On Oct. 25, Aiden Thomas, a trans, Latinx New York Times bestselling author of young adult novels, including “Cemetery Boys” (2020), “Lost in the Never Woods” (2021) and “The Sunbearer Trials” (2022), visited Wellesley College for Suzy Newhouse Center’s first conversation in its year-long “Radical Possibilities in YA Lit” series. Before his appearance at Tishman, Thomas spoke with First-Generation students in a casual lunch session as a part of Wellesley plus’ first-year seminars. Like the students, Thomas himself was a first-generation student, attending former west coast HWC, Mills College.
Thomas never expected to get into writing as he hated reading for a majority of his life, however, he recalls when his parents would often leave him at the local library so that they could go grocery shopping. In this library, he would soon discover the books that he loved, typically falling within the young adult genre.
Later in his teenage years, Thomas took to Tumblr where he wrote fanfictions of various popular novels including “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games.” There, he garnered a mass following and his fanfictions became household names in the community. This led to Thomas writing his debut book, “Cemetery Boys,” a young urban fantasy novel about Yadriel, a young trans boy fighting to have his family accept his identity and prove himself as a true “brujo.”
When proposing the idea, Thomas wanted to ensure that his main character being trans wasn’t the central plot point, however, he also felt a desire to change the portrayal of the trans community in literature to a more positive depiction.
“I’d rather just write a story about a character who happens to be trans, but at the moment when I wanted to do this, all the trans stories were very polarizing. It was either the family was immediately the perfect ally – they just know everything that is right to do or say — or it was the opposite, where the child was rejected completely. It is really traumatic and horrible, [and so] most of the stories for trans folk were really sad, only focusing on the suffering. It was really empowering and exciting for me to write these stories,” Thomas said.
Thomas wanted to implement normal representations of a trans and brown kid being happy and navigating the world, much like he had and continues to do. As a result, Thomas decided to write young adult novels rather than the new adult genre.
“I really wanted to reach the audience that probably hadn’t seen this kind of representation before … That felt really radical for me to write, and I found out later that it was really radical for others to read,” Thomas said.
While “Cemetery Boys” has received overwhelming support from the trans community and allies alike, the Texas legislature proposed banning Thomas’ book for numerous reasons, including the depiction of drinking, drugs, profanity, sex and violence. And yet, Thomas responds to this with clear enthusiasm that he is doing something right. He hopes to continue writing about the trans community, and potentially expand to the new adult genre in hopes of giving the trans community greater representation.