Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.
The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.
TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.
Today on TBE 2.0, I chat with the author of one of my most anticipated YA releases, Meet Cute Diary, Emery Lee (he/him/e/em). We talk about eir debut, trans joy and what trans joy means to em.
Q: Hello Emery. Thank you so much for making time out to chat with me today. Before we start, could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us what your book is about?
Emery: Sure! I’m Emery Lee, author of MEET CUTE DIARY a YA romcom about a trans boy who tries to stages a fake relationship to save his trans romance blog from an internet troll, but everything he thinks he knows about romance flies out the window once real feelings get involved.
Q: A small tradition when interviewing people on my blog is asking about their favourite Winnie the Pooh character. May I ask who yours is?
Emery: Eeyore! I’ve always had a soft spot for the emo, grumpy characters, even at age like five I guess LOL.
Q: Due to the fact that I haven’t read Meet Cute Diary yet, I’m going to keep the questions generic and light. From what I’ve been able to gather from reviews, your book, Meet Cute Diary is a book about trans joy and love and this makes me even more excited to read it. So I want to ask, when writing Meet Cute what moments or parts gave you the most joy?
Emery: This is a little hard to answer without giving any spoilers, so I’m going to try to keep my answer super vague. I absolutely loved writing about Noah and his brother, Brian, and the way Brian supports Noah’s transitioning and basically all of Noah’s chaotic life choices. There are also a couple scenes that I’ll just call the “the Christmas party scene” and the “the scavenger hunt scene” that were just so much fun to write. This should make sense once you read it!
Q: I want to keep this interview limited to joy and positive things, so I want to know what parts of the story are closest to you? What parts make you smile whenever you recall them?
Emery: There were so many casual queer or PoC jokes throughout the story that felt like sharing a secret with a good friend as I wrote them. Every time I stumble over one of those again, I can’t help but laugh. I also just loved writing Noah’s witty sense of humor and sarcasm. His voice is really strong, and I know it can be off-putting to some people, but he’s just so dramatic so reading some of his internal monologue just has me cackling.
Q: While books and other media forms about trans joy aren’t as popular or readily available as those about trans trauma and pain, they do exist. What are some of your favourite books (or other media) about trans joy or love or basically centring trans people being happy?
Emery: So, this is actually a really hard question for me because I think I have a different definition of “trans joy” than a lot of other people. For me to consider a book a “joy” book, I don’t want oppression anywhere in the plot. Like mentions of it here and there as things go down are just kind of natural, but there shouldn’t be any major plot points that involve being outted or misgendered or fighting against bigotry. That being said, I can’t really think of any stories in which transness is centered without being a huge source of conflict. One book I recommend to everyone looking for a good trans story filled with a lot of happy moments is CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas because it’s a truly lovely story filled with amazing characters and a beautiful romance, but to say that the book doesn’t also show a lot of trans pain would be a lie. Ultimately, I think the story was kind of cathartic for me, and I adore that book, but it’s not something I could read if I was in the wrong headspace because it still centers a lot of trans trauma and pain. FELIX EVER AFTER by Kacen Callender was a similar experience for me. It was difficult to get lost in the “joy” of the book because there was still a lot of trans pain at the forefront. Ultimately, I think I’m still in a place where I’m trying to find those books that I can truly call “happy” without feeling like I’m setting readers up to be re-traumatized. I have high hopes for a couple on my list coming out this year, but I don’t want to say too much until I’ve gotten a chance to read them for myself!
Q: When people read books they take away something from the experience. Most of what they take is subjective but what is one thing you’d like people to keep in mind after reading your book?
Emery: Trans people are not our trauma. There’s one trans character in MEET CUTE DIARY who experienced some major transphobia after coming out, but those elements are in the past, and Noah, the main character, came out to a fully supportive family and deals with very little transphobia. I want readers to see this and not think “oh, that’s so unrealistic”. I want them to see it and think “Oh, this is what trans people should experience and we should do everything we can to make it so that more trans people have this lived experience.” I want to flip the expectation that trans people will experience bigotry on its head. Trans people deserve happiness, and the bigotry we experience is the result of moral failures, not just something we should be used to.
Q: It’s been a fun conversation so to wrap things up, pitch your book is only seven words.
Emery: Noah thinks he knows romance. He’s wrong!
About Emery Lee
Emery Lee is a kidlit author, artist, and YouTuber hailing from a mixed-racial background. After graduating with a degree in creative writing, e’s gone on to author novels, short stories, and webcomics. When away from reading and writing, you’ll most likely find em engaged in art or snuggling cute dogs.
*name of social media = link
More on Meet Cute Diary
Felix Ever After meets Becky Albertalli in this swoon-worthy, heartfelt rom-com about how a transgender teen’s first love challenges his ideas about perfect relationships
Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.
When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.
In this charming novel by Emery Lee, Noah will have to choose between following his own rules for love or discovering that the most romantic endings are the ones that go off script.