Another guest post today, this time from Shira Glassman, focusing on some of the bisexual characters in her latest novel, Climbing the Date Palm, the sequel to her book The Second Mango. Both are YA romances that cover the full LGBTQ spectrum and are available from Prizm Books (the YA imprint of Torquere Press) as well as major retailers online and off.
Also, I must note, that in addition to the many other forms of representation present in these books, one of the main characters has celiac disease (just like me!).
Shira Glassman writes:
I’ve never understood why it’s so hard for some people to believe in the existence of bisexuality.
After all, my ravenousness when I see a salad bar doesn’t negate my special relationship with rotisserie chicken or lambchops. People are allowed to like more than one type of food, and if I sit down and order a chicken, that doesn’t mean I no longer have a taste for lamb.
As a violinist, I’m adept at both classical and old-timey styles. When I sit down to play a concert with my local orchestra, I’ve not lost my fiddle accolades. Everyone accepts that I listen to classical, old-timey, and electronic stuff without wondering how those genres conflict with each other. Or how I could possibly like both Wagner if I’m listening to Bach right now.
Obviously, there are differences between a monogamous marriage and whatever’s on your iPod or your dinner plate. I certainly hope my relationship is more permanent than a roast chicken and can last beyond even the longest Wagner opera. But bisexuality isn’t just about who you’re sleeping with (or with whom you’re paying your bills) – it’s about what’s going on inside your head, and what you’ve experienced in your history.
Otherwise, single straight people would be asexual. And single gay people would never be victims of homophobia.
Wanting to write a character who could be unmistakably bisexual was one of the driving factors behind Climbing the Date Palm. Prince Kaveh would have been content to marry the beautiful Azar, his arranged match, while still checking out the muscles on his father’s palace guards. Yet it was still painful for him to hear his father spout homophobia at the dinner table. This is what so-called “straight-passing” bisexual people go through.
They also face rejection from their straight partners, as Kaveh eventually experiences. He comes out to Azar and she freaks out and dumps him. Now what?
Fortunately for him, “now what” appears in the form of a childhood friend, the brilliant, kindhearted, and fiercely idealistic engineer Farzin. Farzin is unafraid to be gay, spouts self-deprecating remarks about his own fatness with a twist of confident irony, and showers Kaveh with unconditional patience and love. He educates him about human rights issues that the prince, though not a mean person, never had on his radar as long as he was living under his father’s right-wing roof.
Farzin and the king quickly wind up in direct opposition, due to the king’s refusal to pay Farzin’s men the wages he had promised. When Farzin winds up in prison scheduled for execution, Kaveh flees to the kingdom next door to beg for help from powerful queer people he knows live there.
While he’s in Perach, he befriends Aviva, the queen’s girlfriend. She’s also bisexual, and the two of them bond over the similarities and differences in their experiences. As a bisexual man, Kaveh is treated with revulsion, whereas Aviva, as she puts it, is liked “for the wrong reasons.”
The bisexual characters in Date Palm don’t get off scot-free; Aviva and Kaveh both have to be gently corrected by Queen Shulamit, who’s a lesbian, that no, not everyone falls in love “with people” and the idea that it “shouldn’t matter” is its own kind of oppressive thought (or maybe just annoying.) But Perach, and the world of my stories in general, is the type of place where people who experience same-sex attraction, whether exclusively or otherwise, can all come together to protect each other – collecting a few “safe” straight people along the way, as well.
If you’ve ever wanted to read a book where characters who are attracted to more than one gender are actually described as a separate (but obviously related) phenomenon from characters who are only attracted to the same gender, or a book where women rescue men instead of vice versa, or a book where dragons and warriors roughhouse and play together instead of killing each other, come to Perach.
This is the second book in a series, but I did my best to make it completely comprehensible without reading The Second Mango.