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End of the ?Rainbow? by Alex Sanchez - Washington Blade

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End of the ?Rainbow?

Gay author Alex Sanchez wraps up his trilogy of books for gay teens

By GREG MARZULLO

Friday, November 04, 2005

WHEN AWARD-WINNING author Alex Sanchez finished his debut novel, ?Rainbow Boys,? he had no intention of taking it to a publisher.

?It was too scary to think about being published. I just wanted to finish it,? he says.

It wasn?t until one of his writing instructors showed the manuscript to her agent that Sanchez began to think he could market the story to gay teens and adults.

After it was published in 2001, ?Rainbow Boys? ended up being named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and was a bestseller at gay book retailer Insightoutbooks.com.

?Rainbow Boys,? its sequel ?Rainbow High,? and now ?Rainbow Road,? released in October, follow three gay friends during their journey from early adolescence through high school and finally to a fateful pre-college summer.

Sanchez will be reading from the book at D.C.?s Lambda Rising on Thursday, Nov. 10, and at the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library in Falls Church, Va., on Saturday, Nov. 12.

The final book in the trilogy, ?Road? is a coming-of-age story about three gay teenage friends who drive from D.C. to Los Angeles. Nelson is the effeminate type who?s been out since he was born. Jason is the late-blooming jock who recently lost his college basketball scholarship after coming out. Kyle, Jason?s boyfriend and Nelson?s best friend, is the gay everyman.

The trio sets out to drive Jason to a speaking engagement at a new queer high school in L.A., and they get involved in a series of adventures, meeting Radical Faeries, transgendered Britney Spears impersonators, and mature loving gay couples along the road.

MUCH OF THE conflict in ? Rainbow Road? swirls around the complicated relationships among the three protagonists, which can be seen as symbolic of the factions within the larger gay male community.

At the start of the story, nelly Nelson and hyper-butch Jason don?t connect at all, and Kyle feels forced to play the mediator. The boys spend a night at a Radical Faerie sanctuary in Tennessee where the queer campers are dressed in chiffon and smeared with glitter. Nelson immediately feels at home, and Jason thinks the gay faeries are freaks.

Nelson confronts the bewildered jock by saying, ?It?s the rest of the world that?s weird. Why shouldn?t you be able to dress how you want, act how you want, and love who you want? If you?re so straight-acting, then why don?t you have the guts to just let yourself go and be who you are??

Sanchez says he views the interactions between Nelson and Jason as being as much about masculinity as about gay issues.

?In the straight and gay worlds, we still have an archetypal image of what it means to be male,? he says. ?Even though Nelson has such incredible strength, we don?t associate him with that. That?s not who we idolize in terms of masculinity.?

The challenge between these two types of men hangs in the air throughout the novel, and it may inform the author?s future works.

Sanchez is on contract with the publishing house Simon and Schuster to write a book per year. His upcoming novel is about the relationship between a gay boy and his straight best friend.

?I discovered in writing these books that I thought I was writing about being young and gay and male in America,? he says. ?A lot of it was about being young and male in America and how challenging it is for boys regardless of being gay or straight.?

The author says he sees America as struggling to integrate people who are different into its societal fabric, and for gay people, the strong desire to be like everyone else can devalue the queer experience.

?Because we are able to be invisible, unlike ethnic minorities, we do have the opportunity to see things from the outside while appearing to be on the inside. We have a gift to be bridge builders,? he says.

SANCHEZ?S WRITING HAS reached a wide array of readers, the largest percentage being adult gay men.

?The e-mails I get from gay men who are reading the books are that they?re going through what I went through when writing them ? they?re remembering what their high school experiences were and what they might have been,? says Sanchez, who politely declines to give his age.

Even still, there is that opportunity to build bridges between different groups of people with these stories. According to Sanchez, a long-time Northern Virginia resident who recently moved to Hollywood, Fla., the biggest surprise in his readership is the large number of straight teenage girls who love the books.

?For young people growing up today in the era of ?Will & Grace,? they?re hearing about gay people all the time. Girls are very open and curious to finding out more about it,? he says.

Sanchez says he feels encouraged by this response from the female sector, because, ?They?re our straight allies. They?re the ones who are really going to change things for the gay community.?

In all three of the ?Rainbow? books, however, Sanchez says that staying true to oneself is the most important message he can offer to his readers. This message pertains to everyone ? gay or straight, male or female.

?The boys go through different experiences, and they?re never entirely positive or negative,? he says. ?No matter how good an experience is, it has some cost attached to it. A good point from which to make decisions is, ?Am I being true to myself???

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