Jaye Robin Brown launches an LGBTQ novel for young adults on Aug. 30

Jaye Robin Brown will launch Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit at Malaprop's on Tuesday, Aug. 30. The event includes a panel discussion featuring Lauren Gibaldi, Ashley Herring Blake and Kathryn Holmes, moderated by local author Amy Reed. Photo courtesy of the author

Western North Carolina-based author Jaye Robin Brown first conceived of her new YA novel, Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit, when she heard an NPR story about the wealth of radio pastors. “It was fascinating,” Brown says, “and I thought, what if one of those guys had a gay daughter?” When another writing project stalled, she turned to this idea and found that the writing flowed quickly. “I wrote 10,000 words in a weekend, which never has happened before.”

The result was a fish-out-of-water story in which Joanne Gordon, the daughter of a successful radio minister, moves from gay-friendly Atlanta to a small-town Rome, Ga., with her father and new stepmother. She’s bound by a bargain in which her father will allow her to start her own radio show under the umbrella of his ministry — provided Joanna, an openly-gay teen, goes back into the closet. This arrangement, however, hits an iceberg when Joanna finds herself in a love affair with Mary Carlson, a pillar of her church and high school communities.

Brown will launch Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit at Malaprop’s on Tuesday, Aug. 30. The event includes a panel discussion featuring Lauren Gibaldi, Ashley Herring Blake and Kathryn Holmes, moderated by local author Amy Reed.

Brown, who came out in her late 20s, writes in part from personal experience, but also out of the time she spent as a teacher in a rural high school. She’s seen kids ejected from their families for coming out, she says, a rejection driven by the parents’ faith. And yet, in rural communities, faith remains very much a part of kids’ identities. “I see faith as so important to these young people,” Brown says, “because it’s so important to their families. For a while, you take on the mantle of whatever your family is about, and so they want that in their lives. It’s a comfort to them, and yet there’s all this other messaging.”

In Peaches, this conflict between faith and sexuality complicates virtue — the loyalty of friends and the bonds of family — and the natural process of self-discovery. Teens “have very clear thoughts about the world, and what they want for themselves,” Brown says. “A lot of them really do have good parental relationships.” But while Joanne makes friends and works hard to build a new life in Rome, she and Mary Carlson must still contend with preachers sermonizing against homosexuality, the censure of relatives and church members, the potential repercussions for Joanna’s father’s ministry, and — perhaps most damaging — the negative stereotyping of their high school peers.

Nevertheless, Brown says, she sees room in the real world for a romance like Joanna and Mary Carlson’s. “I know there are places where there’s ugly stuff happening,” she says. “But I do think that there are other faith communities where there’s a shift happening.” And, while she adds that she understands that her depiction of the life of a gay teen in a small town may be “too hopeful in certain areas,” she’s nevertheless proud of the circle of friends she depicts in Peaches. The group includes an autistic teen who is widely accepted by his peers, and instantly accepting of Joanna. Importantly, too, Joanna enjoys full acceptance by her own family.

And Joanna does find romance in a rural southern community, an event that, for Brown, is the true heart of the story. “It is kind of an issue book,” she says, but she hopes readers — gay teens and their allies — will focus on the romance.

“It’s a romance first and foremost,” Brown says. “I just felt that was really important, so I did it.”

WHAT: Launch event for Georgia Peaches and other Forbidden Fruit
WHERE: Malaprops’ Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., malaprops.com
WHEN: Tuesday, Aug. 30, 7 p.m. Free


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Doug Gibson
I live in West Asheville. I do a lot of reading. Follow me on Twitter: @dougibson

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.