Lakeside Gay Straight Alliance Welcomes Author Becky Albertalli

Lakeside’s Gay-Straight Alliance welcomed author Becky Albertalli to discuss her book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and its upcoming film adaptation Love, Simon. In addition to Simon, Albertalli has written The Upside of Unrequited (April 2017) and Leah on the Offbeat (April 2018). All of her novels feature LGBT+ main or supporting characters, both adults and teens. “This author has really changed the game for the entire LGBT+ community. She is shedding a true light on what it’s like to actually be a part of it, it’s amazing,” said sophomore Morgan Grego, “Everyone is talking about it, and it’s spread everywhere.”

While television shows like "Glee" and "The Fosters" have helped further the emergence of LGBT characters in mainstream media over the past decade, few shows and films work to promote these characters without continuously fulfilling gay stereotypes. Many people hope that Love, Simon will promote an LGBT story without all the stereotypes. “He [Simon] doesn’t fit generic stereotypes, and shows that anyone can be gay or whatever, no matter what they look like or [who they] hang out with,” said sophomore Jeremy Mezoff.

“I think the movie will help promote awareness towards the LGBT community, and show the struggles that LGBT people face,” said freshman Gemma Gottschling, “At one point, people have to come to terms with it.” Simon shows a side of LGBT+ stories rarely seen in the mainstream: a sweet, simple coming of age and falling in love story of two teenage boys, without all of the complications we’ve come to find normal in coming out stories. Albertalli’s novels aren’t just books about LGBT characters, they’re books about teenagers coming of age, of heartbreak and loss, of supporting their friends. Some of them just happen to identify as LGBT.

What was it like to get to see your book transform into a movie?

Albertalli: That’s a really good question. It’s surreal; it hasn’t entirely sunk in and I saw it for the third time last night. It’s very strange, it’s such a good film that it’s easy to watch it and forget that it has anything to do with me; it just feels like my favorite film that was tailor- made for me. When you see Jennifer Garner saying a line I wrote -- I’m like, that’s not something I ever thought to put on my bucket list. Because I am so much like a mom in the suburbs -- like I live in Roswell, I have my older son that’s five and a three-year-old, my life is spending a lot of time at Target and time in the carpool lane. And then there’s this whole other piece of it where there’s a major motion picture and I have these moments where I’m like, "I'm the first person who knew who Blue was, like I’m the first to know, I’m never the first to get the choice."

What role did you get to play in the movie production?

Albertalli: A lot of my role is kind of connecting with the book readership, which is not as small as it use to be. It has never hit the New York best seller list. It has sold very well, and steadily for the past three years so it’s kind of a slow-burn book that has a little bit of a cult following or something. It’s very weird to have it feel like it’s main

stream and it’s in bookstores. Especially some of the readers who have been there since the beginning are passionate. So yeah, bridging that gap between my little community with Twenty Century Fox -- who scared me kinda. They’ve been very cool and they’ve done an excellent job.

What effect do you think, or hope, Love, Simon will have on mainstream media?

Albertalli: I have a lot of hopes. They had a screening in L.A., and they were really optimistic, they thought it was going to go really well, and it did. People obsessively loved it. And then they played it outside of Kansas CIty, and they didn’t know what to expect. It was kind of a red state crowd, and then it played even better. A high 90 percent of people gave it a top score, people were writing stuff on their comment cards like ‘I never thought I’d be rooting for two boys to kiss.’ People who weren’t necessarily part of the target audience were connecting with this movie anyway. That’s when I realized this was way bigger than I thought. That’s my hope. My other very specific hope is that, with it being kind of a wide release, I like the idea of a kid, who’s not out to his friends, being able to watch it anyway because all the kids are watching it. I like that idea.

What made you decide to write a book about LGBT+ characters?

Albertalli: I’ve been really lucky with my readers, and you know that’s shaped my entire career because I will always be writing for my readers. You know I will never consider writing a book that’s not inclusive, because I know who my readers are, I’m not ever gonna write a book where my readers can’t find a home in it.

What inspired you to write this book?

Albertalli: The answer to this question kinda evolves. I wish there was some kinda light bulb moment, but there wasn’t, not for any of my books really. I think it’s relevant that I was a psychologist working in that community before I wrote the book. But at the same time it’s tricky thing to talk about because people misunderstand that sometimes and think that Simon is based on one of my former patients. I don’t want anyone thinking I wrote a book about their therapy sessions, because it’s strictly off-limits and it’s just something no ethical psychologist would do. A lot of people just don’t know that, so people ask me a lot if Simon is inspired by one of my former clients -- and the answer is firmly absolutely not. He’s very much like me, and it’s very much like my high school that I graduated in -- but the characters aren’t based on people in the school necessarily. I pour a lot of myself into them and I mix different characters into people I know and I’m very close with.

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