Author Alex Sanchez (Rainbow Boys, So Hard to Say, Bait) has released his latest coming out romance, You Brought Me The Ocean. Set against the backdrop of the DC universe, You Brought Me The Ocean reimagines the story of DC superhero Aqualad in a queer coming of age tale about first love.
With art by lesbian illustrator Julie Maroh (Blue Is the Warmest Color), the novel follows protagonist Jack Hyde’s journey to discover his own identity as a gay man in his hometown of Truth or Consequences, N.M.
Determined to leave for a college on the coast to meet his yearnings for the ocean, despite his mother’s cautious eye, Jack also wrestles with newfound feelings when he’s attracted to Kenny Liu, captain of the swim team.
When he learns that his glowing blue skin markings give him the ability to manipulate water, Jack dives into two closets: one that hides his sexual identity and one that hides his superpower. As his budding romance with Kenny remains hidden from family and his best friend Maria, Jack begins a new path of self-discovery — one that leads him to new territories.
That Advocate sat down with Sanchez, a proud gay immigrant from Mexico, to talk about his inspiration behing the crafting of the novel. Read below:
The Advocate: As a writer, what was the impetus for the story?
Alex Sanchez: When DC invited me to pitch a graphic novel idea, I asked myself: What's the superhero story I wish I could’ve read while I was growing up? That was my launch point. From there, the story of a teen boy discovering his super powers, exploring his sexuality, and risking love with another boy rocketed off.
How does Jake’s “fish out of water” storyline in his hometown at the beginning mirror your own experiences as a teenager?
AS: I always felt different growing up. On one hand, as an immigrant who didn’t speak English and got picked on for being Mexican. Also as a quiet, gentle boy (my favorite story was Ferdinand, the bull who preferred to smell flowers rather than fight). And I also felt different as a boy who got crushes on boys while other boys were crushing on girls.
Jake’s yearning for the ocean is a large pillar in the story. Why did you choose the ocean?
AS: From the time I was little, the ocean always called to me in both dreams and waking life. During my teen years my mom bought me scuba lessons and the sea became my refuge. Underwater I felt at peace. Plus, there was an added attraction: Because the Virginia waters were so murky, while my dive mates and I swam we had to keep track of each other by choosing a "buddy" and holding hands. I loved it!
What is it about the fantasy genre that fascinates you as a writer and reader?
AS: We have moments when we want to step out of ordinary reality and into a different world. That's the appeal of fantasy--to leave behind the way things are and travel to a world that could be. The challenge (and fun) for a writer is to make that fantasy world so believable that readers will experience the inhabitants and places as though they truly exist.
Can you explain the metaphor of Jake’s powers or self-empowerment being parallel to his search for identity?
AS: Queer people, like superheroes, can feel we have to live a double life, keeping our true identity secret and hiding who we fully are. Jake gets hit on both counts—because of his special powers and his sexuality. By coming out in both arenas, he claims his greatest power: to be the unique and special person he was born to be. Hopefully Jake’s story will remind readers, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity, that's the journey for each of us.