A Life of Books with Edgar Gomez, author of High-Risk Homosexual

Edgar Gomez has written a must-read memoir about sex, love, and queerness. The memoir, High-Risk Homosexual, explores his identity as a Latinx, queer man in modern America. He balances tender moments with the sharpest wit.

Debutiful asked him to fill out our recurring “A Life of Books” questionnaire so readers can get to know him.

Is there a book or series that, when you think back, helped define your childhood?

Yes, I was obsessed with this series of books titled “The Royal Diaries.” My 5th grade teacher had them in our class bookshelf. They were these fictional diaries written by real female royal figures throughout history, like Anastasia and Marie Antoinette and Cleopatra. In a way, they were my first “memoirs.” I loved how close I felt to the narrators, who were around my age. It was like they were friends telling me stories. And my family was really poor, so it was cool to get the chance to peek into how the other side lived. I remember either reading in the Anastasia book or hearing from my teacher that Anastasia’s mom had the crown jewels sewn into her corset and, later, when they were all shot by a firing squad, the bullets ricocheted off the diamonds and Anastasia lived. I’m pretty sure this didn’t actually happen but I was 10 and thought that was the saddest, most glamorous thing I’d ever heard.  

Would you want any children in your life (yours or relatives’) to read those too? Or what’s your philosophy on what children read?

Yes, those books were so fun and taught me about people and places I would have otherwise known nothing about. I think children should be allowed to read whatever they want. I trust kids. My taste as a child was all over the place. I liked The Royal Diaries but I also liked Goosebumps and Where the Red Fern Grows and Dan Brown. I was sort of reading whatever was available, whatever I saw other people reading that didn’t seem to dull. I suppose kids want to be entertained and they don’t want to be treated like they’re dumb—that’s a hard balance. 

Moving to your school years: what book did you read in high school and hated (or skipped reading at all) that you learned you loved later in life?

None. I was right to hate every book I hated the first time around. 

What about the opposite way? One you loved in your teens, but realized you didn’t love it so much later on?

I was very into Twilight. I was a Twilight Girl. I even dressed up as a vampire and went to one of the movie premieres. I know Twilight’s not high-brow and actually Very Bad and probably perpetuates all kinds of evil and I hope young readers pick up other books (And I think they are? I feel like this upcoming generation is just wildly smart…). BUT, I have to say, I went to a school where not a lot of us were reading. I wasn’t really reading in high school. And Twilight got us reading. It created a genuine sense of community. I remember we were basically running a free library at my high school (because our real school library was weak). Most of my classmates didn’t have a lot of disposable income for books (I definitely didn’t) and so we’d lend them out to each other. I remember sitting in one class and finishing one Twilight book and being like, “Anyone got the next?” and a girl four rows down being like, “I got you, gimme one more day to finish this one and you can borrow it.” I want to make space for that too. How after Twilight, it became normal to carry around a book and be unabashedly excited to read it. I actually still don’t hate it. It’s definitely evil, but not more than like, Charles Dickens. 

Are there any books that you read while writing your debut that helped shape the direction you took your own book?

So many. I think Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell are top two. I don’t know how Their Eyes Were Watching God inspired me exactly. Just reading that book every year has reminded me how beautiful and majestic storytelling is, and I love Janie’s journey, her hunger for love, how she refuses to settle, that she doesn’t care what anyone in her town cares about her at the end because she’s had something they couldn’t imagine. It’s a journey I can’t help but connect to. Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s book taught me a lot about balancing warmth and humor, and I also like that his life was weird. 

What is a book you’ve read that you thought, Damn, I wish that was mine?

I don’t really have a good answer for this, because I write memoir. For me, it’s more about what I discover during the process of writing than whatever the end result is. If I didn’t actually write it, it being “mine” wouldn’t really mean anything. But that’s boring, so if this is about money then Bridget Jones’s Diary. I don’t know what Helen Fielding looks like but I know she has boat money—that’s the perfect level of rich to me. 

What have you been reading / do you plan to read during your debut book tour?

I am very excited to read Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades, Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez, Muscle Memory by Kyle Carrero Lopez, and to finish Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. I’ve mostly been reading poetry lately, especially The Cinnamon Peeler by Michael Ondaatje and La Extraña Paradoja de Mi Vida by Clara Cuevas. 

And, finally, I have to ask… I’m sorry. What’s next? But wait! Only use three words.
Streaming Bad Bunny.

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