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AUTHOR Q&A | ANDREA MOSQUEDA

Queer Chicana author wants to flip the media narrative on southern border portrayal

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Chicana author Andrea Mosqueda wanted to write a book that reflected Mexican-American culture as she knew it growing up in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Her young adult novel “Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster” does that, offering readers a glimpse into the love and loneliness Mosqueda experienced as a queer girl in “the valley.”

Andrea Mosqueda

Mosqueda

The novel centers around the high school character Maggie Gonzalez, who is navigating her feelings as a bisexual teen while at the same time trying to decide on a date for her sister’s quinceañera. Mosqueda will discuss her book during a virtual event with the Wisconsin Book Festival later this month.

Q: Your first book “Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster” comes out Tuesday. What inspired you to write it?

A: I was inspired to write the novel because of my specific experiences growing up in the valley as a queer Chicana, how isolating it felt, but also how loved and seen I felt when I found people there who accepted me for who I am. When I moved to the East Coast ... I was missing home something fierce. There’s a lot of misinformation being spread about the border and the people who live there. A lot of mainstream media that’s popular right now depict stories of border trauma. I wanted to let people know about the side of border life that the media doesn’t want people to see: how much love, warmth and joy emanates from the RGV.

Q: Did you know you wanted to write in the “young adult” genre?

A: I knew I wanted to have those teenage years especially represented. Kids, especially those in marginalized communities, are often exposed to issues that take a lot of emotional maturity. I think a lot of people underestimate kids and their ability to understand complex themes. I wanted to show teens who are thinking about these issues that they’re not alone.

Q: The novel addresses a couple important topics — Mexican-American culture and teenagers navigating being bisexual. I know it seems like an obvious question, but why is it important to examine these topics?

A: It’s important to constantly talk about these topics to counter themes and information in mainstream media that is harmful to the community being discussed. The media spreads a lot of misinformation about the Rio Grande Valley because of vultures like Abbott and Elon Musk who want to tear down the area in order to gentrify it. I wanted to use my voice to empower other queer Latinx people in the RGV to tell their stories and keep fighting back against neocolonialists like that so that eventually, we can drown out those violent and harmful voices who seek to destroy us.

Q: You mentioned earlier about book bans happening in Texas and elsewhere across the United States. Are you worried about your book being banned?

A: I feel like the more you ban books, the more people will want to read them, funnily enough. A lot of the books being banned throughout Texas are trending on the bestseller list. ... I spent my childhood in the closet, taking book jackets off other books and putting them on the queer books I was reading in order to hide them from my conservative parents. ... As teens go looking for stories that reflect them in order to learn how to navigate social issues, we want to make sure there are stories for them to find.

Q: Do you feel there are increasingly more novels featuring Mexican-American characters?

A: I also work in publishing, so I see things from both sides of the desk. There is a push to have more diversity and more Latinx voices from the border. But because (people in) publishing are largely white, largely straight, I think they focus on and look for stories that are centered around border trauma, like exploitative stories like “American Dirt.” I think it’s important to start moving away from that because it’s harmful and reductive.

Q: So you have a full-time job in addition to writing. Do you hope to find time to write more novels?

A: Yes. I want to keep writing YA books because it’s my favorite thing to do in the world. I hope to make enough to sustain myself (through writing) eventually. The next story will be a bit of a departure from “JYLBD” because it’s a YA murder mystery thriller. It’s risky to change genres for your second book since you’ve just gained an audience base and you don’t want to lose them. But I also know that if I try to pigeon-hole myself into a label, you can tell in the writing because it feels forced. ... My inner child wrote “Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster” because she wanted a cute and happy ending, but my inner teen is writing my next book, and she’s out for blood.

Q: Your love for your hometown comes through on almost every page of your book. It’s obvious you miss it. Do you ever hope to move back?

A: Right now it’s a little hard to picture my future past the next five years because I’m not even 30 yet. I’m still figuring out my life and where I want to settle. I do miss the valley every single day. It has the best food ever. I lived 20 minutes from the beach. My entire family lives there. Everyone I love lives within a 50-mile radius of each other. I definitely will move closer at some point because it’s always been the center of gravity of my life. It’s in my DNA, and I carry it with me wherever I go.

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