Welcome to the second week of WNDB Summer Reading! We are excited for everyone to join together, while many of us are home, to engage in discussions on race and diversity. This week we will be focusing on the young adult novel Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. Kacen is here to talk about their book and the inspiration behind it.
Hey, everyone! I’m Kacen Callender, and I’m an author of various books for children and adults, and I’m really excited to tell you more about my latest YA, Felix Ever After.
Felix Ever After is about seventeen-year-old Felix Love who has never been in love, and yes, he’s well-aware of the irony. The problem? He wants to be in love but is afraid that others won’t consider him loveable because he’s “one marginalization” as a Black, queer, and trans teen. When an anonymous transphobic troll starts to bully him, Felix is pushed onto a path of love—not only for others but most importantly, for himself.
This book is deeply personal as someone who is also Black, queer, and trans. Society—government officials, media, anonymous transphobic trolls—constantly try to tell me that I’m unworthy of love, or even existence, and it’s been a journey for myself to focus on my own self-love, to validate and affirm myself as someone who is worthy of respect and love. This story is also important to me as someone who began to realize my gender identity in my twenties. I was watching Degrassi and was introduced to the character Adam. That was the first time I’d heard a trans person say what it meant for them to be trans, and as Felix says when he first realized his gender identity: not only was that a lightbulb moment for me—it was like the sun came out from eternal clouds. Adam’s character is so important to me because he helped to show me who I really am. It’s my hope that Felix can do that for anyone else who might not yet realize their gender identity or might be questioning their identity.
It was also deeply important to me to show different intersecting identities that reflect me. A popular question on panels or interviews is, “When was the first time you saw yourself?” And it took me some time to become comfortable with simply saying, “I’ve never seen myself reflected before.” I’ve never seen a Black, queer, trans masculine person as the main character of books, TV, or movies, before Felix Ever After. Writing Felix’s character was a chance for me to validate and empower myself and my own identity—to declare that I’m worthy of seeing myself in stories, too, and so are other Black, queer, and trans masculine people.
Felix Ever After is important and personal for me, but honestly, I also just wanted to see a fun, romantic, roller coaster ride of a story. Felix does have to deal with trauma, as many of us do in daily life. I made the choice to not erase that hurt, to acknowledge a real pain that so many of us face, to validate our pain and to celebrate our lives in spite of the trauma, and to hopefully give teens and adults alike perhaps some guidance, or a blueprint, on how to respond to transphobic rhetoric. But, alongside the trauma, I wanted to show radical joy—acceptance and love, a community where Felix can realize that he does and always will belong, and through making mistakes and growing, realizing the happiness of accepting and loving himself. It isn’t a coincidence that Felix takes place during the month of Pride, a month of declaring that people like us are worthy of our lives, our existence, of love.
As you begin exploring Felix Ever After, please check out this education guide designed by Education Researcher B. J. McDaniel to help encourage discussion and engagement. Included are comprehension questions, follow-up activities, and a further reading list.
WNDB is proud to be partnering with Mahogany Books, a Black-owned bookstore in Washington, DC, for this program. Please consider ordering your books with them. Email your receipt from Mahogany Books to email@example.com to receive #WNDBSummerReading bookmarks and WNDB stickers, while supplies last.