Aaron H. Aceves says his book has one specific demographic in mind.
“I want particularly young queer teens of color to read this book and think, ‘I am worthy of love,’” Aceves said. “That is my ultimate beautiful dream fantasy.”
The Austinite says he hopes his book is a flashlight – shining brightly in a world that he says is not always kind.
“We are taught shame. We are taught self-hatred. And to combat that is really hard,” Aceves said. “But books make it easier. Books where I feel represented make it easier to think, ‘actually, no, they were wrong. They hate us for this reason, but I love me for this reason.’”
That’s why he says he “didn’t hold back” in writing his debut novel – even though he also acknowledges it likely won’t appear on school library shelves.
“I just have this, like, vision in my mind of my book coming off an assembly line right into a dumpster that says ‘banned books’ because there’s no way it’s not going to get banned,” Aceves said.
“This Is Why They Hate Us” is Aceves’ debut novel – even though he says he’s been writing since the age of nine. Though the story’s main character, Quique, is bisexual and Chicano – just like the author – Aceves says they are also very different. For one, Quique is a modern teen.
“I feel like Gen Z … they come into contact with a lot of very helpful information earlier on in life, just thanks to the Internet,” Aceves said. “When I was trying to figure out my sexuality, I had two options, gay or straight … and so I kind of thought, ‘oh, maybe I’m just, I don’t know, confused.’”
Quique is confused for different reasons. He’s in love with his best friend but doesn’t think it’s mutual. So he tries to distract himself with other people.
“I wish I could be more like Quique; I wish I was like him at 17, but he’s also very flawed and does some things that I wasn’t, again, brave enough to do, but also not reckless enough to do. He’s a bit chaotic,” Aceves said.
Aceves has worked on two unpublished young adult projects before but says “This Is Why They Hate Us” is an honest reflection of what he wants to accomplish as a YA writer.
“The book is about love and solidarity,” Aceves said.