NEWS

Raziel Reid reflects on debut novel inspired by murder of gay teen

03/14/2015 07:05 EDT | Updated 05/14/2015 05:59 EDT
Canada Reads 2015 starts on Monday, and Vancouver author Raziel Reid's debut novel, When Everything Feels Like the Movies, is one of five contenders vying for the title.

Reid's novel is a coming-of-age story about gay teenager Jude, who, despite being tormented and bullied, insists on being true to himself: flamboyant, fashion-loving and celebrity-obsessed.  

When Everything Feels like the Movies won the 2014 Governor General's Award for English-language children's literature, but it also sparked controversy, with some saying the content is too graphic for a young audience.

Reid sat down with North By Northwest's Sheryl MacKay recently at an event at the Book Warehouse in Vancouver. Here are some excerpts from their conversation. 

When did you know you were going to write this particular book?

It's inspired by a true story, the 2008 hate crime murder of Larry Fobes King, which I remembered hearing about when I was in high school myself.

It definitely struck me that someone who had asked a boy in class to be his Valentine was answered in such a brutal and barbaric way — he was murdered.

Larry really stuck with me because he was so brave and out there and unabashedly himself, in a way that I wasn't when I was in junior high and in high school.

So I was really impressed that he was so advanced, and then the fact that was taken away from him felt like such an injustice.

What was it like for you when you were in school?

I was bullied a lot when I was younger. Elementary and junior high were the hardest time. I didn't feel safe enough to be myself. But by the time I was in high school, I was doing my own thing. I had some girls I was friends with.

I was never really friends with boys until I moved to New York a few years later and went to film school. I had some girls who accepted me and loved me and kind of built me up. I didn't go to school much. I skipped a lot.

There was a little backlash to this book winning the Governor General's award for literature.  What was that like for you?

I think the worst thing in this world is apathy, so at least people have an opinion.

I just wish that the wording had been different. I think if the petition had said, "We don't think When Everything Feels Like the Movies is worthy of the Governor General's award because of its graphic language, sign if you agree, —​ Ok, that might hurt my feelings, but that's a legitimate opinion to have.

But the fact that it was, "We don't think it's worthy, so strip the award and keep it out of the audience that it's intended for," — that's censorship and it's alarming. If we lose our freedom of expression, then we lose all freedoms.

Everything else is lost after it.

To hear the full interview with Raziel Reid, click on the audio labelled: Raziel Reid reflects on When Everything Feels Like the Movies

MORE:cbcNews