Rainbow Boys and other novels
about love and friendship - for teens and adults

by
Alex Sanchez

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ALEX SANCHEZ - The Bio

Alex Sanchez is the author of the Rainbow Boys trilogy of teen novels, along with The God Box, Getting It, and the Lambda Award-winning middle-grade novel So Hard to Say. His novel, Bait, won the 2009 Florida Book Award Gold Medal for YA fiction. Alex received his master’s degree in guidance and counseling from Old Dominion University and for many years worked as a youth and family counselor. His newest novel, Boyfriends with Girlfriends, was released in 2011.

Rainbow Boys was selected as a 2002 "Best Book for Young Adults" by the American Library Association and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. As a result of the extraordinary reception to Rainbow Boys, Alex was honored as a "Flying Start" by Publishers Weekly.

Rainbow High, the sequel to Rainbow Boys, was released in fall 2003 and also selected as a Lambda Literary Award finalist. His short story, "If You Kiss a Boy" appeared in the fall 2003 anthology 13: Thirteen Stories about the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen, edited by James Howe.

In 2004, Alex published So Hard to Say, a novel for younger readers, which won the Lambda Literary Award. In 2005, the third novel in the Rainbow series, Rainbow Road, was published, completing the Rainbow trilogy.

Getting It, 2006, won a Myers Outstanding Book Award. The story centers on two teenage boys, one straight and the other gay. Imagine QUEER EYE for the straight teen BOY!

The God Box (2007) focuses on a Christian teen boy, who doesn't want to accept he's gay.

Bait (2009) tells the story of teenage boy troubled by secrets from his past. The novel received
the 2009 Florida Book Award Gold Medal for YA fiction and the 2011 Tomas Rivera Mexican-American Children's Book Award.

Boyfriends with Girlfriends (2011) explores the lives of bisexual teens.

Alex's dream to write began in college with an unpublished children's picture book, but then he went on to work for ten years as a counselor of youth and families both in the United States and overseas.

During that time, Alex began to shape a novel about gay teens and their families. As he put the story on paper, it became apparent he was writing the book he'd wanted and needed to read when he was a teenager--a book that would have told him: "It's okay to be who you are."

Although Alex intended to write an upbeat and affirming story that would encourage empathy, he didn't realize until after the release of Rainbow Boys that his book would become an agent of social change, one that School Library Journal compared with Judy Blume's Forever and praised as able to "open eyes and change lives."

Since the publication of Rainbow Boys, Alex has found himself inundated with emails from young people empowered by the book to come out to their parents or to start Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in their schools.

Alex received his master's in guidance and counseling from Old Dominion University. Born in Mexico to parents of German and Cuban heritage, he currently resides in Florida, Thailand, and on the web at www.AlexSanchez.com.

Print Interviews:

Publishers' Weekly

Dallas Voice

Southern Voice

Advocates for Youth

Cynthia Leitich Smith

Teen Reads

Watch Alex on In The Life TV - search for "Stranger Than Fiction"

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Video Interviews:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5; Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

My "It Gets Better" Video

My "No Name-Calling Week" Video

EVEN MORE ABOUT ALEX:

BIRTH: Born in April, 1957, in Mexico City, Mexico, to parents of
German and Cuban heritage.

EDUCATION: B.A., Liberal Arts, Virginia Tech University, 1978, with
honors, Phi Beta Kappa. Concentrations: English, Philosophy, and
Architecture.
M.S. Ed., Guidance & Counseling, Old Dominion University, 1985.

CAREER: Writer. Previously worked as a website manager,
organizational development consultant, juvenile probation officer,
family counselor, scuba instructor, program coordinator, admissions
official, college recruiter, movie projectionist, agent trainee, movie
production assistant, theater usher, stock clerk, and tour guide.

PUBLISHED WORKS, AWARDS, and HONORS:
Rainbow Boys (2001): American Library Association 2002 “Best Book for Young Adults,” International Reading Association 2003 “Young Adults’ Choice,” New York Public Library 2002 “Book for the Teen Age,” Lambda Literary Award 2001 Finalist, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books “Blue Ribbon Winner,” Selected as a "Flying Start" by Publishers Weekly Magazine, December 24, 2001.

Rainbow High
(2003): Lambda Literary Award 2003 Finalist, New York Public Library 2004 “Book for the Teen Age,” Children’s Book Council Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People 2004,

“If You Kiss a Boy” (short story in the anthology, 13: Thirteen Stories About the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen, James Howe, Ed., 2003). Selected by the Junior Library Guild.

So Hard to Say (2004): Lambda Literary Award 2004 Winner; Rhode Island Teen Book Award Nominee; VOYA Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers; Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choice; Borders Bookstores "Original Voices: New and Emerging Writers" selection, Mi Zona Hispana selection, New York Public Library 2005 “Book for the Teen Age”

Rainbow Road (2005): Lambda Literary Award 2005 Finalist; New York Public Library 2006 “Book for the Teen Age;” 2009 ALA "Popular Paperback for Young Adults"

Getting It (2006): Myers Outstanding Book Award 2007 Winner; 9th International Latino Book Awards 2nd place Best Young Adult Fiction – English; New York Public Library 2007 “Book for the Teen Age”

The God Box (2007): New York Public Library 2008 “Book for the Teen Age”

Bait (2009): Florida Book Award Gold Medal for Young Adult Fiction; 2011 Tomas Rivera Mexican-American Children's Book Award

Boyfriends with Girlfriends
(2011)

·How would you describe your childhood?

My family emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. when I was five, forever altering the course of my life. As I began school, I spoke no English. I watched people's lips move and had no idea what they were saying. I experienced growing up as an outsider. I got picked on for being different. It was my first experience with prejudice.

Battling the taunts of classmates, I learned English as fast as I
could. Yet when I told other children I was from Mexico, they told me: "But you don't look Mexican." I began to realize that even knowing the language, Mexicans and other darker-skinned people in the U.S. were looked down upon by both children and adults.

The shame I felt caused me to stop speaking Spanish. When my parents took me shopping or to a restaurant, I didn't want other people to know we were from Mexico. I didn't want them to look down upon us. Because I was relatively light-skinned, I learned I could pass as white. I could hide who I was, so that others would like and accept me. By the time I reached middle school, I had buried a core part of myself--my Mexican heritage. I was no longer different. Or so I thought.

·Who were your earliest influences?

Foremost was my mom, a watercolor artist who constantly encouraged my friends and me to access our creativity; my dad, who exemplified the ethic of hard work; and Mrs. Holden, who read aloud to our 4th grade class, inspiring me with a love of stories.

·What were your favorite books as a child?

The singular book from childhood whose impact I feel to this day is The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson, about a Spanish bull that preferred smelling flowers to fighting in a ring. That simple story continues to communicate its timeless message to generations of children, telling them it's okay to be different, to be who you are, to be an individual.

·How would you describe your teenage years?

I was 13 when I first heard the word "gay." Immediately, I knew that's what I was. And I hated myself for it. Like so many gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (GLBTQ) teens, for the remainder of my school years I withdrew, depressed. Alone in my room after school, I would tell myself, "I'm not going to feel this way. I refuse to let this happen."

There was no such thing as being "out" when I was in high school. I do remember one boy, who was labeled "gay" and consequently got beat up every day. I watched and stood silent, afraid that if I said anything, I might be found out too. So instead, I looked on, feeling guilty.

The way I coped was by becoming "the best little boy in the world," just as in Andrew Tobias's book of that title-a classic overachiever, being the best at everything, in order to mask the shame I felt. I hated high school, and raced through it, finishing a year and a half early. What young person wouldn't hate a setting that leads them to hate themselves? That's probably what led me to revisit the setting in a novel.

The world has changed a lot since I was a teen. The average age for "coming out" in the U.S. is now 15 years old. Unfortunately however, the predominant experience for most GLBTQ youth is still one of isolation, harassment, persecution, and self-loathing.

These teens, like any others, need to see positive images and read
affirming stories of people like them to help guide them through the
often painful and confusing terrain of adolescence.

Books can provide a moral compass, a system of values, a way to
understand yourself. Usually you learn these things from peers, or at school, or from family. But what happens when all those avenues tell you that what you're feeling is bad and wrong? Books can hold a special place, providing hope for a world in which it's okay to be who you are.

·What was your college experience like?

I loved learning-the intellectual stimulation, reading, essays,
research, and discussion of ideas. I detested the cramming, testing, and regurgitation of information I promptly forgot.

·What work did you take fresh out of college?

After college I went to Hollywood hoping to get into the film industry. I worked as a theater usher, movie projectionist, agent trainee, TV production assistant, studio tour guide-anything remotely to do with movies. One of my most valuable experiences was working as a script reader. I read so much garbage, I thought, "I can write better than this." Finally, I told myself, "Then do it!" And I wrote three screenplays. I'm not sure they were much better garbage, but I learned a lot in the process.

·What led you to become an author?

An irrepressible passion. Like many writers, I loved to write since I
was a child. But as I grew up, I learned it wasn't safe to share who I was. In college I wrote a picture book for a children's lit class but
it wasn't anything truly personal. Not till grad school did I finally
summon the courage to write a story with a gay character. The
instructor's homophobia caused him to lash out at it. After that I
didn't write for years. But the dream of writing stayed with me.

When I finally summoned the courage to try again, I reached out to
several friends working on their own creative projects. We encouraged one another. In addition, I discovered the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown (www.fawc.org), which offers one-week workshops with many of America's finest writers. I've gone each summer for the past eight years, found tremendous encouragement, and learned a lot.

·What influenced you to write for teens?

I didn't write RAINBOW BOYS with a particular audience in mind. As the novel took shape, however, it became apparent I was writing the book I desperately wanted and needed to read when I was a teenager-one that would have told me: "You don't have to hate yourself for being gay. It's okay to be who you are." My intention was to write an upbeat and affirming book that would inspire and encourage empathy.

·How did your first book contract come about?

I began RAINBOW BOYS the year I left work as a youth counselor and moved into human resources. I never imagined the book would take five years to write. I've now learned that's average for first novels. Much of that time is spent learning HOW to write a novel.

During those five years I took workshops to improve my writing. An
instructor who liked my work recommended me to her agent, a straight suburban mom, who liked the manuscript because of its themes of acceptance and personal integrity. It's a book she hopes her kids will read when they're teenagers. She was a huge champion of the manuscript and had the contacts at Simon & Schuster.

·What advice would you give to young writers?

Check out my Writing Advice link.

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