For author R. Eric Thomas, friendships are not portrayed as often as romance, despite being vitally important for queer people. His upcoming YA novel, Kings of B’more, promises to explore that aspect of queer life in bittersweet clarity and—like Thomas’s bestselling memoir Here for It—with no small amount of humor.
Kings of B’more tells the story of two Black queer teenagers who have banded together to form a chosen family. Everything is going smoothly when one of them learns he will soon be moving out-of-state. What follows is one last hurrah: a madcap adventure through the streets of Baltimore, akin to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
In a new interview with The Advocate’s LGBTQ&A podcast, R. Eric Thomas spoke about his inspiration to focus on friendship. “I think platonic love is so important,” he said. “I think the way that a lot of us learn about love is by loving our friends. And for queer people, I think that has been the lifeline for a lot of us. Family of choice is a huge component of queer life. And family of choice starts with finding one person who is your friend and your introduction to a larger scene or a larger way of understanding yourself.”
Thomas continued, “It is okay to love your friends, to hug your friends, and to not want to marry your friends or kiss your friends. It’s also okay to want to kiss your friends if your friends want to kiss you back. But platonic love is underrepresented and I think it’s super important.”
Thomas is also looking to challenge the assumption that romance stories are always going to be more successful with queer audiences than friendship stories. He said, “We’re dangerously close in depictions of young gay relationships to a place where you can’t see two young men or young women who are adorable and think, ‘Oh, this is all their relationship is going to be.’ I don’t think their friendship is the JV version of a relationship. Friendship can be the be-all and end-all. It can be the most fulfilling part and so I think it’s been really important to highlight that.”
In the end, Thomas points out that love is more complicated than the dichotomy of romantic and platonic it is often portrayed as. “It’s harder because we don’t have a very wide vocabulary when we talk about intimacy and it’s part of our larger cultural problem. We’re afraid of each other. We’re afraid of being close to each other. We’re afraid of showing affection. And then when we do show affection, we’re like, ‘Oh, well this must mean that we’re in love.’ And it’s like, there are a lot of different shades of affection of care of being in love.”
Look out for Kings of B’more when it hits shelves on May 31, 2022.