To celebrate the release of What We Left Behind by Robin Talley (10/27/15), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Robin, as well as 10 chances to win a copy of What We Left Behind or a 7-book LGBT YA Prize Pack chosen by Robin herself in the Grand Prize Giveaway! We also have a chance here at Novel Novice for you to win a copy of What We Left Behind.
In this excerpt from chapter 3, politics-dork Toni and ultracool roommate Ebony are navigating a Harvard student activities fair full of tables advertising student clubs.
The Yard is packed—more crowded than it was on move-in day. I try to take deep breaths as I scan the booths for the groups I’m signing up for: the Undergraduate BGLTQIAA Association, the PolitiWonk blog and the Model Congress. All I see in every direction is people jumping up and down, hugging, and eating the free candy the groups have set out on their tables. Am I the only lost freshman here?
Someone to my left yells, “Eb!” Ebony grins and waves at a girl in tennis gear.
“I’m going to go say hi,” Ebony says. “You’ll be okay on your own, right?”
What am I, a toddler?
“Of course,” I say, but Ebony’s already gone. All right, then. I push past a group of guys high-fiving each other by the Ukrainian-American Brotherhood table and find a spot blessedly free of people so I can collect myself.
A girl rushes up to me and presses a mini Snickers bar into my hand. “Hi! I’m so glad you’re interested in the HSWMS! Let me tell you about what we’ve got planned for this year!”
I blink at the girl. Then I realize this spot was only free because I’m in front of the Harvard Students Waiting for Marriage Society table.
“Oh, sorry,” I say. “I’m not interested.”
I put the Snickers back on the table in case it has abstinence cooties.
I back away from the HSWMS table and allow the throng to carry me from booth to booth. There must be hundreds of them.
Hmm. Maybe I should sign up for some other groups, too, just in case. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to join the College Democrats. And the Japanese fencing-club people look like they’re having a great time waving swords around.
Then I see the giant rainbow flag pinned high on a brick wall. I’ve found the UBA.
The crowd in front is bigger than for any other table in the row. Behind the booth and wading out into the sea of students are upperclassmen wearing bright purple T-shirts that say, “We’re so gay! Harvard UBA!”
Cute. Maybe too cute.
The sign-up sheet is front and center in the middle of the table. All around me, freshmen are elbowing their way toward it, but I linger at the back of the crowd.
Just go up there and sign the list. You don’t have to talk to anyone. Just put your name down and get out of there.
“Hi!” someone perks at me before I’ve unfrozen. It’s an alarmingly cheerful blond in one of the purple shirts. “Are you a freshman?”
“Uh, yeah,” I say.
“That’s fantastic!” the girl says as if we aren’t surrounded by freshmen on every side. “We have special cupcakes for freshmen!”
The girl points to one end of the table. Eight neat rows of cupcakes are laid out, each with the pink letters QF carefully written on chocolate frosting.
“It stands for Queer Freshmen,” the girl says.
“Uh-huh,” I say.
Maybe Ebony was on the right track. There are at least four other LGBT groups on campus. Surely one of them is less focused on T-shirts and cake decoration.
“Don’t worry about her,” a short black guy with a buzz cut says as the blond wanders away to pounce on someone else. The guy is wearing a matching T-shirt, too. “Shari was the bake-sale queen four years running back in Kansas City. It’s safest to humor her. Her bite is way worse than her bark.”
I smile at the guy. “Thanks for the tip.”
We shake hands. It isn’t easy in the press of moving bodies.
“I’m Derek,” the guy says.
“Tony with a Y?”
“Ah.” Derek nods, as if this explains everything, and points to my wrist. “Great tattoo.”
“Queer history buff?”
I blink in surprise. On my eighteenth birthday I got a blue star tattooed on my wrist. Back in the thirties and forties, blue stars were one of those secret signals closeted people used to aid their gaydar. I’d thought that was cool. I’d also wanted to piss off my mother by getting a tattoo. No one has ever known its back story until I explained it, though.
“Sort of, yeah,” I say.
Derek nods. “Are you trans?”
I blink again. No one’s ever come straight out and asked me before.
No one I’ve met online. No one in the LGBT youth center where I volunteered in DC. None of my high school friends.
Not even Gretchen.
So it’s strange acting all casual about it here, with someone I don’t even know. For a second I want to look around to make sure no one’s listening. Then I decide I don’t care. I’ve been worrying about that stuff my whole life.
I’m in college now. It’s time to get over it.
“I’m genderqueer,” I say.
“That’s cool,” Derek smiles. Like this is a totally normal conversation. Like those weren’t the two most nerve-racking words I’ve ever spoken out loud.
Stop by The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shh tomorrow for Day #3 of the tour!
Blog Tour Schedule:
Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They’ve been together forever. They never fight. They’re deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they’re sure they’ll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, their relationship will surely thrive.
The reality of being apart, however, is a lot different than they expected. As Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, falls in with a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.
While Toni worries that Gretchen, who is not trans, just won’t understand what is going on, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni’s life. As distance and Toni’s shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?
One (1) winner will receive a 7-book LGBT YA Prize Pack featuring the 5 novels chosen by Robin in Day #1’s post (The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth, Ask the Passengers by A.S. King, If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan, Far From You by Tess Sharpe, The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson), plus copies of both of Robin Talley’s novels (What We Left Behind and Lies We Tell Ourselves).
Enter by filling out the Rafflecopter form here.
U.S./Canada only. Ends 11/1 at midnight ET.
NOVEL NOVICE GIVEAWAY:
Another chance to win! We’re giving away a copy of What We Left Behind to one lucky winner. U.S./Canada only.
To enter, tell us in the comments why you want to read What We Left Behind, then fill out the Rafflecopter form here to complete your entry and earn more chances to win.
Contest ends at midnight (PT) on Tuesday, October 27th.