If you're interested in reading books about LGBT students challenging the status quo through their writing in a boarding school, then check out "The Chandler Legacies" by Abdi Nazemian.
What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?
"The Chandler Legacies" is inspired by my own time in boarding school in the 1990s. My four years at Choate Rosemary Hall were four of the most impactful years of my life. My freshman year was incredibly difficult, perhaps the most challenging year of my life. I was subjected to hazing, abuse and homophobia by people I was stuck in a dorm with. But the subsequent years were full of healing and magic. It was in boarding school that I made the friends who I still consider family. It was also there that I felt safe enough to first come out as gay, and inspired enough to express myself as a writer. So the book is my way of trying to wrestle with a lot of conflicting emotions about a place that broke me down, but also healed me.
What does "Reading with Pride" mean to you?
Growing up, I didn’t think I could be both queer and Iranian. There were no mentors or examples out there for me to look up to. I grew up thinking I could never be myself. It was through art that I started to piece together who I could someday become. Authors like James Baldwin, Armistead Maupin, and Andrew Holleran helped me see a queer life for myself out there. And so many authors writing currently continue to inspire me and challenge me to keep thinking about the queer community. Adib Khorram, Dean Atta, Sara Farizan, Kacen Callender, Torrey Peters, and Tim Murphy are just a few that come to mind. I guess what Reading with Pride means to me is that when we read books that make us feel connected to our beautiful community, we feel the true spirit of Pride, which is a spirit of connection to each other and empathy for each other.
Why do you feel representation of a variety of people is so important when it comes to writing books and characters?
I strongly believe storytelling is our greatest tool for creating empathy. I say that because books, movies, television, music - all the art forms really - were my own portal into empathizing with others, and perhaps more importantly into having empathy for myself. I grew up feeling so much shame and self-loathing. It was through stories that I realized I wasn’t alone, that every emotion I was feeling was universal. I’m committed to diverse representations in my books both because I want people to empathize with characters who are nothing like them, and also because I want people to discover characters who are very much like them and in doing so come closer to their own self-discovery.
Which character did you relate to the most and why?
This is always such a hard question for me to answer because I can’t write a character I don’t relate to. It’s part of the job to relate to every character no matter how different they are from you. Ramin is the character who most obviously resembles me. He’s gay. He’s Iranian. The hazing he’s subjected to and observes in his dorm is very much a variation of what I experienced. But each character is a piece of me. Beth feels very close to me. Her anxiety is very much based on my own. Spence’s love of theater is my own love of theater. I was the teen who went to the Strasberg Institute to study like she did, chasing my dreams of becoming Marilyn.
What can fans expect from your book?
I mean, I don’t know if I have fans. But if I do, it’s probably because of Like a Love Story (also known as Tipo Uma História in Brazil, where the book has been embraced in such a pure and meaningful way). I hope what moved people about that book is that they could feel the passion and emotion behind the words. I wrote that book because I needed to. And when it came time to follow it up, I challenged myself to write something equally personal. They’re very different books, but they’re both books inspired by chapters of my life that still needed excavation. And they’re both about the power of community and art to create change.
What's up next for you in the bookish world?
I tend to write books a little more slowly than many authors because I balance it out with film and television work, but I have begun writing my next novel. I’m too superstitious to say much about it. And also, I don’t plot out my books, so anything I say now could be subject to change. But I will say that it’s perhaps the most Iranian of all my novels. I’m always discovering so much about my own relationship to my culture and history, and I’m trying to closer look at those themes.