that I was going to an intersex conference, he laughed and said “Well, it’s appropriate then that it’s in San Francisco!” Then he realized his mistake.
Let’s talk about sex (and the difference between sex and gender). Ladies and gentleman, I present the Genderbread Person:
A person’s sex refers to ones biology – their sexual anatomy at birth – which sometimes correlates with ones chromosomes, but not always. Besides the usual XX and XY chromosomal set, people can be XXY, XO, and even have different sets of chromosomes in different cells.
Gender, however, refers to how a person perceives oneself and wishes to be identified on the gender spectrum.
Intersex individuals are people born with either external or internal sex characteristics that are different than the “typical” male or female. Transgender individuals are people who are born “typically” male or female, but who do not identify as their birth gender (the stereotypical woman trapped in a man’s body). They may often use medical intervention (hormones and surgery) to help them match their identified gender with their birth gender.
Because of these definitions, you can actually be both intersex AND transgender. But not all intersex individuals are transgender.
Myth #2: Intersex people are born with both vaginas and penises
I’m absolutely delighted to announce that in the next few months I’ll be at New York Comic Con, NCTE and NAIBA:
I’ll be signing some hot-off-the-press ARCs of None of the Above at NAIBA’s #WeNeedDiverseBooks reception. There’s an amazing guest list (including some of my very favorite people in the world) which you can see here!