R. Eric Thomas, author of Here For It -- described by The Advocate as "one of the funniest books of the year" -- returns with Kings of B'more, a new, joyfully queer celebration of friendship.
"I think the way that a lot of us learn about love is by loving our friends," Thomas says, "And for queer people, I think that has been the lifeline for a lot of us. Family of choice is a huge component of queer life. Family of choice starts with finding one person who is your friend and your introduction to a larger scene or a larger way of understanding yourself."
Kings of B'more follows two Black, queer 16-year-olds who have to figure out what their friendship will look like when one of them breaks the news that he's suddenly moving out of state. They inexplicably forged this intense, life-affirming bond and now their families are going to screw it up all up. The book follows the two as they have one final, magical adventure together.
It's a heartwarming, hilarious story, a reminder to hold your friends just as close as you do your lovers.
R. Eric Thomas joins the LGBTQ&A podcast to talk about the life-changing power of queer friendships, chosen family, and his new YA book, Kings of B'more.
You can listen to the interview on Apple Podcasts and read excerpts below.
Jeffrey Masters: The love story at the heart of the book is between two friends. It's not a romance. What made you want to explore that?
R. Eric Thomas: I think platonic love is so important. I think the way that a lot of us learn about love is by loving our friends. And for queer people, I think that has been the lifeline for a lot of us. Family of choice is a huge component of queer life. And family of choice starts with finding one person who is your friend and your introduction to a larger scene or a larger way of understanding yourself.
It's so important to see depictions of friends who love each other, friends who are like, we have thought through whether we're attracted to each other, we are not and that is fine and it is not an issue and we're not eventually going to fall in love.
It is okay to love your friends, to hug your friends, and to not want to marry your friends or kiss your friends. It's also okay to want to kiss your friends if your friends want to kiss you back. But platonic love is underrepresented and I think it's super important.
JM: I also think we've inadvertently trained audiences to see two gay men onscreen or on the page and assume that they're going to fall in love and bang.
RET: I think that's it. You look at the cover of the book and people are like, "Oh, are they going to hook up or are they going to fall in love?" And it's like, I want to pull a billboard in Times Square that's like, They are actually just friends.
We're dangerously close in depictions of young gay relationships to a place where you can't see two young men or young women who are adorable and think, "Oh, this is all their relationship is going to be." I don't think that friendship is the JV version of a relationship. Friendship can be the be-all and end-all.
It can be the most fulfilling part and so I think it's been really important to highlight that.
JM: And we have this whole Romance genre in the book world. Books about intimate friendships don't fit as squarely or have their own category.
RET: It's harder because we don't have a very wide vocabulary when we talk about intimacy and it's part of our larger cultural problem. We're afraid of each other. We're afraid of being close to each other. We're afraid of showing affection. And then when we do show affection, we're like, "Oh, well this must mean that we're in love." And it's like, there are a lot of different shades of affection of care of being in love.
And as someone who has been in relationships, someone who's married, sometimes it's easier to just have a friend who at the end of the night, you're like, "Well, goodnight. This was wonderful. I can't wait to see you tomorrow. I'll text you when I get home. I'm going back to my place where all my stuff is and I don't have to think about anybody else." I love that.