Adriana Lara Interview + Anticipated QTPOC Books of 2020

Adriana (they/them/their) is a queer and non-binary Mexican-American book reviewer. They’ve been creating BookTube content for over six years on perpetualpages and remain interested in creating content that spotlights and celebrates representation, intersectionality, and the value of marginalized voices. When they’re not re-watching RWBY or Avatar: The Last Airbender, they can be found writing, laughing out loud while listening to podcasts in public, playing video games, or most likely wearing geeky graphic tees to telegraph their interests.

 

Hi Adriana! Can you tell us more about perpetualpages? When did the idea come about?

You know, on some levels, a BookTube channel felt like an inevitability. In 2013, I had been watching BookTube for quite some time, and whenever I watched a book tag, I could always imagine the answers I would give and the books I would pull from my shelves to reference. When I saw a book review for a book I had already read, I would come away from those videos thinking about the ways I agreed or disagreed, or aspects of the story I wish had been spotlighted that hadn’t been.

So when I finally got my first ever laptop that came with a webcam and editing program pre-installed, it felt very much like the pieces were falling into place. Simply put, I had no reason not to.

But I also think that I created perpetualpages not just out of a necessity for discourse, but out of a necessity for myself. Towards the end of 2013, around the time I was setting up my channel, I was also finding my way out of a deeply abusive and manipulative relationship. For anyone who’s lived through that kind of experience, you know that to survive through such a relationship, you get used to bargaining parts of yourself away and making yourself very small. As I was finally beginning to emerge from that, I felt a deep-seated need to rediscover those things that made me me, and to reconnect with the things that used to bring me joy. And it wasn’t just about recovering an interest or a hobby, but finding some outlet to help myself re-establish a sense of purpose.

As my channel has evolved, purpose is definitely what grounds me and keeps me doing what I do. I feel a deep sense of purpose and responsibility to boost all of these incredible voices we have in the industry and to share all the incredible stories that are out there. When you’re keyed into the book reviewing community, especially, I think you get used to hearing people say, “I wish people had told me x, y, and z about [this story]” or “I wish people would’ve told me about [this book].” And, to put it in the simplest terms, I want to be the person who tells you about that book.

Why do you love books?

Oh, boy. How much time do you have? When you get down to it, I think I’m so passionate about books and storytelling, because reading is such an act of intention and consciousness. You can’t “accidentally” read a book. You can’t just stumble into it a few chapters from the end and not realize how you got there. With the average novel being between 250-500 pages, it’s a commitment, and it’s a commitment you take on consciously.

What I find so wonderful about that process is that when you decide to read a book, you’re deciding to center the perspective (or perspectives) of that story for an allotted amount of time. You are deciding that a certain voice is worth listening to, and you are choosing to live someone else’s reality and truth until you hit that back cover. Surrendering to stories is how we practice empathy. Stories give us a way to recognize each other and ourselves, and I think that’s pretty freakin’ awesome.

How do you choose the books you review? What do you look for in a book?

Not to, like, mysticize the process, but it’s a strange combination of which books have pushed their way onto my radar by way of other people’s reviews/mentions, which plot elements or genres are calling to me at the moment, and which books I think might be most relevant to my audience.

For instance, if I have any advanced copies of books, I try to read them a month or two before their release so that my viewers can decide if the story is for them or not. Much more often, there are read-a-thons or established history months that I allow to guide my reading and challenge me. For example, I like to read exclusively Black authors in February, queer authors in June, Latinx authors between September and October, and so on. (That’s not to say that I don’t read them year-round, but I may be even more intentional about it and focus on celebrating them more during those times.) One of my favorite read-a-thons, the Queer Lit Read-a-thon, just had a round in early December, and that influenced which books I picked up during that week. A round of Tome Topple would influence me to pick up a 500+ page book from my TBR. Those events also certainly play a role in what I decide to read and when.

It’s a blend of what’s already caught my eye or been recommended to me, what is available to me, and my anticipation of what I think people might be interested in hearing about.

We can recognize ourselves in the smallest details, and sometimes you don’t need for an entire book to be “about” an experience for an experience to be rendered beautifully and truthfully. There’s room for so much more, like I said, but that does not negate all of the incredible stories and voices we currently have out there.

Do you feel represented in the books you read?

Yes and no. I always say this: it’s a more common occurrence now for certain parts of me to feel recognized and represented in literature, but I have yet to find a single book that represents all of me. Which is fine, literature is not solely about me and does not exist to cater only to me. But I suspect a lot of people may feel that way, especially because books that are explicitly about providing a certain kind of representation are usually pigeon-holed into being about one diverse experience. There are definitely pieces of intersectionality, even more so in recent releases, but I still think there’s room for so much more.

That said, it’s still incredible to have books where “asexual” or “non-binary” or other previously erased identities are right there on the page. I still have moments where I feel oddly represented by a single line in The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz where the narrator says something about how enchiladas are not enchiladas unless you’re pre-frying the tortillas. And that one thing encompassed, like, the entirety of my familial traditions.

Representation is weird like that. We can recognize ourselves in the smallest details, and sometimes you don’t need for an entire book to be “about” an experience for an experience to be rendered beautifully and truthfully. There’s room for so much more, like I said, but that does not negate all of the incredible stories and voices we currently have out there.

Is there still a book you wish was written?

Yes! A book written by me!

What’s on your TBR list?

Well, certainly all of the books I mention in my Most Anticipated list below. Besides that, wow. Too many to list. I have my eye on things like Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone, The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis, The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert, How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones, and Stargazing by Jen Wang, just to name a few!

How many books have you read in the last year? LOL.

Thank goodness for Goodreads for keeping the running tally. In 2019 I read a grand total of 144 books!

Honestly, I’m not that concerned with numbers, as long as I’m enjoying what I’m reading. I don’t really make hard-and-fast reading goals for myself, especially in terms of quantity. I read what I can when I can, and whatever the number is by the end of the year, I could take or leave it.

Some people read more than me, some people read less than me. I just don’t think how much you read has any kind of direct correlation to how much you love reading. Our respective reading journeys have their own stories to tell, and I’m okay with that!

What are your hopes for 2020 for either yourself or when thinking about the landscape of publishing?

My hopes for 2020, both concerning myself and the industry, kind of go hand-in-hand. I hope that the industry does a better job of supporting and marketing marginalized authors, specifically, and works harder not only to uplift and celebrate irrevocably authentic stories, but to discover them and publish them in the first place. And, as a content creator, I hope that I can do my best to continue to spotlight those authors and stories as I find them, and help those books find their readership.

I’m also hoping I can get my shit together and finally finish this first draft of a book I’ve been thinking about and working on for quite some time now! It just feels like it’s time, and I’m hoping I can make it happen in 2020 so I can pursue it even further.

 

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Adriana’s Most Anticipated QTPOC Books of 2020

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (June 9th)

Move aside TBR, because here comes the book of my dreams. When Yadriel, a trans Latinx teen, tries to perform a ritual to prove to his family that he is, in fact, a real brujo, he accidentally summons the ghost of the school’s resident bad boy, Julian Diaz. Of course, Julian is in no rush to get back to the other side, and instead drags Yadriel into helping him complete his unfinished business. But when the time comes to send Julian back, will Yadriel still want him to leave?

Dumb Latinx ghost bois! Brujería gone wrong! Gender-affirming magic systems! Impossible romance! High probability of dad jokes! It’s all here, folks: the makings of a surefire hit. I would gladly lay down my life for actual real-life anime boi Aiden Thomas, who is bound to have an incredible career starting with this exciting debut.

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar (May 12th)

Nishat has always been told that Muslim girls are not lesbians. But when her childhood friend, Flávia, waltzes back into her life, it’s hard for her to deny the attraction lying dormant between them. When a school competition comes around encouraging students to create their own businesses, Nishat is sure she has the market cornered with her henna booth. That is, until she hears Flávia is running one herself.

This story is set to explore the stresses and struggles of navigating high school and identity while also commenting on cultural appropriation. Plus it seems like Nishat will have to confront the reality that the people she cares about can also be problematic, whether they realize it or not.

The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya (April 7th)

When Neela Devaki’s original song is covered by an internet-famous musician, Rukmini, the two meet and become fast friends. But while Rukmini continues to gain popularity and ascend to fame, Neela is left stagnant, making her bitter, jealous, and doubtful about her own talent. A single tweet is enough to destroy their friendship, end one of their careers, and land them both in a social media firestorm.

Vivek Shraya consistently creates work that uplifts and celebrates queer brown women. This one is particularly exciting because Shraya has experience in the music industry herself, and her perspective on how the creation of art intersects with social media and online production is sure to be a valuable one.

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore (January 14th)

Told through dual time-lines—one in the 1500’s, one in present day—this magical realism story follows a mysterious “curse” that causes people to dance themselves to death. When it first struck the people of Strasbourg in 1518, the citizens were convinced it was the product of evil and witchcraft, possibly connected with these magical shoes that would fuse to the wearer’s feet. Centuries later, the descendants of both families, those accused of witchcraft and those who cobbled the shoes, are left to reconcile with the echo of this “curse,” hoping they can use their knowledge of the past to break it once and for all.

This story is very much about how we reconcile with history and trauma, and how history is a living, breathing phenomena that still affects us, especially those of us in marginalized communities. Using their trademark lush prose and lyrical insight, Anna-Marie McLemore is definitely at the top of their game once again!

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera (January 14th)

A lauded contemporary author trying their hand at fantasy? More likely than you’d think! In his fantasy debut, Silvera imagines a world where magical vigilantes, known as Spell Walkers, are sworn to rid the world of specters. While some “celestials” are born with magic, others violently siphon it from endangered magical creatures. When a young man named Emil manifests a dangerous kind of power that his brother, Brighton, has always longed for, the two brothers find themselves on either side of this war between celestials and specters.

I don’t know about you, but this magic system is giving me mad Dragon Prince vibes in an urban fantasy setting and I’m here for it. There’s bound to be an exploration of pain and trauma in this story where family, love, and magic are put to the test, and Silvera is just the right author to pull it off.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (June 2nd)

Liz Lighty has always thought she was too Black, too poor, and too awkward to thrive in her prom-obsessed hometown, but her plans to get into an elite college, play in their renowned orchestra, and become a wildly successful doctor will put all that in the rearview mirror. Except her financial aid falls through, and now her last hope lies in the scholarship her school awards to the prom king and queen. So Liz embarks on what she hopes is a winning campaign, and she might be falling for a fellow running queen in the process.

When I hear about a reluctant prom queen aiming to triumph over the odds while falling for another girl in the court, my heart soars and I gain ten years of life! Liz is bound to navigate the landmines of social media, high school hierarchy, and restrictive societal norms as she strives to achieve her goals, and I can’t wait to read all about it.

American Sweethearts by Adriana Herrera (March 30th)

Juan Pablo Campos is living the dream as a physical therapist for the New York Yankees. But he can’t help but dwell on his one regret: Priscilla, the childhood friend he always had feelings for. Priscilla works in the NYPD as a detective, but now she’s questioning her career, her relationships, and the direction of her life. The two find themselves stuck together on a private jet to the Dominican Republic, where the hate/love dance they’ve been doing all their lives is bound to implode.

I am sweating in anticipation of Adriana Herrera’s next release! She’s the queer Latinx writer of my dreams who perfectly balances issues of social justice and social consciousness with incredible romance. I believe this is her first m/f pairing, and I know she’s gonna knock it out of the park!

The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters (August 4th)

Comic book geek Wesley Hudson is known for two things: slacking off work at the local used bookstore and hopelessly pining over his best friend and long-time crush, Nico. When his job at the bookstore is threatened by a coffee shop franchise wanting to take over the property and his brother comes to him for wedding planning advice, Wesley feels like everything in his life is combusting. Can he save the bookstore, salvage a strained sibling relationship, *and* win the heart of his dream guy all in one summer?

Julian Winters is back at it again, bringing us all the soft queer romance we deserve. All of his stories wonderfully balance self-discovery and romance with larger themes of finding your place in the world, and I know this release is going to do exactly that and more. His first two books are stories I would gladly re-read for the rest of my life, and I am confident this title will join them in that status.

I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee (June 16th)

Determined to join the glittering, dynamic world of K-pop, Skye Shin is prepared to do anything. As a fat, bisexual, outspoken Korean girl, she’s used to being discouraged from her dream to be in the public eye. But when the chance arises to be on an internationally televised competition seeking the next big K-pop star, Skye nails her audition and is immediately swept into practices, performances, and reality TV drama. There she is challenged by the industry’s fatphobic standards, public scrutiny, and unwelcome feelings for her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

Buzzwords? This one hits pretty much every one I’ve got. Fat rep, bisexual rep, K-pop competitions, falling for fellow competitors—it’s all here. As a lover of K-pop, I’m always here for insightful critiques of the industry and the harmful burdens it places on young idols. This story is sure to blend that commentary with a fun romance and headstrong protagonist, which is all any of us can ask for in life.

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega (April 7th)

Just before Halloween, Lucely and Syd cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, who are now tearing through town and causing havoc. With the help of Syd’s witch grandmother and her “tubby tabby” cat, Chunk, the two kids plan to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse before it’s too late.

This story has been pitched as Coco meets Stranger Things, which should be enough to get anyone hyped out of their gourd. Latinx authors who write rich, exciting explorations of how we connect with spirits and the afterlife are honestly life-giving. As you can tell, we love a good spell-gone-wrong narrative, and this is lined up to be a great one.

 

interviewed by medina

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