ALEX SANCHEZ, b. 1957

Since the publication of his book, Rainbow Boys, in 2001, Alex Sanchez has been hailed as a foremost contributor to the world of LGBTQ fiction for young adults. All of his Rainbow Boys books have been Lambda Literary Award Finalists, and he has received recognition from the American Library Association and New York Public Library. Recently, Sanchez was awarded the Outstanding Mid-Career Novelists’ Prize by the Lambda Literary Foundation, which offers a cash prize to an author or authors who have self-identified as LGBT and have published at least three novels (Valenzuela, 2011).

Born in Mexico City in 1957, Sanchez moved with his family to Texas when he was five years old. His desire to blend in caused him to hide his Latino descent to some extent, choosing to speak English exclusively and trying to “pass as white” (Sanchez, as cited by McCafferty, 2006). When he was thirteen he was confronted, once again, with recognizing his difference when he realized that he was gay. Sanchez says his adolescent and teen years were fraught with confusion, fear, and self-hatred.

And just as I’d learned to hide I was Mexican, I learned to hide I was gay. One of the places I escaped to was our school library, which I estimate had several thousand volumes. How many of those books portrayed teens like me, struggling with identity and experiencing prejudice? Not a single one.

Sanchez, as cited in McCafferty, 2006

Sanchez began writing LGBTQ fiction while he was in college, but his instructor responded negatively and he abandoned writing publicly for a time.  He received his master’s degree in counseling from Old Dominion University and worked as a family and youth counselor, all the while writing in private. In 1993 he began the story that would turn into Rainbow Boys. About the experience, he says:

When I began writing my novel, Rainbow Boys, every word I wrote was a battle. I had to fight against every impulse to keep silent. Each word I wrote was a struggle against everything I had learned. I was certain I’d be punished for it.

Sanchez, as cited in McCafferty, 2006

Sanchez eventually found a mentor and supporter in his agent, Miriam Altshuler, who worked tirelessly to find a publisher for Rainbow Boys. Since its publication, the author has written two other books in the trilogy, Rainbow High (2003) and Rainbow Road (2005), as well as a book for younger readers, So Hard to Say (2004); a book dealing with the friendship between a gay teen and his straight friend, Getting It (2006); a book dealing with gay Christian teens, The God Box (2007); and a book about a 16-year-old on probation who works to control his anger and violence and confronts the abuse in his past, Bait (2009). Sanchez’s most recent title is Boyfriends with Girlfriends, which appeared in April 2011. His books touch on themes universal to all teens, such as love and friendship, but also those particular to LGBTQ teens, such as prejudice, coming out, HIV, and the spectrum of identities teens fashion for themselves and each other.

Through my writing I hope to give readers an insight into the lives of gay and lesbian teenagers, their families, their friends, and communities–the daily name-calling and bullying they experience, their courage, struggles, and hopes and dreams for a better life for both themselves and for those who come after them.

Sanchez, as cited in McCafferty, 2006

Click here to watch Alex Sanchez’s video for the It Gets Better campaign.

Click here to visit the author’s web site.

References:

McCafferty, D. (2006). Love and accept yourself for who you are: An interview with Alex Sanchez. Young Adult Library Services, Summer 2006, 10-12.

Valenzuela, T. (2011). Alex Sanchez and Susan Stinson awarded Outstanding Mid-Career Novelists’ Prize. Retrieved on June 5, 2011 from http://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/04/21/alex-sanchez-susan-stinson-mid-career/.

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