Monday, April 8, 2024

The Family the Finds Us by Phoenix Blackwood

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Phoenix Blackwood will award a $10 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Why do you write juvenile fiction? What draws you to it?

I’m heavily drawn to YA because most readers come across these books in such a pivotal time in their life. They’re books that can change people’s lives, and they touch on topics that are so close to my heart. Of course, there’s adult books about being trans, about overcoming trauma, but YA has something special that I can’t quite put my finger on. There’s a raw, vulnerable aspect to it that I don’t see in a lot of adult fiction. This vulnerability is something that really draws me in, both in reading and writing.

Pretend your protagonist is at school and opens his/her locker – what will we see inside?

Phee’s locker is pretty bare – not for a lack of personality, but in the way that she denies herself so many things that she likes in an attempt to run from who she is. There’ll be textbooks, a dent in the front panel from her being thrown into it by bullies multiple times, maybe a cutout picture of a pro skater – she says it’s because she looks up to him, but she’s really got the biggest crush.

What books were your favorite as a youth and why?

A Series of Unfortunate Events were my absolute favorite books as I was growing up. I wasn’t a huge reader when I was younger, as my spark for reading didn’t really happen until I discovered the world of queer literature. But, that series holds a special place in my heart, I still have the entire thing on a bookshelf and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. I loved how strong the characters were in the face of adversity, how inventive and resilient they were. The ways adults continued to fail them really resonated with me, and it can be seen in my own books as well.

What book is on your nightstand currently?

Currently, I’ve got If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come by Jen St. Jude. I love it so far, I’m not too far into it because I paused it to read a couple other books, but I actually just finished the last one last night and I’m excited to get back into it. It has all the elements I love in a book, mental health struggles and representation, secret pining after a crush, all the big emotions of a world that’s about to end. I have a feeling I’m going to finish it pretty quickly.

You’ve just won a million dollars and you’re not allowed to save any of it. What do you spend it on?

First part’s boring, I’d pay off my student loans, credit cards, mortgage and car. No more stress! Then I’d buy a little oceanside cottage in Maine with a big fenced in yard and have all the doggos. I’d pay for the two years of my master’s degree to become a licensed therapist. I’d save a little for emergencies, and donate the rest between friends and reputable LGBTQ+ or animal charities.

Phee hides her secrets well, until they become too much to bear. Her biggest secret is one she’s kept even from herself. Her longest-kept secret is one that hurts her every day. Her final secret is one that will set her free.

In a school that doesn’t accept them, Phee, Theo, and Alex fight for a community close to their hearts. The community desperately needs the trio to help the rest of them leave the shadows without fear of violence and discrimination. Through some heroic activism, the three push the school officials to their limits — forcing them to act — for better or worse.

For Phee, the fight for a place where she can be herself doesn’t stop when she gets home. The strain of taking care of her alcoholic and abusive mother threatens to break Phee away from her family bond forever. Her mother can go from a messy drunk to an angry one in an instant, turning Phee’s home life from an obligation to a war zone.

Theo’s house offers respite to Phee. With compassion scarce in her life, Alex and Theo are Phee’s light in the dark. They protect and cherish her. At Theo’s, Phee is free to be herself and explore her identity safely — her chosen family ready to catch her if she falls. That’s what family does, how family finds us when we feel lost and alone.

Read an Excerpt

“No!” I screamed, flailing against her as she pinned me down with one arm and cut with the other, lock after lock of black hair falling to the ground and into the sink.

Tears came next, as I fought the futile fight to get her to stop. I shrieked, begging for her to stop, but she just kept going, until there was nothing left. Just jagged tufts of hair sticking straight up from my scalp. She let go of me, throwing the scissors back into the drawer and slamming it shut without a word. She looked at me with the most haunting gaze I’d ever seen out of her, shook her head, and then walked into her room, slamming her door behind her. My knees grew weak, and I fell to the ground, clutching the discarded chunks of my hair that lay strewn about the floor. My wails could’ve been heard a block away. I’d found two things I liked about myself last night, and now one of them was gone.

Eventually, I dragged myself into my room, picking up my phone and texting Theo through my tears to come get me. Not even ten minutes later, there was a knock at the apartment door. I was still crying as I opened it to watch Theo’s face morph in horror as they caught sight of me.

“Oh my god, Phee, what did she do?”

I shook my head, staring down at the floor as tears fell from my face. Theo wrapped their arms around me, and I choked out, “She was sober.”

Theo rubbed my back for a minute, then guided me towards my room, “C’mon, get your stuff. You’re gonna stay at my house.” I grabbed the discarded makeup from my floor and stuffed it into a duffel bag, along with a couple changes of clothes. Then, I grabbed my backpack and solemnly followed Theo out the door, locking it behind me.

About the Author:
Born and raised in New England, Phoenix has always been a creative – whether it’s painting or writing. From a very young age, Phoenix has envisioned and created characters, writing them into existence and exploring them through visual arts. Having graduated to first-time short story author, Phoenix is embarking on a journey towards novel writing as they finally bring characters they’ve known for years into the world. Phoenix is neurodiverse and intersex and hopes to bring more representation to both topics with their writing. They believe in creating relatable characters that people can find themselves in and empathize with.

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